joreth: (Super Tech)

"In narrative terms, agency is far more important than “strength” – it’s what determines whether a character is truly part of the story, or a detachable accessory. ... Their strength lets them, briefly, dominate bystanders but never dominate the plot. "

I love female characters who are strong. I think of myself as strong, so a female character who is strong makes me feel represented in the film - she's someone I can relate to, can emphasize with. But being able to throw a punch is not enough. A cardboard cutout with kung-fu grip isn't something I can relate to, emphasize with. She still has to be a *person*, and the Disney princesses and other pandering female leads are not good enough.

My favorite male characters are complex, with flaws. My favorite female characters are also complex, with flaws. But I also want female characters that I *don't* like - because I want there to be so many female characters, in such diversity, that I can't possibly like them all. I want there to be so many female characters with such diversity that the very idea of inserting the "obligatory strong female character" becomes as nonsensical as it currently is to consider throwing in a "strong male character" just to keep the male demographic happy.

I don't want writers to throw in a female character, strong or otherwise, to make us damn uppity feminists shut up and I certainly don't want writers to throw in a female character to give the guys some eye-candy to sell movie tickets. I want there to be female characters because women are interesting, complex protagonists, antagonists, and side characters who have interesting stories to tell.

http://www.newstatesman.com/culture/2013/08/why-i-hate-strong-female-characters

joreth: (Self-Portrait)
http://researchtobedone.wordpress.com/2013/06/23/the-two-brains-model-of-honesty/

This article reminds me a lot of [livejournal.com profile] tacit's post on honesty (http://tacit.livejournal.com/373355.html) and strikes a particular chord in me because of current life circumstances. In the example of a boyfriend telling his girlfriend about spending time with a female friend, where the girlfriend accuses him of cheating, I particularly liked the line: "In this scenario, the girlfriend is telling the boyfriend’s primate brain that she thinks he’s been cheating. What she’s telling his lizard brain is this: “When you are honest with me, you can expect hostility in return.” That is a very bad association to create."

What this means is, and what [livejournal.com profile] tacit broached in his article, is that a lot of people prefer the Little White Lie method because they don't feel safe in being honest. There is fallout for telling people something difficult. [livejournal.com profile] tacit champions the Path Of Greater Courage (http://tacit.livejournal.com/90763.html), which is, essentially, the idea that truth itself is not necessarily a virtue to be held at all costs, particularly at the expense of compassion. Which path takes greater courage - telling someone the truth that they need to hear even if it's hard, or lying to save yourself the trouble of dealing with their reaction? Which path takes the greater courage - telling someone the truth that will get an innocent person killed, or lying about their whereabouts to protect their life?

Where things get fuzzy is in relationship "truths". It's not a matter of life or death, and the fear of dealing with someone else's bad reaction is all too easily masked under a false sense of "compassion" for not "hurting them". So, although I still advocate for truth being generally the better policy, and protecting someone's feelings is not a good enough reason (by itself) to lie, it makes perfect sense to me that the idea of telling someone a truth that might hurt another can be a very scary idea to contemplate if the other person does not make it safe for you to tell them such truths.

It can make a person wait for "the right time", or make them clumsy with their words, or timid, or preemptively defensive, or any number of other things that might actually change the reception of that truth to an even stronger negative reaction, which will then only reinforce the idea that “When you are honest with me, you can expect hostility in return.”  It then becomes a vicious cycle, being afraid to tell someone the truth which leads to the other person interpreting the fear as signs of deception and reacting with hostility which leads to being more afraid to tell the truth, etc.

My position is to muscle through the fear of the negative reaction and tell the truth anyway (assuming the Path of Greater Courage, of course). But it's not easy, and I understand the *impulse* to avoid the negative reaction. I'm positive I've failed in being courageous myself here and there, so even if I disagree with taking the easy road, I do understand the motivation to.
joreth: (Swing Dance)
http://www.xojane.com/entertainment/dirty-dancing-is-a-subversive-masterpiece-and-here-are-four-reasons-why

OTG YES! Dirty Dancing is such a complex, multi-layered piece of art that had such a huge impact on me and several facets of my various world-views that it's hard for me to emphasize its importance enough.  This article only addresses 4 points, but I think that's just a starting point, although a very strong starting point.  The article covers having an awkward heroine who never turns into the "beautiful, popular girl" to win the guy, having a "hot guy" like the awkward heroine for who she is as a person without being blind to her until that magical "ugly duckling" transformation, giving "the sheltered 17-year-old all the sexual agency", class politics, and illegal abortion.  Set in 1963.

It's not a "chick flick" or a rom-com, or even your typical "coming of age" story. It's a sociopolitical commentary on class struggles, women's rights, sexual agency, gender relations, communication, trust, and personal growth. Baby remains one of my all-time epitomal characters that helped to define who I am, and Johnny remains the ideal romantic partner to whom I compare all my potential partners. It's not just because he has a nice ass and abs, it's because of his integrity, his character, his personal struggles, and his values.

Dancing, to me, is not just a fun physical activity. It is a vehicle through which we can achieve personal growth and relationship enhancement, as well as a story-telling device that we can use to address controversial and taboo subjects. And this movie combines everything that I find valuable about dance - the fun, the storytelling, the catalyst for growth, the beauty, the pain, the personal expression.  I don't think it's even possible to truly "get" me without understanding this movie.  That doesn't mean that you have to have watched it in order to get me, but that you would have to be the kind of person who *would* understand this movie if you saw it in order to understand who I am as a person.  But watching it helps.

Maybe, in my copious free time that isn't today, I'll write my own full post enumerating the points and analyzing the movie the way the article does.

OKBingo!

Jul. 8th, 2013 10:21 pm
joreth: (::headdesk::)

http://onlinedating-adventures.tumblr.com/post/41921984085/okbingo - My new favorite online game.

Guys, if you do 2 of these in one email, I'm posting it all over the internet and you're getting a blog entry from me where women everywhere will mock you for your cluelessness/douchebaggery.

Another game option: try to find one of my online skeezballs or feminist rants that doesn't have something on this Bingo card!

joreth: (Super Tech)
"I acknowledge that my white privilege has meant that I’ve been given hella opportunities, and am now in a privileged position to be able to sit here and write these ideas. But part of dealing with privilege is working actively to dismantle it. If I didn’t use my strange combination of oppression and privilege to openly question, critique, and start conversations, I’d just be playing into the system that benefits from Native subjugation and white privilege–and that would be something to be concerned about." - http://nativeappropriations.com/2012/07/real-indians-dont-care-about-tonto.html

Replace the word "Native" in the last sentence with any subjegated, oppressed, or discriminated group, and the word "white" with any majority or otherwise privileged group, and this is exactly my position on activism and why I'm "out" as all the minority groups that make me who I am and why I open myself up to criticism and discrimination by claiming those labels and being public about them and talking about them in spite of my natural tendency towards privacy.

Privilege and oppression are rarely binary states. There's a whole field of study on intersectionality, but when trying to introduce or explain the concept of privilege to someone who has it or doesn't get it, we usually reduce it to people who have it and people who don't, for simplicity even though the reality is that almost everyone has some of each. But I can use my privilege to support and assist those of less privilege, including myself. My white-ness and educated status can help my poly, atheist, and female status while my poly, atheist, female, and Latina statuses can all inform the direction my privilege should take in helping.

We are not a nation of Privileged People at the top of a mountain and Oppressed People all at the bottom, with every Privileged Person having an equal panoramic view and every Oppressed Person being buried under the same size rocks that come crashing down, dislodged from the uncaring feet of the Privileged at the top. We are people, in various places along the mountainside, some with easier paths than others, some higher up than others, and all with the opportunity to reach down a helping hand to those below or on rockier paths, while at the same time accepting those helping hands from above or suffering on our own paths while those above refuse to look down and assist, maybe even kicking a few boulders onto our path for good measure.

So, where my path is secure, strong, stable, I'll reach out my hand or lower a rope to help those who need it. Where my path is rocky, tenuous, slippery, I'll call out for a safety line from those above or for someone below to catch me if I fall. Even if they're technically below me, their path might, at this point in time, be more stable than mine, and we can help each other.

Privilege does not make you a bad person, nor does it mean that you never suffer. It means you are part of a group that has been given SYSTEMIC assistance in making life easier, even if you, personally, didn't get a hand on that rope.  Maybe no one lowered down a rope to your path when it got rocky, but someone built the path there for you in the first place, for instance. It also means that you have a stable part of the path that you can use to help someone else up. It also means, in my opinion, that you have a responsibility to use that stable part of the path to help someone else up. As someone who also has rocky portions of the path, that ought to make you more sympathetic to the people below who need your help, not less.
joreth: (Kitty Eyes)
I really like all those "evolution of music" compliations and medleys, but I'd really like to see someone really treat it as "evolution" and do a true taxonomical tree, with branches and diversions and divergent musical "species" that merge a few generations later and lines that die off.

It's one of the reasons why I feel frustration when people say they hate a certain category of music when they like a related category, or long for the "good ol' days" of music before "today's kids" started producing such "crap". Many people tend to ignore the interconnectedness of music, the complex musical influences of past generations on the current generation, and they like to oversimplify and box in musical genres when the reality is that it's more of a fuzzy, blended pool with every genre being a "transitional genre" to some other genre and not a "finished" genre, complete and isolated all by itself.

My sister used to give me a lot of crap for liking country music. Then, in her late teens, she started listening to Dixie Chicks. I asked her how she reconciled her hate of country with her love of the Chicks. She said it's because they didn't sound like "country". I pointed out that they're actually a bluegrass band with rock influences, so they're actually more "country" than the country pop of either then-current Faith Hill, '70s classic Kenny Rogers, or even the twangy country of the '50s back when rock & country were so closely related, they had such cross-over superstars as Elvis Presley.

I'm not telling anyone what they should or shouldn't *like*. I'm just saying that music is incredibly rich and diverse and is influenced by a lot of other styles that a lot of people ignore and dismiss in their disdain for whatever style of music isn't the style they prefer. And I think people might enjoy their preferred musical style even more if they had a better understanding of that complexity and diversity in their music, even if they never learn to appreciate those styles they say they dislike.
joreth: (Bad Computer!)
There's this thing that otherwise reasonable, intelligent people do that just really pisses me off. I've started calling it Missing The Point Pedantry. This is when someone who is a generally intelligent person with a reasonable amount of social skills decides to argue some pedantic, specific little detail that someone, who is also fairly intelligent with social skills, said in a conversation or online post that completely misses the point of what was being said. It requires the pedant to overlook context, any knowledge of the person speaking and/or their past track record or tendencies regarding either the subject or their conversation/speaking/writing style, and any social conventions involved in speaking/writing.

So, for example: let's take Devon. Devon is a college graduate with an interest in the hard sciences but a vast experience with the arts and pop culture. Devon can use "totes" and "adorbs" in conversation and not sound like my dad sounded in the '80s when he tried to say "that's totally radical dude!" in an effort to connect with "the kids these days". Devon is well-read in popular fiction, the classics, and non-fiction in some specialty areas of interest. Devon is sex-positive and active in alternative communities like the Ren Faire and the local indie club scene. In other words, Devon is a well-rounded person with general knowledge, some specific expertise, and social skills like current slang and local/cultural body language.

Now let's take Quinn. Other than the specific areas of specialty that Quinn focuses on or hobbies and interests that Quinn has, Quinn is basically the same as Devon - well-read, intelligent, average size social group, etc. Maybe Quinn is a sci-fi geek instead of a Renny or maybe Quinn listens to goth instead of industrial music, but otherwise, they are fairly well-matched people. They also know each other through overlapping social circles and have had direct interactions with each other, but maybe they don't know each other quite well enough to call each other "friend" in the can-call-each-other-up-in-the-middle-of-the-night-to-rescue sense. They probably show up at some of the same parties if they're in the same area and they are probably friends on Facebook or something.

So Devon and Quinn are at a party one night and Devon is speaking with some people on a subject that most of the people mostly agree on. Maybe it's the conflict in the Middle East, maybe it's about immigration, maybe it's about pc vs. mac, maybe it's on the inherent privilege that blondes face in this country at the expense of redheads. Whatever, Devon is reasonably certain that most of the people have similar, if not identical, views on the subject and that there are probably people at the party who disagree, but that's not who Devon is talking to right now, although Devon is aware that those people could probably overhear the conversation. Quinn is at the party and generally agrees on the subject, but has different personal experiences of the subject so might have a slightly different perspective, although they both agree on the important points.

Devon starts relating a story about a study on the subject that suggests some really interesting and suggestive trends among, oh, I dunno, blondes. It turns out that when you prime blondes by having them read pro-blonde jokes, they have a tendency to become more hostile towards non-blondes. They answer questions about crime committed by redheads with harsher penalties than blondes, and they want harsher penalties than the blondes who weren't primed for it. The study, and a series of related studies, show some shocking revelations about the privilege of blondes in our country that lend weight to the redhead accusation that hair-colorism is not yet over, it just moved to a more subtle form. Blondes aren't burning redheads at the stake for being witches anymore, but they still aren't given exactly the same treatement as blondes in society, and the redheads aren't just being "overly sensitive" about "seeing hair-colorism everywhere".

Since Devon is not a research scientist, was not personally involved in this study, and is speaking at a party and not a science forum, Devon is playing a little loose with the language. Devon sums up the study instead of quotes it, uses anecdote as illustration to connect with the audience, speaks in the common vernacular and not necessarily precise, scientific language, sometimes uses humor to relieve the tension, sometimes gets a little angry at the injustice of it all and the anger seeps into the tone every so often. But Devon is speaking to peers, who understand the same common vernacular, who are swayed by anecdotal illustrations and have not spent their life-long careers training themselves to recognize personal bias (although some do it as a hobby, they all still understand that they're all at a party and not being hired to review this study), who are also there to just converse with people they like and if they happen to learn an interesting new tip, even better.

As Devon finishes with an anecdote that supports the study's conclusion, in an effort to better connect the audience to the dry data and to illustrate the point and maybe to connect the study to something that was said previously that is related but not necessarily the exact same thing, Quinn jumps in with "well, I'm blonde and I like anti-redhead jokes, but *I* certainly have no problem with redheads! Therefore you can't say that blondes are anti-redhead. If I were to follow your logic where you used a personal anecdote to support hair-colorism, then my experience as a blonde who had a hair-colorist redhead father should lead me to make sweeping generalizations that all redheads were anti-blonde!"

This, ladies and gentlemen, is what we call Missing The Point.

Of course we shouldn't take our personal experiences and use them to make sweeping generalizations. That's not what Devon did. Devon used a personal anecdote to illustrate a trend that a scientific study suggested. The point of using anecdotes in this context is to make the subject matter relatable to the general audience. People use analogies, similes, hyperbole, alliteration, allusion, and other literary tools to create an emotional response in the audience. That's what people do. The scientific and the skeptics communities are both terrible about not utilizing these tools, and it's one of the reasons why we have a culture of anti-intellectualism. The religious and the woo crowds are experts at these tools and they use them liberally to sway the public away from science, away from reason, away from critical thinking. Science, critical thinking, and reason are hard for humans, in general (don't anyone fucking dare comment about how easy it is for you, personally - that's exactly what I'm talking about). But tell people there's a quantum flux theory that totally explains why hospitals fill up on nights with a full moon because your sister once had a dream about a peanut butter and jelly sandwich at exactly the same time you were making one, therefore water that remembers the medicine you filtered out of it but not the poop totally cured your autism, and they'll think you're making absolute sense.

When an individual makes a claim, such as "women are just naturally more nurturing than men" and backs it up with a story about how "every single" woman they know is better with children than "every single" man they know, and has been that way since birth, therefore they can make the claim that women in general, or all women, are naturally more nurturing than men - that's a logical fallacy. The counter to that is a combination of actual science research that says otherwise as well as any examples that do not fit the claim. If the claim is that "all people of X group", then only 1 counter example is sufficient to falsify the claim. If the claim is "generally people of X group", then anyone whose personal experience is that most people of that group do *not* is sufficient to falsify the claim - especially when either case is backed up with scientific data.

In other words, if you say "all dogs have 4 legs", then all I have to do is produce 1 dog without 4 legs and the claim is bunk. If you say "dogs are generally mean and vicious animals", then all I have to do is say that I've worked with thousands of animals in an animal shelter and the vast majority of dogs I've worked with were lovable and sweet, and that the only mean and vicious dogs I encountered were raised by asshole owners who trained them specifically to be mean and vicious to counter the claim that meanness is a species-wide trend.

But when the scientific evidence suggests a particular trend, and a person shares an anecdote to illustrate what the trend is, or to help the audience connect or relate to the conclusion, or to say "I can believe that because this thing that supports the conclusion happened to me", that is not a logical fallacy. That's called being a part of a social species that uses complex language filled with nuance and social context to share ideas with each other.

Most of the time, this Missing The Point Pedantry takes the form of a strawman argument. I have an ex who did this constantly. He once got interested in dating someone that I felt would be problematic because she was opposed to polyamory. I was concerned that she would do typical cowboy or cuckoo things to break us up or drive me away so that she could have him all to herself. I was concerned because she exhibited such behaviour in the past. His reaction was to scoff at me and tell me that he was anti-marriage, so I shouldn't worry because it's not like he was going to run off to Vegas and marry her, he just wanted to fuck her.

Well, no shit Sherlock, I didn't think he was going to run off to Vegas and marry her and that's not at all what I was concerned about. It doesn't take something as drastic as a vehemently anti-marriage man completely 180-ing on his lifelong, somewhat pathological, anger at the institution of marriage to make me concerned about how a new partner is going to affect my existing relationship. Things like refusing to be in the same room with me even at parties forcing him to routinely "choose" between us, calling in the middle of our date night for her weekly emotional "crisis" to have a 2-hour long argument about whether or not he should come home *again* to take care of her, showing up at my house at exactly midnight because "my night" with him is now *technically* the next day, which isn't my night, so he has to come home with her right now, spinning private stories in a negative way to mutual friends to gradually turn those mutual friends away from me and onto "her side" - these are the kinds of things that I'm afraid of. These, by the way, are all things that have actually happened to me and not hyperbole, exaggeration, or strawmen or pulled out of my ass. I don't need to be worried that she's going to kidnap my boyfriend at gunpoint, force him to marry her, and never see me again to be concerned that my life is about to be unpleasantly disrupted by someone with a history of being disruptive.

So sometimes the pedantry is used to pick on a specific detail or pull a loose form of speech to focus on at the expense of all the rest of what was said - the context, the cultural influences, the history of the speaker, and even the non-spoken implications revealed by the language used - to pick out that detail and blow it up to exaggerated proportions so that the original speaker would have to backtrack or renege the point in order to not be associated with the caricature now presented.

But sometimes it's another logical fallacy, and I don't particularly want to attempt to cover every possible fallacy that someone could make in these circumstances. The point is I really hate Missing The Point Pedantry because I have to explain, in great detail and at great length, why this is a misdirection in order to get back on track, which, in effect, is exactly what I'm trying to avoid - being misdirected. Instead of discussing the topic, we get sidetracked onto this other niggling little detail. There's no good way to handle this problem that I am aware of. If you don't address it, a falsehood or a fallacy goes unchallenged, and all that results from that. If you do address it directly, you get off the main topic and start arguing something that wasn't your point in the first place. If you address the fact that it's missing the point, you still get off the main topic and start arguing something else that wasn't your main point, only now you're arguing about arguing.

The people I know are intelligent, reasonable people, for the most part, and, contrary to the mainstream perception of intelligent people, are not actually all socially maladapted misfits like Sheldon Cooper. They are people who understand humor, sarcasm, double entendre, can tell when someone shouts "fine, whatever!" and storms out of a room that she's probably not actually fine and is likely pissed off, can identify "I'd love to but..." as a polite rejection even if the word "no" was never spoken, and a whole host of other social interactions. But, for some reason, all of those interaction skills go right out the window when they seize on a detail that might not be an absolutely, literal, 100% in all cases down to the fractal level, perfect phrase or example.

When most people say "I'm going down to Miami for the weekend", most other people understand that "down" is a cultural slang term that means "south-ish from this point", not that the speaker is literally moving in a downward direction into the planet and pretty much no one tries to correct the speaker. Even when someone says "I'm going down to New York for the weekend", and we all know that "down" means "south-ish" but the speaker will be traveling "north-ish" or "east-ish", most of the time people still don't try to correct the speaker because we grasped, from the context, what the important point was - that the speaker is going somewhere for the weekend. But when Missing The Point Pedantry happens, suddenly I'm faced with, for example, anti-sexist men who want to argue that "she didn't say the word no so it's not rape" or "but men have bad stuff that happens too" or "what's wrong with wanting to protect my primary relationship?" or "if she just knew self-defense, she wouldn't be a target" or "I agree that religion is actively harmful, but do you have to be so aggressive about it?" or "you know that aspirin comes from willow trees, right, so don't do the opposite and assume everything that's natural is harmful" or a million other wacky things that completely miss the point.

No, I haven't actually counted out one million examples. That's a figure of speech and is intended to convey "a lot" in a way that impresses the reader with "really a lot". And that's exactly what I'm talking about - Missing The Point Pedantry. Everyone knows that "a million other things" doesn't literally mean exactly one million other things, and "everyone knows" doesn't literally mean that every person on the entire planet that has ever or will ever live understands that figure of speech. And you, who is doing this, also understand that, in most contexts except for whatever it is about this one that prompted you to point this out. I'm not speaking to Rain Man here, or Sheldon, I'm not speaking to or about anyone who has any kind of actual neurological condition or complication that makes them actually have trouble with abstract thought. I'm talking to and about people who, in most cases, get this, but couldn't refrain from "not getting it" now. I know you're not stupid and I know you're not an asshole, but for fuck's sake, stop acting like it and, by implication, stop acting like I'm stupid by ignoring all the context around whatever detail you picked out to focus on.
joreth: (::headdesk::)
Apparently, today's theme on Facebook is "FUCKING READ SNOPES BEFORE YOU POST, BITCHES!"  After the 4th post in a row where I was compelled to respond by posting a Snopes URL, I posted the following to my own timeline - feel free to copy & paste (or edit & personalize) on your own social networking sites or in response to emails:

Before you post a link, or worse, a picture with a sob story attached, about evil corporations trying to screw us over, mad scientists trying to poison our food supply, evil strangers trying kill babies or rape women or steal money, hidden needles in food or gas pumps, dead rodents or insects in famous restaurant chains, or strangely generous famous people willing to pay you money for forwarding pictures to all your friends, check it out on Snopes: www.snopes.com

If you don't like Snopes, use www.urbanlegends.com. Both link to the original sources where they get their information so you can verify their conclusions.

If the story does not give VERIFIABLE information - first & last name, city/state/country, date, etc. - then it's probably fake. If the story does give that information, Google it first to make sure those people actually exist and the incident actually happened in the place and on the date the story claims.

More often than not, Michigan University never had a professor named Dr. Miles Pendergrast, so he certainly could not have bioengineered a potent virus that the government bought to implant in our water supply, little Lisa Snodgrass doesn't exist and doesn't have cancer or stayed at the non-existent Our Lady Of Perpetual Fraud hospital, and that scary chemical, dihydrogen monoxide, that kills millions of people every year and is in our FDA-approved food really does exist but it's not what you think it is (hint: dihydrogen monoxide is water).




*The title comes from a TV commercial currently playing on local television stations:

http://youtu.be/X-pHe879l60?t=8s



If you don't want to watch the video, the premise is that a girl makes a wild claim to a guy she knows.  He asked where she heard it, and she says "the internet".  She then says the the line in the title.  He asks where she heard *that* and they both say together "the internet", the guy clearly thinking "I should have known!"  Then an unkempt guy approaches and she says something along the lines of "excuse me, I have to go, my date is here.  I met him on the internet.  He's a French model!"  The unkempt guy glares at the guy and says, in an obviously American accent with no attempt to hide his lack of familiarity with the French language, "Bonjour!" and smiles contemptuously and lecherously at the pretty, dumb, girl he snookered while she looks back at the first guy with a sickeningly trusting & triumphant smile and walks off with the jackass.  The line that I used for the title has recently come, among one of my circles, to be shorthand for the brand of naivete that results in being taken advantage of by unscrupulous hoaxers and simple internet urban legends and is frequently trotted out to reference both this commercial and this phenomenon.

joreth: (Super Tech)
Picture this...

The screen fades from black to show a man sleeping in bed.  His eyes pop open.  Cut to another man bouncing out of his bed in his pajamas.  Cut to yet another man running down the stairs.  Show a series of different men all acting like children on Christmas morning, running to the tree, tearing open the presents, and all finding Craftsman tools, or Makita, or Dewalt, or Black & Decker, whatever.  The men are excited, behaviour has regressed, this is the best thing EVAR!  Some voice-over says something witty about getting your man what he really wants this holiday season: a set of their tools.

Dear Advertisers of Manly Stuff;

I don't know if you know this, but I'm a woman and I like tools.  Seeing ads like this on TV around the holidays makes me feel excluded from the very things that I love.  It's like when I was a kid and saw commercials for my favorite toys, but there were no girls playing with those toys, even though I knew lots of girls who liked those toys.  Since there were no girls on the commercials and no girls on the packaging, the adults in my life refused to buy me those toys because they weren't "girl toys".  But I loved them!

Commercials like these don't just make me feel excluded.  They make me think that I am deliberately unwanted.  Oh, sure, when it comes to money, you're willing to cater to the women.  But you make our tools less powerful, smaller, and pink or purple.  I want my industrial yellow, 15-bajillion hertz Dewalt power drill, not some frilly purple drill with flowers on it that doesn't even have enough power to screw in my picture hardware.

I know this may come as a shock to you, but I don't hang pictures.  I build shit.  I fix my car.  And I don't mean that I change tires (although I do).  I've rebuilt my own carbuerator.  I built the shed out back.  I've installed load-bearing walls.  I operate heavy machinery.  I have all the best name-brands and a better tool collection than my father - a manly man who taught me how to use a circular saw and to hunt deer and let me steal sips of his beer when mom wasn't looking.  I have multiple tool chests for different kinds of work, and I have specialty tools just for certain industries that your average guy won't have.  And, here's even more of a shock, I also like cooking and sewing and men.  And (are you sitting down?) I'm not the only one.

Maybe tool purchases by women only make up 10% of your sales (although I don't believe it's that low for a minute, but let's say for the sake of argument).  Would it really kill you to throw in a single woman in that holiday morning montage?  A girl amidst the dozen men who tears off the packaging while wearing fuzzy pajamas with snowflakes on them and finds a black and blue Kobalt power drill or air compressor or something - a good, powerful tool that matches her fuzzy pajamas - and who shakes her fists and grins and gives her husband a bear hug in thanks?  Just one?  You can even make her blonde and young and pretty.  At this point, I'd settle for a token woman.

Maybe you're afraid that the big manly men won't want to buy that brand of tool if you suggest that women like it too.  But maybe you'll win tons of loyal female customers to make up for the handfuls of chauvanistic pricks who refuse to buy a good tool just because some chick also knows it's a good tool.  Most men won't stop buying something good just because they find out that some women like it too - in fact, they probably won't even notice the woman in the commerical at all, because they probably never noticed her absence in the first place.  But word will spread that you are including women, and not pandering to them, and women notice that.  They'll go out of their way to buy YOUR brand when they need a tool, especially if you're the only, or the first, brand to do this.  If you ever thought men cornered the market on being brand-loyal, you've never seen "loyal" until you've treated a woman customer like a person, listened to what she wanted, and offered her a quality product without assuming she wouldn't be interested or doesn't understand or must be buying for her husband.

Throw in a female in your advertising - make me think that you appreciate my business, because I appreciate your products and want to buy more of them.  Only I won't if I think I can get better service from another company, and the next generation of women won't if they continue to get bombarded with messages that say that your products are not for them.  Don't girlie-up your tools, don't make tools - or commericals - exclusively for women and leave out the men.  Just include us.  That's all we're asking for.  Treat us like human beings first, paying customers second, and only like women if you have a shot at the parts that make us women.

Sincerely,
A Woman Who Likes Tools
joreth: (strong)
I noticed something tonight. Well, I've noticed it before, but a couple of separate incidents just clicked. There's this great picture floating around of a guy who built a power loader from the Aliens movie and put his baby inside for Halloween. If you haven't seen the movie, it's hard to describe, but it's basically a giant robot that a person wears as a "suit", so they can lift and move really heavy things. So the parent is dressed as the giant robot, and the baby is in the front, in the "cab" of the robot where the driver would sit. It's totally adorable and he wins at both Halloween and parenting.

Anyway, the costume isn't really the point. Kevin Smith posted it to Facebook with the comment: "Every once in awhile, you encounter someone so talented and ingenious, you feel like an utter failure in everything you've ever attempted or accomplished. I am but shit when compared to whoever made this amazing Halloween costume."

I probably would have overlooked this comment, if it hadn't been for another conversation I had with an ex-boyfriend about 4 years ago that stuck in my memory, bugging me.

I was over at his place, but we were doing separate things, as I often do with partners when I start to spend a lot of time with them (I love you guys, but my shit doesn't get done by itself!). It was nearing bedtime, and my preferred pre-bed routine is to watch TV to relax and kind of shut off my mind a little because I can't sleep with my mind racing, as it tends to do pretty much all the time. It was in the middle of a Dancing With The Stars season, so that's what I wanted to watch that night. As you all who read my journal regularly know, I'm passionate about dancing. And when I'm passionate about something, I want to share it with my partners.

I don't have to share everything with my partners - it's OK if they don't have all of the same interests as I do. But I want to at least expose them to the things I'm most passionate about. It's less about getting them to like the same things as me, and more about wanting them to see me when I'm enjoying something I'm passionate about. I think it's a good window into who I am as a person, and I want to give my partners every opportunity I can to get to know me in as many different contexts as possible - for a more complete picture of who I am.

So, as I usually did when the subject came up, I invited my then-boyfriend to watch the show with me. He resisted, and I pressed, lightly, I thought. Then he said the thing that I haven't been able to forget all these years.

He said that he didn't want to watch the show because they were so good at what they did, that watching them only made him feel bad about himself. Keep in mind that he has never, to my knowledge, even tried to learn how to dance, nor has he even expressed any interest in it. I've known lots of guys who were interested in dancing, who wished they could dance, but who believed they could not learn - who said that they tried at some point and just couldn't. But not him - dancing never seemed to be anything he was even the slightest bit interested in doing.

There is a fundamental difference between me, and Kevin Smith and my ex-boyfriend. For people like them, being in the presence of brilliance, of the extraordinary, of the exceptional makes them compare themselves to the fantastic and tally up all the ways in which they fall short.

But for people like me, being in the presence of brilliance, of the extraordinary, of the exceptional inspires me. When I compare myself to those who are better than me at something, I do not see how substandard I am by comparison, even though I am realistically aware that people are better at things than I am. When I compare, I become inspired by how I can improve. I start to wonder what I can do to move in the direction of that brilliance, of that extraordinary, of that exceptional.

If I know that it is just something beyond my reach (I will never be a competition dancer, for instance), I don't feel bad for having failed to reach a bar that I was never going to grasp in the first place. I feel inspired and hopeful just for living in the same world as that brilliance, as that extraordinary, as that exceptional. Because they add beauty and value to existence, and I benefit from that. I don't have to "measure up" to their standards to benefit from the wonders that they bring to this world. We are all better off for having those exceptional people exist. It is not necessary for me to equal their excellence, I am still better off for their existence.

And that is a core difference, I think, between people like me and people like my ex. That core difference is, I believe, at the heart of why my life will always be awesome and life for some people will always, in their view, suck, or be difficult, or be hard, or be devoid of happiness, or have only the occasional moment of fleeting pleasure in the sea of misery that is life.

That's a quote, by the way, from the ex. He did not believe that happiness existed, and that happy people were simply deluding themselves, ignoring all the pain and misery that is life. He actually said to me that he does not experience happiness, only the occasional moment of fleeting pleasure and that life is misery.

It was a very strange epiphany that day, when I had the realization that I was the optimist in the relationship. I have been nicknamed The Killer Of Dreams by another former partner because of my habit of seeing the downside in everything. Every grand scheme he came up with, I injected what I called a dose of reality to explain why his grand scheme wouldn't work. He hated that. I'm always the pessimistic one, the one who can find the flaws in the plan, the one who automatically says "no", regardless of what the request or suggestion is, and who only says "yes" much later, after I've had a chance to work out all the details and come up with a backup plan to the backup plan.

So when I discovered that I was actually an optimist, at least by comparison, the world started to look very different. If I had truly been a pessimist, I wouldn't have bought a 20-year old school bus and packed up everything I owned into it, and set off across the country with no job, no house, and only one friend waiting for me. I wouldn't have switched majors from my very respectable sociology degree with plans to start a counseling practice to the much less likely major of film, theater, & broadcasting, where I don't have a steady income, I live below the poverty line, and I frequently worry whether I can afford to eat that week. These are not the actions of a pessimist.

These are the actions of someone who believes in abundance. I believe there is always opportunity, I believe I have the skills to do what I set out to do and the ability to learn what I need to learn, and I have the confidence to be happy with my imperfect self and the life that comes with it. I will always be happy because of this outlook.

I don't mean that I will never experience sadness or pain or anger. Hell, anyone who has read more than this entry ought to know what a ridiculous idea that is! What I mean is that, if you look at the bigger picture, if you look over my life as a whole, if you ask me at almost any point during my life "is this worth it? Are you happy?" I would have to say "yes".

It's like, if you ask a married couple after 50 years, would they consider their marriage a good one and are they happy together, if that couple said "yes", it wouldn't mean that they never had a fight in those 50 years, or that they didn't sometimes annoy each other, or even that they didn't consider the possibility of leaving at least once in that whole time. But you can have those bumps in the road and still find the drive to be beautiful and worth the ride.

And, although this is definitely not a guarantee for every single person who feels this way, but I would wager that people who look at someone exceptional and see only their own failures are more likely to be people like my ex - people who see life as a sea of misery with only the occasional island of happiness. I'm not sure that one causes the other, but I do think you could do a decent guessing job that if someone does one, he probably will do the other.

I'd also wager that people who look at someone exceptional and feel inspired to be their best selves, regardless of whether or not they think they can also do that same thing, I'd wager that those people are more likely to see life as filled with opportunity and wonder, and therefore be happy in life.

And I firmly believe that people who see life as filled with opportunity and wonder are people who can do extraordinary, exceptional things. These seem to be self-perpetuating cycles. If it's an issue of brain chemistry, then I have no solution to offer. But if it's at all possible to change one's thinking, it seems to me that one way to live a life filled with wonder and opportunity and happiness is to seek out exceptional people and to be inspired by them to be the most exceptional version of oneself that one can.

I do not fear exceptional people. I am not intimidated by them. I do not compare myself to them and find myself falling short. I do not hate exceptional people. I do not envy them.

I admire them. I want more of them in my life. I am better for my exposure to them, even if that exposure is indirectly, like a celebrity whom I only know from TV and who does not know me. The world is better for having them, and since I am of the world, I am better by extension.

And that is why I will always be happy.
joreth: (dance)
September is, apparently, "Step-tember" at the Enzian Theater (a local independent movie theater), with a whole month of dance movies & events. So I want to make September an annual celebration of dance appreciation!

I have 4 distinct inspirations from my childhood for getting into dance:

1) Breakin' 2: Electric Boogaloo - my very first dance movie and I actually learned to breakdance (poorly) because of it.

2) Footloose - which taught me that dancing wasn't just fun, it was inherently a celebration of life, in all its forms. Dance expressed joy, anger, sadness, love, passion, every emotion, and was a necessary form of expression for me.

3) Janet Jackson - one of the first female dance choreographers I had ever been exposed to, thanks to a summer day-camp in elementary school that offered a jazz class where we performed to one of her songs. I learned that there was a place in the dance world for women, not just as a pair of pretty legs, but as the creative directors and leaders in the industry.

4) Dirty Dancing - introduced me to partner dancing as something more than just "that stuff old people did at weddings" and to the concepts of courage, honor, and being yourself, no matter the cost.

Dance, for me, has always been more than just exercise or another chance to embarrass myself in front of my peers. Dance has always been about empowerment, about expression, and a metaphor for life itself. Even when I'm sore or injured, or having trouble getting a step right and looking stupid, I am rarely ever more alive than when I am dancing.

Happy Step-tember everyone! Go out and dance!
joreth: (polyamory)

I read an interesting article in Psychology Today. I'll be honest, I have dropped PT from my mental list of Websites Of Quality Articles. They are just another online blog site with dozens of bloggers of varying quality and expertise. They are certainly not a peer-reviewed scientific journal, but increasingly they aren't even an interesting source of pop-psychology to provide food for thought - just a source of rage about how some people are able to obtain advanced degrees and be allowed to have a public forum for their views.

But occasionally I run across an article or op-ed that I like. This was one of them. It talks about respect. "Respect" is thrown around a lot in the poly community in a very particular way. I most often see it used as a defense of The Rules* by primary couples wishing to protect their relationship. The reason why The Rules are necessary, they might say, is because they need to ensure that the incoming partner respects their relationship, their primacy. This is, IME, the reason most often given when a couple does not want to admit to being insecure.

No, they might say, the Rules are not because I don't trust my partner! I trust him implicitly! It's other people that I don't trust! We have a rock-solid relationship! We are best friends! I know that he would never do anything to hurt me! So I am not dictating his behaviour, I am laying out the rules for her behaviour! We don't want anyone to come in and not respect our primary relationship and/or not respect me as his primary partner. So we need Rules to make sure she is respectful.

So let's talk about respect.

[livejournal.com profile] tacit has said, in many places, but in his most recent post on rules:

Many folks who claim primacy in a primary/secondary relationship often say they need rules because otherwise they don't feel "respected" by secondary partners, yet it's difficult to be respectful when one feels hemmed in, encircled by walls, and knowing that one's relationship is always under review.
In his previous post on rules, he says
"Respect" is a slippery, tricky word. It's kind of like "freedom"--everyone thinks they know what it means, but when the rubber meets the road, few folks actually agree on a definition.

To me, respect has to be mutual. If Alice is demanding respect from Bob's new sweetie Cindy, that can only come if Alice in turn respects the notion that Cindy is a grown adult with her own needs and desires, and she, too, deserves a shot at having a voice in the relationship. Imposing rules by fiat on other people and then demanding respect from those people is all the rage (I hear) among leaders of North Korea, but can feel a bit yucky when we're talking romantic relationships. ...

At worst, it sets up a relationship with a certain amount of tension and conflict baked in. If you see your partner's other partner as a source of stress, if you set up rules to govern that other person's behavior, then already you've started out on a basis of conflict ... there's an irreconcilable difference there. Someone's desire is going to get trumped, and you're playing the "respect" card to try to make sure it's not yours.

So this article had some interesting things to say about respect. And no, it is not a poly article, it's about relationships in general. In fact, it spends about as much time, if not more, talking about respecting one's children as it does respecting one's spouse. As I say so often, this is not a poly issue, this is a people issue. But I want to bring it around to poly specifically, as I see it played out in this Primary vs. Secondary deathmatch battle at Thunderdome, where the primary couple puts themselves in opposition to the incoming secondary partner and justifies the structure under the heading of "respect".

The author, Peter Gray, separates out love from respect. He acknowledges that some people make respect an integral part of their definition of love (like I do), but he sticks to his point that they are independent elements. Although I do not believe one can "love" someone if they do not respect them, I agree that "love" and "respect" are not interchangeable and can be discussed separately. One can have respect without love, for instance, even if one insists that love must include respect. I can have bacon without it being in a bacon-lettuce-tomato sandwich, but I can't have a BLT without bacon, by definition - then it's just an LT sandwich.

Gray says that, if you accept the premise that love can exist without respect and vice versa, then bliss is what happens when you combine the two. But if he had to choose between them, he'd take respect over love.

It is useful, I think, to compare and contrast parent-child relationships with husband-wife relationships. In both of these, respect is absolutely essential for the relationship to work. Love without respect is dangerous; it can crush the other person, sometimes literally. To respect is to understand that the other person is not you, not an extension of you, not a reflection of you, not your toy, not your pet, not your product. In a relationship of respect, your task is to understand the other person as a unique individual and learn how to mesh your needs with his or hers and help that person achieve what he or she wants to achieve. Your task is not to control the other person or try to change him or her in a direction that you desire but he or she does not. I think this applies as much to parent-child relationships as to husband-wife relationships.

If we apply this to the primary/secondary/metamour scenario, it sounds like this: To respect your partner is to understand that the other person is not you, not an extension of you, not a reflection of you, not your toy, not your pet, not your product. To respect your metamour/secondary is to understand that the other person is not a reflection of you, not your toy, not your pet, not your product. In a relationship of respect, your task is to understand that your metamour/secondary is a unique individual and learn how to mesh your needs with his or hers and help your metamour/secondary to acheive what he or she wants to achieve. Your task is not to control your metamour/secondary or try to change him or her in a direction that you desire but he or she does not. In a relationship of respect, your task is to understand that your partner is a unique individual and to help your partner achieve what he or she wants to achieve. Your task is not to control your partner or try to change him or her in a direction that you desire but he or she does not.

This is the antithesis of everything that The Rules stand for in poly relationships. The Rules, as I am referring to them here, are about protecting from change and prohibiting growth of one person in a direction not necessarily desired by another person. The Rules are designed to make partners into an extension of each other and reflection of each other and to make secondaries into toys, pets, or products.

This is the exact opposite of that "respect" that these sorts of couples are demanding. When those couples that I am talking about refer to "respect", they mean it in the way that we all "respect" the law - by that I mean that we all follow a set of rules that someone else imposed on us without our input whether we agree with it or not because there are consequences to breaking the law, and we surriptitiously break the law when we think we can get away with it (seriously, if anyone out there thinks that you never break any law, like speeding or oral sex, either you are lying to yourself or you've never actually read every single law that affects your jurisdiction - some are inherently contradictory and some don't even apply anymore but were never stricken from the books). We are generally taught to obey authority for the good of society. But really, how much of that is "respect" and how much of that is a sense of obligation coupled with a fear of consequences? That may be an acceptable way to run a large society, but that doesn't sound like any way to run a relationship that claims to be "loving".

I don't "respect" authority and law. I recognize that authority & law have power over me and I recognize that a system of law and authority is beneficial for society (the individual points of authority & law are debatable, though). I accept this power structure, mostly, in order to get along with society, basically as a social contract - I don't hurt, maim, kill, or steal from you if you won't do it to me. That's not respect, that's an uneasy truce amongst people who don't know each other and don't have much motivation to care about each other.

But I also follow many laws simply by coincidence because I care and respect my fellow human beings. I don't need a law to tell me not to hurt or kill or steal from other people (as a matter of fact, there was a time when the law against stealing didn't do shit to prevent me from it). What makes me really not hurt or kill or steal from other people is a sense of compassion, a belief that we all deserve to live with dignity, an immense feeling of empathy, a passionate philosophy of personal soverignty ... in short, respect.

As [livejournal.com profile] tacit also says, if your partner truly loves and cherishes you, a rule is unneccessary, but if a partner does not truly love and cherish you, a rule won't make him. Just like with our secular laws, if someone really doesn't feel that sense of compassion and empathy towards the one they are hurting, a law doesn't tend to stop them from doing it. Never has a criminal seriously said (Facebook meme pics aside) "Man, I'm totally gonna kill you! What do you mean it's illegal? Oh, well, then, nevermind, sorry, forget I said anything." People who want to kill find ways to do it. Some of them become criminals who ignore the law, some of them become soldiers and cops who have the law behind them, and some of them become legal executioners who are specifically ordered to do it. If a partner wants to do something that will hurt you, he will whether there is a "rule" in place or not. If a partner honestly does not want to hurt you, he will do his best not to whether there is a rule in place or not.

The same goes for metamours. If respect is what you want, passing rules won't make anyone respect the relationship or the primary position. What makes a person respect that is all those other things I talked about above - compassion, empathy, consideration, acceptance, understanding. Those things are not demanded nor legislated. They are earned. And the best way to earn them from other people is to first give them to those other people.

Love is not all you need, nor all your wife or husband needs, and certainly not all your children need. We all need respect, especially from those who are closest and most intimately connected with us.



*The Rules are defined for this post as a set of restrictions or guidelines dictating the behaviour of other people, such as "you will not have intercourse with anyone other than me without a condom" and "no overnight stays".  Reciprocation and agreement to said rules are irrelevant to the definition of "dicating the behaviour of others".

This is contrasted from Boundaries, which are a source of information about one person that another person can use to inform his or her decisions, such as "I do not feel safe having sex with anyone who does not use condoms with all of his partners" so that anyone that "I" am dating can still choose to use condoms or not knowing how his decision will affect "I" and/or his relationship with "I".  

Many people use the word "rule" when they actually mean "boundary" and many people *think* they are talking about boundaries when they are actually imposing rules.

joreth: (polyamory)
I just finished listening to Poly Weekly's recent episode on advice for opening up a couple. I particularly enjoyed it because it was advice aimed at a couple from the point of view of the potential new "third" coming into the relationship. There are lots of advice floating around there telling couples how to open their relationship, like talking to each other and establishing The Rules before doing anything. But there is not much being said from this perspective.

Actually, there are quite a few sources telling couples what it feels like from the prospective Third, including me. But these sources consistently get shut down as couples defend their methods of "protecting [their] relationship". Now, it seems to me that if a group of people (and for these purposes, we'll include 2 people under the heading "group") want to attract another person or group of people, it would be in their best interest to actually heed the advice of said incoming person or group.

We see this in the skeptics and atheist communities too. And we see it in the larger poly community, not just first-time couples looking for unicorns. We have groups here of predominently white, educated, middle- & upper-class men (and women in the poly community) looking for more diversity. But instead of reaching out to the classes of people they wish to attract and asking them what they want from a community, what would convince them to try us out, and how we can improve their experiences with us, my communities of atheists, skeptics, and polys, continue to close ranks with locked arms, telling these other classes that they just need to deal with the communities as-is because that's how we like it, and then putting our own heads together to brainstorm ideas without input from the ones these ideas will most impact.

Back to the poly couples, they do the same thing. These two people (and sometimes it's a poly group about to open up for more) put their heads together and start discussing rules and regulations and future stuff without any input at all from the one person these rules will impact the most. And they defend it by saying that they don't want anyone who doesn't like these rules anyway and it's no different from pre-weeding out potential candidates based on other conflicting things like "I don't date guys who beat up kittens".

And then the poly couples and the atheist & skeptic organizers sit around and whine and moan about how hard it is to find people to join them and how mean everyone is being towards them and their policies.

[livejournal.com profile] tacit and I have also faced this phenonemon before, where we suggest that certain methods have better success rates than others (as well as being more humane and considerate and compassionate), and couples who can't find their unicorns belligerently defend the need for rules by calling them "training wheels" - things you do when you don't yet have compassion and empathy and consideration and relationship and communication skills in order to start being poly first and learn the "advanced" techniques as you go. And yes, I have been accused by people for being "enlightened" and "advanced" - this is not me tooting my own horn, these are the things other people have said about me and the reasons people give for not following my advice.  Frankly, I started out as poly with these same skills and have improved over time, so I have a hard time thinking of them as "advanced" or "enlightened" - as far as I'm concerned, being considerate towards those in your chosen family and thinking about what I bring to the table instead of how he will adequately fulfill my own needs are basic skills, not advanced.  But I digress.

It seems to me that if one wishes to be successful at something, and that something is attracting new people, one ought to be following the advice given by the people one wishes to attract and those who are successful at attracting them, not telling those one wishes to attract how wrong their advice is for how to attract them.  I'm pretty sure that I know better than anyone else what will attract me to that person or group, so if you want me in your group, you ought to listen to what I say will get me there.

So I liked this episode, and although I still don't agree with every single little itty bitty thing [livejournal.com profile] cunningminx said, I very much appreciated having someone with as big of a voice as she has saying these things in no uncertain terms and without bending over backwards to accommodate and pander to the couples, who already have an unequal distribution of power in the community, living in a heteronormative, couple-centric society to begin with.
joreth: (Default)

This started as simply posting a link to an article on Facebook and turned into a rant:

What's So Bad About A Boy Who Wants To Wear A Dress?  
http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/12/magazine/whats-so-bad-about-a-boy-who-wants-to-wear-a-dress.html?pagewanted=all

“No, I don’t want to be a girl,” he said, as he checked himself out in his bedroom mirror and posed, Cosmo-style. “I just want to wear girl stuff.”

“Why do you want to be a boy and not a girl?” I asked.

He looked at me as if I were daft. “Because I want to be who I am!”

...

"My son showed me this is part of core identity, not something people just put on or take off. And it’s not their job to make sure we’re all comfortable.”

My father is a cross-dresser. He is also straight (maybe bi, I dunno, none of his former female partners are aware of any male partners, at any rate). But he is also so ashamed of it and fearful of anyone finding out that he will not even admit to being my father and refuses to let me contact him.  He has cut off communication with his crazy religious-nut parents (both my mother & the investigator who located him (both Christian) labeled them as crazy religious-nuts) and the only way they can reach him is by pager, which he then uses to return the call from a payphone and not his phone.  

I only know about his cross-dressing because he apparently used to do it even back in high school, and my mother eventually confessed to catching him at it.  Then, when I sent out a first-contact letter to everyone with his name in his town's phonebook, his current girlfriend found it stashed away in a desk drawer and choose to respond, where she confirmed that the man I had described was her boyfriend and so was probably my father, that he had never told anyone about having a daughter, and about his crazy religious parents, and about his cross-dressing (which distressed the girlfriend & she didn't know how to deal with it).

It's ironic, since I'm his one relative who would embrace him without regard to his dress preferences. I would neither reject him for it nor put him on a pedestal as some sort of "hero" that he doesn't want to be for wearing women's clothing.  Yet I'm the last relative he wants any contact with, and that includes his crazy religious-nut parents who, according to my mother, screamed at him & called him all sorts of ugly names over the mere suspicion that their son might not have been "normal".

As far as I'm concerned, his attire preferences are merely a part of him, and they are always "right" as long as it is what he wants to wear.

Also, I can totally relate. Some people think I am a male when they don't see my physical appearance. Many of my male friends have made comments (some positive, some complaints) about women only to say "oh, but Joreth doesn't count!". And some get confused when I say I identify as "male" because I don't *look* male and even when I wear male clothing, I'm not trying to "pass" - I look like a girl in guy's clothes, and my feminine appearance can often blind people to my "masculine" way of being (thoughts, interests, etc.).

So I really appreciated hearing this perspective - of boys who want to be boys but just wear girl clothes or play with girl toys. I am female-bodied and I intend to stay that way. I am also androphillic in that I am attracted to males. The only reason why I don't identify as female is because of all the other crap that goes along with being "a girl". That stuff doesn't fit. But if I could be "a girl" and still like jeans and guns and trucks and still hate pastels and makeup and doing my hair, then I wouldn't be having this genderqueer identity.

"But girls CAN do all those things!" you say? No, actually, we can't. At least, we can't to the same extent that we can wear frilly dresses and have our nails done and like babies and baking.  We might not get burned at the stake for being a witch anymore, but we still have to defend our right to be tomboys. The fact that we have a nickname for it "tomboy" shows it, and the fact that the nickname uses the word "boy" in it furthers my point.  And we especially have to defend our right to like both jeans AND frilly dresses.

The fact that women can wear suits but it has to be tailored to be "feminine", that there are tons of books & articles teaching women how to be strong without "losing" their "femininity", and the fact that, when I say I identify as a guy, people point out my ballroom dancing & costuming as contradictory evidence all says that we as a society are still not comfortable with a gender spectrum, with blurring the lines, or with people who step outside of the very narrow gender-dichotomy boxes (which, of course, are not objectively defined anyway - my strict-gender-role parents have a very different definition of what makes a girl than some macho guys I've dated, for example).

"Pink boys", as this article calls them, have it worse, of course, because there are often larger penalties for a boy in a dress than a girl in pants - the women's movement has made some progress, after all. But feminists have not won the sexism wars yet, and the fact that pink boys have it worse is only one more symptom of sexism - that, as the article pointed out, boys being "girls" is going towards the "lesser gender".

Sexism & misogyny hurts everyone. I will identify as a "girl" when being a "girl" doesn't require me to behave in any particular way, like any particular thing, dislike any particular thing, think a particular way, feel a particular way, or be treated a particular way (please don't get me started on chivalry or treating women as "queens").

Or, here's a thought ... how about I just identify as a person and we all treat each other with the same amount of dignity and respect and then tailor the specifics to the individual, not to his or her genitalia or clothing style?
joreth: (boxed in)

Today's post is pretty light.  I saw this on XKCD today and had to comment.  Because of the fuzzy nature of the terms, everyone uses words like these differently, so, yeah, this is a pretty good assumption to make if you don't know the individual's specific use of the terms.

But for those who care what *I* mean when I use these terms, this is what I mean:

A couple - 2-3
A Few - 3-4
A Handful - 4-6
Several - 6-9


The Explanation )


So, there ya go - fuzzy measurements by Joreth!
joreth: (::headdesk::)
Apparently, it needs to be said -AGAIN-:  

1) "Joreth" is an online persona that is one facet of a whole person, and not the whole person.  I have several online personas, each explicitly focused on a single or related facets, and one cannot assume knowledge of the whole person based on interacting only with one persona.  She is not a character made out of whole cloth, she is *me*, but she is only one part of me.  Even the title says this is where I come to rant & blow off steam.  This is who I am when I'm fucking pissed off, but this is not who I am [period].

2) "Joreth" does not do interviews.  I conduct interviews under my real name or under pseudonyms, so that reporters do not use "Joreth" to represent the poly community.  People may find "Joreth" through those interviews, but "Joreth" is not the person being profiled in the news.

3) I have extensive experience with dealing with the media.  And I don't mean that I "shine lights on a stage".  I couldn't possibly give my entire background, but I have been working with the media, both in front of and behind the scenes, for almost my entire life.  I have been in the public spotlight for activism since the '80s.  I literally grew up surrounded by the media.  I have also been on the production side of broadcast journalism and in print news, so I know what the media is looking for, and how they get it.  There are plenty of people with more experience than me, and more polished than I.  But I know what I'm talking about, and I know what areas I don't know too.  I also utilize the resources of those more experienced and more polished than I to get even better than I currently am, since I know that I can always improve.

So what I don't need is someone telling me all about how to behave in front of the media.  And I certainly don't need someone with apparently no media training jumping into media relations and fucking up something I had just orchestrated to be positive media coverage with a MAJOR media outlet immediately after presuming to lecture ME on how to handle the media.

I had just gotten polyamory a positive portrayal on one of the nation's largest news outlets with a promise of future coverage, including expanding the story to cover some of our national poly conferences.  That's a pretty big coup and could result in some pretty big benefits to the community as a whole.  When some idiot who ONLY knows me through Twitter, decided to lecture me on proper media behaviour based only on my Twitter activity, and then brought the whole ugly exchange directly to the attention of said major news outlet.  

Yes, he actually lectured me on the perils of not representing the poly community well and then sent them a direct link to an ugly exchange that did not represent the poly community well (of course, the exchange wasn't intended to represent the community, but give it to the media & it will).

Did I mention that the interview hadn't been published yet, so he didn't even know how I had represented the poly community at all when he jumped in to complain about my behaviour with the media?  Did I mention that he doesn't know me outside of Twitter or PolyWeekly?  Did I mention that I was specifically asked to be snarky & opinionated on PW because Minx doesn't feel that she has the freedom to say certain things, so we play sort of a good cop - bad cop routine so that she can keep all her listeners but still have certain things said & still appease those listeners who like snark?  Did I mention that he was totally unaware that I had even done any prior interviews, let alone read or seen any of them?  Did I mention that I managed to get a tabloid magazine who had a prior record of screwing over a poly family in a previous article to write a decent article about polyamory when they dealt with me?

We all have been involved in some kind of tiff with others of the poly community at one time or another, and we all have seen others get into flamewars online. That can't be helped. But I would like to offer a bit of advice about dealing with these things in front of the media, especially since we're getting so much media attention right now.

Don't.

In other words, even if the argument happens "in public" on the internet, where anyone can see it if they know where to look, don't draw the media's attention to it. While we can, and should, publicly admit that there are all kinds of different people who are polyamorous, and that when we speak, we are speaking for ourselves and not necessarily for others, what we should NOT do is help the media out by actually pointing them towards community dissonance.

Giving them transcripts of a forum flame war and sending contact information / user names / real names to major news outlets is not the way to do damage control if someone happens to get on the news whom you think doesn't represent you. That just gives the media fodder to turn an otherwise human interest story into a sensationalized "rift in the community" mud-slinging scandal (which, let's face it, is much more tempting to print than a boring "all is well with us!" poly story).

So if you happen to see a news report or read an article where the respondent does not represent polyamory as you would like to be represented, please try to respond with your own personal perspective, and do not invite the media into drama regardless of your personal interactions with the subject of their stories. If you're worried about looking bad to the media, bringing to their attention your personal drama with someone is a pretty sure-fire way to look bad to the media.

Think of it as being a community organizer & publicly badmouthing your exes - generally speaking, no matter how "bad" your exes might have been, bashing them in public* (with real names & private details) makes YOU look bad and leaves a negative impression to those around you of the community as a whole as being drama-filled and conflict-ridden.

Oh, and also, wait until the story is actually published or broadcast before complaining about the person they're profiling. 1) You don't know how it's going to turn out - it may turn out in your favor and 2) that just gives them the opportunity to switch gears and highlight the community drama instead of whatever other angle they were originally going for.

I recommend sending this advice to all activists & community leaders. In order to protect the community and win battles, we need to present a unified front. That doesn't mean we should all be in lockstep, or even that we should never fight amongst ourselves, that means thinking 5 steps ahead and realizing what the media could do with a public disagreement. I also recommend that people don't contact the media themselves without the benefit of *some* kind of media training, where they might have learned tips like this one.

One of the ways that you can tell someone has no media training is when they talk about things they don't want the media to focus on.  One of the tips you will learn at PMA is to keep your shit separate.  When you do an article on polyamory, don't fucking talk about BDSM, or the SCA, or paganism, or people you don't like in the community.  If a person really is a bad representative of the poly community, YOU DON'T TELL THE MEDIA ABOUT THEM.  You don't give the media ammunition to publicize the wacky crazy shit you're trying to keep out of the media.  If the media brings something up that you don't want to talk about, you learn, through media training, how to minimize, de-emphasize, and redirect the interview to get off the subject.

But you absolutely, under no circumstances, point the media at someone or some exchange or some situation that you don't want highlighted in the media.  That's just dumb.

And if you do something like that, you have no grounds on which to be schooling ME on how to handle the media.



*Many times, anecdotes of relationships gone wrong can be very valuable for others to hear, especially within the poly community where newbies have no social role models and tend to reinvent the broken wheel every time.  An anecdote can be told to illustrate a point without mentioning the ex by name, without asking people to take sides, and without making the entire community look like nothing good ever happens there or scaring the newbies into thinking that if they make a mistake, they will forever be villified and publicly shunned.  "Bashing", as I use it, means to take private, personal details of the relationship and use them as a weapon to turn your ex into "the bad guy" in the community in a personal vendetta against him because you feel hurt.

There is room for exception here - if you are or know the victim of an assault or know of someone who is deliberately harming his partners (and by "deliberate", I mean, he either knows he's being harmful, or he doesn't realize he is, but has been told he is and dismisses it), I believe it's fair to warn others, such as what is currently happening in the BDSM community.  This is the type of situation that must be tread lightly, as sometimes people are just angry and they rewrite history from "we had a fight" to "he abused me".  There is no blanket rule for this.  Suffice to say that it's a situational circumstance that I am acknowledging exists even while I say, as a general guideline, bashing your exes publicly has social ramifications so it's probably better not to do it.

joreth: (boxed in)
I'm looking for video clips of TV shows & movies that show examples of two or more people in one or more of the following situations:

1) One person wants a gift or gifts and another either doesn't understand why or keeps fucking up the gift-giving
2) One person gives gifts to another
  a) and the other doesn't recognize or appreciate them
  b) and the other does recognize or appreciate them
3) One person wants compliments and another never gives them
4) One person compliments another often
  a) and the recipient is uncomfortable
  b) and the recipient laps it up
5) One person is regularly dismissive or critical of another
6) One person does things for another as an act of love, like home repairs or breakfast in bed
  a) and the other doesn't recognize it
  b) and the other recognizes it and appreciates it
7) One person wants another to do things for him or her, like take out the trash or clean or cook dinner
  a) and the other resists doing it and/or does so grudgingly
  b) and the other does it happily
  c) and tells the other to do those things by nagging

I do not need the actual clip (unless you know where to find it) but I do need enough information about the clip to locate it myself, such as title, episode (if it's a TV show), how far in I can find it, maybe actor or character names, etc.

These can be between romantic partners, between parents & offspring (adult or kids), between siblings, friends, coworkers, whatever.  This can be an example of the characters in these situations or it can be the characters complaining about these situations to friends or a therapist or someone.  

As an example:

joreth: (sex)

http://youtu.be/8n5O9tz30So

I saw this video today posted on Facebook and I really liked it, so I wanted to share it. But I also had something to say about it and my comment ended up being longer and more rambly than a FB comment should be (IMO), so I decided to make my own post about it.

In the video, Alyssa posits that the reason why people shame others for sex is because they're afraid that, if we give those people permission to do those things they like, then those people will try to do those things with us, and if we don't like those things that's a scary thought.

I don't disagree with her. I just think she was ... incomplete.

I think that at least one reason, if not a main reason, why people shame others for sex is less about fear of those others, and more about fear of ourselves.

I think that a lot of people believe that the way to control scary things is by boxing them up and putting them away in the attic, never to see the light of day (I know a lot of rationalists who think this is the way to deal with emotions). I think that a lot of people believe that, by exploring something scary, they may find the scariest thing of all, and that is that there is no end; that once you start down that road, not only can you never go back, but you can't ever stop either; that you necessarily must keep exploring and exploring and exploring until you HAVE TO explore previously-thought hard limits like bestiality and child molestation and rape and murder because, once you throw out the rules preventing you from doing things, what's to stop you from doing anything?

Except that people in general don't typically refrain from doing things because they are told not to. They typically refrain from doing things because they have an internal sense that they shouldn't do them. This is a very complex sense, though, which can be (and is) influenced by the culture around us, and not everyone has the exact same sense of right and wrong. In a lot of ways, we really do need some kind of external set of guidelines telling us how to get along with each other.

But in a lot of ways, that set of guidelines is born out of our collective internal sense in the first place.

Although sex does create and encourage a lot of the same chemical reactions in our brains as drugs do, contrary to pop-psych, sex is not the same as addictive drugs. People can, and do, stop wherever they want to. But the ones who are the most successful at stopping where they choose to stop are the ones who allow themselves to explore and who live by Francis Bacon's statement (whether they know of it or not) that "your true self can be known only by systematic experimentation, and controlled only by being known."

The more we know of ourselves, the better control we have over ourselves, and we can only know ourselves by experimentation and self-exploration. Ironically, those of us who explore the most fearlessly are the ones who tend to exhibit better control, while the ones who are most desperate for control are the ones who lack it because they don't tend to explore themselves.

People who know themselves, and therefore have control of themselves, don't get caught with "luggage boys" after enacting legislation against gay rights. People who know themselves, and therefore have control of themselves, don't get put under arrest for the very law they created against gay sex with strangers in public restrooms. People who know themselves, and therefore have control of themselves, don't tend to get caught using tax dollars to pay for prostitutes out of the same funds that put them in office on an anti-prostitution ticket.  People who know themselves, and therefore have control of themselves, can consciously and deliberately arrange their lives to enjoy those desires they have in a manner that includes "safe, sane, and consensual".

So I think Alyssa here didn't address all, or even the most prominent reasons for shaming others. I think one of those reasons is that people fear themselves. She makes the distinction between shame (something that people to do you by telling you that you're a bad person) and guilt (something that you do to yourself by feeling bad for a harmful act). I think that a lot of people feel the need to shame others because they feel guilty themselves - they feel afraid of the unknown and/or guilty for things they've done or want to do because other people have shamed them.

I think shame is a self-perpetuating cycle. We shame others because we have internalized the shame that other people have made us and others to feel. If we grow up in a society that says gay sex is bad, then we jump on that bandwagon and shame people for gay sex to avoid being shamed, thereby promoting that message to the next person who has to also jump on the bandwagon and shame people for gay sex, because to not do so would be to draw shame upon them.

And I think the reason why a lot of people shame others is because they are afraid of themselves, and of what they do not know about themselves. When someone tells me that they wouldn't explore some avenue of kink because "how would you ever stop?", that frightens me. That tells me that they don't have any internal sense that lets them see the difference between spanking a lover because he likes it and murdering someone. That tells me that they don't have any internal sense to show them the line between enjoying a sensation and self-harm. And since many of these people are the ones most vocal and most adamant about instilling external rules to help us all behave, this frightens me to no end because these people with no control are in charge.

I am not afraid of myself or my desires. I know what I am capable of, I know what I like, and I know how to stop. I am afraid of other people - afraid they will want to do those things to me, and by those things, I mean lock me up and prevent me from being myself because they are afraid of themselves. If anyone should be ashamed, it's them.

But I like the overall message of this video & I think you should watch it.

cross-posted at www.PromiscuityKeepers.com

joreth: (boxed in)

My house is a mess from two trips that I haven't unpacked from (or cleaned up from the original packing frenzy), the cats have fleas, and I have 3 presentations to write in less than 3 months. So naturally I'm blogging.

I was listening to a new poly podcast called Pedestrian Polyamory. I'm not entirely sure what I think of it yet, but I do like the fact that they say right in their opening that they will be talking about polymory - not tantra or paganism or woo bullshit, just polyamory. I've listened to all their episodes so far and I haven't unsubscribed yet, unlike some other poly podcasts, so I guess I don't dislike it!

The latest episode is on breaking up, and one of the hosts, Shira, came up with some breakup categories. I like categories. I like things that organize and categorize and put things in places. So I decided to write up these breakup categories. She listed 3 types, but I'm going to start with 6 and maybe add to it if I think of more. I kept a couple of her titles, but not all of them, and the descriptions are my own. Because I just like how I put things :-)

  • Failure To Launch - This is a relationship that never really went anywhere. This is when you had a date or two or three, and the both of you just kind of fizzled out and stopped following through. Maybe there was no chemistry, maybe ya'll got busy doing other things, whatever, it just never really happened.

    IMO, these are the least problematic, but the hosts of the podcast seem to think that this kind of "breakup" (if we can call it that) makes for really awkward social events when you run into them later. Shira recommends having that final confrontation where it is established that this relationship really isn't going anywhere, to avoid the post-fade-party-meetup awkwardness. I've never really found it to be that much of a problem. If we're both fading away, then I don't see much reason to feel awkward about running into each other later, but maybe that's just me. Not that I disagree with the advice to communicate, just saying that I never noticed any particular awkwardness when my Failure To Launches failed to launch. But I could just be that socially oblivious.

  • The War - Unfortunately, I have had a few of these. This is, as Shira called it, a knock-down, drag-out battle. This is a fucking mess. This is a giant train-wreck of a scene with tears and shouting, and it might even last for a few days, or weeks. In my experience, this kind of breakup often spills over into the rest of the community.

    One of my War breakups involved literally shouting at each other on the sidewalk, with him calling me a slut and me calling him a fucking asshole and demanding my stuff back. He was also my co-worker. I'm actually pretty good about maintaining a professional relationship with my exes, but he made it impossible. He picked on me and argued and got snotty every time I came around. It got so uncomfortable that other coworkers started complaining and I had to request to be scheduled on days that he was not scheduled. Then there was the infamous Freaks List Incident, where he couldn't figure out how to unsubscribe from the mailing list that our social circle uses to keep in touch about events or write an email filter for it, so he decided to insult everyone in an effort to get himself banned from the list instead.

    This is where the phrase "poly people come with references" comes in. While not a guarantee, we can estimate someone's future breakup behaviour based on their past patterns. If he has a habit of big flaming breakups, if he doesn't stay friends with his exes, if all his exes talk shit about him, take that as a warning sign. As they say, if all your exes are crazy, the thing they have in common is you.

    With this ex, his last relationship was particularly turbulent. But hey, that could have been a fluke, right? Especially since I personally witnessed a lot of their fights and it really did seem like she was the instigator and the drama queen. But that was only a single data point. I should have had more, and then I could have known that he was a fucking lunatic too.

    My other big War breakup wasn't quite so dramatic. But lack of fireworks doesn't mean that it wasn't still a War - after all, the US spent years in a Cold War that was every bit as tense, if not as bloody, as a regular war. We bickered a lot, and our breakup finally came to a head with some rather unpleasant email exchanges. OK, that's bad enough, but it was what happened afterwards that was the real problem.

    After the breakup, even though we were both prominent figures in our local community, he started avoiding me. And I don't mean that he stayed home from a couple of parties. I mean that he attended those parties, said "hello" to everyone, and pointedly ignored me. Seriously. When he got a new girlfriend, he walked up to a group of about 6 or 7 of us standing in a circle, all of whom happened to also be friends of his. He introduced his new girlfriend to everyone in the group, by name, and skipped over me.

    "Hi, I want to introduce my new girlfriend, Rebecca. Rebecca, this is Calvin and Tom and Sarah and Jessica ... and Melanie and Bob." No lie, no exaggeration, no hyperbole, just some name changes. People still talk of that incident, and not because I bring it up.

    At all subsequent parties, he would leave the room if I walked in. I actually went from room to room once, just to see if it was a coincidence, but nope, he did it every single time I went in, even if he was in the middle of conversation with someone. This is also still talked about by people. In fact, a couple of people jokingly now have a pool every time we're at the same party, for how many minutes it'll take him to leave a room after I've entered it.

    There was one time he felt he had to speak to me, and this man whom I had been in love with and spent several years with and intended to spend several more with, addressed me by Ms. My-Last-Name. Now, that's rude enough, but 1) he broke up with me (twice) and 2) I have a particular pet peeve about being addressed by my last name, and he was well aware of it. In fact, not only had he and I talked about it on several occasions, but one time, someone he met online (who did not know that we were dating) actually gave him the URL to my LJ rant about formality and suggested that my then-bf lighten up and stop calling him "mr." if he expected to become friends.

    And the final straw was when I was invited to a combination party (the party was actually 4 different parties that were all happening at the same time/location) by the host of 3 of the 4 parties (I want to say it was 2 different birthday parties, a housewarming party, & something else). Well, the fourth party happened to be my ex's birthday party, so, as the host of that party, he actually emailed me after I had received an invitation and told me I was uninvited and not to come, in spite of there being 3 other parties with different hosts who *did* invite me, along with my current partners and friends.

    Once again, I didn't properly vette my prospective partner. He *claimed* to want to remain friends with his exes, but I hadn't met any of them. I did meet his other girlfriend, so I thought that gave me enough perspective, but it didn't. In fact, the primary motivation for him dumping me is also the primary reason why he ended up breaking up with that other girlfriend too, a few months later. Patterns ... patterns are very important.

    So, this didn't involve any shouting matches on the sidewalk, but this was a particulary nasty, ugly breakup. I am not a fan of the Wars and I look down quite a bit on those who insist on breaking up in this manner. IMO, all of my War breakups were completely unnecessary and left a lot of battle damage on everyone around them as well.

  • Resource Famine - This is when there just isn't enough time or attention or something to make the relationship work. Contrary to popular opinion, love does not conquer all and "all we need is love" is a falsehood. Relationships take effort to maintain. The good relationships don't feel like "effort" or "work" because we are receiving such joy and happiness from them. But it takes more than warm fuzzies to maintain a meaningful relationship with another person. What it does take depends on the people involved and the type of relationship. But it's possible to really and truly love another person and not make a good partner for them. If you don't have enough time, enough attention, hell, even enough money or interest in sex, loving the other person is not enough.

    Sometimes lacking the resources can turn into a War, but a Resource Famine breakup is specifically when it does not turn into a War. One person or both just decides that it's not working and the relationship ends. This doesn't mean that everything is all roses and sunshine either - breakups usually suck no matter how painless they are. But painful or not, not all breakups have to end in a knock-down, drag-out Battle To The Death.

  • Fade To Black - This was not listed by the Pedestrian Polyamory podcast. This is when two people just drift apart. Don't mistake this for the first category - Failure To Launch. This is when a relationship is actually underway. In fact, this can happen years into a relationship, even to people who have built a life together. Sometimes people just move in different directions, but there isn't any specific Bad Thing or hard times or even any dislike between the people. If the relationship never moves to the living-together stage, it could die out in the same way as the Failure To Launch, with times between phone calls growing longer and longer until eventually one or both of you realizes that you're just not dating anymore.

    I have two different examples of this. The first is my NSSO partner. I met him and his live-in partner when I first moved to Florida, nearly 11 years ago now. When we met online we just clicked. I mean we CLICKED. Things were going great, and when I went home for the holidays, I met him and his partner in person. Things continued to just click. I thought of him as a partner and a major part of my life. But over the years, with my trips home becoming more and more infrequent and our lives going in different directions (I became a poly activist, they withdrew from the poly community, stuff like that) we just sort of faded out. I have very fond memories of them and I would love to reconnect sometime. But neither of us has put forth any effort in the last couple of years and somewhere along the line, I stopped thinking of him as a partner. As far as I can tell, this was a mutual fading, and if a breakup has to happen, this is probably the least painful way to go.

    My other example is my current fuckbuddy. I like casual sex and I like having a regular fuckbuddy. But I also have a low sex drive. So when I have an ongoing romantic relationship that includes sex as well as love and friendship and companionship, I tend to have fewer resources for maintaining casual relationships. There is one guy who I still think of as a "current" partner. He is, in no way, suitable for a romantic relationship. We are just way too different. But I am not suitable for him either. So, just by coincidence, he and I happen to both want exactly the kind of casual sexual relationship that we started out with.

    But I also have 3 romantic partners right now, as well as running the [livejournal.com profile] orlandopoly group, which I have increased from just a monthly discussion meeting to a full-blown social club with no fewer than 3 social activities a month in addition to the discussion meeting. Add work on top of that, and my usual mountain of hobbies, and I just don't have the time or interest in a sexual relationship that isn't also providing me with something else. Especially not when my sex drive has plummeted again. When sex is the only purpose in your relationship, and you have no sex drive, that kind of defeats the purpose of the relationship.

    He's the same way - when he gets a "real girlfriend" (he's not poly), he stops calling me. When work for him picks up, he stops calling me. This is what I mean by coincidentally both wanting the same kind of relationship with each other. This doesn't bother me because it's how I think of him, and vice versa. We didn't put each other into a particular role, this is just how things worked out between us.

    So, basically, whenever we are both "between partners", we tend to call up each other. Well, I haven't been "between partners" in quite some time now, so our infrequent trysts have now gone for a few years between hookups. My casual partner and I never have any "breakup talk" - he never calls me up to tell me he has another girlfriend, I don't email him to explain that I won't be seeing him for a while. We just kind of don't call each other. We'll explain when the other one does call and we're not available, but since we don't call each other much to begin with, we don't go out of our way to notify each other.

    Because it doesn't look like I'll be "between boyfriends" anytime soon, this is probably another Fade To Black breakup for me. I don't even know if I can still legitimately call him my fuckbuddy since it's been so long since we hooked up. Really, the only reason I still think of him in that capacity is because I still intend to call him if I ever find myself in the realm of needing a casual fuck and I have no reason to think he wouldn't be amenable to the suggestion if I ever do. So, in my mind, it's not "over", exactly, it's just not "ongoing" either. But if I never see him again, this would be a pretty classic example of Fade To Black.

  • Culture Clash - This is where two people just fundamentally want different things out of their relationship. It's not exactly the same as the Resource Famine, because they might be putting as much time, energy, attention, whatever into the relationship as it needs, or as is reasonable. But I would say that the Culture Clash is related. This is your standard mono-poly relationship, where the poly person wants a poly relationship with poly people, and the mono person wants a mono relationship with the poly person and wants him to be mono too, and there is no getting around that - they want different things from their relationship.

    This is also the Conservative Traditionalist marries what turns out to be the Progressive Mate, stereotypically seen when a "family values" man expects his wife to quit her job and become the happy homemaker, and either she isn't happy with that role, or she was happy with it until the kids turned 18 and moved out, and she was left with no life and no identity, so she goes back to school and the husband flips out over her new short haircut, wearing jeans, swearing, and her sexy liberal Philosophy professor or aggressive Women's Studies instructor.

    Again, like the Resource Famine, sometimes it's possible to really and truly love someone and still not make a good partner for them. If two people want different, and incompatible things from their relationship together, love cannot always conquer all and sometimes all we need is more than love. In fact, two people who don't love each other can get along quite amicably for an entire lifetime if their goals for their relationship with each other are similar and their needs are being met. It's maybe not the life that I would choose, but it does serve to illustrate that love is not what makes the world go 'round.

    Also, like the Resource Famine, the Culture Clash can lead to a War breakup, but it can also be a breakup all on its own, with one or both people coming to the realization that they just want different things and choosing to bow out. My ex-fiance and I broke up this way. He wanted a wife and homemaker just like his mother and I wanted someone who wasn't a pathological liar and a coercive rapist. Apparently, these things were incompatible with each other, so I left, and it didn't turn into a War.

  • The Disappearing Act - I think I hate this one the most, even more than the War. This is where things appear to be going well and someone just disappears. It doesn't fade or fizzle out, things are actually moving and there's no indication from the magician that the end is nigh.

    I wrote about my last Disappearing Act too. The last words he spoke to me were "I love you and can't wait to see you again". And then, no call, no returned call, no text, no email, nothing. I thought he might have gotten into a car accident, except he kept logging onto his MySpace page (before Facebook).

    I finally drove all the way into Bumfuck Egypt where he lived and camped out in front of house house and waited for him to get home to confront him. It was a fairly civil conversation, where he listed all kinds of excuses why he couldn't call, couldn't borrow someone's phone, and had no interent but could still access MySpace. Then he promised to call me the next day. Of course, it was all bullshit, and he disappeared again. In the age of the internet, it's hard to disappear completely, so I know where he is. But he effectively pulled a Disappearing Act as a breakup technique.

    And it fucking sucks. This is one of the most painful ways to breakup, for me at least. It usually comes as a complete surprise, it gives me no explanation for what went wrong, nothing to fix or correct, and not even any chance to get my own say in. It's a cowardly way to breakup and I hate it and I hate the people who do it. And yes, I'm still angry over this, several years later. I don't give a fuck about the guy anymore, he's clearly an asshole and I'm better off without him. I'm angry at the idea of the Disappearing Act and how it demeans the person you disappear on.

    So there you have it, several different types of breakup, some of them better than others. Some people say there is no good way to breakup with someone, and while it may be true that there is no good way, much like there is no One Right Way to be polyamorous, but here are plenty of wrong, and more wrong than other, ways. The "right" way is a way that treats the other person with dignity and respect and gives them the opportunity to learn what went wrong, so that they can put the episode behind them and move on too. Maybe not all of our exes are as deserving of respect as others, but that is still the method that makes YOU a decent person, and someone worth taking a chance on dating. Remember my advice to become a friendly ex, if you have to breakup, and avoid the War or the Disappearing Act if it's at all within your power to avoid.


    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nsLQju2I0dU
joreth: (anger)

I watched a movie last night that sparked a bit of outrage in me. This is not an actual movie review, this is one of my infrequent Media Reflections - musings that are inspired by something I saw or read or heard in popular media like movies, songs, or books that reflect the greater society in some way. I watched the movie The Invention Of Lying with Ricky Gervais. The reason I put it on my Netflix queue is because Ricky Gervais is an atheist and skeptical comedian, so I was hoping to see a movie with a skeptical, atheist, or anti-theist viewpoint as the main point, because that's unusual and I want more media that speaks from my viewpoint.

Anyway, the movie *did* have a skeptical, atheist, or anti-theist viewpoint, so I was pleased to see that, but the very beginning pissed me off. Not because I didn't like the premise or the beginning of the story, but because I thought it was a common viewpoint that I disagree strongly with.

The movie is about our world today if the human species had never developed the ability to tell a falsehood of any kind. No white lies, no lies by omission, no pretending, no untruths, no works of fiction, no deliberately incorrect facts, no subtle guidings of people in a particular direction, not even any acting of any sort because acting is a form of lying where you claim to be a person you are not. Just the truth and nothing but the truth, so help me ... well, there is no god either, the assumption being that religion is a fiction, therefore no one could have ever made one up.

Until one day, a man learns how to lie. And he changes the world.

What annoyed me was what kind of world that was portrayed by a society of people who did not lie. This annoyed me because I see this kind of assumption every time I bring up how important honesty is to me. As a general rule, I do not lie. Of course, this doesn't mean that I never lie, but I mostly stick to [livejournal.com profile] tacit's Path of Greatest Courage when it comes to deciding when to lie. Basically, it means doing that which takes more courage to do in any given situation - lie or tell the truth. Telling the Nazis that I do not have any Jews in my basement even though I do? Lie, but path of greater courage. Telling my friend that her souffle was the most delicious thing I ever ate even though I'd rather stick a fork in my eye than eat it? Lie that is not the path of greater courage.

The world that we are introduced to is not just a world of honesty, or even radical honesty. It's the world populated by miserable, hateful, assholes - the kind who use the phrases "I'm not going to sugar-coat it, I call it like I see it, people should develop thicker skin" to excuse being an asshole. For some reason, people seem to think that "honesty" is black and white. You either have lies about everything, or you have cold, hurtful, mean honesty. And THAT pisses me off.

In the movie, we first meet people who are absolutely miserable. And we know this because they are incapable of that social convention we have of pretending as though everything is fine for strangers. "Hi, how are you?" "I'm fine, thanks." That doesn't happen here. If you ask someone how he is, he will tell you about his latest suicide attempt that failed and how miserable his life is. Even if he is a stranger on the street.

We next meet people who are just plain old mean: The secretary who tells her boss repeatedly how much she hates her job and what a loser he is; the coworker who tells his colleague that he can't wait until the guy gets fired because he never liked him. The woman who rejects a suitor because he's fat and doesn't make enough money for her taste. It's like a world filled with mean-spirited Aspies (people with Asperger's Syndrome). People are repeatedly hammered with messages of how everyone hates them, making everyone fall into two camps - shallow and mean but popular, and miserable losers.

That people see this as a natural extension of a policy of honesty says a lot more about them as people than it does about the policy of honesty.

Being an honest person, being someone committed to honesty and truth does not mean losing one's compassion, one's empathy, one's tact. You don't have to tell someone that they look fat in that dress to be honest and say that it's not the most flattering and this other one is better. You don't have to be mean when someone asks you on a date (if they're not being dickish first) and tell them that they're ugly and a loser, you can say kindly, with compassion, that you're not interested or not emotionally available or that you don't feel the same way, but thank you for the invitation/offer, it was very flattering.

I'm not going to illustrate all the ways a person can tell a difficult truth about something while still being compassionate, partly because it's an infinite list, and partly because it's also a subjective list. Part of what makes someone a compassionate person is learning who the other person is as a person and treating that person as they want to be treated. So that means that you might have to take a slightly different track with one than another. Always be honest and truthful, but use words and tones that take into account the other person's subjective values. I can tell one friend that he's being a douche without hurting his feelings because he's just not like that, but with another friend I have to say something like "you could have been a lot nicer" because using an insulting term like "douche" would hurt his feelings. Both are truth and neither are incomplete truths, they're just phrased in ways that accommodates the recipient's personal feelings.

Which brings me to another point. Truth is not black and white. This doesn't mean that truth is "relative" or that "we all have our own truths" or any of that other woo bullshit that seems to think that reality doesn't exist. No, it means that truth is often complex, and when talking about subjective things like preferences and wants, there may not be a single answer that is True - there may be more than one answer that are all true, and the priority one assigns to each element affects which true answer is given or which conclusion one comes to about the truth in question.

For example, in the movie, Mark, the main character, has a suicidal neighbor. After Mark learns to lie, the next encounter with the neighbor results in Mark "lying" about how things will get better, the neighbor will find happiness, so don't kill himself. Because people are completely incapable of lying even the slightest bit, no one can even make future projections because no one knows the future. So this is the first the neighbor has ever heard that his situation may change. He starts to feel better, and then asks Mark if he wants to hang out that evening, now that he is no longer planning another failed suicide attempt that night.

Mark says no, because the question was "do you want...", and Mark did not want, which is the truth. But then the neighbor walks away dejected, so Mark "lies" by telling him that he would love to hang out with him that evening in order to make him feel better.

I don't see why this is a lie and I'm irritated that it is portrayed as such and that people need lies to feel better.

When my friend needs me to be there for her, needs a shoulder to cry on, needs some support, just needs a friendly face, it may not sound like the most fun time ever. I may want to sit at home and get into flame wars on the internet or watch another poly movie. I may want to do a hundred different things other than try to cheer someone up. But I ALSO want to be a good friend, and I want my friend to be happy, and I like the feeling that I contributed to my friend's happiness in some way and sitting with my friend in need is how those wants get accomplished. So when a friend asks me if I want to hang out because she needs a bolster to her self-esteem, the answer is, honestly, yes.

When we do things out of obligation, but that obligation is borne out of compassion, consideration, caring, and kindness, it is not a lie to say we "want" to do it. It is the truth. It may also be equally truthful that we want to do something else. It is not a lie of omission to leave that part out either, because the other people we're dealing with are similarly compassionate, empathetic people who also understand the complexities of truth and friendship and subjective values. We know this because friends who call someone up out of need usually end up apologizing for crying or being miserable company or taking up our time, because they KNOW that we may have other things in mind that we want to be doing. But that doesn't mean that we don't ALSO want to be here, being that good friend, helping her through her troubles, hoping for her to be happy.

When I'm out dancing (which everyone here should know by now how much I love doing), part of me might also want to be at home reading (which everyone here should know by now how much I also love doing). That I have competing wants does not invalidate either or both wants. It means I am a complex person with many subjective priorities and values. It does not mean that I am lying, even by omission, when I say I want to be dancing while I also might want to be reading a good book.

This mindset that honesty inevitably leads to this sociopathic, hateful society of "truth", is the same mindset that makes people object to the Only Yes Means Yes campaign - it's a straw man (creatively re-labeled by some as "hyperbole" to justify using a logical fallacy in an argument). For some reason, when I say "your partner must give active consent before you can have sexual activity", people envision that scene in Cherry 2000, where people go to bars to pick up people, but before they can go somewhere private, they have to seal the deal by signing a huge legal form listing which activities they are consenting to and which they are not.


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=urS8GmwmeWQ

Active consent can be fucking hot. Or it can be very simple and low-key. Something like "hey honey, are you interested in sex tonight?" "Sure sweetie! But can it wait until after dinner? I have a ton of things that need to get done first." Or it can be something like "I'd love to kiss you, then run my fingers down your body, then ... fuck you all night long, would you like that?" being whispered into your lover's ear while lying naked in bed with the lights down low. Or anything, as long as the desire and consent for sex is clearly communicated in a non-ambiguous manner. In the case of BDSM, with submissives and consensual non-consent, that's even easier - you do have the long talk (or talks), negotiating each step, but the agreement is summarized as "from this point forward, I consent to you being in charge of me and making decisions for me" or "I give you permission to do these activities at any time, whether I want to or not at the time, and you don't have to notify me or ask permission because this is your permission" or anything similar. That IS your active consent.

There is more room for confusion & ambiguity in the vanilla world of sex, IMO. The biggest complaint I got was that guys didn't want to have to ask or wait for a verbal, active consent because "girls never say what they want". 1) That's not true, but it's a complex issue that I'm not going to address here. 2) Withholding "what they want" until they say they want it is a pretty good way to make most people learn to be honest about what they want. What this objection actually means is that the person who doesn't want to wait for the consent is more concerned with what he is getting than with making sure his partner is getting what she wants and is communicating her needs clearly. But I've ranted about this elsewhere, so, again, not going to go into it here.

The point is that people immediately jump to the extreme: Being honest takes all the fun/mystery/sponteneity/romance/niceness out of the exchange and turns us all into mean, calculating, litigious assholes. No, it doesn't. If you think that's the automatic and necessary result of being an honest person, that tells me something scary about YOU, not about the policy of honesty. It tells me that you don't know how to be kind while being honest, and that you can only achieve niceness by lying, which means that I can't trust a word you say, especially if it's a nice word. Being honest doesn't erase all those other elements about being human. I am still a creature that has evolved as a social species, who still feels empathy, who still values and feels compassion, who still understands the need for (and wants) social cohesion. And yet, I am still honest.

I still tell my partners what I think of them. I still tell people my preferences. I still tell people my opinions. I still give verbal consent to sexual activity. I depend on my partners and loved ones doing the same for me. And nowhere in my personal life do I have contracts or agreements or legal documents, nor do my personal relations look like the hurtful, mean, sociopathic "honest" exchanges in this movie, or like the exchanges that involve people who "don't sugar-coat it". I'm honest, but I'm still human, and being human means a lot more than just lying to save face. The same way that I am good without any gods, I am honest without being a complete dick* or legal contracts. My empathy, my compassion, my caring for others, my consideration of others, my desire for society to run smoothly, my aversion to conflict (yes, I have that), all contribute to making it even possible to be honest.

Because, in my opinion, being honest is compassionate and caring. I think the people around me deserve to know the truth. I value my fellow man and especially those in my monkeysphere, and I believe not being honest does them a grave disservice. My compassion and my empathy not only allows me to be kindly honest, but it requires me to be honest, it drives my honesty. I think they actually go together and, in fact, I am more willing to lie to people I don't care about ("How are you?" "I'm fine, thanks."). Honesty does not have to be tactless and hurtful. Honesty can be coupled with compassion, driven by empathy, and even required by love.


That's Love


*I know some, if not most, of you are probably smilying wryly or raising an eyebrow at my proclomations about not being an asshole or telling the truth kindly. I won't say I'm not ever an asshole, but I will say two things that defend my statement: 1) My words tend to come across much differently without my tone or body language, so people who know me in person see me very differently from people who know me only or primarily online, even though I do not actually change what I say; 2) Most of my online presence is a reaction to something, and mostly a strong, negative reaction to someone else's behaviour or words that I think are harmful or hurtful. Online is where I go to vent my frustration at situations that I have seen or experienced that have harmed me or someone else in some way. So yes, I am often angry online and often dickish. But that doesn't mean that I treat people like this just as a matter of course or that I am lacking in compassion. It means that someone else has treated me (or someone) that way first, and this is my reaction to being treated that way. Others are better about turning the other cheek or diffusing tense situations - I never said those were my strengths.

But mostly my online presence is a cautionary tale. All the ranting and venting is borne out of compassion - but compassion for the people being harmed. I am trying to get through to the people who are being assholes, to show them how hurtful they are being and sometimes to exact a penalty for being an asshole. I'm not mean for the sake of being mean, and I'm not "not sugar-coating it" for some delusion that honesty must be hurtful to be true. I'm trying to break through the wall of egocentricism and show others how much it hurts and how it affects people when they treat us like shit, because often these people I rail against are protected from the repercussions of their actions and words by viture of some form of privilege, such as being in a majority, or being in a position of power, or being in a protected class.

I think that empathy comes from the ability to put oneself in another's position and to imagine what it's like to experience something as that person (or to understand that it's not possible to have that experience) - not to think how YOU would feel in that position, but to understand how someone ELSE would feel in that position (the Platinum Rule and all that). And I think that the people I tend to blast online are insulated from feeling or understanding how others feel somehow - that they try to imagine how THEY would feel in similar situations, with their current background and history and preferences and experiences and vantage points, and not how someone else with different backgrounds and histories and preferences and experiences and vantage points might feel in that situation. The classic woman saying "how would you feel to be hit on all day?" and the man saying "that'd be awesome if women would hit on me all day!" is a good example.

But I'm digressing, and the real post ended above the line. This was just a defense of my self-characterization as not a dick, as compassionate. Like truth, there is often more than one way to express it. When I'm being an asshole online, it's not because I'm without compassion, it's because I'm prioritizing the people on the other side of the argument over the person I'm being mean to, because I feel that someone has to stick up for them/us, to get angry on their/our behalf, to fight on their/our behalf. I'm not using honesty as a weapon to bludgeon people with and as a shield to excuse dickish behaviour - I'm using anger that is often described as dickish behaviour intentionally to make a point. That doesn't change any of what I said above about honesty not needing to be hurtful to still be full honesty.

And yes, I completely see the irony in Joreth The Flame Warrior lecturing about tact and using words kindly. But if I can see the need for and the ability to be tactful in honesty, then there's no excuse for anyone thinking they can't go together.

joreth: (Purple Mobius)

This is a slight departure from my usual movie reviews, and I plan to do a few of them in the future. This is not about poly movies, but about poly analogues for monogamous people. It has always been my opinion that polyamory is really not any different than monogamy, only with more people. And by that, I mean that there is a wide variation among relationships that fit under the heading "monogamy" and a wide variation among relationships that fit under the heading "polyamory", and the vast majority of questions about "how do you do this in poly?" are answered with "the same way you do it in monogamy," partly because of that variation, so there is no single answer, and partly because the questions are not usually poly-specific.

For instance, whenever someone asks me how to deal with schools handling the issue of multiple parents, I answer "the same way my monogamous, hetero sister deals with them as a single parent." I then go on to explain that, on her In Case Of Emergency sheet, and the list of adults that have permission to pick up her children, she has about 5 or 6 different names, many of which do not have her child's last name and/or are not blood-related to the children. She doesn't explain that Joreth is the auntie and Sally is the babysitter and Jason is the boyfriend even though he's not the father of one kid, but is the father of the other kid, or that Larry is the grandfather and John is the godfather and Crystal is the 2nd cousin and that Sarah is mommy's best friend from high school. She just put those names down on the lists. When asked for familial relation to the child, she just circles something like "family friend" or "uncle" or whatever. My point is that "how do you deal with schools" is not a poly-specific problem and monogamous people have to deal with that same issue all the time, thanks to single parenthood and blended families. There isn't a single answer, and there isn't a different way that poly people do it from mono people, who find themselves in the same or similar situations.

Same thing goes for issues like "how do the children know who their parents are?" and "how do you keep track of everyone?" and "how do you schedule things?" The same way non-poly folk do. Being adopted, I didn't have any difficulty understanding who my "real" parents were. Kids of blended homes (meaning, divorced parents & step-parents) don't have any difficulty understanding who their "real" parents are. And so on.

Much about polyamory is not actually very unique to polyamory, and even those issues that are unique to polyamory have similar situations, if not exactly the same, in monogamous society. One of the things I like to do is try to find these poly analogues to use as bridge-building stories, in an attempt to help monogamous people better understand polyamory.

The first one I ever noticed was Sex And The City. I originally started watching the show because I have a tendency to feel alien among "normal" women. I don't understand those things that I'm told women are supposed to understand. Now, of course, I understand that there is no such thing as "normal women", just that there is a collection of criteria that various people are told is "normal" and everyone else is therefore abnormal when they don't have all the criteria, even if some of those criteria are contradictory or even mutually exclusive, all with complete disregard to the actual numbers of people who fit or don't fit any given set of criteria.

But, the point is that I never felt as though I really fit in or that I understood women very well because I didn't match what I was told I should match. So I watched the show to get an idea of what this hypothetical "normal woman" was thinking.

SATC is a show with 4 main characters that follows their romantic lives for about 6 years. Each of the women are archetypes, basically a model or an epitome of a personality type that has been repeatedly observed in US culture. By coincidence, the four women also happen to fall into the 4 main MBTI categories - NT, SP, NF, SJ - although they weren't deliberately written that way. That's what made it so popular, though. No matter what kind of person you are, almost everyone could see a little of themselves in at least one of the characters, which is why it was considered such a great examination of "the normal woman". Even men could see a little of themselves in one or more of the male side characters (and yes, the show was very gender binary - that's a complaint for another journal entry).

The show also had witty dialogue, even if you didn't like the topics. But one topic is what brings me here to this review. And that's the idea of multiple loves and intentional family.

This is a recurring theme throughout the entire 6-year lifespan. We do not see much of the girls' biological families, and what we do see is largely negative. The characters have, more or less, left their families and created their own intentional family of each other. They are there for each other in good times and bad, they support each other, they occasionally condemn each other, they squabble and hug, and they build lives around each other. It's true that all the women are heterosexual (except for one 3-episode story arc), so they are not romantically involved with each other (even for that story arc), and if there is any criticism of this as a poly analogue, that is it.

But anyone who has ever had one or more of those friends - y'know, the ones you think to call from the hospital before you call your boyfriend, the ones you go to confide in about your wife, the ones who were the first to stand up with you at your wedding and the ones who were first to get you drunk & let you cry after your divorce, the ones who have seen you without your makeup on and still love you, the ones who were there to bail you out of jail after that little misunderstanding and kept it from your spouse, the ones who were there long before you met the love of your life and, just like the love of your life, will be there until death do you part - if you've ever had those friends, then you understand just how unimportant sex is as a defining element in what makes a relationship important and meaningful in your life. Not that sex isn't important, but that there are so many other aspects to what makes a relationship meaningful, some of which matter much more.

When people ask me how I can love more than one person at a time, the answer is because we all love more than one person at a time. Our spouses are not the only people in our lives for whom we feel that deep commitment, that connection as if our very souls have found their mates, that trust that there are people we can count on for anything, that sense of elation at the idea of being with them or that sense of despair at the thought of losing them. The only difference between me and them is that I am physically attracted to more than one of the people for whom I feel that way, and occasionally I get to act on it.

Sex And The City highlights one of the many ways in which people form lasting emotional bonds with other people. Their friendship is closer than most of their romantic relationships, and has certainly outlasted all of their romantic relationships. They are closer to each other than they are to their biological families, and the men in their life are required to make room in their relationships for the other girls. When the women do find serious romantic partners, each of the men understand that he will have to "share" his partner with the other three women. Each of those men turn to the other three women for help when his partner is going through a particularly rough time and the man is not enough to help on his own. One asks the other three for communication help to patch up an argument with his girlfriend, another asks the other three to console his wife when she has a miscarriage - the men are not in an isolated, monogamous relationship, apart from any other relationships; they are in poly-ish relationships where they "share" their women with three other women, who have been there longer, know each other better, and can often provide a type of support that the men just can't. Any man who sticks around long enough has to accept it, and the good men embrace it.

Long before I ever heard of polyamory, I had friends like this. I had friends who were so close, we gave ourselves our own family name. I had friends who were so important, we made long-term, life-altering plans around each other, like where to go to college, where to live after college, and even sometimes who to date or marry. I had friendships that were so meaningful, that losing those friendships didn't feel any less devastating than losing a boyfriend. I cried for weeks after my best friend stopped talking to me. I felt like I lost a part of myself when we all went our separate ways. I even felt as though I didn't have any real identity when some of those friendships ended, the same way I sometimes had to re-evaluate who I was and what I wanted out of life when I lost a serious boyfriend and all our future plans were scrapped. It didn't matter that we weren't having sex, those relationships were important in the same way my romantic relationships were important - simultaneously equally as important and too unique to be compared to each other.

Not all monogamous people have had these kinds of friendships, of course. One of the wonderful things about the human species is its diversity. But a very common trend is to develop close emotional bonds with other people, or to want to. And for many people, those close, emotional bonds are not limited to a single bond with one person, ever, throughout the entire lifespan. Each relationship, and each emotional bond, is different, unique, individual. Even if we had a best friend in high school, and then switched to another best friend in college, those friendships are as non-interchangeable as the romantic relationships are. And if people can just wrap their heads around the idea that sex is not the single defining element in complex emotional relationships, they can see the parallels between monogamous Sex And The City intentional families, and my poly family.

joreth: (being wise)

I got into an argument recently (I know, shocking, right?) where I found myself sounding suspiciously like those wooagers I am usually arguing against. It has been plaguing me for some time, and I feel the need to delve into it more thoroughly.

The argument was over research vs. experience. On my website, I have a graphic based on the Triangle Theory of Love that I use to try and explain how I see my relationships. The theory goes that "love" can be broken down into 3 elements, which can combine to make 7 total classifications for different types of love. I'm told that this theory is largely discredited in psych circles, but I'm not told how or why. The problem is that this theory does, actually, describe how I experience my relationships fairly accurately. Most of the research and theories I have seen have a tendency to categorize things on a binary scale. This Triangle Theory was the first, and so far only, time I have seen someone try to explain the concept of love as a collection of multiple traits.

For example, some will try to say that love can be broken down into romantic love and familial love, and then they will try to define romantic and familial. Except that I have relationships that have elements of both, and are missing elements of each, and have other elements that aren't listed at all. But with this Triangle, it feels more representative of that nebulous sort of way that I experience my relationships. I can draw an X anywhere on the Triangle, closer to this point, further from that one, and that is a description of my love for a specific person at that moment in time. I can move that X around the Triangle over time as my love changes. And, since there are different kinds of love that are represented on that Triangle, I do not get the impression that one type of love is preferred over others - that I am justified in finding value in different kinds of love and not rejecting something as not being "real love" because it doesn't fit onto a binary scale.

When I put this Triangle on my website, I did so to give a graphic representation of a personal experience, but I also cited where it came from since I didn't make it up. I was not discussing research or the validity of the claims. I made only one statement on my website that referred to how other people experience love, and that was that I believe our society values the One True Love over other types of love. I have yet to see any credible research that refutes that claim.

So, the argument started because someone with letters after his name suggested that I remove the graphic from my website because the theory was "largely discredited". It was pointed out by someone else that I was trying to describe a personal experience, so therefore the graphic was accurate. The lettered person then proceeded to suggest that I needed lessons in how to tell the difference between good research and bad research, that he could instruct me, and that I was tarnishing all of the poly community by supporting this theory.

That did not go over well.

I defended my position that, as a description of my personal experience, that graphic was accurate and the research he linked to was actually not relevant at all (he linked to a study of monogamous people where love was defined as 2 different types, and the conclusion was that most people wanted that all-encompassing romantic love). I concluded my rant with "any research that claims that my experiences didn't happen can go fuck itself."

And that statement is what is bothering me.

I often find myself arguing with people about personal experience, and how our perception is flawed and can't be trusted to be accurate representations of the world. Specific arguments that come to mind are: the one where [livejournal.com profile] tacit and I tried to explain to a person who was convinced she could predict the future through her dreams that her personal experience doesn't make it true because she cannot account for things like confirmation bias and post hoc ergo prompter hoc and she has no grasp of statistics; or the arguments with people convinced they have some disease that was made up by hucksters trying to swindle them out of money but who believe him because "science" hasn't found an acceptable answer to their symptoms.

In both of these cases, the other side of the argument feels as though their personal experience is being dismissed. I believe that is due to communication errors. The rationalists and skeptics that I have ever heard talk about these sorts of things do not actually say that what these people feel isn't real. What they say is that the explanation they are giving for these experiences is false.

Let's take psychosomatic illnesses, for example. When you try to tell someone that what they have is psychosomatic, they will often respond with "don't try to tell me it's all in my head, I feel this pain!" I have no doubt that they do, and neither do the doctors who try to explain that they don't have whatever wacky, made-up illness they think they do. The experience is true, it's the explanation that isn't.

When a person dreams that her second cousin is going to get pregnant, and the next day the second cousin calls up to say that she's pregnant, I absolutely believe that the events transpired as described (well, OK, I don't "absolutely" believe it - I know enough about the fallibility of memory to know that it's not only possible, but probable, that things didn't happen exactly as reported, but I'm willing to accept the description of events at face value). I believe that she did, in fact, have that experience. It is the explanation of those events that I do not believe - that it was a supernatural, telepathic, future-telling event. In this particular case, when more details were dragged out, that second cousin actually had a very long history of promiscuity (and by promiscuity, I mean unsafe, unprotected sex with large numbers of people, often one-night stands or random hookups). This is what we call a high-probability hit. Based on the facts, it was actually fairly likely that this second cousin would get pregnant, and the dreamer happened to have been worrying about it a lot right up until the dream in question, including earlier that day.

So, I found myself sounding like these people that I usually argue against: the research itself must be faulty because my experiences don't match; how dare you tell me that what I experience isn't real; fuck the research, I know what I feel. And that rankles. A lot. I really don't think that I was able to explain what I meant because I used "fuck" too many times and got the thread shut down. I wasn't making any claims about what research is good or bad, I wasn't talking about trends or other people, and I wasn't giving any sort of explanation for my experiences. I was only describing what love feels like to me. I'm not even sure how something like a theory describing how people experience love can be "discredited" when there are people who say they do, in fact, experience love that way. Maybe you can't say it's how "most" people experience love, but I don't see how it can be claimed that a description of certain types of love is not true when there are people who do actually feel love according to that description.

So, my basic point in that argument, that I don't think I adequately conveyed, is that "research" has not yet been able to tell me that I experienced something, especially when I stand here and tell you that it is not how I experienced it. Research can offer explanations on the how and why I experienced something, but it can't tell me that I didn't experience it.

If I feel afraid, science can tell me that what is making me feel afraid is not real - it's a manifestation of my imagination or it's my inability to tell reality from fantasy, or that it's "all in my head", or even that it's an illusion created by skilled artists. Science may even be able to tell me the physical processes that create the fear, such as too much of this hormone or a missing fold in the brain, or a flaw in the human eye that falls for optical illusions. But what it can't tell me is that I am not feeling afraid. I may have no valid reason to feel afraid, i.e. what I'm afraid of may not exist in reality (like, say, evil dolls hiding under my bed that teleport in every night from another dimension), but it can't tell me that my fear is not real. That's what [livejournal.com profile] tacit and I mean when we say a feeling is real, but not valid - that the person is feeling something is real - they really are feeling it, but the reason for feeling that way may not exist in reality, making it not "valid". People get hung up on that word "valid" and think it means the same thing as "real", but it doesn't. Anyway, that's a tangent.

I think that's the difference between what I was saying and what the wooagers say. On my website, I am discussing a feeling - the feeling of love and what it's like to experience love from my perspective. I used a graphic that I found to illustrate what I'm feeling because it was the closest 2D representation of what I was trying to explain. "Research" or "science" cannot tell me that I don't feel what I feel. It can, however, explain where a feeling comes from.

The wooagers make a claim about a feeling they are having, and then extrapolate that feeling to justify the explanation. I feel hurt, therefore you hurt me. I had a dream, therefore psychic powers are real. I feel sick, therefore I have this disease. What I am saying is "I feel love". Period. No therefores, no justifications of external phenomena, just a description of what I feel. I don't know why I feel that way and I'm not making any claims to explain the why or the how. I'm also not claiming that anyone else feels any particular way. But I will defend that I feel that way, and that it is not the role or the ability of research and science to tell me that I do not feel what I feel or that I do feel what I don't feel.

Science is the best tool ever devised for understanding how the world works. It can explain the hows and the whys, even if we haven't figured out all the hows and whys yet. But people cannot use science or research to tell someone what they feel in contradiction to their subjective experience. We can only offer suggestions as to why they feel that way. I feel "love" as a feeling that is comprised of several different elements, and the varying balance of those elements is what defines the different types, or categories, of love that I feel. And any research that tries to tell me that I don't feel what I feel can go fuck itself.

joreth: (sex)

I want to write about some of my complaints about porn, but I want it to be clear that this is not a criticism of porn itself. First of all, I like porn and I do not agree that porn is inherently bad, for whatever value of bad any given activist wants to give it (i.e. misogynistic, degrades women, breaks up marriages, unrealistic expectations, etc.). Oh, I'm sure anyone can find examples of whatever complaint they have about porn, so I'm also not dismissing that these "bad" things exist, I'm just saying that I think "porn" encompasses a huge spectrum and does not have to be whatever bad thing someone accuses it of being.

Second, I am not criticizing the quality of porn itself because I'm not actually a good judge of what is "good" and "bad" porn. To me, entertainment has 2 metrics: quality and enjoyability. Quality seems to be something that people think of as an objective metric - there are standards to which an object is held, and if it meets those standards, it is "good quality". Classic literature that we are forced to read in high school falls under this heading. There are some types of art that I can assess as "quality", but some types of art that I can't. Movies and books are types that I can't, and that includes porn.

Enjoyability is not the same as quality. Back to those classics of literature that we have to read in school, I didn't like many of those books. Many of the movies and books that I actively enjoy, I'm told are crap. I don't care. I like what I like and I don't like what I don't like. You can keep your Picaso in his blue period or whatever and I'll keep my cheap print of the seascape at sunset because it makes me happy.

So all of this is to explain that I cannot distinguish between "good" porn and "bad" porn, I can only tell what I like and don't like. I can tell when a movie has decent production quality, and I can tell when there isn't even an attempt at acting, but generally what I like doesn't seem to be what everyone else likes. So, my point here is that what I am about to discuss is not whether something is "good" or "bad" in porn, but in how it affects me personally and what I enjoy. I'm writing about it, not as a book or movie review where I want to recommend or warn people about a particular work, or even a particular genre, but to explain one person's quirks, for 2 reasons:

1) In case there are others like me who feel alone in their tastes so they will know that they're not alone;

2) For people who do not share my tastes or interests to simply be aware that there are people like me who exist, so that maybe some bit of accommodation can be made for the variety of human interests.

So, now, onto the complaints about porn.

This is not about anything specific, it's a trend I see in movies, books, fanfic, erotica, kink, romance novels, anywhere there is a story about sex that includes pleasure for the female. And it's a trend that makes it very difficult for me to find porn or erotica that I like.

First, some background on my personal sexual tastes and habits )

And now, the complaints about porn really starts. )
joreth: (Default)
http://movies.netflix.com/WiMovie/Adam/70112461?trkid=496624 - Netflix 
http://www.amazon.com/Adam-Hugh-Dancy/dp/B0030Y12FU/ref=sr_1_1?s=movies-tv&ie=UTF8&qid=1314685043&sr=1-1 - Amazon
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1185836/ - IMDB

I swear I'm not going to review every single movie I see.  But I did see a movie that has nothing to do with polyamory that I wanted to mention.  I saw the movie Adam.  Technically, it falls under the "romantic comedy" genre, but it's not like any other romantic comedy you've ever seen.  Trust me.

Adam is the story of a 29 year old man with severe Asperger's Syndrome who falls in love with the woman who lives down the hall from him in his apartment building.  Beth is "normal", or neurotypical (known as NT to Aspies), who nevertheless finds Adam interesting.  I watched this movie with two friends who have AS, and although I don't have AS, I am borderline enough that I get along better with Aspies than with "regular" people.  Of course, I don't know anyone who has AS as severely as Adam, so that may not be a true statement.  But I do find it easier to understand them than most other people, based just on those I have interacted with, and I find I have less tension dealing with my various Aspie friends because it requires less effort for me to think about how to behave.

The three of us laughed throughout most of the movie, not because it was funny (although it was) but because we could see ourselves and each other in the story.  We all groaned out loud when Adam did a typically Aspie thing that we all know leads to disaster, even if we can't help it when we do it ourselves.  There was much finger-pointing and jabbing and mock glares throughout the movie.  For a writer who does not have AS and an actor who did not know anyone with AS, the movie was frighteningly realistic.  The writing was spot-on and the acting and direction was absolutely brilliant.  My heart went out to Adam, knowing the kind of challenges he faced, and to Beth, knowing how difficult it can be to deal with an Aspie.

I saw an interview with the actor who played Adam, and I could almost swear that they were different people.  His mannerisms and vocal inflections were so different that they even altered his appearance (the hip clothing and extra mousse in the actor's hair was not enough on their own to change his looks that much).  His portrayal of a person with AS was so realistic, so touching, so achingly sympathetic, that I fell in love with Adam myself.

Adam is available on Netflix, but not streaming.  I highly recommend watching this movie, especially if you have any sort of ties to geek culture or any of its sub-genres, since that's most likely where you'll encounter Aspies in social settings.  Yes, it's a "romantic comedy", but it's really more about how we relate to each other as humans, and how a certain group of us humans relate, or can't relate, to everyone else.  It's the only movie I've ever heard of with a protagonist with this particular challenge (AS is technically classified as being on the Autism spectrum, but it's actually quite distinct from Autism in many ways), and, unlike Big Bang Theory (which I happen to love), Adam's AS is not the object of comedy, but a truly compelling story about the nature of human interaction and human emotion.

If you get the disc, watch the deleted scenes and the alternate ending.  The alternate ending is the ending shown at Sundance, but they changed it for the theaters and the DVD.  I like the new ending better, but my Aspie friends preferred the original ending.
joreth: (Super Tech)
Only Yes Means

Yes We've all been raised under the umbrella of No Means No, that campaign by feminists in the'70s to combat rape and sexual assault. It's the idea that when anyone says "no", there is no "but your eyes are saying yes" or any mixed message at all that a rapist can fall back on. No means no. Period*.

And I completely agree. There is no argument from me here whatsoever.

And yet, I do have a problem with this campaign. The problem I have is not that I disagree with it in any way, but that it doesn't go far enough. It does not solve the problem. When a masked man jumps out of the bushes and drags some girl screaming to the ground, he is very well aware that no means no. And when a "nice but clueless" guy pressures a girl into sex because she's giving him mixed signals, he's well aware that no means no too, he just never heard it. In fact, I wrote before about the study that suggests that people understand rejection even if the word "no" is not actually used. So "no means no" is not the real problem. The jackass "she totally wanted it" sort know damn well that no means no, and they're deliberately ignoring it.

The bigger problem is in those grey areas, those times between two people who have some sort of pre-existing relationship, where ambiguity fucks up the picture.

We have a social agreement of ambiguity, and I think that's the real, underlying problem. It has to do with things like The Rules, and lyrics from the Billy Joel song "nice girls wouldn't tell you what you should do", and popular media (like romantic comedies and love songs) that says our One True Love will be a mind-reader so we shouldn't have to be explicit. If he can't read our minds, then he's not The One, because he doesn't know us.

Bullshit.

I have two stories that are very similar, but I have opposing viewpoints on them.

In the first story, some of you may already be familiar with the incident on Fetlife. A woman had a pre-existing resistance-play relationshp with a man who is experienced in kink and in the kink community, and also in poly and the poly community. They had negotiated their boundaries, set the ground rules, and all was pretty good. Until one night, he lulled her into thinking no play was going to happen, and then immediately jumped into a resistance scene. Well, OK, awkward, but still within their boundaries. Except that she wasn't into it. For some reason, she found herself unable to say "no"; in fact, she found herself unable to say anything at all. So she tried to tell him that she wasn't into it by just going limp and not responding or fighting back.

This, by the way, is a very common defense technique, and one I have utilized myself on many occasion. It's still my default, instinctual reaction, not something I do consciously, but only when I feel pressured or threatened. I lose the ability to speak and I go completely passive as my mind wanders off somewhere safe, where this bad thing just isn't happening to me. Mine was developed when I was a teenager because the guys in my neighborhood only hurt me worse if I fought back. So I learned to just hold still and eventually they would get bored with my lack of response and go away.

Anyway, so there she was, limp and unresponsive, and adjusting her mind to accepting the situation until he tired and let her go. When suddenly, he did something that they most certainly had not pre-negotiated. He penetrated her without protection. They had never had PIV penetration before and certainly had not had risky activities without protection. As a prominent member of both kink and poly communities, this is not a case of "he didn't know better" and "she didn't say no". This was flat-out stupid.

So, the girl shied away from accusing him of rape and admitted her part in getting herself into that situation. She admitted that she never actually said "no" and that resistance-play was part of their relationship. But, in this situation, with people who are clearly part of a culture that makes a HUGE fuss about consent and negotiated boundaries, I think of this as sexual assault. He, of course, defends himself with "but she didn't say no".

And THAT'S the problem with this concept.

The other story involves a friend of mine from high school. She and I and about 5 guys we knew (2 of whom were our boyfriends) were out at Denny's late one night, when another guy with a group of his friends walks in, and my friend goes quiet and sort of shrinks in on herself. We ask what the problem is and she tells us that the guy who just walked in raped her a few weeks prior. Well, it took both her and myself to bodily wrestle our boyfriends and the rest of the group out of the restaurant to prevent them from going over to his table and beating the shit out of the kid right then and there (he was maybe 17 or 18 years old, she was 16 or 17, our boyfriends & friends were all 18-21 - this could have gotten them jail time).

We get our menfolk outside and somewhat calmed down, and I ask my friend to tell us what happened. So she told us about meeting these guys on the bus, or in the mall, or somewhere stupid like that, and hanging out with them for the entire day. That night, they all went to a motel and rented a room, where someone brought beer and they hung out drinking and watching TV. Some movie came on that she got into watching, but the guys wanted to go out and do something. So she said that she would stay there to watch TV, and the guy in question volunteered to stay with her.

So they sat and drank and watched TV. Eventually they started making out. She had been flirting with him all day, so it's really not unreasonable for him to have thought she might be receptive to making out. And she was. But the making out led to sex. So I asked her if she ever told the guy no. She hadn't. I asked her if she ever did anything to imply no. She hadn't. I asked her how in the hell was he supposed to know that she didn't want to have sex. She had no answer.

Our boyfriends and the other guy friends in our group stopped chomping at the bit to go back and beat up the rapist. Suddenly, they could see themselves in the same position - a girl who doesn't want to but won't say so, a girl who flirts, who drinks, who makes out with them, who does nothing to stop the sex from happening, who then cries "rape" the next day when they honestly had no idea she wasn't into it and would genuinely have stopped had they known.

I have a lot of sympathy for this kid, and I still maintain that what happened wasn't rape. Maybe it was non-consensual or maybe it was buyer's remorse, but I have a strong aversion to painting this kid with the label "rapist" because we have no evidence that he wouldn't have immediately stopped if she had just said so. I am very hesitant to put him in the same category as the guys I grew up with who beat the shit out of me and popped my arm out of the shoulder socket and locked me in closets and pinned me against walls. And with the totally fucked up legal system regarding sex crimes, I definitely do not want to ruin his life over a mixed message that I can completely understand him misunderstanding.

This story is also part of the problem.

There are a variety of reasons why people do not say no when they should. Sometimes it's because they internalize the Madonna/whore concept. Sometimes it's because they don't really know what they want. Sometimes it's because they don't want to hurt someone's feelings. Sometimes it's because they're afraid to say no. There are consequences to saying no. In the best case scenario, the consequence to saying no is hurting someone's feelings for rejecting them. But all too often, the consequences are much worse than that.

There's the consequence of being accused of being a tease. There's the consequence of being talked into sex, of him "wearing her down". There's a social consequence if the story gets out, either the "truth" that she's a cocktease, or a lie that she had sex anyway. And, there's the rare-but-not-as-rare-as-we'd-like-to-think consequence of being physically assaulted.

This doesn't just go for women towards men. It works this way for all genders, and it even works this way in non-sexual settings. For instance, how many of us are familiar with the phrase "I'd love to, but I can't"? We all tend to phrase our rejections in ways that imply conditions beyond our control, rather than not wanting to. It's part of the social contract - we don't want to hurt someone's feelings, or there may be worse consequences to a rejection unless we can come up with an excuse that justifies the rejection. I know that I, and many of my readers, say that we would love it if people would be more honest about rejection, because an excuse just makes us want to find a solution but there's nothing we can do about "I don't want to". But the social conditions of our culture preclude that.

And this is where Only Yes Means Yes comes in.

I would like to continue the spread of "No Means No" as a concept and to encourage people, women especially, to stand their ground and be more forthright about their boundaries. But "no means no" requires people to do just that - police their boundaries. And by the time a person is in a position to be policing her boundaries, she (or he) is already in a vulnerable position and often not able to. It makes the potential victims responsible for their own safety. "No Means No" is still absolutely true. But it's not good enough.

We ought to be putting the burden of responsibility for other people's safety on those who would be compromising that safety. And that's what "yes means yes" is all about. This concept assumes that the answer is ALWAYS "no", unless and until you hear a clear, unambiguous, explicit "yes", instead of assuming the answer is "yes" until you hear a "no" or that the answer is "keep trying until I say stop". So that there are no grey areas, no fuzzy borders, no mixed messages, no ambiguity. This doesn't just go for the first time, and it doesn't just go for penetrative intercourse. It goes for all sexual activities, all the time, even with pre-established relationships.

The biggest opponents of "Only Yes Means Yes" tend to be men who claim that they won't ever get laid if they wait for a yes because women  don't ever say yes, even when they want sex. First of all, boo hoo. If the only way you can have sex is to find women who are afraid to say no, I'm really not very sympathetic to your sense of entitlement. Second of all, if all the men in the world just up and stopped fucking anyone who refused to give consent when they really did want sex, I guarantee this whole "nice girls don't say yes" bullshit will go right out the window.

Now, since all the men in the world will NOT just up and stop fucking anyone who refused to give consent, I understand that those individual men who do might find themselves, initially, having trouble finding female partners. Because there is still slut-shaming and it will take time for the idea of active consent to percolate throughout society. Women can often be afraid to say "no", but they are also often afraid to say "yes". But women owning up to wanting sex is a rapidly growing demographic in our society, so I'm certain that these hard-up guys will find women who can say yes if they hold out for it, as long as they're not doing the creepy-guy-entitlement thing that puts so many women off. And, in that case, it's not an issue of not finding women who give active consent, it's an issue of creepy-guy-entitlement.

I've also written before about an encounter an ex of mine had on a date. He had asked out this girl a few times, they seemed to be real dates, and they had kissed a little. After a while, when he felt it was time to progress past the kissing stage, he found himself sitting on her couch after another date. She was sending him mixed signals. She was flirting and laughing and leaning towards him, but she also had her knees up between them and was hugging a pillow. So he asked her for a kiss. She complied, but he said her kiss was very passive, as per her usual M.O. He could not tell from body language if she was interested in him or just humoring him.

So he just asked her outright if their relationship was going anywhere and if there was hope for some sex in the future. She answered "well, it's all about the chase, isn't it?" Again, I find myself feeling a lot of sympathy for the guy here. What the fuck is that supposed to mean? Does she want him to pursue her through her ambivilent signals? Is that a hint to keep pushing? What a line a guy has to walk! He said he had visions of addressing a judge saying "well, no, she didn't say 'yes', but she strongly implied that I should ignore her resistence to me." Yeah, that's going to go over well in a court of law!

So he said "no, if I have to chase someone, that means she's running away from me," which I still think is the best answer to that kind of question. That was their last date. As of the last time I spoke to him about it, he still wasn't entirely sure if she was trying to reject him without rejecting him, or if she really wanted to play some kind of coy maiden game. But he didn't feel he had the freedom to find out which. And if she genuinely wasn't interested in him, he genuinely didn't want to force his attention on someone who didn't want it.

So, we have a culture in which many women (and some men) are stuck in the middle, damned if they do and damned if they don't, where they can't say no, but they can't say yes either. In both campaigns, No Means No and Only Yes Means Yes both require a society-wide paradigm shift. But No Means No requires people to defend themselves against unwanted attention. Which they should, but is going to be much harder to accomplish than Yes Means Yes, which requires people who already want sex to admit that they want sex. I think that paradigm shift will be easier to accomplish and healthy for society in general. It would remove those grey areas of date rape where it really isn't a clear cut case of assault, it would make things more fair for men who are typically put in the pursuer role whether they want to be there or not and when there isn't a clear signal of whether they *should* be there or not, and it would require people, but women in particular, to own their own sexuality, to know themselves, and to communicate their wishes to their partners. And if everyone is required to actively consent to sexual activity, there can't be any more slut-shaming, or else no one would ever get laid and the next generation will never be born.

Only Yes Means Yes does not solve all the world's problems, nor even all the rape problems. There would still be actual, real, violent rapists who don't care if their partners say yes or no, and there would still be cases of authority abuse where the rapist uses his position of authority to coerce his partner into saying yes. This is not a magic bullet or a cure-all, there aren't any of those. But I think the No Means No campaign has done its job and reached about as far as it can reach (in those societies that subscribe to it) and now it needs to be coupled with Only Yes Means Yes. The two work together, but Only Yes Means Yes takes us further into a sexually healthy society than No Means No can do alone.

I did not come up with this campaign. In fact, I couldn't even remember where I saw it when I started talking about it some time ago.  But apparently there's a book called Yes Means Yes!: Visions of Female Sexual Power & a World Without Rape . There's also a blog with several bloggers contributing, including the editor of the book (link to the book at the blog). I haven't read either the book or more than a couple of posts on the blog. I'm not even positive this is where I first saw the campaign. But I'm not the one to come up with this concept. I'm just embracing a concept that I think has the potential to end a very real social problem - ambiguity in sexual relations and repression of female sexuality.

There is also a fantastic article called Manufacturing Consent: Is It Rape? all about the ways that people (he focuses on women) are coerced into giving consent. It goes into explicit detail and categorizes the different ways that people can find themselves giving consent when they really aren't consenting. If we are to move towards a society that embraces active consent, these are the dangers we need to watch out for. These are the ways the active consent system can be abused. Personally, I take my cues from the standards the BDSM community claims to hold (even if they sometimes don't). When I'm in the mood to play one of these chase-me games, when I want a little "romance", or even when I want the freedom to say "no" and not mean it, I say so up front. I negotiate with my partners when these types of games that so many of us actually enjoy are appropriate. And THAT is active consent. Clear communication, unambiguous answers, explicit negotiation. With these tools, I and my partners can give active consent and still allow for the "fun" of ambiguous play. And I believe that Only Yes Means Yes as a paradigm, as a social contract, is how we achieve this harmony, this compromise, of so-called calculating consent and the fun-times games some people like to play.

There's also a new symbol, for those who are into symbols. In order to facilitate spreading the word, I will be sporting a new badge in my LJ sidebar and encouraging others to display similar symbols where appropriate. Below are a collection of images, derived from a new symbol intended to represent the concept of Only Yes Means Yes, originally created by someone on Fetlife that was then modified. Take them, use them, modify them, or make your own. I'm encouraging the use of any stylistic Y or "yes" or "OYMY" to represent the concepts of Only Yes Means Yes, female sexual empowerment, active consent, and open communication about sexuality. But if you're not into creating symbols and logos, you can use these:
Red stylized Y (font: Algerian). The red comes from the color of the title on the book's cover. Single color round symbol with stylized Y (font: Algerian) and the two rape awareness slogans. This image is intended for public domain and left as a single color to give individuals the freedom to apply their own creativity with colors or changing the text. Red stylized Y (font: Algerian) on black circle with the two rape awareness slogans. Color scheme comes from the book. Red stylized Y (font: Algerian) on black circle without the two rape awareness slogans. Color scheme comes from the book. Red stylized Y (font: Algerian) on black BDSM triskelion with the Only Yes Means Yes slogan. Color scheme comes from the book. The No Always Means No was removed from this variation because in BDSM, sometimes "no" does not mean "no". However, in BDSM, when "no" does not mean "no", some other word is established to substitute for "no", so the concept is still valid, it's just a different word. One could say "The Safeword Always Means No" instead. Red stylized Y (font: Algerian) on the black and blue stripes of the BDSM Pride flag with the Only Yes Means Yes slogan. Color scheme comes from the book. The No Always Means No was removed from this variation because in BDSM, sometimes "no" does not mean "no".  However, in BDSM, when "no" does not mean "no", some other word is established to substitute for "no", so the concept is still valid, it's just a different word. One could say "The Safeword Always Means No" instead.
A horizontal slogan that can be used as a web banner that includes the red stylized Y (font: Algerian) and both rape awareness slogans.
All of these images are also available on physical items to help spread the concept like t-shirts and coffee mugs at Only Yes Means Yes - sites.google.com/site/activeconsent website.

**EDIT**

This video was brought to my attention in the comments, and I think it deserves to be included here.  It's a standup comedy routine about a guy who is faced with a girl who won't ask for sex and expects the guy to just "go for it".  The video seems to end on the punchline for the bit, and it is the punchline, but the bit continues for another line that I happen to think should have been included, so I'm adding the transcript of that line beneath the video:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=za7jQ1s1BV0


He goes on to say sarcastically: "I'm gettin' kind of a rapey vibe from this girl I dunno. I suspect she might enjoy being raped, maybe that's her thing.  I don't want to ask first and ruin it so I'll just take a shot and rape her, what the hell.  What's the worst that can happen after all?"

No means no is important.  But it's not enough.  We must be able to say yes when we mean yes and we must all stop assuming that consent is given until it's taken away.  Instead, we must assume that consent is not given until it is.  And thank you to all of you who think your partner's consent to sex trumps your feelings of entitlement to that sex.  If she doesn't say yes, it's a no.  If she wants to say yes but can't in some unambiguous manner, she needs serious help.  Wait until she gets that help and/or look elsewhere.


*For the moment, let's leave BDSM out of it. Yes, there are times when the word "no" doesn't mean the concept "no", but in those situations, they are explicitly agreed upon where all parties involved understand that, and there is usually some other signal that takes the place of the word "no" and clearly means "no" in its place, so the idea behind the slogan still holds, even if the sounds made do not sound like "no".
joreth: (Dobert Demons of Stupidity)
I'm listening to a podcast episode right now that's really bouncing around a variety of topics, but the main theme is how we cannot have logic without emotion and how thought is a physical process. I don't want to get into such a science-heavy topic because that's not the point I want to make and I'm fuzzy on the nitty-gritty details. But within the larger topic, the host and the guest got to a point of conservativism vs. liberalism. And the guest (whose name escapes me) said something that kind of boggled my mind. And I'm still thinking it through.


Anyone who is familiar with the Skeptics Movement(TM) knows about the so-called schism between the "militant atheists" and the apologists (and, I just have to point out how much I fucking hate the term "militant" with regards to atheists. "Militant" is taking up arms in support of your cause, not writing fucking blog posts and books, no matter how loudly one yells "there is no god!" Ahem.) So, in the one camp are those who say we should say it loud, say it proud and stop being wishy-washy, nambsy-pambsy, mealy-mouthed cowtowers to the conservative Right. The other camp says we should be nice and try to find common ground and just accommodate them a little bit because we don't want to alienate anyone.


Ya'll should know which side of this debate I fall on.


The camp that sides with volume and strength has pointed out that the conservative Right has been incredibly successful at winning their battles by using these exact methods. The difference is, the argument goes, that we aren't *just* being loud, we're also backing up our shouting with facts that support what we're yelling about, so we're loud, but we're also right. The other camp says that no one likes to be yelled at, so the middle ground will side with the conservatives just because they don't like our tone. And besides, we don't *like* the other side, so we shouldn't emulate them! We should be distancing ourselves from them, not copying their methods.


Well, according to this scientist, there's a reason for for all this. *He* says that fMRI tests suggest that the reason why people can hold contradictory beliefs in their minds at the same time is because when one section of the brain that corresponds to one type of belief is firing, it cancels out the other section, the one that corresponds to the contradictory belief. It's like a breaker - if you activate conservativism, you shut off liberalism and vice versa.


So, he says, when a conservative wants to convince a middle-grounder who holds a some liberal and some conservative views (which is pretty much most of us) of the conservative position, the conservative doesn't try to find middle ground. Instead, he moves further to the Right because he's trying, basically, to deactivate the liberal portion of the listener's brain by pounding it with conservativism.


Yeah, seriously.


Oh, I'm sure the conservative isn't aware that he's doing this - it's not some rational, science-based game plan. Somewhere along the line, the fundies noticed that the more extremely conservative they got, the more followers they got. And they exploit that trick. So when they're shouting from the pulpits sounding like complete lunatics to people like me, others are hearing them and their liberal breaker gets flipped, and the conservative side of their brains kick in and start thinking "y'know? That guy kinda makes sense!"


Frightening.


The guest then went on to say that the Democrats just haven't figured this out yet. The Democrats (he specified them) are doing the apologist/find-common-ground method to try and win converts. So they moderate their message and tone it down and go a bit more conservative in their effort to sound friendly towards conservatives. And that doesn't win them converts, it just increases the ranks of conservatives. Which is why we have the Wingnut Party and the Republican-Light Party.


So, because I don't know who this guest is, and because I don't know the science behind this, I hesitate to actually endorse it. But, and I'm fully aware of confirmation bias here, this certainly fits my own observations of the world. I continue to be baffled, no, shocked absolutely dumbstruck, at how these wackaloons can get such large followings. I listen to these idiots and the pure bile that comes out of their mouths and I think "how in the world can anyone hear this shit and take them seriously?" And I have no explanation for that, because there really is no lack of intelligence on the conservative side. In fact, quite a lot of conservatives are extremely intelligent. So I just don't get it.


The fundagelicals and the Rethuglicans (I use those slurs intentionally, because not every theist or Republican is the barking moon-bat crazy that these terms more accurately describe) appear to actually be winning converts and followers by doing exactly those things that make my jaw drop - by being extreme and totally out there. That also explains why, in spite of the reasoned arguments of the Don't Be A Dick lobby claiming that "people are swayed by niceness", the biggest names in the skeptics, atheist, and/or liberal movements are considered dicks - PZ Myers, Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, and all the most well-known comedians who are most certainly Not Nice to religionists such as George Carlin, Jon Stewart, Billy Connelly, Eddie Izzard, Tim Minchin, Matt & Trey, Penn & Teller, etc. It's true that there are plenty of nice and famous people too, but if the apologist argument was true - that nobody likes to be yelled at (which, technically, is not what's happening, but that's another rant) and people prefer nice guys, then these famous Dicks shouldn't be so popular.


And, according to this podcast, the reason why is because inundating a person who holds a combination of liberal and conservative viewpoints with an extreme version of one or the other viewpoint activates that side and deactivates the other, so that the listener's decisions are then made using the emotions that are more prominantly featured by that particular viewpoint. In other words, the more extreme conservatives win converts while the moderate liberals trying to be nice just chalk up more points for the conservatives.



And that's a scary thought.
joreth: (Super Tech)
I'm reading a book right now and there's a recurring theme that's pissing me off. The reason it's pissing me off is because I see this same theme in society around me, and it happens to be an extremely personal issue. The issue is adoption.

We have an incredibly fucked up idea of family and parentage in our society. People are really, strongly, obsessively invested in who has whose genes. And I don't mean the biological drive to procreate. I get that we have this drive to make sure we have progeny to ensure the continuation of our genes. But we have lots of ways of making sure that we continue on, and our genes do just fine on their own without our interference. For instance, it turns out that homosexuality actually *helps* procreation. Let's say that Sam and Suzy have 2 children, Bobby and Betty. Bobby is gay and Betty is straight. Betty gets married and Bobby doesn't, because he's gay. That leaves Bobby available to assist Betty and her husband Johnny raise their little tykes, with babysitting duties, gifts, maybe even more substantial contributions to the household. Bobby is Sam and Suzy's insurance policy to make sure that Betty's kids (Sam and Suzy's grandkids) have an edge and therefore out-compete the kids growing up next door, who don't have the benefit of an extra uncle to dote on them.

That's an oversimplification of course, the point is that we have a variety of ways to ensure the propagation of genes, and some of those ways might not seem, on the surface, to be beneficial, but they are.

So, what does that have to do with adoption? Well, my position is that this obsession with whose kids are whose goes far beyond what can be explained with genes. It has to do with memes. Social memes. Those nasty little mind-worms that infect societies and dig in deeper than some biological viruses. Somewhere along the line, we collectively decided it was appropriate, desired, and necessary for men to guard the vaginas to make sure that nothing went in and nothing came out that didn't "belong" to the men guarding them. This idea gained traction quickly and took root deeply to the point where we are now looking for biological justifications to excuse the brutality of men against women and against other men (but mostly against women).

And this meme works going the other direction too - children who are socialized with this kind of bullshit are terrified at the thought that mommy or daddy might not be their "real" mommy or daddy. Even adult children are terrified about this. The worst insult a man can be given is that he doesn't know who supplied half of his genes (bastard). Even as adults, the mere thought that one's parents might not be one's "real" parents is enough to make grown adults resort to violence.

I am adopted. I have always known that I was adopted. Although I did not meet my biological mother until I was 30, and I have never met my biological father, I grew up knowing the story of my birth and my biological lineage. I knew that my bio-parents were teenagers when I was born, and that was the reason I was given up for adoption. I knew that I had European ancestry on my mother's side and Latin American ancestry on my father's side. I knew that my birth-mother was given a choice as to who my adopted parents would be and she chose the couple who raised me, although they never met. I knew all of this from the moment I was able to understand it. And I was always OK with it.

My adopted mom (whom I always call "mom") has always made it very clear to me that I may not have come from her stomach, but I did come from her heart. My adopted parents raised me from the time I was 15 days old. They stayed up with me at night when I was sick, they helped me with my homework, they dried my tears when I was so panicked at the thought of spending another day with the school bullies that I made myself sick. My adopted parents have always been parents in every sense that matters.

My birth mother (whom I usually refer to as "mother") was also held in high esteem. Something else that my adopted parents made sure to instill in me was a deep and profound respect for the woman who made the ultimate sacrifice in my adoption. I can't imagine how difficult it must have been to have carried a baby to term, given birth, and then given that infant to someone else, knowing that she would never see her baby again. She never did see me. She asked not to, afraid she would change her mind if she did. This woman, this girl, didn't abandon me. She made the best decision possible - to allow someone else to raise her child so that her child had the best possible chance for survival, because she was not the best possible choice.

In the book that I'm reading, the main character was raised by his father in a small village. His mother died before he had any real memory of her. The main character doesn't look anything like his father, and in fact, doesn't look anything like anyone in the village. He stands out like a Norseman raised in the south of Spain. But as he travels through the story, he learns hints that he may not be genetically related to his father. He learns that his father left the village for a couple of years and returned home with a baby. His father told him that he had been born in that village, so he vehemently denies this rumor. Every time it is suggested that he may have been a foundling, he shouts his name and that he is the son of his father.

And every time he does that I want to reach through the pages of the book, grab him by the throat, and throttle some sense into him. Of COURSE that's his name; having different genetic donors doesn't change that! Your name is what people call you, and having some other ancestry doesn't change what people call you, or what they have always called you in the past. Of COURSE that's his father; having some stranger impregnate some other stranger doesn't erase the last 20 years of the man he thinks of as his father, as he taught him to read, taught him to farm, taught him to fire a bow and arrow. That his genes come from people he's never met DOES NOT CHANGE WHO HE IS OR WHO HIS FATHER IS. It *might* explain some things about himself that don't make sense without that information, such as his coloring. But it does not change history and it does not erase those relationships with people he currently has.

And this book keeps pissing me off because I see people going through this same situation all the time. I see people panic at the thought that the people they love, who raised them, might have a genetic code that is 3% different from theirs, instead of 2.9% different. And the reason why that reaction pisses me off is because it is a direct accusation to people like me, people who were raised by someone other than their genetic donors. Every time I say I don't want children, and people ask what happens if I change my mind, and I say that I'll adopt, every time they say "but what if you want children of your own someday?" Fuck you. Any child I adopt WOULD be my own goddamn child. I think it's frighteningly telling that these people actually believe that someone could possibly deliberately raise a child and not love it as one's "own".

It's so terrible, so awful, this idea that we might not be blood-related to our parents. Someone who really thinks that is so busy freaking out over that thought, that he doesn't usually stop to consider that, if it's so awful that he is not related to his parents, then it must be just as awful for me to not be related to my parents. And I am deeply resentful of the idea that my parents are not my "real" parents.

My parents are every bit my "real" parents. Not giving birth to me did not make their sacrifices for me any less, or diminish their love even a single iota. There was never even a single moment of "she's not my REAL daughter, so I only love her a little bit". I, and my adopted sister, were the children my parents always wanted. We gave them every bit as much love, and as much grief, as any "natural" child ever gave her parents.

This idea of "natural" offspring is, I think, one of the most harmful, destructive memes we have the misfortune of propagating. It causes men to turn violent, to destroy women's bodies, to kill. It causes women to doubt their very humanity when they can't have children "of their own". It causes relationships to be destroyed at even the suspicion of other genetic material in the vicinity. It causes children to doubt their very identities because we do not encourage people to develop identities on their own merits and personalities, but on their relationships to other people. Who is this strange child if it's not "mine"? Who am I if I'm not related to my parents?

That child is the same child he has always been, and I am always me, no matter who my parents are. Regardless of where my DNA came from, my parents raised me and shaped the person I am now. I am the culmination of biological matter, values instilled by the people who raised me, exposure to ideas from society around me, and my own accomplishments. I am Joreth. Adult human individual and daughter of my parents. All four of them.
joreth: (Purple Mobius)
http://movies.netflix.com/WiMovie/The_Wedding_Banquet/60011421?trkid=496624 - Netflix
http://amzn.to/2ihc9mA - Amazon
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0107156/ - IMDB

The DVD summary says "Successful New Yorker Wai Tung and his partner Simon are blissfully happy, except for one thing: Wai Tung's conservative Taiwanese parents are determined he find a nice girl to marry! To please them and get a tax break he arranges a sham marriage to Wei Wei, a sexy go-getter in need of a green card. But when his family swoops down for the extravaganza, Wai Tung would do well to remember that at a traditional Chinese wedding banquet, sexual repression takes the night off!"

I was actually prepared for this to be a crappy movie. I expected the summary to be like so many others - vaguely written so I could interpret it as suggestiong a potential poly story, get me hopeful, but ultimately to let me down with sex-negative values and a cautionary tale against bucking "tradition".

I am so happy to have been wrong.

One of the benefits of polyamory, in my opinion, is that polyamory is a fundamental change of mindset on what makes a "family". Regardless of what form any given poly group takes, or even what any individual thinks "counts" as polyamorous, the underlying requirement for polyamory is to be able to design your own relationship based on the needs and wants of the individuals involved.  And I think that's a valuable paradigm shift no matter what relationship structure any given family group ends up as.  With polyamory becoming a "movement", that is, a recognized word and concept demanding social acceptance, we are seeing more people designing their own relationships, whether they call it polyamory, or even whether it "counts" as polyamory, or not.

I think that families have always done this, but I think there has been more heartache and more lies to cover it up. The Wedding Banquet illustrates, not only the lies and heartache that goes into forcing a family group to look like it's "supposed" to rather than what it is, but also the changing climate of society where acceptance of alternative family structures makes for more happiness than adhering to "tradition" under the erroneous belief that "tradition" has always been so, therefore it's the best way ever did.

Wai-Tung Gao is a Chinese immigrant and American citizen living in New York with his boyfriend, Simon. They have a stable, happy relationship and have been together for 5 years. But Wai-Tung's family is very traditional Chinese. Mr. Gao was a commander in the army and has survived a stroke only by the thought of living long enough to see his first grandchild. Mrs. Gao signs Wai-Tung up, without his permission, for every matchmaking service she can find in an effort to get him married, to carry on the family name and honor his family. They are completely unaware that Wai-Tung is gay and that he lives with Simon.

Mr. Gao invested in an apartment building for Wai-Tung to own and manage, and in the loft of that ghetto building lives Wei-Wei, another Chinese immigrant who is a struggling artist. Because Wei-Wei can't hold down a job and her art is not generating any income, she lives in substandard living conditions by renting the loft, which is not zoned for habitation, at a very low price. The building is a dump, the air conditioning and the water are always broken, and she has to call Wai-Tung all the time to fix things.

Wai-Tung takes pity on Wei-Wei, and lets her slide on the rent sometimes, even though she makes him uncomfortable by flirting with him and expressing envy that Simon has such a handsome boyfriend. Eventually, she loses yet another job, and when Wai-Tung comes over with Simon to install a new air conditioner, she confesses that she will have to move back to China because she has no money and she can't find a "stupid American" to marry her for a green card.

Later, Simon suggests to Wai-Tung that marrying Wei-Wei would solve everyone's problems. Getting married would get Wai-Tung's family off of his back, and Wei-Wei would have a green card and a place to live so that she wouldn't have to go back to China. Wai-Tung is resistant, but Simon convinces him to try it.

So they move Wei-Wei into their basement bedroom until the immigration process is over, and Wai-Tung tells his family that he is getting married. Things seem to be running smoothly, until Wai-Tung's parents announce that they're coming to America for the wedding. Naturally, everyone freaks out, but Simon takes it upon himself to coach Wei-Wei about the things a wife should know about her future-husband, and Simon and Wei-Wei switch bedrooms.

The parents arrive, and Wai-Tung goes through the charade, looking very uncomfortable every step of the way, but Simon watches over him a bit bemusedly. Simon never once exhibits any sort of jealousy or resentment, even when praise for Simon's meal all goes to Wei-Wei because part of the scheme is to convince his parents that she is a worthy wife, including being a good cook.

Now, a gay couple who needs a woman as part of the household is a pretty good place to start changing the social climate about what constitutes a family. I don't know that I would necessarily call it "poly", if it's only the two men who have a romantic relationship, but two men and a woman who share a dwelling and raise children certainly qualifies as "family" in my book. Especially when all parties are there with the blessing and welcome of everyone else. We can quibble about the fine print of whether it's poly or not, but I don't think it really matters in the long run. If a family of that arrangement wants to call itself poly, I see no benefit in arguing the point.

The question comes in when this family is arranged for the purpose of hiding the true arrangement from other people, namely, the parents. Because of my opposition to the way marriage is handled in this country, I actually have no issues whatsoever with a couple marrying for the legal benefits that marriage offers, such as a green card. I know it's technically fraudulent, but since I have a problem with the whole foundation of a government tying legal benefits to emotional entanglements, I see no *moral* problem with this situation. So, that leaves us with the parents.

If it weren't for the parents, and the green card, the threesome would remain a twosome, and that's where the discussion of "is this poly?" comes in. That's what makes this situation more complicated than the hypothetical gay-couple-and-woman-form-a-family I posed above. This arrangement is being done for the benefit of people who are not part of the relationship.

So, for about 2/3 of the movie, I was composing in my head the review for this movie with this in mind, leaning towards "not poly" but still a good movie - especially for those interested in LGBT issues. But then I changed my mind. I've decided this is, at the very least, poly-ISH, but in order to explain it, I will have to give away some spoilers.

To find out exactly why I believe this is a poly-ish movie, read the spoilers and the ending of the movie. But if you want to watch the movie and let it unfold, don't read this. )

This movie touched me because I could relate to each of the characters, at different times in my life. I remember when I was too afraid to tell my parents about being poly. I know how stressful it is to not be acknowledged by my partner because he's afraid to tell his family about me. I also know, even though I disapprove of the lie, how to feel support and compassion for my partner and to aid him in the deception, for his sake. And, I know how it feels to have a crush on someone who doesn't return my feelings, and to be so poor and so out of options, that a business marriage seems like a perfectly reasonable solution.

This is yet another one of those fuzzy-border poly-ish situations. I enjoyed the movie, and I recommend watching it.
joreth: (polyamory)
http://movies.netflix.com/WiMovie/Same_Time_Next_Year/60010851?trkid=2361637 - Netflix
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0078199/ - IMDB Database
http://amzn.to/2ig28Gn - Amazon
http://amzn.to/2vT2VAb - Amazon Instant Video

I first saw this movie as a kid. It was playing on some B-movie channel like USA or Lifetime, and it had already started when I came upon it. I was flipping channels, and I stopped only because I noticed Alan Alda. Being a huge fan of the show M*A*S*H, I had to see what Hawkeye was up to.

I actually have very little memory of the movie itself. All I was left with was the basic premise, which is of a man and a woman who are both married, but not to each other, who meet each other every year at the same time, at the same place, for a weekend affair. The movie spans about 25 years, and the idea of lasting 25 years with the same person, other than their spouse, touched me, even as a child.

So, I had added it to the Poly Movie List based on my memory of a feeling, rather than actually remembering the plot. And I decided recently that I ought to watch the movie again, just to make sure it really deserved to be included on that list. And after watching it, y'know what? I'm not really sure.

We first meet George and Doris on the night that they meet each other. George is an accountant with a client in the area, and Doris is a housewife whose in-laws hate her, so she comes up to a nearby convent/retreat every year on this weekend to avoid them. The two find themselves drawn to each other in the bed & breakfast's restaurant and they spend the evening gazing into each other's eyes and talking deeply to each other. The next morning, they wake up to discover that they've had an affair.

Normally, cheating spouses is a pretty good guarantee of a movie getting itself banned from the Poly Movie List. But this one was a little different. George and Doris are not unhappy at home and looking to replace their respective spouses. They each love their respective spouses and have happy lives with them. It's just that they are so drawn to each other, but their affair does not change the love they have for their spouses, and they agonize over the duplicity throughout the entire movie.

Also, this movie is different from most cheating movies because it's not a one-time thing, or over a short span of time. Their affair lasts for the bulk of their adult lives. They grow old together, and their affair deepens to a true love of each other. Yes, it's true, they do not tell their spouses, and that deceitfulness is what makes me waver on whether or not to keep this movie on the list. But George and Doris not only love each other, but they grow to be fond of each other's families and spouses too, even though they have never met each other.

George and Doris play a game, where they each tell one story that paints their spouses in a negative light, and then another story that paints them in a positive light. These scenes are so touching, as they live vicariously through each other's stories and get to know each other's spouses from afar. We see them live through each other's pain and anguish, and we see them grow through each other's joys. We see George and Doris each take different life paths and learn how to grow back together.

Two small spoilers, but not the end of the movie )

So, I think the reason why I keep wanting to keep this movie on the list, is because this is what I imagine polyamorous relationships are like when the participants don't know that an option like polyamory exists. This is the story I believe that we could all have found ourselves in if we lived in a time and place where open relationships were just not allowed. This is what I think happens when we are not allowed to express ourselves and our love when love is bigger than our rules.

This is a movie about 4 people, even though we only ever meet 2 of them - about the love and desire that encompass them, through presidential terms, through wars, through changing fashions and political ideals, and over the course of a quarter of a century. So you may disagree with me about whether or not this is a poly movie, and I think some very valid points can be made on that side of the debate that I can't argue with. But I'm going to keep it on the list anyway.
joreth: (polyamory)
http://movies.netflix.com/WiMovie/Summer_Lovers/60025215?trkid=2361637 - Netflix
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0084737/ - IMDB Database
http://amzn.to/2igHfLe - Amazon

If you want to see a poly movie, I can think of no better example than Summer Lovers. This movie stars Daryl Hannah and takes place in the very early 1980s in the romantic and exotic setting of a beach-side villa in Greece. Cathy and her boyfriend Michael decide to spend the summer in Greece, lounging around, soaking up the sun, and seeing the sights. Until Michael sets his sights on Lina. Lina is a French archeologist working in Greece for the summer and renting a villa within sight of Cathy and Michael's villa. Michael runs into her one day and follows her to the beach, while Cathy is off exploring on her own. With what seems to be very little setup, Michael and Lina have sex.

Michael, feeling guilt-ridden, immediately confesses to Cathy, who, understandably, leaves him in a fit of anger and hurt. Michael seeks consolation in Lina's arms that night.

The next day, Michael and Cathy attempt to reconcile, but it's difficult. Cathy wants to understand why Michael would cheat on her and what he sees in Lina. So she seeks Lina out. Cathy arrives at Lina's villa, and they have a little chat. Cathy discoveres tha she actually likes Lina and invites her to dinner with the two of them, much to Michael's surprise and discomfort.

What follows is the tale of a couple, damaged by infidelity, opening their minds and their hearts to another woman. We see the growing pains as Cathy struggles with her feelings of betrayal that war with her interest and appreciation of Lina. We see Michael, caught between his long-time love and a new, intriguing woman. We see tug of war between Lina's desire and love for Michael and Cathy, and her independence and freedom.

This movie takes us on the whole ride, from a very common beginning that starts with an indescretion and leads to a family. We see the good times and the bad. This movie does not gloss over the bumps in the road as three people attempt to adjust to a non-traditional relationship, but it is also not a morality play against the evils of sex and non-traditional love. I think a lot of people can identify with this movie because I think a lot of people come to polyamory from very similar situations.

I think this is probably the best example of polyamory in film out there. It shows us the whole range of emotions and gives us characters we can relate to and situations that we can understand how the characters got there, probably because most of us have been there ourselves. No poly movie list would be complete without this film on it.
joreth: (polyamory)
http://movies.netflix.com/WiMovie/Y_Tu_Mama_Tambien/60023237?trkid=496624 - Netflix
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0245574/ - IMDB Database

I'm not sure which poly movie list this was on, but I don't think it was poly. It wasn't a bad movie, and it was definitely about multiple sex partners, but I don't think it was poly.

The summary at Netflix says "When rich teenagers Tenoch (Diego Luna) and Julio (Gael Garcia Bernal) meet the alluring, older Luisa (Maribel Verdu) at a wedding, they try to impress her with stories of a road trip to a secret beach, and ultimately convince her to come with them. What follows in director Alfonso Cuaron's Oscar-nominated film -- one of the most talked-about pics of 2002 -- is an escapade involving seduction, conflict and the harsh realities of poverty."

The two main characters, Julio and Tenoch, each have girlfriends that have gone to Europe for the summer. The teenagers meet Tenoch's cousin's wife, Luisa. They find out that she is interested in visiting a beach, so they make up a mythical perfect beach that no one knows about and invite her to come with them to find it, hoping to score with her but ultimately knowing that they never will.

Luisa visits a doctor, and later that night gets a drunken phone call from her husband, telling her that he cheated on her. So she calls up Tenoch and asks if the offer to visit the beach is still open. The three of them take off across the Mexican countryside to find a beach that doesn't exist.

Along the way, we discover that the boys have each slept with each other's girlfriends, and that Luisa seduces them both. Each revelation sets off a spark of jealous rage, culminating in Luisa jumping out of the car and attempting to ditch them both. She only returns after they agree to her long list of demands, including that neither boy fights, contradicts her, or even speaks without her permission.

Eventually, they find a beach and spend a couple of days frolicking in the water and getting drunk, which seems to repair everyone's friendship. Luisa seduces them both again, only this time at the same time and they have a threesome, including some guy-on-guy activity. But the boys wake up the next morning, appearing to regret it, or at least, regretting the copious amounts of tequila they drank the night before.

Luisa decides to stay at the beach with the new friends she's made among the locals, and the two boys go back home. There's still a little more to the story, but since I watched it for its poly content, and that is the end of the possible poly content, I'll stop there.

I didn't like the characters. The two boys are rich, spoiled, entitled, potheads who spend their entire time drugged out of their heads, drunk, and masturbating. When they're not actively masturbating, they're talking about women's body parts or insulting each others' body parts. They don't seem to have any other interests at all besides pot, beer, and tits. I'm not even sure how they got girlfriends in the first place, except I seem to remember being a teenager and not really having much in common with some boyfriends except that we liked to fuck.

They were jealous and hypocritical and boastful and deceitful and, well, teenage boys. Luisa seemed the most complex of the characters, but she just wasn't quite enough to carry the whole movie by herself. Her motivation for randomly accepting an invitation to spend a week driving around a foreign country with a couple of boys she didn't know, and to further seduce them both with no lead-up and no prior interest or attraction, makes sense in light of the glimpses we did get into her life. It's just that the scenes were too filled with the boys cussing at each other and generally being obnoxious teens, that I couldn't really like the movie.

I will say, though, that foreign films can do sex scenes better than American films. This movie opens with the two boys fucking their girlfriends, and although the dialog is terrible, the scenes feel realistic. Maybe it's the use of handheld cameras, or the lack of cheesy music and soft filters, or maybe it's the frantic teenage-boy fucking, but I thought the sex scenes, for all that they were softcore, were the best parts of the movie. Even awkward sex, done right, is better than smooth sex done wrong.

So, it was an interesting film. It was a sexual exploration movie. If you're into that, you might want to see this film. But it wasn't a poly movie. It wasn't about relationships or love. It was about sex. Which has its place, just not on a poly movie list.
joreth: (Purple Mobius)
http://movies.netflix.com/WiMovie/My_Girlfriend_s_Boyfriend/70125551?trkid=496624 - Netflix
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1447793/ - Internet Movie Database
http://amzn.to/2vTn897 - Amazon

The description from Netflix reads "Jesse Young is a girl who has everything and maybe too much of it when she finds herself falling for two seemingly perfect guys: sexy but struggling writer Ethan and button-down advertising exec Troy. Can she find true love with two men at the same time, or is somebody going to get a broken heart?" The tagline reads "What would you do if you found your one true love... twice?"

This had more potential than almost any other possibly-poly movie I'd seen in a long time. The title and the line "Can she find true love with two men at the same time" made the cynical part of my brain pause in condemning it for yet another Hollywood choose-between-them romantic comedy plot. "This one," I thought "might actually be poly." I went into watching this movie with high hopes, but wary that those high hopes would lead me to a big fall.

My Girlfriend's Boyfriend stars Alyssa Milano, whom I've had a straight-girl-crush on for pretty much my entire life, so even with my usual misgivings about modern romantic comedies, I had to give it a try. Alyssa, as Jesse, is entirely convincing in her character and she put me back into my own history with similar situations. Jesse is a waitress who meets Ethan, a sexy-in-that-geeky-way writer who has been trying, unsuccessfully, to get published for years and whose latest meeting with a publisher has convinced him that he will never make it as a writer.

Jesse, we learn right away, is getting over some kind of relationship ending and is not yet ready to try again. But then she meets Ethan, and seems to decide that her uncle was right - it's time to take that leap and go for love. She gives Ethan her phone number. But as Ethan leaves Jesse's cafe, a tall, handsome, charismatic man walks in through the front door. It seems that, when Jesse decides to leap, she goes for a swan dive off Mt. Everest. Troy, our handsome advertising executive, gets Jesse's phone number too.

The two men couldn't be more different from each other, and yet, they're really not all that different. Ethan takes Jesse on those cheesy sorts of dates that end up being the most romantic dates ever because of how personal and intimate they are. Troy takes Jesse on those perfect sorts of dates that end up being the most romantic dates ever because of how flawless they are. Jesse is smart and funny and sarcastic (and beautiful) and it's easy for me to see why both men like her (as opposed to Cafe au Lait). As time progresses, we see her struggling with her growing feelings and her secret.

When monogamous people date, there is this unspoken, implicit rule that when you're "just dating", it's OK to go on dates with more than one person. It's even acceptable not to tell the people you're on dates with that you are going on dates with other people. The point is to maximimze your time to more efficiently select The One, and since he is The One, he doesn't need to know about all the applicants who didn't make the cut. So the fact that Jesse has a secret isn't surprising, and I can completely understand how she could get herself into this predicament. In the beginning, many people don't need, or want, to reveal everything - this relationship may not go anywhere, or it may go somewhere bad. Better to wait and see if this relationship is worth keeping before revealing something that makes you vulnerable.

The problem is that, oftentimes, we don't know that this relationship is worth revealing that secret until we've kept that secret past the point where we should have revealed it. By then, the longer the secret is kept, the harder it is to reveal it because you not only have to reveal something that might destroy your relationship, but you have to reveal that you've been keeping that secret this whole time, adding broken trust and a false foundation onto whatever horror your secret is. It's a terrible predicament to be in. At first, the relationship isn't worth revealing your secret. Then, when the relationship is worth it, it becomes too important to risk losing by revealing the secret. Rock, meet Hard Place.

This is going to be really difficult because I don't know how to end this review without giving away spoilers. So I'm going to say something here that needs to be said and is going to sound like a spoiler ... but it really won't be.

This is not a poly movie.

But this movie sucked me in, made me cry, made me root for the characters, put me back inside the headspace of a person I no longer am and could no longer remember, and I was completely surprised.

This is not a poly movie, but it's also not your typical romantic comedy. There is no "girl meets wrong guy that we know is the wrong guy because she sleeps with him too soon while Mr. Right pines away for her and eventually wins her away from the obvious bastard that she has chosen instead" plot. This movie doesn't make the same tired old plot turns, it takes totally different plot turns. As cynical as I can be, I feel as though I should have seen some of these things coming, because, now that I know the ending, I can see how it was set up. But either the writing or the acting (or both) was so touching and so real to me, that I didn't see it coming until the reveal.

One of the criticisms I read about this movie was that the two concurrent plots of Jesse and her two men were boring by themselves, without the tension of the Big Secret. Personally, I thought that was the movie's strength. Too often, especially in romantic comedies, we have to introduce some crazy conflict - usually a conflict that would solve the whole problem if the characters just talked to each other. And every time I yell at the screen "this whole thing could be solved if you just do X and all this pain and suffering you're feeling would be over!", someone else reminds me that we wouldn't have the movie if they did the reasonable, rational thing, so shut up and watch the movie.

And I HATE that! Reporters and TV producers regularly approach me for their shows only to reject me when they find out that I don't feel jealous in my relationships, we don't argue all that much, and when we do, it's usually solved with a long discussion or two and not so much with the fighting in public or screaming and name-calling, and that I don't hate my metamours. For some reason, people feel the need to include massive amounts of drama in their entertainment (and their lives). Now, there are certainly stories that I enjoy that include huge conflicts - like lovers being separated by war, or epic battles of good vs. evil, or, even better, epic battles of fundamentally flawed people vs. other fundamentally flawed people.

But a relationship that doesn't have lying, lack of communication, fights, breakups and reconciliations, and all the rest of the contrived bullshit that writers put into them can still be an interesting story.Yes, it's true, without the tension of the "secret", if we watched each of Jesse's relationships individually as its own movie instead of together, there isn't a whole lot of conflict. Jesse seems pretty happy with each of her men, and each man seems pretty happy with her. And I LIKED that.

I absolutely loved the fact that there wasn't a clear loser. I loved that she didn't choose "the wrong one". I loved that one guy wasn't an asshole and the other was perfect. I loved that we didn't have to make one guy a villain or to kill one of them off in order to justify her choosing the other one. I loved that because it felt more real to me. It made much more sense to me why she was with each man. I am too often disgusted with romantic comedies because I can't understand why the characters are together, since they don't seem to really like each other. In this movie, although I actually liked Ethan better as a match for *me*, I could totally see why Jesse would have been in each relationship. It felt REAL.

Had I written this movie, it would not have gone in the direction it did go. But, given the direction it went in, I have to say that it ended exactly as it should have. How she ended up with who she ended up with has been written before, although rarely, so it was a bit of a twist in that regard. I usually feel, in stories that take this path, that the writer wrote himself into a corner and had to use a cheesy plot device to write himself out. I didn't feel that way this time. It is a difficult path that the writer chose for his story, and one, as I said, I would not have taken if I were writing it. But, for once, I didn't hate that the writer took this direction.

In addition, the movie threw a bit of a curveball at the end that I've seen happen in a couple of other stories, and it happens to be a curveball that I have a particularly strong feeling about - it being a personal issue of mine. But this curveball is so rarely well-handled, and in real life it's handled even less well, that to see the character give exactly the response I so hoped for made the movie for me.

The other criticism I read was that the surprise plot twist was too easy to figure out. As I said above, after having watched the movie, I can now see all the places where it was set up, and I feel as though I should have seen it coming. I won't say what those clues are because I don't want to give it away if you haven't seen it (and even if you can guess the ending before it ends, the movie is still better not knowing it ahead of time), but I did notice at the time when a couple of clues presented themselves that something funny was going on and, in hindsight, it's completely obvious.

But, the point is that, sure, the plot twist and the Big Secret could have been figured out. There is a very fine line between too easy to figure out and unable to figure out because the setup went so out of its way to trick us that it ended up being implausible, and where that line is for any individual may vary, so I don't think any movie could possibly get it perfectly right. What I think a movie has to do is make it *possible* to figure out so that it's plausible and realistic, but so engaging that the audience is too busy feeling the story to sit back and analyze it to find the clues. And I think that's exacty what this movie did.

So, it's not a poly movie. It was a romantic comedy. And I recommend it anyway.

Wrong Road

Jul. 18th, 2011 06:27 pm
joreth: (Bad Joreth)
Wrong Road
Notice the paths that happy and successful people take, and avoid those paths. Favor the popular paths since those will help you achieve average results at best, and average results should safely prevent undesirable feelings of fulfillment. The best roads are those that leave you feeling like you’re walking in circles till you’re too tired to walk anymore and must retire. Roads that are flat or which slope downhill are often good choices, and they tend to satisfy the popularity requirement as well. Avoid any paths that lead over hills or near mountains; the elevated views are disturbing. Head towards terrain you dislike since it’s easier to hate your life when you hate your surroundings. If you can manage to get lost as well, that’s wonderful.


http://www.stevepavlina.com/blog/2011/07/how-to-do-everything-wrong/

In conversations where I explain what I have done or seen done that leads to success, either in relationships, in work, in life in general, whatever, I often get the following response: "Some of us are not as enlighted as you, so we won't take your advice." And yes, people have actually used the phrase "as enlightened as you", and not because I ever made that claim myself.

Now, I get that, in some circumstances, Person A can look at Person B and see a happy, successful person, but not want to actually be like Person B. I mean, I see plenty of happy and successful Hollywood actors, but I don't want to be an actor. That's not what I'm talking about here. I'm talking about Person A wanting the same outcome as Person B, but not wanting to learn how Person B got there. Basically, Person A is reinventing the wheel, only he's making it square.

What this kind of response and attitude says is this:

I see that you are happy and successful at something that I want to be happy and successful at. But rather than trying to take the lessons you have learned and apply them to my own life, I am going to do the exact opposite in the hopes that doing exactly what you did not do, I will somehow learn the skills and lessons that you learned and end up with the same result as you, because what you did is scary and I want all the benefits without the growing pains. I want what you have, but I will not take even remotely similar paths to get what you have, and I will expect those paths to end at the same destination. Meanwhile, I will be utterly dismissive of everything you have learned about how you got where you did.

These are the people who want to learn how to be less jealous & more secure, but do things that are designed to foster, encourage, and protect insecurity. These are the people who want to protect themselves against STDs but stick their head in the sand so that they're practically inviting STDs. These are the people who want to get ahead in business, but go out of their way to burn bridges and alienate the support that all people "at the top" need to stay at the top. These are the people who want lots of money but don't want to actually *do* anything for it, like, work. These are the people who want social change but end up supporting the status quo by their actions, or inaction. These are the people who whine about how much their life sucks while opportunity after opportunity pass right by. These are the "nice guys" who can't "get a girl" who argue with women explaining to them what they're doing to turn them off. These are the people who want so desperately to be With Someone that they can't see how that desperation is exactly the thing turning people away.

To paraphrase Miss Poly Manners, there might, indeed, be no single Right Way, but there ARE plenty of Wrong Ways. This is one of them.
joreth: (Super Tech)
There's a big deal happening in the skeptics community because Rebecca Watson was propositioned in an elevator at a conference, told the story publicly, and concluded with "don't do that guys". The entire community exploded in opposite directions, with clueless men saying "what's the big deal? Just tell the guy no" and women and men who "get it" trying to explain why this was so bad.

The biggest complaint is that poor, privileged men got their feelings hurt by a woman saying "don't proposition a woman at 4 AM in an elevator where she can't escape" because, they think, it must have implied that men can't ever speak to or look at a woman anywhere, at any time, ever, because all men are always a threat to all women. Always.

And that is not what the women are saying at all. It's not that all men are automatically a threat. It's that we have been told BY MEN from the day we are born that someday, some man is going to come along and rape us. Not only is he going to try to assault us, but it will be our own fault. Because of what we wear, what we say, or where we are, some man is going to be so overcome with lust at something that WE DID, that he will assault us, and that it is our own responsibility to avoid this attack by choosing our clothing, our behaviour, our words, our locations to prevent some guy from losing control of himself.

No, it's not that every man is a threat. It's that SOME man is a threat, but we have no way of knowing WHICH man he is until it's too late. And that the reason why he is a threat is because of something that we did to bring it upon ourselves, and that we live in a society that will scrutinize our every move and our every thought to see if it can find exactly what we did to bring it upon ourselves, so that the poor man can be absolved of his responsibility for assaulting us (just ask any woman who ever pressed rape charges how carefully her own background and behaviour was dragged into the harsh light of the courtroom so the defense attorney could find some shred of "she was asking for it" to get his client off the hook).

We are told these very things about ourselves and about men being threatening ... by men. By our fathers, by our police officers, by our clergy, and it is reinforced by every one of those skeevy men out there who responds to our rejections, no matter how polite or careful or blame-shifting we try to make them, with accusations of "slut", "bitch", "dyke", or with pressure to change our minds. First, we're told that men are a threat to us, then we're told that it's our own responsibility to police our own boundaries and make sure that all men know what they can't get away with, and THEN, when we dutifully buck up the courage to reject someone (no one likes to feel rejected so many of us don't like to do the rejecting because we don't want to hurt someone's feelings), we are penalized for it by the man's behaviour. We're called names, we're shouted at, we're gossiped about, or we're ignored by those who have been told that "no" is just another word for "maybe".

We are told that "good girls" don't say "yes", so some men are convinced that we are only saying "no" because we're not supposed to say "yes". Other men believe the "no", but don't believe that it is a permanent state. In other words, if they just keep asking, eventually it'll change into a "yes". So even if we DO manage to reject someone, we're still not off the hook. We still have to vigilantly maintain those boundaries, like a fort with an enemy at the gate, probing for weaknesses, just one little chink in the fence where he can weasel his way in.

I don't like to think of men in these terms; I'd like to give them the benefit of the doubt. But this is what I have been told, and this is what many women have been told about men ... by men. Who hasn't heard the line about a father telling his daughter that "boys only want one thing", backing that up with "because I was a boy once and that's how I thought". Rather than an entire nation of fathers trying to change their sons' views on how to treat women now that they have wives & daughters that they don't want assaulted (we'll just overlook, for now, that these fathers didn't care about assaulting someone ELSE'S wives or daughters), these fathers are, instead, trying to lock up their daughters to "protect" them from all those predatory boys and men, apparently just sitting at the front door, panting and drooling, waiting for the daughters to take a step out the front door so they can pounce. Women are penalized by being treated as prisoners for the crimes of all these men that we're led to believe are just waiting for us. We're locked up indoors, under clothing, and behind demure expressions all to prevent some man from assulting us. And in some countries, this isn't even hyperbole.

Young women are given earlier curfews, or made to give the information for where they expect to be and what time they expect to be home, or scrutinized by their mothers to ensure that their clothing doesn't send the "wrong impression" when young men are not often given the same treatment. We are subjected to this treatment because our parents believe that we are at greater risk for assault than our male counterparts, in spite of the fact that men are quite often the victims of violent crime such as robbery and beatings. Even though, statistically, men are more likely to be the assaulter in all violent crimes, other men are not told to fear going into a steambath, naked with other men, on the off-chance that one of those men will try to rape him (unless he's a conservative fundie, who DO seem to think that just because another man is gay, being naked in the same room with him is naturally going to lead to being raped by the gay man), beat him for thinking he's gay, or steal his wallet that he left in the locker room. Women, however, are told that we cannot go into certain areas with men, such as a steambath or a locker room, because one of those men will try to rape us, beat us, or steal our purse.

And I'll even concede that this does happen more often to women than men. I have no statistics at my fingertips and I don't feel like looking it up, so if someone wants to insist that women are assulted by men more often than men are assaulted by men, I'll give you the benefit of the doubt, for the sake of discussion. I don't believe this is the case, but I'm not willing to argue this point right now. The main point is that our society's solution to this problem is not to change the society to make this unacceptable, nor is it to tighten up security in these areas to allow women the freedom to move about the country as they choose. The solution is not to frown and shake our fingers at men and call them "naughty boys". No, the solution is to make the WOMEN curtail their activities, their clothing, their behaviour, their speech, whatever they have to do to prevent the rare man who might be hiding amongst all the "nice guys" just waiting for his chance to beat us, rape us, kill us, while men are not given the same effort at telling them not to go certain places or dress in certain ways to avoid an assault. So women have to treat everyone as a threat in order to protect ourselves from the actual threats.

Let me tell you a few stories of some of your oh-so-non-threatening bretheren:


1) I and two of my female coworkers went out to the Hard Rock Casino one night after work to hang out - just us ladies. None of us are shrinking violets and we're pretty well able to take care of ourselves, being all butch and manual-laborey, but we're also fairly easy on the eyes, if I do say so myself, and still subjected to the same social programming as everyone else. So we were hanging out at the casino lounge, having our first drinks (mine was non-alcoholic) when an obviously drunk man came over to our table. I don't recall the exact words he used at this point, but I do recall that he had trouble pronouncing them and that they were supposed to be complimentary. At any rate, he expressed admiration for our appearances and then proceeded to indicate interest in sexual relations.

Well, I was much younger then, and still trying to be polite, and I fell into the same old trap that most women do, of giving an excuse for my rejection that clearly says "no" without saying "because you're a douchebag". Most women use lines like "I have a boyfriend" or "I have to get up early" or some other line that says "I can't" rather than "I won't", to try and soften the rejection. I and one of the other girls told him that we were all lesbians and in a committed slave-relationship with the third girl. She was our Mistress and she did not share us and we absolutely could not do anything without her permission, which she would not give. So A) we were the wrong orientation, B) we were in an exclusive relationship, and C) it was the type of relationship that makes straight, vanilla, drunk fratboys at bars uncomfortable.

He looked confused and wandered off, only to return a few minutes later and press the issue. We continued to insist that we were not interested in men at all and we were "taken", to which he responded by trying to talk us out of both, including the "you just haven't met a Real Man yet" trope. Finally, he leaned over to me and tried to kiss me. Right there in the lounge. I ducked and slid off my chair and ran to the girl who was posing as the "Mistress", where I sat at her feet while she put her hand possessively on my head and glared at the jerk.

His eyes opened wide and he slurred "oh, you mean, like, THAT kind of relationship?" I looked up at him and frowned, saying "yes, I am not interested because you are not what I want" or something similar. He stumbled off with a dazed expression on his face.

I wish I could say that was the end of it.

He came back AGAIN and this time tried to kiss the other "slave" girl. She jumped back and this time all three of us pulled out our knives. At the "snick" of my switchblade, he looked up, put his hands in front of himself, and backed up. We decided we'd had enough and left. We never made it to a second drink.


2) I know a bunch of guys through work or school, and this story is told as though it is a specific encounter, but the truth is that I've had this exact same situation on multiple occasions with multiple people. I decided not to write down each one individually because they really are so similiar that I would end up cutting and pasting all but the age and location.

Hanging out with male friends often involves watching movies. When we are poor, or young especially, watching movies usually happens in someone's bedroom, usually due to sharing living spaces like dorm rooms or apartments with roommates, or even as teenagers living at home with parents. There are some circumstances in our society where mixed-gendered socializing just happens in private rooms like bedrooms and there's nothing inherently or automatically sexual about it. When I was 12, my Nintendo was hooked up in my bedroom because my dad hated competing with me for the TV in the living room. My next door neighbor was male. There was nowhere else for us to play video games but in someone's room. That's just how it was.

So, hanging out with a male friend, watching a movie or playing games, or sometimes just talking, occasionally ended up with him aggressively hitting on me in a bedroom. This almost always happened out of the blue, not as the result of some sexy talk or flirting. It was more like I would say something, then he would say something, and I would look at him because he was talking, then he would launch himself at me. If this was the first time this particular guy did that, I would be startled, and probably freeze for a moment, allowing him to get a kiss in, but then he would press his advantage and try to fondle my breasts. At that point, I would knock his hand away and back up, and we'd probably go back to watching movies or playing games.

If a guy had tried this once, he would almost always try it again. By the second time, though, I would not freeze when he came at me. I would dodge him and tell him "no". For the guy who was willing to try it after having been rejected previously, this type of guy would not fall back at the rejection, but he would continue to lean in for a kiss and reach for a breast. If I managed to block his hand from my breast, he would then grab for my crotch. If I succeeded in blocking him there, he'd go again for the breast. By the time I managed to disintangle myself from Mr. Octopus, he would attempt to keep me from leaving by promising to stop if I would just stay and finish whatever activity got me there in the first place, like the movie or video game. Sometimes he did stop. For that visit.

When I was younger, this was just how things were. So I did not know to not visit that "friend" again. I did know enough to insist that he not treat me that way, to say that I wouldn't come over if he was going to behave this way. He would always say he promised not to, and maybe he would keep that promise the next time, but there was always another encounter with these guys until I learned to cut off friendships with guys who behaved this way.

I'd like to say this was all exclusively in my teens, when boys were clueless and dumb or that I lived in a particularly fucked up neighborhood. But my most recent encounter like this happened 3 years ago. I was 31 years old. I believe he is a couple of years older than me. He is still not an unusual occurance.


3) Back in California, where the public transportation system is actually worth taking, I used to wear a silver band on my ring finger of my left hand. That was because I could hardly ever make it through a bus ride without some guy sitting down next to me, trapping me against the window, and asking for my phone number to "hook up".

As I explained to a friend recently, who had never been propositioned for a purely sexual relationship (she thinks - I think she just didn't recognize the propositions), this is not the same thing as getting involved in a conversation with a person where you talk about yourselves or some topic of interest, and he asks for a communication method to continue to the conversation. When a man sees a girl he thinks is attractive and just wants a physical relationship with her, he won't bother to get to know her at all. He will begin his approach with "damn baby, you're lookin' fine! Can I getcha number?"

Yes, seriously.  Often this is yelled from passing cars to women walking on the sidewalk, or from random strangers in a mall.  Yes, both occasions happened to me.   Yes, more than once.  Yes, that was a quote, not a paraphrase.

I'm sure there are some men out there who just don't know about these assholes, and who genuinely see a woman they find attractive whom they want to get to know on a personal level. And these clueless men will ask her for a date or her phone number right off the bat with the intention of actually starting a dialog at a later time or in some other place. But the problem is that, from the woman's perspective, these men are nearly indistinguishable from the "your dress would look AWESOME crumpled on my floor in the morning!" types.

If you are genuinely interested in getting to know the woman as a person, there is no need to postpone that discussion for a later phone call or dinner date. Get to know her NOW. At least ask her name and ascertain just one topic that you might have in common to make it worth both of your whiles to bother with a phone conversation or a coffee date. Because without that, without having something in common to discuss, the both of you are completely interchangeable with any other human since there is nothing about either of you to distinguish each other from anyone else. You are both, literally, nothing more, at that moment, than a body. And THAT'S why this approach is so creepy - it is not flattering in the slightest to most women to be considered as nothing more than a convenient body, no matter how complimentary you think you've phrased it.


4) I'm a huggy person, but like many men, I can't tell when a hug will be well received, when it's appropriate, or when it will be mistaken for a sexual proposition when I don't intend it as such. So I don't hug unless someone offers to hug me first. But I am generally welcoming of hugs.

Many men take the permission to hug as permission to see what else they can get. First, this kind of man will offer a hug goodbye. Since I've accepted, the next time he sees me, he'll offer a hug hello. Gradually, that hug will become tighter and more intimate - a full body hug instead of a shoulder embrace. Then, he'll brush cheeks as he hugs. Soon, he'll start kissing the air by my ear when he brushes my cheek while he hugs me with the entire body touching. Eventually, that air-kiss will turn into a kiss high up on the cheek along with that full body hug. And after a while, I will have to make a concerted effort to turn my head sideways as the kiss migrates further away from my ear and closer to my mouth, to the point where I'm standing in the classic Viennese Waltz pose, bending backwards and tilting my head towards the ground, gazing somewhere just behind my left shoulder, just to make sure he doesn't try to merge with my body right there in public or suck my soul out from my mouth.

And it's always a gradual thing, as the man becomes more and more friendly and I grow genuinely fond feelings towards him, it becomes simultaneously more complicated and difficult to avoid this kind of pressure. When it's a stranger, it's easy to back off and not allow him to invade my personal space. But when it's someone I consider a friend, or at least a friendly acquaintance whom I have fond feelings for, it becomes more difficult to defend my personal space, for two reasons. First, because personal space *does* diminish correspondingly with how close two people become emotionally, and second because now there is a friendship that I might not want to damage in spite of the discomfort of having my personal space be invaded. The more assertive I am, the more potentially damaging it could be to a friendship that I might value, yet the less assertive I am, the more likely it is that someone I am emotionally close to might mistake my friendship and lack of assertion for permission. It can be a difficult conundrum that many of us do not want to have to choose between asserting our boundaries and losing friends, but sometimes, that is the case.

And some may even say that if your friendship is so damaged by one party asserting her boundaries, then it's not a friendship worth keeping. I know I've certainly suggested similar to friends who really feel pressured by people who should not be pressuring them. But the reality is that life and relationships are messy and complicated, and our culture's indoctrination on how Men And Women Should Behave sets up a totally impossible set of contradictory instructions that sometimes, really earnest but clueless people just get tripped up over. Many of the men I know honestly do not want to be sexist and honestly value women, but because of their position of privilege, they have a hard time actually seeing why a casual statement they made is sexist when a woman gets offended by it. Likewise, a given man could earnestly wish to be respectful of women, particularly women he values as friends, but just not realize or understand that something he is doing is comming across as pressure or threatening because *he is not in a position to be on the receiving end of that behaviour* and so can't see it that way.

I'm not excusing them, don't get me wrong. I'm saying that *wanting* to be non-threatening is not the same thing as *being* non-threatening, and when you mix in contradictory social instructions with personal insecurities, rejecting the physical advances of a person I actually like otherwise is a veritable social and emotional minefield - his advances may be undesired, and maybe even a symptom of a very big problem, but I might still find value in our friendship & in him as a person and not want to damage it irreparably while I am forced to police my boundaries.

5) I used to go to nightclubs more frequently, but especially back in CA where they don't allow smoking in clubs. One night, I was sitting at a table, having a drink & and rest in between dances, when a guy sidled up to me and started hitting on me. I could tell right away that he wasn't my type, only I'd be hard pressed at this late date to remember the details of why. But the bottom line is that he indicated an interest in me and I turned him down. He actually said "what are you, lesbian?" as if he could only comprehend a woman not wanting him if she only wanted women.

I've heard rumors about me from men in my social circles or other coworkers who speculated about my sexual orientation, and these rumors always stemmed from men who I've rejected. I've been called a bitch and a dyke for turning someone down. The funniest ones are when I'm called a slut, since, if I WAS a slut, I wouldn't have just rejected the asshole who just called me one. Pointing that out to a guy in a bar got him laughed at by the other men nearby, so that was a bit satisfying.

But there is a penalty for rejecting someone. Most of the time, the penalty is just feeling bad for hurting someone else's feelings. But occasionally, rejecting someone's advances results in some damned uncomfortable public scenes, and every so often it results in much more than uncomfortable PRIVATE scenes - the kinds that make us fear for our safety.

6) Again, when I was much younger and much more willing to avoid confrontation by giving an excuse instead of a flat-out rejection, my sister and I would occasionally go to nightclubs together, along with a friend or two of hers. On her 21st birthday, she and I and her best friend went out, and she told me that she did not want to be bothered by men that night - this was a Girl's Night Out where she could just dance and drink and forget about things for an evening. She asked me if I would pose as her possessive girlfriend if any guy tried to hit on her, and I agreed because I was young and didn't realize that "sorry, I'm a lesbian" is usually heard as "hey baby, hot bi babe action over here!"

So the three of us got on the dance floor and started dancing. Almost immediately, some big guy came up behind my sister and started dancing suggestively with her - we called it "freaking" when I was a teenager, where it's basically vertical spooning frottage on the dance floor. My sister kept moving away, and he kept moving closer. She started moving towards me & dancing suggestively with me, giving me The Look to indicate she wanted me to intervene. So I moved in between them and said "sorry, she's mine".

As you can guess, that didn't dissuade him. Instead, it seemed to turn him on, as he kept trying to dance between us and saying things implying threesomes. Eventually I had to stop, put a hand on his chest, and say "I told you that she's mine and I don't share, now back off." He got huffy and demanded to know what my problem was. I said my problem was that he didn't know when to keep his hands off someone else's property. By this time, the bartender, who was a friend of my sister's and the reason we were at that particular club in the first place, sent a bouncer over to pull the guy away, who was getting all puffed up and blustery about me cockblocking him. If the bouncer hadn't intervened, this very well could have turned into a physical altercation with a man who refused to accept a rejection, if his assertive body language is any indication.

7) As I mentioned earlier, many women use some kind of excuse that implies that we CAN'T accept someone's advances, rather than we WON'T. I dunno, I guess we think it makes the rejection easier to accept, like it doesn't hurt someone's feelings as much. One of my exes used to be a bouncer in a strip club, and he told me how the dancers were constantly propositioned for more than just lap dances. He says that the overwhelmingly favorite response was to tell the customer that she had a boyfriend. Apparently, it allowed the fantasy that she COULD be more continue to exist while still being clear that she WON'T be more than a dancer. But, almost as common as the boyfriend-response, was the customer's response of "you don't have to tell him!" The private reaction (never to the customer's face!) to that was, as my ex used to say, "well holy shit, I don't? Why didn't I think of that? When I think of all the customers I COULD have gone home with, if only I had realized that I didn't have to tell my boyfriend, I just feel stupid now!" That line should be read dripping with sarcasm for full effect.

There has been a lot of talk about going beyond "no means no" to "yes means yes" and about women being more assertive in their rejections. But a few research papers suggest that, even if a woman doesn't use the actual word "no", a rejection is still clearly understood by men in general, which means that men who use the excuse that she didn't say "no" really mean that they chose to ignore it. The conclusions in these papers make sense to me. If you take any social situation other than propositioning a woman for sex, most people have no problem understanding a rejection even when it doesn't use the word "no". When you ask someone to hang out sometime, or to go to a movie, or to have coffee, if you remove the heteronormative dating associations and say "my wife and I would love it if you came for dinner" or "a bunch of us are going to this movie, wanna come?", if the person you're asking says "I'd love to, but...", pretty much all of us recognize that as a rejection.

Sometimes, if the rejection sounds too much like a real conflict, as in the giver really does want to go but can't, and the excuse given is one we can solve, we don't just let the rejection lie, we offer a solution. For instance, if you ask a friend to see a movie, and he says he's broke and can't afford it, well, you might offer to pay for him if you have the spare cash & you really want to see the movie with your friend. But whether we try to offer a suggestion or not, the phrase "I'd love to, but..." is clearly understood by all of us that the person you are talking to is, in fact, telling you "no".

Now, there genuinely are times when a person can't tell that it's a no. For example, I have an ex who once asked a girl out on a few dates. One one date in particular, they were sitting on the couch, and he asked outright for a kiss because he couldn't tell from her body language what she wanted. She kissed him, but he said she didn't seem too into it. So he asked her if this relationship was going anywhere or not. Instead of saying "no", or even giving him a "it's not you, it's me ... I'm too busy with work for a boyfriend right now, and my cat needs my attention, and I have to wash my hair every weekend for the next 20 years", she said "well, it's all about the chase, isn't it?" Yes, that was her answer.

How was he supposed to take that? Was that a hedge, a rejection without saying "no"? Or was that her way of saying she wanted to play the coy-maiden-gets-chased-by-assertive-man game? Cuz, y'know, sometimes that's fun. So he said "no, actually, it's not about the chase. If I'm chasing a woman, it means she's running away from me. So which is it, are you interested or not?" I don't think she ever gave him a clear answer, but he took that ambiguity AS an answer (good for him) and stopped asking her out on dates.

So don't think I'm giving all women a free pass here when it comes to earnest-but-clueless men who really want to do the right thing. I'm not. I DO think we all ought to be more clear and explicit about our boundaries - I've written tons on that very subject. And I am a big supporter of the "yes means yes" campaign, which has at its heart the philosophy that only a clear and unambiguous "yes" should ever be taken as a "yes" and that everything else is a "no". It's meant to subvert the idea that men are not responsible for assaulting women if, for some reason, she hasn't uttered that single syllable, because there is a social penalty for saying that word, or maybe she's drunk or high or unconscious. It's ALWAYS a "no" if she CAN'T say "no".

But generally speaking, we have a fairly well-understood social convention of expressing rejection in a myriad of ways that do not use the word "no", and, generally speaking, we all pretty much accept these rejections in all cases, except when it comes to men propositioning women for sex. Only in this one area do people claim to not understand that they were given a rejection and it falls on the person offering the rejection to defend themselves from an actual assault rather than the person being rejected to ask for clarification or, at the very least, fall back on the safest possible interpretation and just assume she said "no" hidden in her "I'd love to, but..." somewhere.


8) Most of my strong opinions come from experiences where I made some bad choices.  I'm not sitting in my ivory tower armchair quarterbacking other people's relationships.  I learned the hard way how some of these things work.  I made many of the same mistakes I try to tell other people they shouldn't do.  I've gotten into the very messes I try to prevent others from getting into.  I stand here with my strong opinions and my strong will because there was a time that I did not, and I paid heavy prices for it.

I met a guy while working backstage, so you'd think that it wouldn't be a surprise to him that I was a tomboy, right?  You'd be wrong - hence my online profiles & dozens of blog posts reminding everyone just now not-girlie I am.  I met a guy and we seemed to have everything in common.  We were in the same industry, we liked the same movies, we wanted the same things from relationships, we had similar religious backgrounds - we seemed perfect for each other.  Except he wasn't honest with me about who he was or what he wanted.  He didn't actually want a girl who was better at fixing things than he was.  He didn't want a relationship with an equal partner, he wanted traditional gender roles.  He didn't like an inquisitive, curious, skeptical girlfriend, he wanted one who accepted what she was told on face value.  And he most certainly did not want a partner who viewed her own body as autonomous, he wanted a partner who took "what's mine is yours and what's yours is mine"  literally.

After we moved in together, the stress of managing a household, going to school full time and still working to pay the bills but still being the "housewife" and making sure he got fed and the dishes got done and the trash got out, all eventually piled up and my sex drive dropped.  I was just too damn tired to be interested in sex.  I was only getting about 4-6 hours of sleep every night as it was, and I didn't want to sacrifice any of that time for sex.

After the first few nights of saying "not tonight honey, I have to wake up early tomorrow", he started pressuring me.  He'd whine and try to talk me into it.  Let me just say that there's nothing more of a turn-off than a guy begging for sex when I'm not in the mood to begin with.  After about a week of nightly arguments in bed, he started waiting for me to fall asleep and then started touching me when he thought I was unconscious.  When I turned on him & yelled at him to leave me the fuck alone, he said he was only trying to arouse me, that he wouldn't ever do anything against my will or when I couldn't give consent.  We'd get into a big fight about it that would end with me telling him not to touch me until I said he could, and he'd finally leave me alone to sleep.  That night.

The next night would be the same thing.  When I reminded him that I had told him not to touch me, he would say that he hadn't touched me all day, so therefore he held up his end of the bargain, and now it was my turn to provide sex.  Naturally, I said that was not what we agreed on, and it sparked another argument, cutting into my valuable and rare sleep time.  This argument would end the same way, only to have a repeat the next night.

Some nights I gave in just because my experience had taught me that he could argue for longer than he could have sex, so if I wanted sleep, it would be faster to give in than to tell him "no". Of course, he then got pissed at me for not being into it, which would sometimes spark another round of arguing, as if picking a fight with me would fix the lack of interest in sex or the inability to get aroused. I have no idea how many nights this went on, but it was the same thing every night for weeks.  

I was a wreck.  I was exhausted, I couldn't concentrate in school, I was depressed, and I started making excuses to be away from the apartment.  So he started making rules to prevent me from going anywhere without him.  Naturally, I  ignored those rules, but that only caused more arguments at home.  One night, I finally got out of bed with the intention of sleeping in the living room.  He told me that if I did that, he would damage my property in his anger at being rejected.  It was then that I finally understood that I was in an abusive relationship without ever having been hit.  Between the nightly unwanted gropings, the begging for sex, the threats to my property, and the refusal to allow me to have friends or go anywhere without him, I was well and truly trapped in an abusive relationship.

I spent that night sleeping in the adjoining bathroom, because I could not sleep next to him and I could still keep an eye on my property.  That was the first of several such nights.  But I started looking for a way out.  It was hard to leave.  I couldn't afford to live on my own because I was only working part time while attending school.  I was afraid to move back in with my parents because it would injure my pride.  I moved in with him against my parents' wishes and they continually disapproved of him, so I had spent my whole relationship with him defending my choice to be with him.  It made it very difficult for someone as proud as me to come back to my parents and say that I was wrong, can I  please have my old room back?

Fortunately, our roommate decided to move out because he couldn't stand our nightly fights.  Without him, we did not make enough money to keep the apartment, according to our lease agreement, so we got evicted.  I could move back in with my parents under the excuse that we had to move out but couldn't find anywhere else to live in the short time we had to vacate.  My parents said that I could come back home, but I would not get my old room back - my sister took it because it was bigger, &  I would have her old room - and absolutely he could NOT move in their house with me.  I accepted those terms and managed to escape by blaming my parents and the departing roommate.  We couldn't move in with his parents because his parents hated me as much as my parents hated him, and I somehow managed to not find any other apartments that would have us before our move-out deadline approached.

That solved the nightly sexual assault problem, but I still had to figure out how to break up with him.  Once I was away from him, all my property was safe, and I had a place to sleep without him in it, I found my bravery and I broke up with him on my birthday.  It was my gift to myself.  But that relationship taught me that even people I trusted, people I had known for years, could still sexually assault me, and that it would be seen as my own fault because agreeing to prior sexual activity is often seen as an agreement of future sexual activity.  Many people still believe that sex is an automatic part of the marriage contract.  He and I were engaged to be married, therefore I "owed" him sex, and he couldn't assault me because he had every right to expect that he could request sex of me.  I dare anyone to go what I went through and come out of that maintaining that position.


So no, not all men are a threat to all women. But all women are under a constant state of threat because that threatening man could be any one of you and we won't know who he is until it's too late. We are under that constant state of threat because some men really do behave in threatening ways, and because we are constantly reminded BY OTHER MEN that this could happen to us someday. We are also told that the only solution to these kinds of threats is to monitor OURSELVES to make sure we do not do something that might provoke an attack.

To those guys who are totally non-threatening in all cases, all the time, with every woman and in every situation, I do understand that it sucks to be thought of as a threat by women when you have done nothing to deserve that assumption - really, I do. But please forgive me if I'm just a little less concerned with your dilemma when the worst that happens to you is that women cross the street to avoid you, when the worst that could happen to me is that I get killed, beaten, and raped - and if I'm lucky, it'll happen in that order.

If you want to see the automatic fear removed from women's eyes simply because of your gender, you'll join in the chorus of female voices demanding that the rape culture be ended. Because a woman making that demand is often dismissed as a shrill, man-hating shrew by those very men who most need to change. But other men who disapprove of rape culture offer a much higher social penalty for those men than women whom we have already established those men don't respect. I suspect that I would like to see the day when I do not have to automatically suspect someone of potential threat just for his genitals even more than you would like to see the day when you are not automatically suspsected by someone of potential threat just for your genitals, so your public support of ending rape culture would be very much appreciated by all except those few who stand to benefit from it.


***UPDATE***

Anyone who wants to dismiss the use of the phrase "rape culture" would do well to follow Rebecca Watson and see what kind of shitstorm her mild request has started.  Keep in mind that she never called the elevator guy a rapist, never compared her situation with the horrors of Muslim women or any other third world society, never said anything about "all men".  She only said this was annoying, so "guys don't do that". 

For this, she is being accused of being a man-hating bitch, an attention-seeking whore, and she has been flooded with rape and murder threats.  She has posted a few screen captures in her various online feeds.  Guys who think that my experiences above are rare have never tried being a female on the internet.  

Rebecca didn't even post one of my angry rants.  She just said, "guys, don't do that".  That's it.  It IS annoying to have spent all day talking about how many women don't like to get hit on at atheist conventions, to have just left a group of people, telling them how tired you are, to have someone in that group who heard you say how tired you are and how you want to go up to bed now detach himself from the group, follow you into an elevator, where you are alone in a foreign country at 4 AM, and then ask you to come back to his room.  Frankly, I think she handled it with much more aplomb than I would have.

But the reaction to her using this situation as an example was so much more severe than either the original offense or her response to it.  A "rape culture" is one where its members, male or female, think it is perfectly acceptable to trap a woman alone and proposition her.  A "rape culture" is one where it's members, male or female, think it is perfectly acceptable to respond to her offense by threatening to rape her at the next convention.  A "rape culture" is one where its members, male or female, think a line like "I'm totally going to cop a feel on @RebeccaWatson at the next con" is humorous and an acceptable joke.  A "rape culture" is one where its members, male or female, feel justified in sending messages that say "I want to drug you and fuck you" to ANYONE, but especially to a woman who has just made it clear that this is offensive behaviour.

I get that men can be in abusive relationships too.  I've written plenty about that.  There's no excuse for abuse, no matter what gender to what gender.  But there are very few men out there who have to put up with the sheer volume of "just words" that Richard Dawkins seems to think are so harmless.  If I could make these men experience what it's like to be a woman, not for a day or a week, but a lifetime of harassment, I guarantee that they would not find "just words" to be such a minor crime, or that "rape culture" is such an offensive phrase.  Rape culture harms everyone, not just women, and it's not just men who commit the crimes and offenses.  All reasonable, thinking women understand that.  It's only a certain group of men who are reading sexism into the word "rape" who think that the phrase applies only to men as perpetrators and all women as victims.  Rape, abuse, molestation, fear, these apply to everyone and they should apply to no one.
joreth: (Dobert Demons of Stupidity)
I originally made a list of podcast episodes that I was compiling for a sample CD of skeptical topics. I have been unable to produce a small enough file containing all the audio in the list that I could reasonably upload or have people reasonably download. But I have put together my discs and I handed out my first one today.

I have made 3 discs - one for religious episodes, one for pseudoscience episodes, and a DVD with video episodes of both. I also rearranged the episodes so that they were grouped together by topic, instead of by show. I believe it will be easier for people to find the episodes they want to listen to, since they won't have any idea who the show producers are anyway, so "Skeptoid" or "Quackcast" won't mean anything to them. This way, they also may have a couple of shows to choose from on the same topic that they can find easily, and can switch to another show's episode if the one they're listening to isn't doing anything for them, like if they don't like the format or the host or something.

In case people are interested, here is my recommended episode playlist, with all the episodes in order )

Data Dump

Dec. 15th, 2010 10:24 pm
joreth: (authority)
I've had these tabs open for ages, meaning to write a post about them, and I never seem to get around to it.  So I'm throwing them all in one post:

http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/new-discovery-may-offer-cure-for-human-papillomavirus-hpv-110968774.html - New Discovery May Offer Cure for Human Papillomavirus (HPV). "Test results confirming two of our lead compounds showed excellent in vitro antiviral activity and no cellular toxicity at dose levels tested for Human Papillomavirus (HPV). Testing was performed using the HPV 11 strain, which along with HPV type 6, is responsible for ninety percent of genital or anal warts."

http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2010-12/uovm-mie121510.php - Marinomed's iota-carrageenan effective against H1N1. "In animal experiments, Carrageenan demonstrated equivalent efficacy when compared to the drug Tamiflu".

http://www.pnas.org/content/107/45/19195 - Evolutionary history of partible paternity in lowland South America. "Partible paternity, the conception belief that more than one man can contribute to the formation of a fetus, is common in lowland South America and characterized by nonexclusive mating relationships and various institutionalized forms of recognition and investment by multiple cofathers."

http://www.journey-quest.com/ - "JourneyQuest is a fantasy comedy web series from the creators of "The Gamers" and "The Gamers: Dorkness Rising"."

http://topdocumentaryfilms.com/enemies-reason/ - "The Enemies of Reason is a two-part television documentary, written and presented by evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins. ... Watch the full documentary now"

http://atheistmusicblog.blogspot.com/ - " aggregate all the Atheist, Pro-Science and Free-Thinking Songs, under the one roof." (I need to comb through this and add songs to my Atheist Music YouTube Playlist

http://bababrinkman.bandcamp.com/album/the-rap-guide-to-human-nature - The Rap Guide to Human Nature by Baba Brinkman "Immediate download of 19-track album in your choice of 320k mp3, FLAC, or just about any other format you could possibly desire. Buy Now name your price"

http://www.randi.org/site/index.php/swift-blog/1160-martha-speaks-the-truth.html - Rationalist Kids Show Martha Speaks The Truth
joreth: (::headdesk::)
Oh for fuck's sake, now AMC is swearing that they are not going to show that PSA, that whoever is saying they are is lying. Fuck this. I will wait until Black Friday, when the PSA is supposed to air, then find out exactly which theaters have actually played that damn PSA, and boycott THEM ... or just avoid the movie theaters entirely until this whole mess is over. Not like I go to the movies much anymore anyway. I still sent off my angry letters, including to the ad distributor company, so that everyone will be flooded (hopefully) with warnings about the inadvisability of playing such a dangerous and fraudulent "PSA".

The whole story, including links
joreth: (Dobert Demons of Stupidity)
Because I like lists, I made a new list. My favorite Skeptic, Science, and Atheist Podcasts list. I made a post a while back with specific episodes of specific podcasts for a Podcast Sample CD as an introduction to skepticism (either pseudoscience/paranormal or religion), particularly for people who do not listen to podcasts or have an iPod, but this is just an overall list of my favorite podcasts.

If you click on the link that takes you to the Listal page for each list, you can get widges and embed codes to include these lists in your own blog or webpage.  I will be posting this list on my website soon as a resources that will hopefully be easier to find than an LJ entry lost in the archives. But for now, it's here:



Skeptical, Science, & Atheist Podcasts at Listal



My other lists include:

Skeptic Movies
also found at www.theinnbetween.net/atheistmovies.html

Pro-Skeptical & Pro-Science Movies at Listal


Poly-ish Movies
also found at www.theinnbetween.net/polymovies.html


Polyamorous & Poly-ish Movies at Listal


Poly Books
also found at www.theinnbetween.net/polybooks.html


Polyamory Books at Listal
joreth: (Dobert Demons of Stupidity)
A while back I wrote about "choice" in the alt. med arsenal - how some people think that we need less government interference telling us what to do and more freedom of choice in determining our own health care. As much as it pains me to say it, I am strongly opposed to this method for a very simple reason. IT DOES NOT WORK. People cannot handle the all or nothing "choice" method because there is simply too much to handle. [livejournal.com profile] leora made some very good points in the comments, as that post was my initial verbalizing & I didn't get everything out that I wanted to.

Well, here is a perfect example of why "choice" is not really and why we need better regulation. The story of Desiree Jennings is a tragic story. She's a 28 year old woman who developed some very peculiar symptoms shortly after taking a flu vaccine. Her neurologist told her that her condition was a psychogenic disorder (which doesn't mean "all in her mind" or that she's faking it), but her physical therapist made an off-hand comment using the word "dystonia". Desiree has apparently latched onto the off-hand comment of someone trained in advanced exercise, not in brain function or even vaccine side effects, in direct disregard to her neurologist (y'know, the one with all the training and understanding of how the brain works & whether or not her symptoms are related to the brain and how), and the dozens of neurologists who have reviewed the data after the fact and agreed with him, and she is now spending her time, energy, and money in pursuit of quack cures and charlatans.

As Dr. Novella says in his post: "Desperate patients with controversial or problematic symptoms are prime targets for fraud and quackery. There are sharks in the water ready to gobble up any victims who come their way. ... The public is practically left to fend for themselves, at the most desperate times in their lives, against sophisticated con-games that prey upon their health."

Some of these people genuinely want to help and genuinely believe in their quack therapies. Some of them know perfectly well that they're peddling snake oil and are out to profit on the misfortune and ignorance of others. In either case, Desiree Jennings is spending her money and her time (which, IMO, is more valuable) chasing down ancient mystic pipe dreams when science is waiting in the corner, pleading to offer real, measurable help. It's entirely possible that science will not come up with an answer for Desiree within her lifetime. But at least scientists are trying. They want the same thing Desiree wants - to cure her. I'm sure some of the quacks who have poisoned her with their snake oil also want to cure her, but science at least has a chance.

I understand, I truly do, the frustration that follows when science doesn't appear to have the answer.  I turned to woo myself when harried doctors with terrible bedside manner and a schedule that allowed for no personal time to explain things to me caused me to feel that the answers I was seeking would not be found in the arms of "Western Medicine".  It was the alt. med industry who acted like they cared and offered me hope that my conditions could be cured.

But the fact of the matter is that they were also unsuccessful, and I spent a lot of time and money chasing after these quacks.  Sometimes, there just is no "miracle cure", and sometimes there will be, but not while I am alive.  And that sucks.  But our best hope for fixing that lies in science, which does not have the answer for everything, but is the only method which consistently and reliably has any answers at all.
joreth: (boxed in)
 Before I got a Twitter account, I couldn't see ANY use for it at all.  I have a website, I have a LiveJournal, I have messenger services, I have several social networking profiles, including MySpace, OKCupid, Fetlife, DancePartner, and a few dozen Yahoo! and Google group subscriptions.  I couldn't see what Twitter did that anything else on the web couldn't also do, plus it had that damn 140 character limitation.

Now that I have a Twitter account, I *still* think it could end tomorrow and my life wouldn't be significantly negatively affected by it.  I might even discover more free time for other internet time-sucks, like updating my frickin' website.

There are some benefits from Twitter that I have discovered, but, for the most part, the biggest benefits I get from Twitter are benefits I also get from LJ.  I can follow a bunch of people who say things I care to read, and I can post things that I want to share without feeling like I am imposing on people the way I do with email.  People have to intentionally follow me, which means that they make conscious decisions to read what I write, and they have to make a double effort to click on links that I share, so I don't feel like I'm annoying people the way I get annoyed when I'm sent glurge or email forwards.  If you don't want to read what I post, you don't have to follow me.  If you want to read what I write but don't like my rapid-fire tweet style, you can follow me online but not on  your phone.  You have options & it's all your choice.

The things I get out of Twitter are introductions to links, mostly, and a general sort of check-in with those I care about.  I get that from LJ too, or at least I got it more often before everyone discovered Twitter.  But LJ and Twitter are where I read interesting news articles, am told about exciting products or see funny/cool YouTube videos.  It's where my friends can keep me updated on how they're doing when we don't always have time to give a phone call or email to every single person we know.

But the drawback to Twitter is still that damn 140 character limitation.  People, myself included, continue to try to use Twitter as an actual discourse medium, when it's really only good to share links or witticisms with people who already agree with you.  It is not a good place to engage in a discussion with an exchange of ideas.  By necessity, all messages are either so brief as to be difficult to defend, or take up multiple entries that followers find difficult/annoying to follow.  We have to paraphrase and simplify and take short cuts in order to make our points.  Soundbites are great for conversation starters or to make a larger concept memorable, but they do not usually stand alone for complex concepts - particularly the ones I tend to use, like polyamory or science or atheism.

Twitter is also rife with misunderstanding - even moreso that the internet in general, precisely because of its brevity.  I have gotten into numerous debates with people who were not necessarily on opposing sides, it's just that one misunderstood what the other was saying & it took lots of tweets to reach the point where the problem was realized.  And, in some cases, even pointing out where the miscommunication happened did not stop the argument, as the nature of soundbite tweets tended to make people *sound* rude or feel attacked even when they weren't being rude or attacked.  So reconciliation was difficult, if possible at all.

Because of the inherent difficulty with engaging in an in-depth discussion, in which ideas are exchanged and explanations can be given, I find I am increasingly less likely to allow people with significantly different viewpoints to follow me on Twitter.  Here, in LJ, someone can disagree with me, and I have the space to explain myself better or they have enough space to explain what the disagreement is about.  I also have a modicum of control and can keep blatantly abusive comments from existing in my own space.  In Twitter, I can't stop anyone from tweeting what they want about me, and adding @Joreth to the tweet means it will show up in my Replies section to annoy and pester me even if I don't follow that person myself.  I also can't avoid seeing tweets from people who use certain hastags that I might be interested in following.  If I look up #polyamory to see what the poly community is talking about, I'll also get the fucktard who tweets "#polyamory is just an excuse to cheat", which makes me angry.

It becomes exhausting, reading all the @Joreth replies from people who are abusive or just plain wrong.  Most anti-vaxxers don't come into my journal to accuse me of being a shill for Big Pharma.  On Twitter, if I want to see what other pro-vaxxers are saying & I look up the hashtag "#vaccine", I'll get anyone who wants to use that tag, including the anti-vaxxers.  If I respond (yes, I know I can avoid that - sometimes it's difficult, and sometimes the conversation starts harmless enough and then devolves), then I dread looking at my @Joreth reply inbox because someone I'm sick of talking to might be in there among all the welcomed tweets from my friends.

So I find myself blocking people with significantly different viewpoints to my own.  I hate the thought of potentially insulating myself from contrary opinions, but I get that shit at work, and through newspaper articles and other blogs that I read, and from my family who sends me emails.  And the occasional well-reasoned or legitimately curious but dissenting opinion here.  Contrary to my public persona, I don't actually like getting into flame wars.  I just really hate to let inaccuracies slide by uncontested and I'm not afraid to speak up, so that tends to lead me into flame wars (that and my gutter speech - I like accuracy but I also like casual speech, cussing, and sarcasm, none of which help me avoid flame wars).  But I don't actually like confrontation at all.  So these short tweets, with their inability to thoroughly discuss the topic at hand, their necessarily incomplete and inaccurate statements due to brevity, their high degree of short and hot tempers because of the brevity, their frequent misunderstandings, these short tweets tend to make me impatient with people who regularly disagree with me and I am much more likely to block them.

I have a follower in particular who never tweets a word to me that isn't a contradiction of something I tweeted earlier.  And it's not just a difference of opinion, he's often demonstrably wrong or his tweets are incomplete or naive, only sometimes due to the length restriction.  I once asked him why he even bothers to follow me since he never tweets an agreement of any sort, he only tweets disagreements.  He said because agreements are boring and only disagreements were interesting conversation.

I've had quite interesting conversations that were not disagreements.  Sometimes they're agreements, and sometimes it's merely one person imparting information to another, and sometimes it's just social interaction like flirting or joking.  [livejournal.com profile] datan0de and I frequently engage in "disagreement" that is actually a form of flirting for us.  The people I care about most and whose opinions I value most do not agree with me about everything.  Getting people to validate my opinions is not my goal for conversation.  But nothing but disagreement is also boring.  It's tedious, it's stressful, and disagreement for the sake of disagreement is unproductive and uninteresting.  I once dated a guy who enjoyed the intellectual challenge of disagreement (not debate) so much that he would often take a side he did not hold and pursue it to its ridiculous extreme just to keep the argument going.  He is a former partner for a multitude of reasons, this being chief among them.  When [livejournal.com profile] tacit and I disagree on something, even both of us having a penchant for sarcasm and dismissive statements doesn't prevent us from having a thorough discussion with an exchange of ideas.  I am just as likely to come around to his way of thinking as I am to maintain my position when I disagree with him, depending upon the topic & the support for our respective sides.  So it's not just that I want to be right and that I insist on converting everyone who disagrees with me.  I mean, I do want to be right, but being able to "win" an argument or surround myself with yes-men are not the criteria for who gets to be a part of my life or social circle.

Twitter is not a good medium for an exchange of ideas.  It's a medium for an exchange of funny YouTube links and in-group soundbites and discovering new blogs on the recommendation of friends and flirting, and even the occasional "this is what I'm doing right this moment that only people who care about me in general would give a shit about".  I feel as though I'm able to remain connected better with long-distance friends and metamours whom I have not maintained as close ties with prior to Twitter.  I think this is a Good Thing, although something that could be accomplished via other means (i.e. LiveJournal, and I suppose Facebook, if I didn't already have LJ and Twitter).  But people who just want to argue with me, or who have significantly opposing viewpoints who hope to change my mind via 140 characters (particularly those who I have debunked or ridiculed already in LJ) can just go fuck off.  I make much more liberal use of the "block" button in Twitter than here, or anywhere else (other than my personal email or IM clients).
joreth: (Dobert Demons of Stupidity)
The depth of science is so great that no one brain can even grasp the whole of a single subfield, so we trust our colleagues — at least, we trust them as far as they demonstrate cooperation with the tacit rules of the institution of science, which safeguard to some extent the reliability of a scientific claim. The relevant scientists say the earth is 4.6 billion years old, and they are all willing to show their work, so I'll provisionally accept it until I see a reliable source provide cantrary evidence." *

This. This is what it means to "trust" science. It is not faith, it is not dogmatic, it is not the Argument From Authority.

It means that no one can know everything, so we provisionally take scientists at their word who have demonstrated the ability to comply with the rules of science, which include the Scientific Method, falsifying information, and peer review, among other things - those things that are specifically designed to reduce human fallibility - and we maintain the null hypothesis which, in this case, means we go with that answer until something better comes along.

It does not mean we believe any guy with a lab coat unconditionally, unprovisionally, automatically, faithfully, in the face of contrary evidence, because the Almighty Has Spoken.  It doesn't even mean we believe specific guys in lab coats who happen to have Spoken the Truth in the past.  It means, if you show your work, and others who have the background to understand it say it's good, I'll agree with it until someone else comes along with a contrary claim that provides enough evidence to justify contradicting a previously-accepted claim.

This is the difference between science and religion. This is the difference between skepticism and denialism. This is the difference between critical thinking and faith.

*(quote from PZ Myers [livejournal.com profile] pharyngula )
joreth: (Kitty Eyes)
Many times I've been asked for a list of URLs about polyamory or the various issues surrounding skepticism, only to suddenly draw a blank on all my favorite websites.  I'll be talking with someone, introducing them to a brand new concept, and they'll ask me where they can learn more about it, and I won't be able to remember.  I've written about this most recently in the post about making Skepticism CDs to hand out for this purpose.

I've also been asked, on more than one occasion, what other people who find themselves in this situation should do when *they* are asked for more resources.  My solution to the poly issue has been to add a handful of URLs to the back of my Poly Tees business cards, but this isn't necessarily a good solution for other people who are in this situation.

So, I have created Reference Cards - one set for polyamory and one set for skepticism.  These PDF files can be printed onto standard white business card paper that you can buy at Walmart, Kinkos/FedEx, and any office supply store.  They are double-sided, with a definition of the term on the front and a list of URLs on the back.  Feel free to download them, print them, and hand them out to whomever you want, or use them as a template for creating your own.  I am now keeping a couple of each in my wallet, and bringing a bunch to poly meetings for the newbies.

The Polyamory Reference Cards:*



The Skeptical Reference Cards:


*The Poly Reference Card image has the old, incorrect Purple Mobius, but the file itself has the correct Mobius.  I was just too lazy to take a new screencap.
joreth: (Dobert Demons of Stupidity)
***LIST UPDATED BELOW***


 I routinely get into conversations with people IRL that end up with me rattling off a list of podcasts that explain something I'm trying to explain, such as why taking megadoses of vitamin C doesn't make your cold go away faster or what a logical fallacy is or the difference between atheism and agnosticism or why crop circles are hoaxes and not evidence of alien visitation.  I find myself needing to reference books whose names I can't remember, prominent experts whose names I can't remember, and podcasts whose episodes I can't remember.  

The last gig I worked was for a super-food pyramid scheme which, fortunately, most of my coworkers saw for the fraud that it was, but it tended to spark conversations about how they were fake but this other wacky belief wasn't (like the guy who tried to convince me that eating a teaspoon of pure cinnamon would make you vomit because he saw it on YouTube and flat out refused to believe me when I said I used to munch on cinnamon sticks all the time as a kid without getting sick), or the girl who thought all that was bunk, but crop circles really made her think there was something spooky going on.

My long list of references is hard enough for me to remember, let alone the person I'm arguing with, and one person I was talking to sounded interested in hearing all this "evidence" I had for why her beliefs were wrong and wished there was some way she could just get a sample of all the podcasts and a list of books.  So I thought, "if only I had a CD with all the podcast episodes I most commonly reference when I argue with coworkers.  I already have several saved in a playlist on my iPod, but then I have to play my iPod for them, and with a CD, they could take it home and listen to them all!"

So I am now putting together a list of audio files that I can burn to a CD (hopefully one of those mini discs) and carry a bunch around to hand out to people.  I've decided to make 2 separate playlists - one to address woo and pseudosciences and the other to address religious claims.  Here's what I have so far:

Religious claims:
  • What is Evolution? (Evolution 101)
  • What is NOT Evolution? (Evolution 101)
  • What is Irreducible Complexity? (Evolution 101)
  • Mr Deity and the Magic
  • Mr Deity and the Identity Crisis
  • Mr. Deity and the Magic, Part Deux
  • Eugenie Scott - The Dover Trial: Evolution vs. Intelligent Design (Point of Inquiry)
  • Edward Tabash - True Meaning of Church/State Separation (Point of Inquiry)
  • Joe Nickell - The Relics of the Christ (Point of Inquiry)
  • Joe Nickell - The New Idolatry (Point of Inquiry)
  • Alan Dershowitz - Blasphemy (Point of Inquiry)
  • Skeptoid #10: An Evolution Primer for Creationists
  • Skeptoid #65: How to Argue with a Creationist
  • Skeptoid #76: Who Kills More, Religion or Atheism?
  • Skeptoid #82: What Do Creationists Really Believe?
  • Big Thinkers: Why Does Evolution Matter? (NOVA scienceNOW)
  • This American Life #290: Godless America
  • audio of me recommending my favorite critical thinking books & html file with hyperlinks to my book recommendations

Science, woo, and pseudoscience:
  • Carol Tavris - Mistakes Were Made But Not By Me (For Good Reason)
  • inFact: Wheatgrass Juice
  • inFact: New Age Energy 
  • inFact: Fast Food Phobia 
  • inFact: Nuclear Energy 
  • inFact: Ghost Hunting 
  • Joe Nickell - Skeptical Inquiry vs. Debunking (Point of Inquiry)
  • Andrew Skolnick - The Dangers of Alternative Medicine (Point of Inquiry)
  • Joe Nickell - Aliens and Abductions (Point of Inquiry)
  • James Randi - Science, Magic, and Future of Skepticism (Point of Inquiry)
  • Bill Nye - Changing The World With Science Education (Point of Inquiry)
  • QuackCast 2. Echinacea 
  • QuackCast 3. Homeopathic Theory 
  • QuackCast 5. Placebo Effect 
  • QuackCast 7. Theory of Acupuncture 
  • QuackCast 8. Acupuncture's Efficacy 
  • QuackCast 9. Lies, Damn Lies and the use of alt med 
  • QuackCast 11. Evidence to Support Efficacy and Complications of Chiropractic
  • QuackCast 22. Boost your immune system And die 
  • Quackcast 27. Acupuncture and Chiropractic Update 
  • QuackCast 28 Vitamin C and the Common Cold 
  • QuackCast 29. Reiki and Theraputic Touch 
  • Quackcast 30. Lets Kill The Children or A Defense of Vaccines.
  • 'The Baloney Detection Kit' featuring Michael Shermer of Skeptic Magazine (Richard Dawkins Foundation TV (RDF TV))
  • Skeptics' Guide To The Universe #109 - Aug 24 2007 Perry DeAngelis 1963-2007; The Psychology of Belief
  • Skeptics' Guide To The Universe #118 - Oct 24 2007 Interview with Joe Nickell; News Items: Autism and Vaccines, Ben Stein on OReilly, James Watson Followup, The Dangers of Pseudoscience; Your Questions and E-mails: Honey, Flu Vaccine Myths; Science or Fiction; Skeptical Puzzle
  • Skeptoid #01: New Age Energy
  • Skeptoid #06: Wheatgrass Juice
  • Skeptoid #19: Organic Food Myths 
  • Skeptoid #34: Homeopathy: Pure Water or Pure Nonsense? 
  • Skeptoid #37: How to Spot Pseudoscience 
  • Skeptoid #42: Whacking, Cracking, and Chiropracting 
  • Skeptoid #47: Free Range Chicken and Farm Raised Fish 
  • Skeptoid #53: Inside the World's Most Haunted House 
  • Skeptoid #61: Irradiation: Is Your Food Toxic? 
  • Skeptoid #73: A Magical Journey through the Land of Logical Fallacies - Part 1 
  • Skeptoid #74: A Magical Journey through the Land of Logical Fallacies - Part 2 
  • Skeptoid #78: Medical Myths in Movies and Culture
  • Skeptoid #81: Ghost Hunting Tools Of The Trade
  • Skeptoid #83: The Detoxification Myth 
  • Skeptoid #85: World Trade Center 7: The Lies Come Crashing Down 
  • Skeptoid #86: MonaVie and Other "Superfruit" Juices 
  • Skeptoid #88: Super Sized Fast Food Phobia 
  • Skeptoid #92: The Terror of Nuclear Power
  • Skeptoid #93: Apocalypse 2012 
  • Skeptoid #109: Will the Large Hadron Collider Destroy the Earth?
  • Skeptoid #112: Genetically Modified Organisms: Jeopardy or Jackpot? 
  • Skeptoid #117: How Dangerous Is Cell Phone Radiation? 
  • Skeptoid #127: The Truth about Aspartame 
  • Skeptoid #151: The Placebo Effect
  • Skeptoid #157: High Fructose Corn Syrup: Toxic or Tame?
  • Skeptoid #162: Locally Grown Produce 
  • Skeptoid #166: Organic vs. Conventional Agriculture 
  • Skeptoid #180: Vaccine Ingredients 
  • Skeptoid #200: Buy It!
  • Skeptoid #227: Boost Your Immune System!
  • Here Be Dragons - video about critical thinking by Brian Dunning of Skeptoid
  • Tiny Holes (on the LHC) (Nova scienceNOW)
  • The 2012 Hoax (Nova scienceNOW)
  • audio of me recommending my favorite critical thinking books & html file with hyperlinks to my book recommendations
**I've had to update my list.  There is too much data on the Woo list to fit on a standard CD and I didn't want to put it all on a DVD because I want it to play in the widest range of players (computer, car CD player, etc.).  So I am removing the video files (fortunately, all the inFact episodes have an audio Skeptoid episode to replace it).  I am considering making a separate DVD for only video files.

Do you wish you had a CD like this? Steal the list and download these episodes to make your own CDs! All are available for free on iTunes (you can download just the specific episode if you don't want to subscribe).

Possible Video Podcast DVD:
  • inFact: Wheatgrass Juice
  • inFact: New Age Energy
  • inFact: Fast Food Phobia
  • inFact: Nuclear Energy
  • inFact: Ghost Hunting
  • inFact: Vaccines
  • 'The Baloney Detection Kit' featuring Michael Shermer of Skeptic Magazine (Richard Dawkins Foundation TV (RDF TV))
  • Here Be Dragons - video about critical thinking by Brian Dunning of Skeptoid
  • Mr Deity and the Magic
  • Mr Deity and the Identity Crisis
  • Mr Deity and the Magic, Part Deux
  • Mr Deity and the Planes
  • Mr Deity and the Skeptic
  • Mr Deity and the Science Advisor

I'm also adding the following booklist to the CD in the form of an audio file of me naming the books and authors, with some Symphony of Science music remixed underneath

joreth: (Polydragon)
 On the way to work this morning at the godawful hour of O-fuck-thirty, while scanning the radio for traffic news, I heard, what sounded like, a parody version of one of my favorite songs.  So I listened a little more closely.

Yep, there on my car radio, to the tune of the country version of Summertime Blues, was a guy singing about being married for 20 years, and fucking up Valentine's Day for the 20th time.  He forgot the date, didn't buy flowers or candy or make fancy reservations, and now he's spending the night on the porch.

And it seems to me that he's not the only one to blame here.  This is going to be really  unpopular with the mainstream-female crowd, but I'm going to suggest that the wife is equally to blame here.

Because you can't reasonably expect to get what you want if you don't ask for it.

Even the 20th time.

Now, I fully believe in and support the idea of learning your partners' Love Language.  But it works in both directions.  See, if something is important to my partner, if a particular method of expressing love is especially meaningful in either showing love or feeling loved, then because I care about my partner, it becomes important to me that my partner feels loved and that he feels as though I appreciate his expressions of love for me.

But that may not be my natural language, and there might be some personality challenges to overcome, no matter how much I *intend* to show love to my partner.  If it's not my natural Love Language, he's going to have to meet he halfway.  If he wants to feel loved, he's going to have to show me how to love him.

I'm temporally challenged.  I don't see time the way many others see it.  I cannot tell you what day of the week it is, nor can I tell you the date without looking at my computer.  I just have no idea.  I am a very organized person.  I like schedules and calendars; I like to know when things happened and are going to happen - I don't like surprises in the schedule.  My pictures are all ordered on my computer by date and event, and I'm a freelancer - I don't have a regular Monday - Friday schedule, so knowing the date is important.  But my mind does not remember the passage of time.

Just recently (and by recently, I mean within the last 2 or 3 months, because that's the best I can narrow it down to), I was shocked to realize I missed my high school's 10-year reunion 5 years ago.  I vaguely remember being disappointed at the time that I couldn't go, but even that vague feeling was forgotten until it was brought to my attention how much time had passed.

I forget major holidays and birthdays, including my own.  I mean, I remember that my birthday is January 16th, and that Christmas is December 25th, but if I don't know that *today* is February 14th, then I'm unlikely to realize that it's Valentine's Day.

What I *will* remember, is that I have to be at work in 3 days, or that I have a date tonight.  I won't remember that I had a date 5 days ago, this only works in one direction for me, and only with effort.  On top of all that, holidays don't hold any special meaning for me.  The *events* are meaningful, but not the day.  Going to Dragoncon is important to me, it doesn't have to happen on Labor Day, because it's the *event*, not the date, that I care about.  Christmas is only important because Quality Time is one of my primary Love Languages and the Christmas season is a convenient time because most people get time off from work, so I can schedule a block of time with lots of people I love at once.  "Birth of Christ"?  Winter solstice?  Presents?  Tradition?  I couldn't care less.  Christmas could be moved to August 18th and the name could change to Obligatory National Holiday and it wouldn't make any difference to me as long as I still get to spend time with my loved ones somehow.  

So if a particular holiday is important to my partners, I may not care about that day, but I do care about doing those things that mean something to them.  However, my best intentions are limited by my abilities.  No matter how much I might *want* to please my partners, remembering a date goes against my natural abilities.  So we're gonna have to compromise here.

What I need from my partner is to understand that my difficulties do not stem from indifference.  First, start out with the assumption that I love you and want to do these things that make you feel loved.  Next, I need some assistance in making you feel loved.  I need you to *tell* me what you need.

In this context, that means that my partners need to tell me, as the holiday approaches, that a holiday is approaching, that it is important to him, and to give me a list of the ways that I can show him that I love him.  The idea that, if I loved him, I'd just know, is bullshit.  I am not psychic and even if I guess correctly, we still have the little problem of my temporal challenge to overcome.

If your partner routinely "screws up", you can start with the assumption that he doesn't really like you, and his neglect is a deliberate act of malice.  I would suggest that if you believe this, then you have bigger problems than whether or not he bought you roses for Valentine's Day.

Or you can start with the assumption that he loves and cherishes you, but just doesn't know how to speak your language (or vice versa), or he has an internal challenge to overcome, like my temporal challenge.  If that's the case, than the loving thing you can do for *him* is to provide him with the proper tools for showing you that he loves you in a manner that is meaningful to you.  In the case of the song, the wife could have just reminded her husband that the holiday was approaching and that it would be meaningful for him to celebrate it with her in a specific way.

When two people think of each other as partners, not as adversaries, often the solution to a conflict is really that simple.  Especially if the problem is pro-actively addressed, before misunderstanding and resentment has set in.

Based on some stereotypes and some personal observations of how people conduct these relationships, I'm going to guess that the wife in this song (or the women she represents) didn't look her husband in the eye and say "Honey, Valentine's Day is in 5 days.  This means a lot to me, and I would like to spend that day with you at our favorite restaurant, and I would like to exchange gifts.  We can put a $50 limit on the gifts, but I really need to exchange gifts and share that day with you doing something special.  The reason why going to dinner and exchanging gifts is important is because it represents ...".  I'm going to bet that she does what every other monogamous, mainstream woman I've ever met or heard of (through her boyfriend/husband at work) did, which is that she dropped hints, like leaving the Sears catalog opened to the jewelry section on the kitchen table, or said "I really love Maggiano's" as they passed it on the way to somewhere else, and expected him to know what the hell she was hinting about.

Sorry, people, but that just isn't good enough.  You need to communicate your needs to your partner, *before* you get your feelings hurt from him or her not following through.  If you have said, in plain words, what you want from him or her, you have set up a calendar system to help those partners who have extreme temporal challenges like mine ([livejournal.com profile] zaiah and I worked together to set up [livejournal.com profile] tacit's Google calendar and sync it to his iPhone so that either of us could set an alert and have his phone buzz at him to remind him to be where he's supposed to be when where he's supposed to be is important to us), and you have done everything possible to meet your partner halfway and work with him to find a compromise that you will both feel happy with, only *then* can he still fall down on the job and I will say that you have done everything you could, and he screwed up.  And if your partner really did go through all that effort for you, well, then you ought to have the decency to make the effort to meet her halfway too.  

Neither of you should be telepathic, either receiving or sending.  Communicate, communicate, communicate.  You are responsible for your own happiness, and if you have a partner who wants to contribute to your happiness, then give him the opportunity to do so by telling him how.
joreth: (Dobert Demons of Stupidity)
 Or, rather, for failing to disclose an STD.  I hate that this has apparently become necessary, I would rather see people just being responsible people, but frankly, I just can't get too upset at someone who knowingly hides an STD from a lover.

Since I expect to actually see my partners' paperwork, I am unlikely to ever fall victim to something like this, unless he's also good at forging medical documents.  In which case, I'm in deep shit anyway.

I find the deliberate refusal to disclose a KNOWN life-threatening illness combined with a deliberate engagement of an act designed to transmit the illness to be an act of evil.  Even if we're talking about an illness that doesn't actually *kill*, or has a high survival rate, this goes beyond ignorance and beyond misunderstanding.  This is a deliberate, pre-mediated act that threatens the life or the quality of life with long-term repercussions, that robs another human being of his respect and dignity in addition to his life, by using the trust and the intimacy of the act to perpetrate this evilness.

I have a hard time not agreeing to the punishment in the form of legal action, against someone like that.

http://www.usatoday.com/sports/olympics/2010-01-21-211181822_x.htm
joreth: (polyamory)
I am often accused of being "unromantic" because my sense of "romance" is not what they teach us in chick flicks. I don't much care for wine and roses and candlelit dinners and walks on the beach. I mean, they can be all fine and good, but the action is not what makes something "romantic" to me, the motivation is. And, frankly, I don't drink alcohol, roses are an unnecessary expenditure, it's hard to see what I'm eating by candlelight and if it's not a rocky Pacific Coast beach and I don't have a camera, I'll get bored just walking along a beach.

It turns out that I actually *am* romantic, but the things that spell "romance" to me are the things that tell me that my partner is paying attention to *me*. Not everyone is the same tastes in things, so someone who does something unique to my particular quirks is *way* more romantic than someone who watched a sappy romantic comedy and is trying the same old, tired moves that someone somewhere said that "all women like".

I also have no belief in things like "fate" and "meant to be". People tend to post hoc rationalize their situations and see that things could only happen this way. What they can't possibly see, since we experience time in a linear fashion, is all the things that *could* be but aren't because they happened this way. In other words, if you're happy in a relationship, you can look back to all the events that led to meeting. So it seems as though things were *leading* in this direction. But that's because you can only see the consequences of what actually happened. What you can't see is who you might have met if you hadn't met this person.  And, statistically, you would have met someone else.

And for some reason, that idea is not romantic. That, if I weren't with you, I'd be with someone else. People think that implies that people are replaceable, interchangeable. And it doesn't. I might have a relationship with someone else if I weren't with the people I'm with, but it doesn't mean that this hypothetical relationship could possibly "replace" the current one. It would be a different one, with its own quirks and benefits and drawbacks.  If things ended with the current love, I couldn't go out and find the one I wasn't with and just replace it like a broken timing belt in my car.

And, as my sweetie [livejournal.com profile] datan0de said to me the other night, the sheer improbability of our getting together is part of what makes it special. The idea that someone else has decided who my partners will be and that I have no say in the matter, and nothing I do will change things doesn't make a relationship feel "special" to me. It makes it feels forced. But in a universe with an infinite number of possibilities, that something else entirely could have happened (both good and bad possibilities), *that* contributes to making the relationship feel special because it *could* have been something else, and isn't.

Now, this song is intended to be humorous, so the lyrics are intentionally written to feel awkward and increase the "unromanticness" of the concept.  But underlying the humor is the concept that it's not fate, and that doesn't diminish the love I feel in the slightest, and perhaps it enhances it, since love is not something that someone else causes us to feel, but is instead built upon shared memories and history and experiences.

And *that's* romantic to me.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VFpPRcBeinI



Yep yeah
If I didn't have you
If I didn't have you to hold me tight
(If I didn't have you)
If I didn't have you to lie with at night
(When I'm feeling blue)
If I didn't have you to share my sights
(Share my sights)
And to kiss me and dry my tears when I cry...
Well I, really think that I would...
Have somebody else.
(If I didn't have you)
If I didn't have you, someone else would do
Your love is one in a million
(One in a million)
You couldnt buy it at any price
(Can't buy love)
But of the 9 point 999 hundred thousand other possible loves,
Statistically some of them would be equally nice.
(Equally nice)
Or maybe not as nice but say, smarter than you...
Or dumber but better at sport or...
Tracing
I'm just saying
(I really think that I would)
Probably
(Have somebody else)
Yeah.
(If I didn't have you)
If I didn't have you someone else would do
(Someone else would surely do)
If I were a rich man
And did a diddle diddle diddle diddle diddle diddly
I guess I would be with a surgeon or a model
Or any of the royals or a kennedy
Or a nymphomaniacal exhibitionist heiress to a large chain of hotels
If I were a rich man maybe I would fiddle
Fiddle diddle diddle with the rich man girls
I'm not saying that I'd not love you if I was wealthy or handsome
But realistically there's lots of fish in the sea
And if I had a different rod I would concievably land some
Even though I am fiscally consistantly pitiable
And considerably less brad pitt than brad pitiful
And I'm really so poor and ugly that you reckon only you could possibly love me
And I
(Really think that I would)
Probably
(Have somebody else)
Oh yeah
Visual.
(If I didn't have you)
(Someone else would surely do)
Look, I'm not undervaluing what we've got when I say
That given the role chaos inevitably plays in the inherently flawed notion of fate,
It's obstruse to deduse that I've found my soulmate at the age of 17
It's just mathematically unlikely that at a university in perth
I happened to stumble on the one girl on earth specifically designed for me
And if I may conjecture a further objection love is nothing to do with destined perfection
The connection is strengthened the affection simply grows over time
Like a flower
Or a mushroom
Or a guinea pig
Or a vine
Or a sponge
Or bigotry
... or a banana (banana)
And love is made more powerful by the ongoing drama of shared experience and synergy
And a kind of symbiotic empathy or something like that...
So I trust it would go without saying
That I would feel really very sad if tomorrow you were to fall off something high
Or catch something bad
But I'm just saying
I don't think you're special
I mean... I think your special
But
You fall within a bell curve
I mean, I'm just saying I
(Think that I would)
Probably
(Have somebody else)
I think you are unique and beautiful
You make me happy just by being around
(Being around)
But objectively you would have to agree that baby when I found you
Options are relatively thin on the ground
(Thin on the ground)
You're lovely but there must be girls as lovely as you
Or maybe more open to spanking or scrabble...
I'm just saying
(That I think that I would)
Probably
(Have somebody else)
I mean I reckon it's pretty likely that if for example
My first girlfriend Jackie hadn't dumped me
After I kissed Winstons ex-girlfriend Neah at Stephs party back in 1993
And our variables would probably have been altered by the absence of that event
To have meant the advent of a tangential narrative and which we don't meet.
Which is to say there exists a theoretical hypothetical parallel life
Where what is is not as it is and I am not your husband and you are not my wife
And I am a stuntman living in LA
Married to a small blonde portugese skier
Who when she's not training
Does abstract painting
Practices yoga
And brews her own beer
And really like making home movies
And suffers neck down alopecia
But with all my heart and all my mind I know one thing is true
I have just one life and just one love and my love that love is you
And if it wasn't for you
Baby you
(I really think that I would)
(Have somebody else)
Oh yeah
(If I didn't have you)
If I didn't have you someone else would do
(Someone else would surely do)
Dooooooooooooo.

I also recommend watching http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gaid72fqzNE to see Tim perform it live.  It's also a shorter version, he cuts out several verses (which I think the song can afford to lose, actually).

joreth: (polyamory)
I thought I'd write something up about this, but my poly-activist-associate, Diana, wrote it up perfectly, so here's what she had to say:



Late breaking news, friends!

The time is finally here! The episode of the award-winning docuseries MTV True Life: I'm Polyamorous that I filmed with my partners is being released tomorrow!!

The episode is airing on MTV this Monday Sept 14 from 10-11 PM and 12-1 AM EST! Don't worry if you can't watch it on tv then- it will be available for viewing on mtv.com shortly thereafter, and I will post the link on my website and blog. And the show will be on heavy rotation on MTV for the next month, schedule on MTV.com. At 11PM EST, brief video blog updates and written blogs from Kerry and me will be posted on http://remotecontrol.mtv.com. Please leave a positive comment!

True Life documents youth subcultures, and won an Emmy last week. MTV is very proud and has been advertising True Life heavily, and this is one of the premiere episodes. They moved the show to their most popular time slot, and viewership is expected at 12 million. SHAZAM! What a wonderful opportunity to speak to millions of young people about being empowered to create the relationships and life they desire!

This week will be a powerful media moment for polyamory. This is a great time to share your views online and utilize this opportunity to add nuance to the public dialogue. If you have something positive to say about your own experience in polyamory, or have views to share on the topic, I urge you leave comments online, blog about it, and let your voice be heard. There are plenty of organized voices in media on behalf of maintaining traditional sexual mores and family structures, and condemning everyone else. WE need to join our voices together on behalf choices in relationships and a world with more honesty and less shame. I thank all of you for being part of this movement with me.

Stay tuned for more updates on the aftermath next week!

Love boldly,
Diana
www.feministoutlaw.com
www.dianaadamslaw.com
joreth: (Bad Computer!)


I am so sick of this stupid argument. If I ever change my mind (and at 32 with no doubts in sight), I will adopt. I've had people tell me that adoption isn't the same thing. I love the look on their face when I respond that *I* am adopted, and would they like to tell my mother that she doesn't *really* love me like my *real* mother would after she's sacrificed and worried and endured hardship for over 30 years, all for the love of the baby she believes that god gave her when her body failed her?

I also say, so what if I change my mind later? Isn’t living with the consequences of our actions all part of being a grown-up? If I change my mind about *having* kids, I can’t reverse the decision, it's not like I can return them to the store.  But if I change my mind about *not* having kids, there are plenty of alternatives available. Including the likelihood that, as I get older, my dating pool will have an increased number of males who already have children.

 

I knew when I was 6, I knew when I was 12, I knew when I was 18, I knew when I was 24, I knew when I had an abortion, I knew when I was 30, and at nearly 33, I STILL know that I DO NOT WANT KIDS and have absolutely no doubts or regrets at not having them. It’s one of the few things about my goals, dreams and plans that has never changed.

How f*cking condescending is it to say “when you meet the right man, you’ll change your mind”. Bull! The “right man” *also* does not want kids.


Thanks [profile] datan0de, for the Twitter link!

joreth: (Misty in Box)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5FnTcIqb6Yc




[Verse 1:]
There's a place in your heart where nobody's been.
Take me there.
Things nobody knows, not even your friends.
Take me there.
Tell me about your momma, your daddy, your home town, show me around.
I wanna see it all, don't leave anything out.

[Chorus:]
I wanna know, everything about you.
And I wanna go, down every road you've been.
Where your hopes and dreams and wishes live, where you keep the rest of your life hid.
I wanna know the girl behind that pretty stare.
Take me there.

[Verse 2:]
Your first real kiss, your first true love, you were scared.
Show me where.
You learned about life, spent your summer nights, without a care.
Take me there.
I wanna roll down mainstreet and backroads like you did when you were a kid.
What makes you who you are, tell me what your story is.

[Chorus 2x:]
I wanna know, everything about you.
And I wanna go, down every road you've been.
Where your hopes and dreams and wishes live, where you keep the rest of your life hid.
I wanna know the girl behind that pretty stare.
Take me there.

I wanna roll down mainstreet.
I wanna know your hopes and your dreams.
Take me, take me there.
Yeah.

So, other than the implications of being "the first" and "no one else", I think this is a very powerful love song and not a sentiment I see in our current culture very often.

Many people are afraid to know their partners too well, to look too closely, because if they do, they might come face to face with someone they don't like very much.  An awful lot of people date and marry people they don't actually like, because being *in* a relationship is more important than who you're in it with.

This is most clearly illustrated in the idea that we aren't ever supposed to talk about our past relationships, or tell how many people we've had sex with.  Because that means that we weren't THE FIRST or THE ONLY.  We might get insecure at the idea that our lover has done this same sexual act with someone else, has let someone else touch her that way, has let someone else see her vulnerable.  I'm not really sure *why* that's frightening.  Frankly, I'd be more terrified to find I was dating someone who *hadn't* had those experiences before.  I am, after all, in my 30s, and my dating partners tend to be close to my own age or older, so the idea that they've gone their whole lives without similar experiences means that they do not have the same level of relationship skills that I do - not even close.

I remember having a conversation with a metamour several years ago, where she questioned me whether or not I wanted to be *known*.  There was special emphasis put on that word "known".  At the time, I told her "not particularly".  And that's still mostly true.  I don't care if people really *get* me or not, so long as they leave me alone to do my thing.  The reason I spend so much time and effort trying to explain myself to people, such as in this journal and in poly lectures and through my activism, isn't because the end goal is to be *known*, but because that's the means by which I can acheive my end goal, which is to be left alone to make my own choices in peace.

But that answer is not complete, as I later discovered.  I do want to be *known* ... by certain individuals.  Particularly by people whom I want to *know*.

Of course no one will ever 100% absolutely totally and perfectly know anyone else - hell, I don't think anyone ever reaches that level with themselves (although some people get close, and I believe we should always strive to get closer).  But when I think about building intimate relationships with people, I can't quite formulate a definition for "intimate" that doesn't include that *knowing* of another person.

I want to *know* him.  As the song says, I want to know what makes him who he is.  I want to know his thoughts, his dreams, his fears, his experiences.  I want to crawl inside his head and see what it's like to be him, what makes him tick.

And I want someone who wants to do that with me ... and isn't afraid at what he finds when he tries.

In my mind, that's all part of what makes an intimate relationship.  No, we never reach the end, we never know someone completely.  But that desire to know, and the path and processes it takes to find out, those are what builds intimate relationships.

I find this song particularly valuable because it is a country song, a song in a genre that is so steeped in "tradition" and "what should be" and it feeds and buys into so many of the particularly destructive social memes and mores.  I find it especially valuable for the line "Your first real kiss, your first true love, you were scared. / Show me where" and in the chorus "I wanna know the girl behind that pretty stare."  

In the first case, not only does he acknowledge that his current love interest *had* previous partners, but he wants to know all about them because they contributed to who she is today.  It's not out of jealousy, he doesn't want a comparison, and he doesn't hide from that knowledge out of fear or jealousy either.

In the second case, far too many songs wax on and on about a woman's looks.  Many of them are just party songs - something to dance to, and, let's face it, hookups happen, so those songs are not irrelevant.  But this is the first time I've heard a song say, explicitly, "I'm interested in who you are and what's going on in your mind".  As a girl, I can't tell you how rare that sentiment actually is, and how meaningful it is to hear it said sincerely.  Sure, I've heard love songs written after the love has happened, where someone talks about the whole person.  But I've never heard it sung before where someone does *not* know the love interest and wants to.  

Usually the knowing part happens sort of by accident.  People get "lucky" because they use looks as their main criteria for finding a mate, and then, by sheer coincidence (and social training to not leave and fear of being alone) they end up with someone they can tolerate.  In songs, of course, they more than just tolerate them, they actively adore their partners.  But it still started out with a guy seeing a hot chick across the room and feeing a physical attraction.

Here, although he probably *does* feel a physical attraction (she does, after all, have a pretty stare), it's more than just "hey baby, ur hot, wanna fuck?" or even "you're awfully pretty ma'am, would you like to dance?"  He wants to know her as a full and complete person.

An awful lot of men (and women too, but since I'm a straight female, I'm going to address things from my perspective for now) want to lump women into a single category, and then spend the rest of their lives trying to figure out What Women Want.  They read books, they go to seminars, they talk to their buddies, some of them even ask a female friend or two.  They try to change something about themselves to make them more attractive to the opposite sex.

And this completely misses the point.

There is no What Women Want.  Because we all want different things.  Funny how that happens, since, y'know, we're all individual, unique, and different people.

This has come up in [livejournal.com profile] tacit's journal recently, although it's not entirely the point he was trying to make.  He was talking about society's sense of entitlement that people have regarding relationships.  People feel they are entitled to them, as if relationships (and the gender they are interested in, in this case, women) are a commodity that people somehow deserve, and if they just follow Steps 1-5, they will be rewarded with the relationship at the end.

And that sort of thinking leads to people starting forum posts on the internet that ask "hey, I've been on OKC for 6 months now and I haven't found a date yet.  What do women want?"

And it's a ridiculous question.  Because not all women want the same things.  Even women in more accurate subcategories don't want exactly the same things.  And sometimes there's just something, I dunno, chemical, that makes any individual attracted or not attracted to any other individual, regardless of whatever category they fit in or what they think they want, sort of as [livejournal.com profile] leora was postulating over in her journal.

In fact, there's even another country song out there that specifically says "I don't know what I did to deserve you, but I hope I keep doing it".  These people don't *know* each other, and that makes their world a whole lot scarier, and a whole lot more out of their own control.  If you don't know what you did to attract, keep the attention of, or "deserve" your partner, how in the hell can you possibly expect to continue to do so?  If you don't know what it is she wants or sees in you or why she sticks around, how can you feel secure in your relationship that she will continue to do so?  How can you possibly choose your actions to most likely bring about the desired response?  You can't.   It's a completely crapshoot and your life, and your relationship, are totally out of your control.

One guy in [livejournal.com profile] tacit's post actually said "I know women are individual, but there's nothing wrong with thinking about them in a category in an academic sense".  *blink blink*  yeah, actually, there is.

The closest you can get is to pick a single trait, just one, and you can talk about trends.  But that is only a single trait, and all you can say is that many or a majority, or few women like this or do that.  That tells you absolutely nothing about me and if you want to relate to me you have to throw those trends out the window and find out what *I* want or like or do or hate or am insecure about or am confident about.  Because no matter what the trends say, it is not me and you will not know me by thinking, even academically, about trends.

But this song, this character, he wants to *know* his mate.  He recognizes that she's an individual.  He sees her as unique.  He sees her as *her*.

And that's a rare quality, and one that is far more attractive than the idea that this guy sitting in front of me sees me as an incomprehensible creature, or, worse yet, that he thinks he already *does* comprehend me because he believes that All Women or even Most Women do or want or think or feel anything.  Playing the odds, figuring you'll go with "most women like X" and just assume I do too because the chances are good that I do, that still tells me that you do not see me as an individual.  You put me in a category, and objects placed in a category can be more or less interchangeable.

And I am most certainly not interchangeable.

And neither are my partners.  I see them.  I might not 100% know them, but I see them.  And I want to know them, because that helps me to see them better.  I want to know about their first kiss, their first love, the street they grew up on, their hopes and dreams and wishes, I want to know what pains them and I want to know what makes them happy.

And this is the first country song I've heard that even comes close to expressing this concept, and to acknowledge a person's individuality and uniqueness, and that their past is a very important part of who they are, and to show no fear and no shame at wanting to explore all the scary paths that are required to building an intimate relationship.

I'm fascinated by who my partners are and by what makes them who they are.  Tell me everything about you.  Tell me about your day, tell me about your past, tell me about your future.  Let me see you, let me see who you were, who you will be, who you are.  Take me there.




joreth: (Misty in Box)
C: Does that ever really work? Just coming out and being so ... obvious?
A: Well, if it's the right guy, sure. It certainly beats the alternative
C: What do you mean?
A: Having no idea whether or not a man is interested in you.
C: You really can't tell?
A: Well, generally that IS how you tell, they make a move.




Let's talk a little about fear and honesty and owning your own feelings.
 
I really hate the phrase "own your feelings" because it has been taken up by as a mantra by wacky pop-psych and militant feminists and others I tend to get cranky around.  But if I can get past the idea that people I don't like use a particular term, and get to its usefulness, there's something valuable in that phrase.  
 
Our society has all these elaborate rules and games on how to properly conduct the mating ritual in humans. You can't admit to being attracted to someone outright, so you have to drop hints and do some detective work to dig out if the other person likes you too (who is, of course, trying to hide that they like you just the way you are trying to hide that you like them). You have to make jokes about liking them so that if they do not return your feelings, everyone can just pretend it was a joke and no one has to feel AWKWARD because that's the worst thing EVAR. Girls should never ask out guys because that's forward - make them come to you. Guys should never ask a girl on a date outright, because that puts you in a vulnerable position where she now knows that you like her and she has all the power. When you do ask someone on a date, first you ask them out for something small, like coffee. Work your way up to an actual "date" date only when you're sure your feelings are reciprocated - except you are never, ever, EVER to tell her how you feel because that will scare her off, and you are never, ever, EVER to ask her how she feels because then she will feel obligated to give you an answer that you expect.
 
See, people are afraid of their own feelings.  We construct elaborate social rules to prevent us from our own feelings.  Our society is based on a mountain of myths, all designed to prevent us from feeling our feelings.  Guys and girls can't ever be friends because the sex thing always gets in the way (remember When Harry Met Sally?).  You can't ever admit to liking a friend, that'll destroy the friendship.  And forget about admitting you like someone who is already in a monogamous relationship!  Then, once you're in a relationship, don't ever ask for what you want, you have to subtly hint and cajole.  FSM forbid if what you want is a sexual kink!  Why, then you're a monster!  If you look at/feel attraction for other people while in a romantic relationship, that will make your partner feel all kinds of bad feelings, so don't ever even look at another person of the appropriate gender - especially if your partner can see you!
 
These are the forum threads I haunted not too long ago.  I'm not making this up, nor am I summarizing.  Most of these are direct quotes.  In one thread, a man sagely intoned that men and women could never be platonic friends.  You see, apparently a man and a woman could never, ever, EVER be alone with each other if they are not in a romantic relationship because they could not help themselves, they will fall upon each other like ravening beasts.  Unfortunately, I have TONS of experiences that says *that's* not true!  
 
Then, if you admit to liking a friend, well, now the sex thing is in the way there too, causing (dramatic music) TENSION and AWKWARDNESS, and we can't ever allow ourselves to get into any situation where we might feel that!  This goes double if the feelings aren't reciprocated.
 
Now, if that friend is already in a monogamous relationship, well, admitting your attraction is even worse!  Because now you've *admitted* to the attraction, so the partner has absolutely every right to be jealous and to believe that you are no longer trustworthy to be in the presence of the person you fancy. 
 
And the hiding of the emotions doesn't stop there.  Once you're in a relationship, you can't now *start* to reveal your feelings, because your partner might then learn something about who you are!  And your partner might not like you as that person!  And you might be rejected!  Oh, the horror!  We might actually feel bad!  Now, don't get me wrong, feeling bad sucks.  But being in a relationship with someone, spending all your time and energy with someone with whom you have to constantly watch what you say and guard your actions sounds like the worst of all possible hells to me, not to mention impossible.
 
Looking at another person while in a monogamous relationship might make your partner be forced to confront feelings of inadequacy or abandonment, or some other issue.  We can't have that!  We must protect our partner from having any uncomfortable feelings at all costs because then they might, I dunno, learn something and grow as a human, or, worse yet, make YOU feel uncomfortable by having to put up with their shit.
 
So, here we have an entire society of people who are afraid of their feelings.  Oh, the effort and the energy expended to protect themselves from feeling those feelings!  My god, it's exhausting just thinking about it!  There are rules and regulations and laws and mores and assumptions, and we're supposed to navigate our way through this complex and conflicting mire by somehow picking up the map through osmosis or something.  
 
Or, we could own our feelings.
 
Here's what I mean.  See, in all of these situations, there is an unstated assumption that our admission of a particular feeling or having a particular feeling should come with an expectation of the other person's behaviour.  If I tell you that I love you, my admission should make you love me back.  The fear that it won't is what causes the trouble here.  But if I let go of that expectation, if I state that I love you with no particular attachment to the idea of whether or not you love me back, well, then it's not nearly so scary.  Of course, it might not stop me from *wanting* you to love me back, but the act of saying "I love you" is no longer frightening if I do not *expect* any particular response, if I'm not *attached* to that expectation or desire of wanting any particular response.  I have removed my attachment from your response.  "I love you.  Just wanted you to know.  OK, see ya!"
 
If you tell me that you love me, and I don't return your feelings, the expectation that I am *supposed* to return your feelings will make hearing this admission difficult, and that will cause the awkwardness and tension in our relationship.  Combine that with your own expectation that I *should* love you back, and here's where we have drama.  But if I do not feel obligated to return your feelings, there is no awkwardness on my end when you tell me that you love me.
 
Now, I actually have a big problem with obligation.  I was pretty thoroughly programmed with this little nugget.  My parents are SJs - there are an awful lot of shoulds when dealing with SJs, being rather attached to "tradition" for tradition's sake in many cases.  When someone says "hi", you should say "hi" back.  When someone sneezes, you should say "god bless you".  When someone tells you "god bless you", you should say "thank you".  When I say "I love you", you should respond with "I love you too".  Hell, I was raised Catholic - attend a Catholic mass sometime and see how they programm the congregation to always respond to certain key phrases, and how to respond.  It sounds like a freakin' brainwashed cult:
 
"And the Lord be with you" - "And also with you."  "We lift up our hearts" - "We lift them up to the Lord".  "We should give thanks to the Lord our God" - "It is right to give Him thanks and praise".  

If you've never heard the monotone responsorials before, I highly recommend listening - it's damn creepy.  I thought so as a kid when I was not yet an atheist.  In fact, the responsorials were the first thing that pushed me away from the cult ... er ... I mean religion.
 
In order to de-program myself from this sense of obligation, I have intentionally refused to respond to people in expected ways, even if the response is actually the truth.  I do not bless people for sneezing (nor do I say gesundheit), I do not thank people for blessing me, I do not respond to "hi, how are you" with "fine, how are you?".  I do not say "I love you too" every time someone I love says it to me.  Now, I make a point to explain this to my partners, so they understand what I'm doing and don't get hurt if I don't say it back every time.  I still struggle with this, I still feel the pull to respond appropriately, the programming is so deep.  But I refuse to let my genuine feelings get muddied up with obligation.  
 
So when I am in a situation where my feelings actually are not reciprocated, I feel much less awkward because I do not have that sense of obligation.  It is not my responsibility to behave the way this person hopes I do.  And if he has the courage to tell me that he is attracted to me without knowing how I feel about him, that courage deserves to be rewarded by, the very least, me not flipping out on him and ceasing to be his friend.
 
I am responsible for no one's actions other than my own.  I cannot help having feelings, but I can attempt to remove my expectations of what other people should do in response to those feelings.  
 
When in a romantic relationship, I try to create an atmosphere that allows my partners to come to me with any particular feeling or request.  It doesn't mean that I can't have my own reaction to it - some things might hurt me or piss me off.  It means that my partners and I are *allowed* to come to each other and the other person is not obligated to respond to our admission in like kind.  Of course, once I'm in a romantic relationship with someone, there are a *few* assumptions of expected behaviour, such as "you will not hit me if you are angry".  I think it's a pretty reasonable expectation to place on a romantic partner of no physical violence to an admission of a feeling.  But that's sort of a general expectation of treating a human with dignity and respect, not one attached to a particular feeling.
 
If I have a feeling of getting really turned on by wearing a strap-on harness and dildo and penetrating my male partners' anuses, I believe a healthy romantic relationship should allow me to admit to this desire, providing I do not attach the expectation that my partner is now obligated to allow me to experience this desire with him.  I can't reasonably expect to get what I want if I never ask for it.  How will I know if any given partner is open to the experience if I don't ask?  Other than him admitting it himself, because then it's still the same situation, only the roles are reversed.  But I have to be able to let go of any attachment to the expectation that he will respond in the manner I most desire him to.  Then it simply becomes a statement.  I like pegging my boyfriends.  Period.  You are not obligated to be pegged.  No tension or awkwardness on my part for admitting it when I have no attachment to the outcome.  No tension or awkwardness on his part if he doesn't reciprocate.
 
Now a lot of people might say "sure, this is all great in theory, but that's not how the world works.  People get jealous, people act on their emotions in ways that they shouldn't, people feel obligated.  Just because you're all enlightened or whatever and can be all Buddhist and remove your attachment to expectations doesn't mean that other people can.  So you can't go around acting all honest and stuff because it's fucking things up with people who live in the real world." (and yes, someone actually did accuse me of being "enlightened" and that I should have more understanding for everyone who isn't, and they used that specific word).
 
So, OK, it's true a lot of people have not done the work (and many who aren't interested in doing the work) to really analyze their feelings, get to the bottom of things, question the necessity of social mores, and deliberately attempt to rise above the petty maze of rules and regulations and not be controlled by their fears.
 
I do not think that absolves us of trying to behave better anyway.  First of all, nothing will change if there aren't the first few people to try it and show how it works.  Second of all, there *are* some people who desire to stop all the games and the lying and who do not wish to be ruled by fear, and I can choose to surround myself with those people more often than with the ones who don't put in the work to know themselves and better their relationships.
 
Most of my friends are male.  Many of them are in some kind of situation where a romantic relationship with me is not possible.  Some of them are monogamous, some just have incompatible dating styles, some are long distance and unlikely to see me in person in the forseeable future, whatever.  There are a handful of these friends to whom I am attracted.  I have admitted to my attraction to every single friend that I have an attraction for.  And guess what?  No drama, no lost friendships, no jealous wives, no real awkward moments even.  I admitted my feelings without getting all attached to an expectation that they would suddenly turn to me after my admission and say "OMG, I feel the same way!  Let's run off together and start a geek-commune with lots of kinky sex and intelligent people!"  Doesn't mean I'm not disappointed that no one is willing/able to run off and start a geek commune with me with lots of kinky sex and our best intelligent friends.  But the goal of my admission was not to achieve this reaction.  It was simply to admit to my feelings because my feelings wanted to be admitted.
 
In some cases, the feelings were not returned.  In other cases, they were returned, but something about the choices we have made in our lives makes it not possible at this stage to be in a romantic relationship together.  And both reactions are OK.  They know how I feel, they told me how they feel, and we go on with our lives.  We have constructed friendships that honor those feelings without requiring a change in circumstance or hurting anyone.  For example, with the friends who are already partnered, there is no need for the partner to feel jealous, or limit our interactions, or assume anything illicit is happening, because, although there are feelings involved, there is no attachment to the expectation that the person I'm attracted to should behave in a certain way.  In other words, I'm not a threat to anyone's marriage because me having the hots for the husband doesn't mean I'm going to do anything about it or get upset if he doesn't do anything about it (of course, had he been the type who *would* act upon these feelings in direct opposition to his wife's feelings, I wouldn't have respected him enough to develop an attraction in the first place).
 
I have some other friends.  These friends have not yet learned to divorce their attachments to their expectations.  These are the friends that make things awkward.  Again, most of them are male.  Some of them have admitted to having romantic feelings for me.  When they tell me these things, I do not feel obligated to respond in kind.  In my ideal situation, someone would express his attraction to me, and I would smile and say that I was flattered, and then go back to whatever it is we were doing before the admission.  I do not pretend to like him back (and then start avoiding him, hoping he'll get the hint, which seems to be the most common response), and I do go on being the same friendly friend that I was before the admission.
 
But, with these types of people, the point of admitting their attraction is to get me to respond back.  So they will keep letting me know how they feel.  Sometimes they will drop hints, and sometimes they will ask me outright for things, like a date or sex.  When this happens, I will have to say, clearly, that I do not return their feelings, but we can still be friends if they'd like.  I do not enjoy letting someone down, but I will do it.  I absolutely hate it when people hem and haw and are vague and ambiguous, and then start avoiding the person just to avoid having an awkward conversation (even if I have been known to do it myself in the past).  
 
But, with these "friends", it doesn't stop there.  They are so invested in getting that response, they will continue pushing.  I can't tell you how many times I have gone through this process all the way to the "thank you but no" stage only to have somone grope me the next time I saw them.  I've gotten pretty darn good at fighting off Octopus Hands.  Someone will try to touch my breasts, and when I say no and physically restrain them, they'll use the other hand to grab for my crotch.  *This* is the reason why people have developed the avoidance tactic.  And this happens more often that you'd expect.
 
Then it's this type of behaviour that makes the recipient of the affection (in this scenario, it's often a woman) do the avoidance dance.  The "Um, yeah, I'd love to hang out sometime, but, uh, I just got *really* busy with work and won't be free for the next 12 years" conversation.  The "always hijack another person into accompanying you so that the guy expressing is affection is never alone with you to tell you what you are afraid to hear" method seems to be another favorite move.
 
So people develop an expectation that someone's admission of their feelings will be accompanied by an expectation of how *they* themselves should behave.  Now we have these expectations on both sides that create these elaborate societal rules.
 
But when we dispense with the bullshit, when we remove our sense of expectation and obligation, none of this is necessary.  I can admit to someone that I like him because I do not expect him to respond in kind, even if I might hope he does.  I can hear someone admit to liking me because I do not expect that *I* should respond in kind when I don't want to.  And the world goes on.
 
But then, when two people's desires for the path of the relationship happen to match up, we don't have this time- and energy-wasting dance of people trying to figure out if the other likes him or her and trying not to be the first one to say so, and they can just get down to the business of relating to each other.
 
I understand that all these complex rules are designed to make society run smoother ... but if we could learn to let go of the expectation that comes with our feelings, then we are free to feel those feelings without all the drama and heartache and pain and tension and awkwardness that these rules are designed to protect us from.
 

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