joreth: (BDSM)

I'm finally getting around to reading "Why Does He Do That" by Lundy Bancroft so expect lots of quotes in the next few days, and hopefully some longer blog posts if I ever get a computer again. I didn't want to wait on this one because it's relevant to the atrocity of a "kinky romance" movie whose sequel just came out.

In addition to being rape and abuse apologia, the 50 Shades trilogy is also extemely classist. Some tweet put it more succinctly, basically that this book wouldn't seem romantic at all if Christian lived in a trailer park. If a guy with tattoos and a construction job behaved like Christian, even the "soft" version in the movie, it would be glaringly obvious how controlling and manipulative he is. But give him a private jet and suddenly it's "romantic"

Bancroft addresses this very thing as early as the first section in the introduction chapter on The Mythology of abuse.

"The social stereotype of the abuser as a relatively uneducated, blue-collar male adds to the confusion. The faulty equation goes: 'Abusive equals muscle-bound caveman, which in turn equals lower class.' In addition to the fact that this image is an unfair stereotype of working-class men, it also overlooks the fact that a professional or college-educated man has roughly the same likelihood of abusing women as anyone else. A successful businessperson, a college professor, or a sailing instructor may be less likely to adopt a tough-guy image with tattoos all over his body [although that stereotype is gradually being overcome these days] but still may well be a nightmare partner.
 
Class and racial stereotypes permit the more privileged members of society to duck the problem of abuse by pretending its someone else's problem. Their thinking goes: 'It's those construction-worker guys who never went to college; it's those Latinos; it's those street toughs - they're the abusers. Our town, our neighborhood, [our class of man,] isn't like that. We're not macho men here.'
 
But women who live with abuse know that abusers come in all styles and from all backgrounds. Sometimes the more educated an abuser, the more knots he knows how to tie in a woman's brain, the better he is at getting her to blame herself, and the slicker is his ability to persuade other people that she is crazy. The more socially powerful an abuser, the more difficult it can be to escape."



This is Christian Grey. This is Hair Gropenführer. This is even my ex, who is not in the same class as the extremely wealthy, but has the social power of being a white-collar, educated, middle-class, white, likeable, social-justice-conscious, cismale.

The Orangutan-In-Chief has made the "Latino" argument explicitly. One of the reasons he wants to build his security-blanket of a wall is because he claimed that Mexicans are rapists, implying  proportionally more often than US men are. My ex uses social justice language to obfuscate and confuse his victims so that they get confused and start believing that their resistance to his control victimizes *him* and that they are the monsters.

Christian uses his money. He can afford to travel literally anywhere and with no notice or preparation to stalk his victim. He buys the company his victim works for so that her income is directly tied to pleasing him. In the movie, they gave him an excuse that he wanted to fire her "abusive" boss, but a non-controlling person would seek legal prosection means to help her, not replacing one abusive boss for another. He buys her a car against her wishes. He consistently thinks that he knows what's best for her in spite of her protestations and buys whatever he thinks she "needs" from clothes to food to transportation to her source of income, regardless of her own preferences.

He uses legalese to obfuscate his manipulation in the form of a non-disclosure contract (and again in his farce of a bdsm contract) and then uses literally the power of the law with those contracts to isolate her and prevent her from communicating outside or having an independent support system.

Healthy kinksters introducing a newbie to bdsm for the first time recommend that the n00b find a local dungeon and/or community for more resources and support during the learning process. One of the red flags in the community, or "lifestyle", is when a dom tries to be the only teaching source, often insisting that he alone is "responsible" enough to properly guide the sub. One example of an extemist who uses this tactic is a cult leader who is the sole source of wisdom (and sex or decisions about sex).

I once had an ex who insisted that only he could be trusted to recognize predators in the community, so all new subbies had to be collared by him so that any dom wanting to play with the newbie sub had to court his permission and approval, so that he could "vet" them. I've also seen "poly" men use this same excuse to infantilize their female partners saying that they have poor judgement so he needs veto power to make sure that she stays safe. Ironically, this is a warning sign that *he* is the one abusing her.

Christian also uses the "I was abused as a child" myth that Bancroft addresses in the immediately prior bullet point. This excuse pulls on a victim's compassion and makes her feel guilty for her resistance because she is then continuing to hurt an already broken person, as well as making her want to stick around to "save" him.

This book and movie trilogy would have actually made a good suspense thriller (if you excuse the poor writing). If the author wasn't such a piss-poor writer and if she hadn't gone on record multiple times defending her tripe as "romantic", I might have thought that she researched abusive relationships and used the domestic abuse checklist as a character outline. And if the Twilight author wasn't almost as shitty of writer, I might have assumed that *she* was the researcher and used the checklist that the plagerizer - er, I mean 50 Shades author just unwittingly copied into her fanfic version.

I'm not even past the introduction chapters yet and 50 Shades can already be seen in the warning signs. Abuse is about power and control. Money, education, job type, and other class markers are all ways that people obtain power. If anything, it seems like it would be MORE likely that Christian and Orangeface McTinyhands would turn out to be abusers.

Don't support the books or movies by spending money on the franchise or watching / downloading through a service that tracks its popularity like Amazon or Netflix. Don't recommend it to newbies or excuse it as a "gateway" into real kink. If you happen to be interested in the erotic fantasy of being controlled or trained, I can recommend better stories that don't neglect the subbie's consent even while she submits to a power exchange dynamic, even ones that include her resistance and him "knowing her better than she knows herself".

To put it simply (yet again), it's not the kink that makes it abuse, it's the manipulation and control, and what makes it particularly dangerous is that it relies heavily on the audience buying into the class myth of abuse. This myth is one of the tools that abusers use to gaslight their victims and convince them that they are not victims. By not taking a hard stance and speaking out against this franchise, our silence contributes directly to the culture which traps women in abusive situations. Women need to know that this is abuse so they can better recognize it when it happens to them.

He is not romantic. He is not sexy. He is not a dom. He is not a broken bird to be saved. He is not your fault. He is not exempt.

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

So, here's what I mean. When he and I broke up, I lost direct contact with that entire branch of my network, even though I was *also* romantically involved with someone in that branch and had what I thought to be some very good friendships from that branch. This was mostly by my action, although I wouldn't go so far as to say it was my "choice". My abusive ex was stalking another one of his exes, with whom I was still in contact, so I and several other people on my side of the network actually blocked his entire side so that "his people" couldn't feed information to him about the ex he was stalking through our contact with that ex.

This sounds like that entire network was in some vast conspiracy to hunt down a single person, but I don't think it was like that. Maybe it was, I dunno. But I still have mixed feelings for some of those people I lost. When I see them some of them in person, I still greet them warmly. But I don't tell them anything personal or intimate about my life now. Someone once questioned me upon witnessing me hug one of them hello why I was still willing to do that but not still date or keep in contact with that person. I said something about how I didn't trust them enough to be intimate with them, but hugging isn't intimate. They thought that was weird, and after I said it, I can understand how someone else might find it odd to hug someone you don't trust.

But, the point is that I knew those people were going to side with him - that's not exactly true, they were going to either side with him on certain specific things or they were going to abstain from taking sides on certain other specific things which *effectively* put them on "his side", given the details of those things. I knew that. I know the dynamic of that group. That's partly why I had to block them too, because I knew that they did not find what happened between us worthy of siding against him. So, when I see one of them out somewhere, it doesn't surprise me or, well, "trigger" used to be an appropriate word but I'm much less effected by his memory now so I don't know if it applies, but it doesn't do that to me when I am reminded that people in that group are still actively in contact with him.

I've long since gotten over my disappointment that they didn't find his behaviour worthy of "breaking up" with him too, and I don't actually feel that abusers need to be left completely isolated and alone. There was an excellent blog post by Shea Emma Fett (whose blog is now taken down but there is a wayback link at http://web.archive.org/web/20160211074648/http://emmfett.blogspot.com/2015/01/the-community-response-to-abuse.html) about how abusers *need* friends, but they need friends who can hold them accountable, and we need to find a path to reintegrate people back into our communities after accountability has been held. Otherwise, all we do is shove wolves out to find some other flocks to prey on (www.morethantwo.com/blog/2015/02/thoughts-community-abuse), only now they're also resentful on top of their entitlement that led them to abuse in the first place.

Please note that "reintegrating back into our communities" is not a statement on what any specific individual victim ought to do with regards to their abuser. I'm not saying that victims can't make their own choices as to who they allow into their lives, but broader communities need to have different standards and tactics (which I am not personally always able to uphold but I still believe in).

So, back to the point - I'm not bothered that my ex has friends, aside from my early disappointment of losing those same people as friends back when it happened. I *am* bothered that they don't seem to be holding him accountable, but the mere act of there existing people who like him isn't what's bothering me when I get that twinge when I see his name @replied to online. That surprise I feel is always "how can you still be friends with him after what he did to other people?", but now I can see that it's more than that. It's that, but ALSO it's "you're supposed to be MY friend!" and it's also "don't you know about this thing?"

The problem is that A) no, they probably don't know that thing because I don't name him when I talk about him publicly. So if they're not one of my in-person, RL friends who I am close enough to confide in about abuse, then there's a good chance that they don't know who I'm referring to when I say "my abusive ex", even though they're also friends with him. And B) because I haven't confided in them, that means that they're not close enough to "take sides", and consequently to take *my* side.

It's true that several of my communities are pretty gung ho on the "always believe the victim" policy right now, but that's much easier to say when all the people in question are internet-friends or famous people or are otherwise not someone one currently thinks of in intimate terms. I'm not even going back on that policy and saying that we shouldn't. But I am saying that personal emotions and social nuances make things complicated in the minds of individuals and it's not fair to tell other people when to stop being friends with someone when there are all these other influences regarding social ties or intimate connections.

So I'm saying that these twinges are a result of a contradiction, of a dissonance in my head between social justice policies and personal expectations. One the one hand, there's the "burn the abuser at the stake!" anger, while on the other hand there's the "hold them accountable and that requires not shunning them out of the community" compassion (that I am still not very good at).  One the one hand there's "how can you still talk to him, I thought you were my friend?" while on the other hand there's "oh, right, we're just acquaintances and you don't know my side of the story".

There's no real point to this. There's no deep lesson to learn from this, no "here's how you can be a better person" morality tale. Just uncovering a little more nuance into my own psyche for my own benefit (hopefully).

* see also http://polyweekly.com/2015/01/pw-418-emotional-abuse/
joreth: (BDSM)
I don't have time for a full book review, but if you liked 50 Shades of Grey, then read The Training of Eileen series. If you hated 50 Shades because of its abuse romanticism but like female sub fantasy porn, read The Training of Eileen series by William Vitelli (on Amazon and Symtoys). It's literally the 50 Shades plot (rich man takes naive young woman to wife & trains her as his sex slave) without the, y'know, abuse. There are *so many* books with this exact same plot and no abuse that exist, this is just one that I happened to come across that I enjoyed reading.

BECAUSE THERE IS A DIFFERENCE BETWEEN D/S AND ABUSE.

YES EVEN WITH THE SPANKING AND PUNISHMENTS AND SHAME THERE IS STILL A DIFFERENCE BETWEEN D/S AND ABUSE.


Throughout the series, we are given tantalizing hints and outright evidence that the sub *wants* to be trained as a sex slave, she just doesn't know it yet. This is not the misogynistic fantasy that all women want their husbands to dominate them, this is a genuine interest in submission that a more experienced Dom recognizes and indulges because A) he wants to; and B) she wants him to and he wants to provide a safe place for her unrealized fantasies. It's that part B that makes it not abuse and not misogynistic.

There is no "you will be my sex slave because I am damaged and only damaged people like hitting their lovers." There is no "you will be my sex slave because I'm the man and I will stalk you into submission." There is no "I am rich therefore my coercion is charming and above the law." There is no "ooh, look, it's a belt, that's so kinky!" There is no fucking inner goddess doing back flips and hula dancing or subconsciousness whispering anything. And there is no "I'm a good girl who doesn't believe in all this kinky sex stuff but I love you so I will save you from yourself and your damage and make you see the value in vanilla sex" bullshit.

This is good ol' "I like hurting and humiliating and dominating people who like to be hurt and humiliated and dominated, and you like being hurt and humiliated and dominated, therefore I will hurt and humiliate and dominate you with actual kinky sex and toys and tools and evil ideas because we both like it" fantasy porn.

Disclaimer: this story is basically heterocentric, which is actually why I'm recommending it. 50 Shades was wildly popular because there is something in the fantasy of a young, innocent girl being dominated by a more experienced man that speaks to a lot of people. I want to provide an alternative to that series by offering a story that has, basically, the same plot to appeal to the same people who liked 50 Shades, so that they can see the difference between a healthy D/s relationship *even under fantasy conditions* vs. an abusive one.

I'm sure there are plenty of books with more diversity, more queer-focus, more all kinds of things that are worth promoting. Perhaps even more important to promote. But I'm making a very particular point with this promotion - that for all the millions of people who got something out of 50 Shades, there's nothing wrong with you having that kind of fantasy, just that there are healthier ways to express it and here is one better way.

Most of the anti-50 Shades reviews I read are from people who are not actually into kink, so they have to make a bunch of disclaimers about how "kink isn't bad, even though I don't get it". But when they're not into kink themselves, it makes it difficult to explain to similarly-new-to-kink readers why 50 Shades is bad but they're totally not kink-shaming, no really, they're not, they just don't get it but their bestie who is a pro-Domme promises that there's a difference.

So I'm here to say, as someone who is definitely into some pretty disturbing kinky shit (although still pretty "vanilla" compared to my kinky friends), I really, truly am not kink-shaming and it really is OK to fantasize about D/s even when it's heterocentric male Dom / female sub and even when it's "she just doesn't know she likes being dominated yet but this handsome wealthy man will show her what she likes", but that 50 Shades DOES NOT GET THIS FANTASY RIGHT. It romanticizes abuse, and there is a difference. Here is an example that is not abusive, and yet it's still fantasy (i.e. people never have bowel problems or headaches or weight issues or disabilities when it's inconvenient for the story) to indulge in. Porn does not have to be so realistic that it's a turn-off in order to be respectful. You can still have fantastic elements that wouldn't be appropriate in real life (as the defenders of 50 Shades argue) and yet still not romanticize abuse or misogyny (the good girl will save the damaged man with her love myth).
joreth: (BDSM)
Dating Site Dude: Will you be my Mistress?

Me: What does that mean for you?

DSD: I dunno, like, be in control of stuff.

Me: What do you want me to be in control of?

DSD: Um...

Me: Do you want me to control what you eat? Tell you what to wear? Act like your mom and tell you to get off the Xbox and do your chores? Direct your career choices? Humiliate you? Do you want me to be in control of you in public? Just for a scene in a dungeon? All the time?

DSD: Tell me what to eat? WTF? No, I know how to feed myself! You're the Domme, you're supposed to come up with these things!

Me: Oh, I see. You've been reading 50 Shades. In the real world, it doesn't work like that. See, in *healthy* D/s relationships, the Dom might be the one crafting the scene, but the subbie is an equal agent in this collaboration and is required to provide the parameters. That's how the Dom knows what kind of scene to come up with and what things are off-limits.

DSD: Off limits? But you're supposed to dominate me! That doesn't make any sense if there are things I can tell you not to do!

Me: Oh, sweetie, if you think it's safe to give me complete and total freedom to do whatever I want with you without discussing limits and boundaries, you have a profoundly limited imagination. I guaran-fucking-tee you that I can come up with things that you will not want me to do. It's best that you decide what those things are *before* I do them to you.

DSD: But if I can tell you not to do something and you have to obey me, then you're not really in control of me!

Me: Give this boy a gold star! That's the difference between healthy D/s and 50 Shades. D/s is a mutually beneficial relationship between two (or more) individuals who all want to be there, choose to be there, and consent to every single activity that happens. The control is illusory. If you can't say no, then it's not consent, it's abuse, assault, and / or rape. That's what makes D/s a healthy expression of one's sexuality and not abuse - the ability to consent and to revoke consent.

DSD: But I'm consenting! That's the whole reason why I contacted you!

Me: You still haven't told me what you are consenting TO which, by inference, tells me what you're NOT consenting to.

DSD: I'm consenting to you controlling me!

Me: Do you mean that you plan to just stand there motionless while I position your body? What do you want me to control? And what happens when you try to resist my control or fail in your assignments? How am I supposed to punish you?

DSD: Now we're getting somewhere! Yes, punishment!

Me: But how? Impact punishment? Humiliation? Restraint? Silent treatment? Predicament scenarios? Erection torture? Forced delayed orgasm? Chastity devices?

DSD: I dunno, come up with something!  I don't even know what all that is!  You're the Domme!

Me: And here we go 'round again. If you can't understand the difference between abuse and consent, if you don't know how to maintain your own agency, then you are not safe to play with in a power exchange dynamic. You are unable to give consent.

Unlike Ana and Christian, a good Dom isn't in the relationship to work out anger and resentment at maternal figures of their past whether the victim likes it or not. A good Dom is an artist, crafting a scene like a playwright, designing the setting and costumes and dialog for their protege, their ingenue, their star. The "play" becomes the masterpiece intended to highlight and showcase the *star's* unique talents.  The star isn't acting exclusively for the playwright, the playwright is writing *for the star* and the star gets to stretch their skills, abilities, or interests.

But the Dom / playwright can't do that if they don't know anything about their sub / star. Are they a singer so they should craft an opera? Are they a comic so they should craft a comedy? What kind of comedy - high brow? slapstick? If this isn't a collaboration with the star being allowed to give input, telling the playwright and director when they feel uncomfortable, when they feel the character might do something different from what's written in the script, when they feel that their creativity is worn thin and they need a break to rejuvenate before they can bring their A-game back to the stage, when they have an idea of their own to add to the character or the dialog or the setting or the costuming - when the star isn't allowed to give that kind of input, then we have the sort of abuse we see in Phantom of the Opera. And look how well that turned out for everyone!

Power exchange only sounds like it goes in one direction to those who don't understand that it's an EXCHANGE. While the subbie agrees to voluntarily give up control in certain ways, they ultimately retain their agency and complete autonomy - that's what makes it not abuse. They have the right to say no at any time to any action, they have the responsibility of setting the limits, and they have the freedom to renegotiate the boundaries and details of the arrangement at any time in order to get more out of the experience.

While it's true that Doms do, indeed, get something out of being "in control", the sub is who drives the arrangement. If the subbie ain't happy, it ain't healthy. D/s is as much for the sub (if not more) as for the Dom. It's an equal partnership. You may be taking on complimentary roles, but both roles are equally important and equally present. A good Dom might very well enjoy controlling another human being, but a good Dom also takes pride in crafting excellent scenes that leave the sub feeling satisfied and content with the arrangement - sometimes even more than whatever that feeling of "controlling" might give them. And for that, the sub has to contribute, and has to retain their agency.

Which is why this is not like 50 Shades, why that whole series needs to drown out of our culture and be seen for the abusive apologia that it is, and why you are not currently capable of consenting to a D/s relationship and I will not even consider you as a sub until you can at least give some parameters to start with.

The sub may be "dominated" by their Mistress, but they also hold all the power over their own body and mind, D/s illusion to the contrary. Once that agency is relinquished, it is no longer D/s and it becomes abuse.
joreth: (Purple Mobius)
www.theinnbetween.net/polycommitments.html
* I am committed to supporting my partners in being the best version of themselves that they can be.
This one took a couple of revisions to get it the way I liked it. I tried something along the lines of "accepting my partners for who they are", but that led to either being resistant to desired change on their part or to accepting real, problematic flaws that need to be worked on and improved. An interesting bit of trivia about my and Franklin's relationship is that I originally first considered dating him for the purpose of improving myself. I had just read about the concept of New Paradigm Relationships, which advocated using our interpersonal relationships as vehicles for personal growth. I had also just become aware of BDSM and kink, and I was doing a lot of self-analysis and discovering some rather toxic and inhibiting behaviours of my own that I wanted to get rid of. I am deliberate in all things. When my phobia of spiders started negatively influencing my daily life, I decided to stop being afraid of spiders. When I recognized a terror of falling, I rode a free-fall ride in which I had to pull my own rip cord and cause myself to go into the fall. When I finally recognized that I had panic attacks, I chose to not have them anymore. Not everyone can do this, and I can't even do it for everything, but I am deliberate in who I am, so I do what I can to live with intention.

So when I decided that I was inherently kinky but had no idea how to explore it safely and that I had some relationship fears that were preventing me from experiencing a larger range of happiness in my relationships, and I met Franklin who was skilled in just those things, I told him that I was interested in dating him for the purpose of working on those issues with his help. What followed was a decade-long relationship (as of today) that is the healthiest relationship I've ever been in and the eradication or reduction of exactly those inhibitions that I felt were hampering my relationships. Dating Franklin has made me a better person and I'm very different in some key ways than I was 10 years ago, some ways I didn't even anticipate or set out to change. So I really don't want to cut off avenues, even implicitly, for personal growth in my partners. I want to encourage their growth.

But at the same time, related to the previous point, I can't stand the popular romantic ideal "I love you, now change". So when I rejected "accepting my partners for who they are", I considered something like "promoting growth and accepting change". But that led me too closely to "I love you, now change". I don't want to push my partners into being my ideal for them. I don't want a Pygmalion project. I don't view my partners as fixer-uppers and I most certainly don't want them to view me as such. So I ultimately came up with this phrasing that I hope will reinforce two conflicting relationship goals - to accept my partners for who they are without trying to change them into something that I want them to be; and to encourage and support growth and change without letting fear of the outcome of that change lead me to restricting them from things that are in their best interests (but not necessarily mine).
joreth: (Bad Computer!)
I think I might be zeroing in on why it pisses me off so much that people are defending 50 Shades.  This is still rough, but I think I'm getting closer to what's wrong with these defenses.  I've been spending a lot of time learning how to support abuse victims over the last couple of years.  Over and over, the message to victim supporters is "just listen, and accept".  Believe victims, listen to them, accept their story.  You don't have to "take sides" by accusing the abuser or doing anything active against the abuser.  You can even reserve some empathy and support for the alleged abuser.  The important part is that you make a safe space for the victim to heal and to feel.

In all the various rants and criticisms of 50 Shades, what I'm hearing is pain.  Sometimes it's from abuse victims being triggered, and sometimes it's from people who feel such empathy that they feel fear and pain on behalf of all the women who have been abused or who will experience abuse because of the rape culture that 50 Shades contributes to (or, as in the 2 articles I read recently, the abuse and murder of women that were directly linked to 50 Shades).

So, here I am, being told that we need to hear victims and to listen to people's pain and to support them, on one hand.  But on the other hand, when it comes to 50 Shades, I hear "oh, lighten up, it's just a book!" and "geez, don't take things so seriously, it's FICTION for fuck's sake!" and "c'mon, nobody REALLY believes this, so just back off and stop making me feel bad for getting turned on by something that other people are afraid of" with a handful of Dear Muslima responses thrown in (in reference to Dawkins' famous reply basically suggesting that there are worse problems in the world so we shouldn't waste any time talking about the less-worse problems until the worse ones are solved).

In other words, all the defenses of 50 Shades sound exactly like rape apologism.  But, more than that, there are people who are trying to say "this hurts me and this hurts others", and yet people, even those who are normally right there on the support-the-victims side, people are hearing those cries of pain and dismissing them out of hand.

As with polyamory, not having a One Right Way does not necessarily mean that there are also no Wrong Ways.  Some things are morally wrong, some things are factually wrong, some things are less likely to succeed than other methods and therefore "wrong".

And a story that romanticizes abuse, as opposed to a story that simply tells of abuse, is wrong.  So is opposing all those voices crying out in pain.  It's OK to enjoy problematic media.  It's not OK to silence and dismiss criticism of that media, and it's especially not OK to dismiss the cries of abuse that the media is triggering.



This is a comment I made on the FB post for this blog piece.  I'm still trying to find the right words to express what's in my head about this, and the following comment got me another step closer, so I'm adding it to this post:


This revelation is coming from a different angle [from the usual criticisms that 50 Shades is how actual abusers break down their victims which is being touted as "romantic" instead of dangerous], and I'm still teasing it out. I'm seeing a lot of defenses of 50 Shades coming from people who are usually right there on my side in the domestic violence discussions. But when it comes to the book, they suddenly switch sides.

And I think what's niggling at my brain is that this is more than just the standard rape apologism rearing it's ugly head. This is the book itself doing harm, and the defenders aren't being rape apologists for real, but it's as if the *book* is the "abuser" itself and its victims are crying out through their book reviews and criticisms, and people who normally fight against rape culture are now defending *the book* as if the book was an abuser that they are desperately trying to ignore is an abuser simply because it's popular and they don't want to lose access to it.

Like, in the kink community when all those rape accusations started coming out a few years ago. A bunch of people defended the rapists because they were leaders in the community, and if you cut off ties to the rapist, then you couldn't go to the awesome bondage parties anymore because the rapist was the only one with a dungeon who threw parties. So people refused to "take sides" or support the victims, and defended the rapists because they stood to lose something socially if they did so.

The defenses of this book are feeling like the exact same thing. People who are totally in favor of SSC or RACK (Safe, Sane, & Consensual or Risk Aware Consensual Kink for those reading this & who don't know) nevertheless defended rapists in the community because the rapists provided stuff that the defenders didn't want to lose access to, so they did the usual sorts of rationalizations that people do when they're invested in a concept and need to hold onto it in order to protect their investment.  I'm sure many of those rape defenders absolutely believed their own arguments, but they were still doing well-known and well-understood logical fallacies, rationalizations, and other mental gymnastics to avoid facing the fact that someone they knew, trusted, perhaps liked and probably needed for something, did a Bad Thing.  It even has a name - the Sunk Cost Fallacy.

The defenders of this book, who are normally supporters of abuse victims, are defending the book in much the same way, where the book has "abused" people and the victims & supporters are crying out, but the defenders don't want to lose their precious jerk-off story or examine their own attachment to unhealthy relationship patterns, so they're dismissing the cries of pain from those who are feeling harmed by the book.



Hypothesis: Some defenses of 50 Shades may be an example of a Sunk Cost Fallacy, where people dig in their heels to defend something they are invested in, resulting in treating the book in the same way one might treat an accused abuser that one wants to deny is an abuser (usually when one receives something beneficial from association with the accused abuser, such as social status, access to social events, even love or a relationship) and dismissing claims of harm from its victims and victim-supporters.
joreth: (BDSM)
http://www.mamamia.com.au/rogue/fifty-shades-of-grey-review-rosie-waterland/

I've seen a lot, and I mean A LOT, of strawman arguments that it's insulting and overly simplistic to claim that people are too stupid to realize that 50 Shades is fantasy and fiction and that we shouldn't be worried about its impact on society, especially considering the mountains of other material contributing to rape culture in our society.

First of all, it's a strawman because no one is saying that anyone is "too stupid" to know the difference. We're saying that it reinforces an already-existing set of cultural tropes that lead people into abusive situations because we are not told that these situations are abusive. One does not have to be "stupid" to find oneself in an abusive situation. One only has to be unaware of the warning signs, and that's most people. Even people who have been in abusive relationships don't know all the warning signs, and many think that their experience is the ONLY version that counts. I've seen a lot of abuse victims say "I've been in an abusive relationship, and this wasn't it!"

Hell, I've said that myself. Except I said that about a real situation. And that's exactly the problem. I was in an abusive relationship. So I thought I knew what abuse looked like. And when someone else's different abusive situation was presented to me, I, with all my sociology experience and alternative relationship experience and feminist views, I looked right at that relationship and said "I've been in an abusive relationship, and this one isn't the same, therefore it's not abuse." I am deeply ashamed of that now. I could have been a source of support. Instead, I was an enabler.

So, fuck you for saying this movie is no big deal. It is. Not because people are too stupid. Because abuse is that big, that complex, and that difficult to identify.

Second, the reason why we're singling this story out over that aforementioned mountain of material contributing to rape culture is because it's currently the one getting the most positive press, the most defense, and making the most money from deliberately obfuscating, dare I say "blurring the lines", between romance and domestic abuse. Unlike some other examples given, this one is being held up as something to aspire to, whereas most of the other examples (Game of Thrones, just to name one) are depicting graphic violence but not idealizing or romanticizing the graphic violence.

IT'S NOT THE GRAPHIC VIOLENCE that's the problem. It's the ACCEPTANCE of the violence as romance, as desirable, as masking it behind a subculture that already has trouble being understood and accepted in society that's the problem.  Remember, I participate in consensual non-consent, and I do so without a safeword.  I became a weekend sensation one year at Frolicon because of a take-down scene involving me and my two male partners trying to rape me in the dungeon, and I fought so hard that they actually couldn't succeed without my deliberate assistance.  I've been exploring rape fantasies since before puberty.  This is NOT ABOUT THE KINK, it's about actual domestic violence, manipulation, and emotional abuse.

"But I screwed up. I screwed up big time. I went into this film thinking it would be two hours of B-grade hilarity about bondage that I could make fun of. It was actually two hours of incredibly disturbing content about an emotionally abusive relationship that left me really, really shaken. And now I’m embarrassed that I ever joked about it."

"And my opinion was, well, if they’re two consenting adults, and being tied up and slapped is their thing, then what’s the big deal? But I had no idea that Fifty Shades of Grey isn’t just about the sex. It’s also about an incredibly disturbing and manipulative, emotionally abusive relationship."

"And let me be clear to the women who are incredibly defensive of the book that gave them a sexual awakening: When I talk about domestic abuse, I’m not talking about the sex. In fact, I considered the sex to be the least offensive part of the movie."

"Because as I was sitting in that cinema last night, I was completely floored by what I was watching. And by what millions of women had accepted as a relationship to aspire to."

"It’s emotional abuse disguised as a ‘naughty sex contract’. It’s domestic violence dressed up as sexy fantasy.

And it’s a genius, subtle move. Putting this kind of controlling, emotionally abusive relationship in the context of a sexy billionaire who just needs to be loved, makes it ridiculously easy to convince audiences the world over that this kind of behaviour is okay. He’s not some poor drunk with a mullet, hitting his wife for not doing the dishes. Christian is classy. Rich. Educated. He’s not what most women imagine an abuser to be, and his kind of abuse is not what most women would immediately recognise."

"The blurred lines in this film mean any kind discussion about abuse can be easily shut down by those determined to be obtuse because they like the sexy blindfolds.

But there is no doubt in my mind that the film I watched last night was a disturbing and clear depiction of a controlling and emotionally abusive relationship. This was domestic violence. I don’t care how many women learned to embrace sex because of Fifty Shades of Grey. THIS WAS DOMESTIC VIOLENCE."

"This was domestic abuse marketed as Valentine’s Day fun."
joreth: (BDSM)
I've said this before and I'll continue saying it until this fucking book fades into obscurity:

50 Shades of Grey romanticizes abuse and reinforces harmful cultural tropes of coercion and entitlement. It's not the only thing out there that does, but it's the one getting the most positive press right now so it's the one I will speak the loudest about.

I've also seen the Free Speech argument, and that's just bullshit. No one (that I've seen) is saying that we should ban this book. We're saying it's a terrible example of romance and that we shouldn't SUPPORT this book for its messages. That's exactly what the Free Market is all about - shitty products are supposed to go away because the public decides they're shitty products and only good products are supposed to stick around. I'm part of the public who thinks this is a shitty product and I'm exercising my Free Speech to explain why it's harmful and contributing to an already toxic rape culture.

I've made the comparison to Flowers In The Attic and I'll make it again here. That's a series that I LOVED growing up. It depicts one of the most horrific tales of parental abuse, psychological terror, and incest found in popular literature. It's an *awful* story. But it's well-written and we liked it because we collectively like horror stories. Flowers In The Attic was not being sold to us as a Family Values book. It was sold to us as psychological horror, and we loved it for that reason.

50 Shades is psychological horror - it shows us inside the mind of someone who is susceptible and who succumbs to rather heavy-handed mental and emotional abuse. If this story were being sold to us under this framework, I'd be fine with the story. But it's not. This story is being sold to us as the same sort of stalking, entitled "romance" that made Twilight famous, and the same sort of stalking, entitled "romance" that most of the rom-coms and teen dramas of the '80s contained - that exact sort of romanticized abuse that led me into several abusive relationships myself because that's what I was led to believe relationships were supposed to look like.  One commenter I've seen pointed out that the stories this fanfiction is based on is *vampire* fantasy fiction.  Vampires are *predatory*, that's what they are and what they do.  When you take out the supernatural, other-species element away and make him a human, that tips the story over into creepy, stalking, entitlement and abuse.  Of course, I found it creepy when it was Edward too, but whatever.

There are plenty of stories out there that use this same plot line but that don't violate the agency of the characters in it. Objectification, power exchange, consensual non-consent, etc. are all different from abuse in that the actors retain their agency. At any point, anyone can opt-out, whether it's with a safeword, a gesture, a signal, or any number of other things that give *all* the actors in the scene or dynamic the ability to stop.  Not that the BDSM community doesn't have its own share of consent violations, but that's a derailment.  There can be both BDSM and abuse in the same relationship.  But, by definition, BDSM requires consent and abuse is the violation of consent.

Consent has to have the ability to be revoked at any time. If you can't revoke consent, it's not consent. This has *nothing at all* to do with people who like the fantasy of domination or violent sexual activity and that's what a lot of people are getting confused. The criticisms of the stories are being interpreted as a criticism of non-consent fantasy play and/or people who enjoy it.

When the fact of the matter is that many of us who enjoy that very thing (and I'm pretty extreme in my fantasy tastes, including no safeword and heavy violence) are criticizing the lack of consent and agency in the story, the depiction of kinksters as fundamentally broken, and the reinforcement of the trope that "love can fix him". The specific acts of BDSM as depicted in the story are not the focus of the criticism.  Well, there are those of us who criticize the specific acts for being rather boring and unimaginative, but that's another rant.  That's in the same category as the poor quality of the writing and a totally seperate criticism from the consent violations.

If you are into the "hot, sexy, dominating, rich man takes naive girl and introduces her to the world of kink by knowing her internal desires better than she does", I recommend the Training of Eileen series. It has everything in it - he "forces" her to do sex acts, she protests, she finds herself in a D/s relationship that she didn't realize she was signing up for ... the whole works.

The primary difference is that her Dom recognized deeply buried fetishes in her subconscious that she didn't know she had and that were repressed due to social conditioning and parental repression, and everything he does is specially constructed to unlock her innate desires and tendencies - to un-bury those latent kinks. Everything is for *her* pleasure, not his and definitely not an expression of his anger. She may not realize it's for her own pleasure, and personal growth is often uncomfortable, but, as you get further into the story, we do see that this is true.

In 50 Shades, everything they do is for Grey's pleasure (or anger) and they are locked in a power struggle with him attempting to mold Ana into the kind of submissive, docile partner he wants her to be and Ana trying to "fix" him into the more sensitive partner she wants him to be.

I'm not personally into the "he knows me better than I know myself" stories, but the Training of Eileen, by William Vitelli (available on Amazon), is an excellent example of how you can have the *exact same plot* as 50 Shades, only without the abuse. It's also written by a veteran kinkster, so the kink is much more accurate and much more realistic.

**Nowhere in 50 Shades is there a scene like this (click the images for the source):



joreth: (BDSM)
So, everyone knows that I am utterly, emphatically, antagonistically opposed to 50 Shades Of Fucked Up. I've been posting links explaining how it's romanticized abuse pretty much since the books came out. But here's something ... when the books came out, I didn't yet realize that I was in a relationship with an abuser. I've been in a relationship with someone who tried to abuse me. And, for reasons that I plan to go into in another blog post, abuse doesn't seem to "stick" to me. I don't react to abuse attempts the way some other people do, so manipulation and abuse seems to act like a fiery catalyst, ending with an explosion of the relationship. When I was engaged to someone who attempted to abuse me, I got the hell out of there without, I believe, much damage to my own psyche.

But then I dated someone who abused his other partner. And, in spite of my experience, I didn't see it. Actually, I think it may have been because of my experience. Because they had slightly different tactics, and because the victim didn't react the way that I did or like the way victims are portrayed in movies, I couldn't see what was happening right in front of me. To be fair, a lot of it wasn't right in front of me. Most of the abuse was when they were alone. That's how it was able to fly under the radar. But I've since had the opportunity that only space and time can bring, to go over my own experiences and to hear the victim's story of what happened in privacy as well as to read and learn more about what emotionally abusive relationships actually look like.

So, let me tell you, when I found this link of 50 Abusive Moments In Fifty Shades, I could have used a trigger warning. Now, I don't TW or CW my posts. I figure that I am a trigger, so anyone who follows me should just know that. And I generally don't need warnings myself, even though I have plenty of my own triggers on a variety of subjects. I read what I read and that's just how it goes, for me. But I wasn't prepared for the connections this article made in my head. And I think it needs to be shared.

For the most part, negative reviews of 50 Shades are much like any other - they all go into great detail explaining how the book is about an abusive relationship, many of which cite domestic violence resources as evidence, and many of them save a little room to attack the poor literary quality of the writing on top of the content. Many of these reviews are written by people who are not familiar with BDSM but who take care to point out that they are not attacking the BDSM but the abuse, that they see a distinction, and that they are echoing criticisms from their kinky friends and resources. And many of them are abuse survivors. Such as this one.

Here's what got me. In the second book, when Ana seems like she really might leave him (again), Christian goes catatonic. It was this blogger's use of the word "catatonic" that triggered me. See, the ex who abused his other partner did this. When things got too stressful for him, he literally shut down. I'd never seen this before, or so I thought until this article. His other partners had seen it, and they just accepted that his brain was broken and this is what they had to deal with. So I accepted that explanation too. Everyone bent over backwards and treated him like a special needs child until he was coherent again. What I didn't see was the pattern, until much later.

I can remember times when I got legitimately upset with my ex for things. I'd tell him I was annoyed and I'd reject his advances and the next thing I knew, he'd clam up. He'd lie there, all sad-eyes and mouth opening and closing like a fish on land, breathing like like every intake was painful. Sometimes he'd start to shake, too. And I'd panic, thinking "shit, I've broken him!" and set about trying to make it all better again. Sometimes I'd try to touch him and he'd swat my hand away. Sometimes I'd start trying to explain my feelings and he'd shush me. But you can mark my words; the second I started saying I was sorry and that I loved him and was going to support him? Suddenly he'd regain the power of speech and he'd start talking about something painful from his past, until I'd forgotten what I was angry about in the first place, because I was too busy comforting him. That happened pretty much every time I questioned his behaviour, until I just stopped questioning it altogether. It's manipulation. It's calculated emotional and psychological abuse. And okay, maybe I didn't see it as such at the time, because I loved him.

This is from the blog, not me. But I swear I nearly looked up at the URL bar to confirm if it was written by me or by his victim because this was exactly what happened. And this is when I connected his catatonic state to the one my ex-fiancé used.

My ex-fiancé was a pathalogical liar. He started out with small, easily-believable lies so that it wasn't until we were engaged and living together that I finally started hearing lies big enough to detect as lies. Sure, looking back from the vantage point of post-breakup, the pattern is obvious and even the small lies are easy to spot. But when they're still in front of you and the pattern hasn't been revealed yet, it's not so easy. One of his lies, the one that finally smacked me upside the head with a clue-by-four, was that he would conveniently get "sick" after or during an argument or just before I was about to do something that he didn't want me to do.

He had been raised by a stay-at-home mom who was my grandmother's age, and consequently, of a different school of thought on gender and family roles. So he didn't have a single homemaking skill like cooking or laundry because his mother never taught him. When we moved in together, even though I had been clear that I was not going to assume the same role as his mother, all the cooking and cleaning and domestic chores fell to me on top of my part-time job and full-time college schedule, while he worked only one full-time job to "provide" for us. So, when he got sick, he didn't even know how to make himself chicken noodle soup. And I, of course, as the loving fiancé, felt compassion for him in his time of need.

But then I noticed that his upset stomachs always happened when I was winning an argument. And after arguments. And before my night classes when he would be left at home alone. And on days when I went to my mother's house to do laundry and wanted to go without him. And right before my friend's bachelorette party that was no-men-allowed. And... and... and... Yes, I stayed with him through an awful lot of these episodes, but I was already resentful and irritated by about the 2nd or 3rd "upset tummy" and I very quickly lost my compassion. I also didn't stay home to nurse him for each episode either, but he continued to get "sick" each and every time. It was these "illnesses" that made me realize that he was lying, and I began to question all the other "convenient" things that had happened in our relationship too. Those things aren't relevant to this blog post, but I do have another one all about this relationship coming.

So I got the fuck out. The thing is, he wasn't a terribly good liar and he used the same excuses too often. As I said, in the beginning the lies were small so it was easy to believe and rationalize them. But as soon as they had any real importance, his duplicity became fairly obvious. So when the other ex would go catatonic, I didn't connect them because he wasn't obviously, blatantly lying. To this day, I'm not entirely sure how much was faked and how much was a real reaction due to his mental illness (which was diagnosed after we broke up). For all I know, he really, legitimately, could have lost his ability to function each and every time as a reaction that he had little-to-no control over.

But, here's the thing. Mental illness is not an excuse for abuse. There are plenty of people who have mental disabilities who do not abuse and who learn coping mechanisms for functioning in relationships. His breakdowns happened during very specific times and the result of each breakdown was that people would "panic, thinking 'shit, I've broken him!' and set about trying to make it all better again." And as soon as the person he was in conflict with apologized and took all the responsibility for the scene, "Suddenly he'd regain the power of speech and he'd start talking about something painful from his past, until [they'd] forgotten what [they were] angry about in the first place". I spent years trying to talk down a friend from suicide every time he asked me out and I refused to be anything other than a platonic friend, because I didn't know that suicide threats were also a form of abuse. I spent years until I had finally reached my limit and I lashed out at him. That limit never reset itself, so I don't have very much patience for people who "get sick" when we are in conflict. I've been accused of being a cold-hearted bitch for it, but now I see that the people who accuse me of that most often are those who are trying to use tactics that are classified as "abusive" by domestic violence agencies. So I take those accusations with a grain of salt, and I actually feel very grateful about my instinctual reactions even though it hurts to be called "cold" by people who I thought cared for me.

As the blogger here says, "It's very much a thing and it's what made me utterly suicidal when I finally walked away from my abuser, because I thought he'd die because I'd abandoned him and I was a horrible bitch like all the others." This is exactly what abusers do and this is exactly what Christian Grey does to Ana in this story. "And then this chapter goes on to play on the ridiculously dangerous 'if I love this man right, I can cure him' trope", which is right out of the #WhyIStayed hashtag movement (and if you haven't followed that yet, you should). I have, on more than one occasion, found myself in a relationship where I thought to myself that I would "prove" that I'm "not like the others" who were so heartless and cruel as to abandon this poor, mistreated, misunderstood man. But it's not a mark of a good relationship to turn it into a competition between myself and his exes as to who can withstand his bullshit the longest. I am not a better person if I can cope with abuse longer than others. You know that saying that goes "if all your exes are crazy, the thing they have in common is you"? Well, if "all" his exes felt like they had to escape because they couldn't handle his damage, maybe there's a reason for that.

This subject is a difficult one because there are legitimately people out there who need help and they can't do it on their own. There are legitimately people out there who rely on their significant others to get them through rough patches. In fact, I'd argue that this is even one of the functions of a significant romantic relationship - to be someone your partner can rely on in hard times. I've had moments myself when I wasn't sure that I would make it, but a partner helped me through it. So I am not going to tell other people whether their relationships are abusive or not (although I will point out when I see people exhibiting abusive behaviour). I am going to tell you all, however, that this is a common tactic of abuse.

Shutting down mentally, emotionally, and communicatively until after the victim has switched sides and embraces their fault and wrongdoing is one of the steps in the cycle of emotional abuse. I get it, really I do. When I'm upset with my partner, and I really believe that they have wronged me, it might cause me to disconnect from them emotionally, at least for a while, because, hey! they wronged me. When they have seen and acknowledged the wrong that they've done to me, it can result in warming back up to them. Apologies that really display both remorse and understanding are worth considering and can repair a damaged relationship and damaged trust. So this can be extremely difficult to see as an abusive step when you're the victim and you're in the middle of it. This can also be difficult to see as an abusive step when you're the abuser, since abusers are not cartoon villains, twisting their mustachios and plotting on how to manipulate their victims trapped in their dark towers.

This confusion, this masquerade of a real phenomenon, is what an abuser is counting on to continue the abuse, even if they aren't consciously aware that they are abusive. And this social acceptance of abuse as "romance" is what abusers count on to provide them with a steady supply of victims who will have no support network to help rescue them because no one around them will believe that this is wrong. This is why I am so opposed to this series and movie. It is not being billed as an abusive relationship. As I posted the other day elsewhere, this isn't like when my generation and before read Flowers In The Attic - we all knew that book was a horror story. We knew that book series was about twisted minds and abusive relationships. We read it the way we read any horror story. It's completely OK that Flowers exists and that people read it, because it was not intended to get people off and it was not defended as some gateway for the mainstream to learn about "alternative family structures". It was drama and psychological horror.

And so is 50 Shades, but it's not being read that way. It's being billed as "erotica" and it's being defended as an open door for mainstreamers to learn about BDSM. I believe this is wrong, harmful, damaging, and frightening. I'm supporting the boycott solely because I do not wish to reward society for romanticizing abuse, not because I think this story should not exist. I've read the entire Flowers series more than once. If the author was making a fortune because society was holding up that series as the new How To Guide for family values, I'd boycott that series too.
joreth: (Bad Joreth)
This week's episode of Poly Weekly is on abuse in relationships. EVERYONE NEEDS TO LISTEN TO THIS EPISODE, not just poly people. It's not about abuse in poly relationships, it's about abuse in relationships, because poly relationships are really just relationships like any other.

In addition, everyone needs to read this blog post on the community response to abuse: http://emmfett.blogspot.com/2015/01/the-community-response-to-abuse.html

"When I first tried to articulate what I thought the community response to abuse should be, the only thing I could really think was that abusers need good friends. The kind of friends who are willing to tell them when they are not being the best that they can be."

I knew an abuser*, only I didn't know he was an abuser at the time. He had very good, close friends. But his friends were not willing to tell him when he was not being the best that he could be. After stumbling into a handful of roadblocks with him myself, some of his friends actually contacted me privately to tell me that they supported me, they thought he was being unreasonable, they wanted me to know that, but they wouldn't tell him about it because it "wasn't worth the argument".

Each argument I had with him resulted in him going to his group and telling them about the argument, then coming back to me to say "I talked to everyone else, and we all agree that you're wrong." Even knowing that wasn't always true, it's a horrible, isolating feeling that drove a wedge between me and our mutual friends. When I broke off contact with him, I lost my entire social circle because of the isolating effect that siding with an abuser has on his victims, and I wasn't even a "victim" because his abusive tactics never took a hold on me. But I wasn't immune to the effects anyway.

"Both survivors AND abusers need community support.

Specifically, survivors need protection and validation and abusers need support for accountability.

Abuse does not always look like what you think it should look like, and it usually occurs behind closed doors. As a community member, it is important to get rid of the idea that you will know abuse when you see it. It is ignorant to think that we will always be able to spot abuse in our communities."

I thought I knew what abuse looked like because I've been on the periphery of relationship sociology and psychology my entire life. And yet, when it happened RIGHT IN FRONT OF ME, I missed it. I couldn't see it, and as a consequence, I contributed to it - I enabled it. To my horror and shame, I didn't hear and I didn't see someone very dear to me being abused right in front of my own eyes.

"People who don’t want to change will often tell you that they don’t change because of the way that you are asking. This is horse puckey. Change is a personal matter, and it’s hard no matter what. If you want to change, no amount of assholery will be able to stop you. If you don’t, no amount of gentle crooning will make it happen. ... The methods that will get through to someone are varied. I don’t buy the idea that if we were just all nice that we could stop the bullying."

There are 2 basic camps in the atheist communities - those fire and brimstone atheists and those who walk around telling everyone not to be a dick. The thing is, the fire and brimstone atheists are not telling the DBAD guys to shut up. We know that it takes a wide variety of methods to change the minds of a wide variety of people. Go with your strengths. Mine is anger.

"Be willing to distance yourself from people who display abusive behaviors

Sometimes you can’t be a friend of someone who is abusive unless you support their beliefs. It’s hard to fracture your community that way, especially when it is already small. It’s hard when you realize that maybe you can’t just invite everyone to your party."

I'm glad there are people out there with a softer touch who are willing to be that bridge and try to help others back on the path of Greatest Courage and Integrity. I, however, am the one who will throw the party who doesn't just invite "everyone". When I created the local poly discussion group, I deliberately held our meetings in our local LBGTQ center because our previous community had a problem with homophobia. I created an environment that made homophobes uncomfortable. They were not invited to my party.

Sometimes, I *am* in a position to be connected to both sides of a toxic relationship, because the circumstances give me enough space to do so safely (I am not a target, I am not personally affected by the abuser so I can maintain my temper and be that "softer touch", the victims have enough distance with me to not be overly affected, etc.). But when there is a conflict, I am choosing the safety of the victims of abuse.

"'I was victimized by acts of control' is not the same as 'I was victimized by the other person’s resistance to my control.'"

This is SO SO SO SO important. I cannot stress enough how important this statement is. This is the difference between real abuse and entitlement. This is the difference between racism and "reverse racism". This is the difference between misogyny and "misandry". This is the difference between oppression and privilege.

As someone once told me, the victim in an abusive relationship is the one who is struggling to escape. The one holding on is not the victim. This is *obviously* an oversimplification, because there are plenty of reasons why victims remain with their abusers, as even a cursory glance at the #WhyIStayed and similar hashtags will tell you. But, underneath all the complexity and all the confabulations and all the confounding factors, if you are being hurt by acts of control, then you are being harmed. If you are being hurt because someone is resistant to your attempts to control them, then you are doing the harming - both to your victim and to yourself. Theists are not being oppressed because gays want to get married.  Those theists are feeling hurt because gay people are resisting their control.  When you attempt to impose rules on your partner, and your partner says those rules are hurting them and they behave in ways that are resistant to those rules, and you feel hurt because they are rejecting your attempts to restrict their behaviour, you are the one doing the hurting, even if you are doing it out of your own feelings of pain or insecurity.  You need different types of support. And I will hold you accountable.



*I've actually known quite a few abusers, and have been in relationships with several abusers. I have a whole post in the can elaborating on this very subject. I have a particular quirk that leaves me somewhat resistant to abuse - not totally immune to their effects, but abuse tactics tend to backfire when people try them on me. So, for much of my life, I was not aware of what emotional abuse looked like even when I saw it first-hand because I do not react to attempts to manipulate and control me the way that an abuse victim does when the abuse attempts are successful. So it is only much later that I learned to recognize what emotional abuse looked like in my previous relationships, and I am still learning. What I have learned so far is that I have actually had numerous encounters with abusers throughout my life, and that thought is rather chilling. Pulling the wool over my eyes, tricking me, and making me not see what's right in front of my nose tends to make me angry, and when I get angry, I get stubborn and impatient, so I have very little compassion or tolerance for abuse now that I know some things to look for. I'm sure many of my regular readers are familiar with my low-tolerance reaction by now.
joreth: (Self-Portrait)

I'm a fervent believer in the Me Manual - an "instruction manual" telling people how to deal with yourself.  It can include your quirks, your fears, your Love Languages, your kinks, your triggers, your medical history, whatever.  The point is that I am strongly opposed to treating partners and loved ones as if they have magic crystal balls and can divine what you want and don't want in relationships.  So I put together a Me Manual, detailing all of those kinds of things.  In fact, it's here, in my LJ, under the tag Me Manual.

But [livejournal.com profile] cunningminx, of the Poly Weekly podcast, has a background in marketing and has put together a User Manual template that is short and to the point (also available at the end of her book 8 Things I Wish I'd Known About Polyamory).  It's much easier reading than my jumbled novel-length posts sparked by random thoughts and situations.  So I've taken her template and created my own based on it.  This covers pretty much all the same things as my Me Manual does, but in a single, digestible format.  I'll probably end up posting it on my website in the About Me section too.  But here it is:

Part A
Family Background/History
(this might explain some of my quirks)


  • I'm an oldest child.  Excellent student, overachiever, bored easily, often in competition with my younger sister who excelled at everything I didn’t & who felt challenged at everything I was good at.

  • I am a Gifted child. This means that I am incredibly smart, but I was praised for *being* smart, not for trying hard.  Consequently, I get embarrassed or frustrated when something doesn’t come easily to me, so I will often not bother trying or I’ll give up quickly and move onto other things and that my potential in many areas has not been met because I gave up and moved on.  But it also means that I have a great deal of interests and knowledge, and I’m proud of that.  And it means that I will grasp things fairly quickly and will probably have a decent working understanding of certain topics that I have formed opinions or conclusions about and may not wish to hear an opposing viewpoint if I feel that I’ve heard it already and rejected it.  It may be the first time you’ve spoken about it to me, but it’s not the first time I’ve heard it.

  • My family is the classic American “normal” nuclear family. Catholic parents who married right after high school, still together, 2 kids, dog, suburbs, one scholarly kid & one jock kid.  They believed very strongly that family was forever, so fights don’t generally frighten me & I don’t assume there is anything wrong with the relationship just because there is the occasional fight.  People who do fear fights or see them as automatic symbols of relationship distress confuse and frustrate me.

  • I'm independent. I was raised to be independent, but really, this is an internal trait that far exceeds what my parents actually intended to instill.  I like lots of alone time, I like taking care of myself, I take pride in developing the types of skills that allow me to be self-sufficient.  However, I may occasionally feel a little bit left out when everyone in my life has someone to depend on and I end up taking care of myself when I’m sick and attending parties alone.  So very small gestures of assistance or partnership are incredibly meaningful to me, as long as they are not done after I insist that I don’t want the assistance and with the acknowledgement that I am still capable of doing it on my own.

  • I have abandonment issues because of a long history of men “trying out” polyamory for my sake, only to dump me for the first girl to come along who wants them but doesn’t want polyamory.  I also have a long history of men just up and leaving with no contact or explanation (i.e. the Disappearing Act form of breakup).  I need lots of assurances that whatever new partner comes along, that I won’t be “replaced”, that my partners intend to stick around for a while, that breakups will be civil and respectful and compassionate, and that my partners have a commitment to being “friendly exes” themselves.  After a recent series of very bad breakups, I have an even larger amount of anxiety about people’s breakup skills and dedications to polyamory or to me in particular.

  • I’m adopted so I have an, apparently, unusual ability to see poly analogs in monogamous society.  Most of what I learned about how to manage multiple adult families and how to love multiple people came from my loving, heteronormative, family-oriented, monogamous family.  It also means that I’m very sensitive about intentional families and intentional family-planning.  I feel very strongly about issues of family being one of choice, not blood, and in the right to choice in parenting, and extrapolating those concepts to polyamory and other family and relationship issues.

Part B: How to turn me on -
Emotionally


  • Make time for me but don’t demand all of my time. Not enough regular contact and I’ll assume you’re not that into me and I’ll just go about my life without putting too much thought into how it affects you.  This could even happen after a relationship has been established.  If I feel that you don’t have time for me but I’m not otherwise unhappy about the relationship enough to breakup, I’ll just start to withdraw myself and start going about my life with less consultation with you, transitioning to a more casually structured relationship even if I maintain a deep emotional connection.

    But too much *demand* for regular contact and I’ll start to feel confined.  I want regular contact with my partners, but I also want flexibility from my partners with regards to my chaotic and unconventional schedule.  In order, my preference for “contact” is: face-to-face / in-person time; phone conversations; online chat & public social networking interaction (tied); Skype; texting & email (tied).  One exception is that public social networking interaction that is positive/complimentary/flirty/ or otherwise publicly acknowledges & reinforces a relationship is also very meaningful for me.  But that’s Words of Affirmation Love Language, whereas the methods of contact fall under Quality Time Love Language.  Both are equally meaningful to me.  If you aren’t familiar with the Five Love Languages, ask me and we’ll talk more on the subject.  It’s pretty extensive.

  • Ask your partner(s) to reach out to me. I prefer family-oriented inclusive networks, and having a metamour reach out to me reinforces the impression that my partners & metamours share my family values.  It also greatly reduces my initial anxiety at the beginning of a relationship regarding the question of whether or not I am wanted or if there are any hidden anti-poly feelings or traps waiting for me.

  • Share my values on personal sovereignty, freedom in relationships, trust, and personal security.  I am very attracted to people who are secure in themselves and their relationships to not feel the need for emotional crutches like veto power & behaviour-limiting relationship rules.  Even better if you’re not just personally secure enough to not need those things, but if you actively disapprove of those things and see the harm they cause everyone involved, not just the incoming partner who is typically the most disadvantaged in these situations.

  • Call me with stuff you think is funny / happy. I've developed an aversion to people with tremendous drama in their lives, and one of the things I've grown to appreciate is a partner who will share joy, not just pain. I’m also prone to the cynical (and I don’t particularly want anyone to try and change that about me), but I do appreciate having happy, joyful, optimistic people around to balance me out.  Making me smile or laugh is a great skill.

  • Be willing to cry in front of me. I'm touched when someone trusts me enough to cry in front of me. Show me your vulnerability, and I'll show you mine. Very few people get to see it.

  • Be willing to say "I was wrong" Admitting you were wrong with humility and without defensiveness is a huge turn-on for me. Not being able to do this is a deal-breaker.  And be patient with me when I have a hard time doing the same, that’s also an emotional turn-on for me.

  • Be willing to stand your ground when you believe I’m wrong. As the episode from Sex And The City goes, I’m looking for someone who is strong enough to catch me.  I don’t want a yes-man, but I don’t want an argumentative jerk either.  I want people who are strong and confident and who treat me like a person, not a fragile angel or a goddess or a superstar.  Listen to me, even if I'm ranting. Chances are that once I think you understand my point of view, I'll figure out all on my own that you're right on quite a few of your main points.

  • Let me leave.  If I leave the room or ask to stop the conversation when things are getting tense, it’s because I’m becoming overwhelmed and I’m feeling attacked or cornered.  I need to escape to give myself a chance to calm down and think more rationally.  When I leave, I’m not waiting the obligatory 5 seconds to see if you come after me.  I’m really trying to escape, so please just let me go.  If you have the ability to switch gears and change the subject to something lighthearted, especially if you can make me laugh, then I don’t have to physically leave the room; I just need to emotionally “leave” the argument or situation, so you can ask me to stay and I’ll stay.

  • Tell / show me you like me for who I am, not just for my hot ass and not just because I'm “Joreth”. I'm really proud of my work and my accomplishments.  In addition to a long history of men who leave when they find a “real girlfriend”, I also have a long history of men who either date me or fuck me because they think I’m hot or they’re somewhat starstruck, but they don’t seem to really like me very much.  They build up this model in their head of who they think I am or who I should be, and they tend to get resentful when I behave exactly according to who I told them I was instead of the model they made me out to be. So if you show an interest in getting to know all of me, not just the fun bits, I'll be really grateful, and it will help build trust. I’m looking for people who don’t just “put up with” or tolerate these parts of me, like my temper or my “masculinity”, I’m looking for people who celebrate those difficult or messy parts of me, even if they are also trying or frustrating at times.

  • Rub my shoulders, neck, and back, and don't be stingy with the pressure. Show me you have nice, strong hands and aren't afraid of all the tension I keep in my neck and shoulders.  Don’t use massages as a prelude to sexual encounters, as flirting, as an excuse to get your hands on my body, or try to “sneak” in sex or erotic touching.  My back is damaged & I am in constant pain (some days are better than others).  Back rubs do not equal “sex” to me, and attempts to make them erotic really anger me.  If you really want to get in my good graces, give me a therapeutic massage and keep the sex out of it.  Do it because you care about the pain I’m in and want to help, not as a selfish excuse to get something out of it for yourself.

  • Read my writings and follow me on social networking sites.  I get not having a lot of time for the internet, but I spend a lot of my own time there, so I spend a lot of me there.  If you want to really know me and who I am, be a presence in my internet life and read the things that I take the time to write.  The less in-person time we spend together, the more important this is to me.

  • Get to know my other partners.  Taking the initiative to reach out and get to know my other partners is a HUGE emotional turn on for me.  Especially Franklin ([livejournal.com profile] tacit), as he is someone I admire outside of just being my partner.  He often expresses the things I want to say in a more lucid way than I can.  So it’s important to me that my other partners read his works and interact with him.  But it’s also important that my partners get to know each other even those who aren’t Franklin.  When my partners are local, I need to be able to have Quality Time when multiple partners and/or metamours are present, so it’s important that they get along with each other even if they don’t become best friends outside of me.  When my partners aren’t local, I need to have multiple eyes and checks on my behaviour and my emotional state, so coordinating and comparing notes with each other is a valuable tool for keeping abreast of my well-being.  Also, being interested and willing to contact each other independently of me shows that you want the kind of inclusive, interconnected network that I want and resistance to reaching out to my other partners often signals an underlying issue with polyamory or my other partners specifically.  Even if it doesn’t signal that in you, I will read it as such because of past patterns and it will distress me if you don’t initiate or respond to contact and attempts at finding your own friendly path with my other partners.

  • The Five Love Languages are a good start to the kinds of things that I need to feel loved and how I express love.  I am multi-lingual; I need for love to be shown to me in Quality Time and Words of Affirmation the most, but very closely following is Acts of Service and Physical Touch.  I could write a whole Me Manual just on how I need each of these Languages to be expressed and how each can be used to hurt me in especially damaging ways, so talk to me about this and check in every so often to see which Language is expressing itself the most at any given time.  Gift Giving is tricky with me and it doesn’t mean as much to me as the other languages, so if you like to express your love by buying gifts, it’s best to stick with my online Wishlist or to outright ask me how I feel about something.  I’m also terrible about knowing what to buy, so if you feel loved when you receive gifts, I’ll need a wishlist from you.

Sexually: Flirting

  • Quote my favorite movies, or movies in my favorite genres even that particular movie isn’t one of my favorites.

  • Fix my computer/server issues or car issues. I consider myself technically & mechanically competent, but I am extremely turned on by guys who are as competent as I am, or more, especially in those areas that are not my areas of expertise, like computers & cars. Only do so because you want to help me and not with the expectation that I will "reward" you for helping me by offering sexual or relationship favors. Kindness is hot, entitlement is not.

  • Prefer to wear practical clothing. I especially like geek clothing, stagehand clothing, and “country” wear for casual or practical.  There’s nothing like a hot ass in a pair of worn jeans or a shirt that shows off biceps and work-roughened forearms to get me going.  I also like it when guys are ready to “do stuff”.  When something needs to be fixed, or we go outside in the heat, or we’re working, or we’re just goofing off and playing around, I like a guy who isn’t worried about damaging his clothing or dressing in clothes that won’t let him do what needs to be done.

  • But also enjoy dressing up for special occasionsIt’s also incredibly attractive to me when guys take the effort to dress up for occasions, either in costume or in nicer outfits for dinner, dancing, or other formal events.  Knowing how (or expressing interest in learning) to dress for the occasion, whether it’s up for special events or down for practical daily stuff, is attractive to me.  Do the emotional labor of paying attention to fashion and its consequences so that I, as the woman, am not the only one held responsible for attire since the consequences for improper attire of either gender tend to fall more heavily upon the woman in hetero relationships. Shouldering emotional labor is attractive. Bonus points for coordinating outfits with me.  This is not exclusive – coordinating outfits with multiple people is also win.

  • Go dancing with me. I really love a guy who dances or who is willing to learn how to dance.  If dancing isn’t your thing, being interested in watching me dance is another option.  This goes back to liking me for who I am – appreciating one of my skills which is a particularly strong passion of mine.

  • Send me sexy texts. I enjoy little random reminders of our sexual relationship, but especially when they are stand-alone flirting and do not have any expectations attached to them.

  • Use puns & double entendres. I like humor with multiple meanings, and if something can be said that is completely innocent but also taken sexually, I’ll probably find it amusing.

  • Options for Joreth-friendly dates: ice cream; rock climbing; ballroom & swing dancing; something physical or unusual; interesting meals; movies & hot chocolate afterwards to talk about the movie; photography expeditions; exploring or urban spelunking; learning something new; attending science-themed and/or educational event; attending skeptical events; exploring shared kinks (but only after we have discussed and developed a kinky aspect to our relationship).

  • Share my interests with me and share your interests with me.  I have a lot of interests, not just sex, poly and kink. If you love to cook, I would love someone to cook an elaborate dinner with or to appreciate someone’s cooking skill if you want to cook for me. If you are into interior design/home renovation, I'd love someone to brainstorm and carry out home improvement projects with. If you dance, I'd love someone to hone my dance skills with. If you travel, I'd love someone to go on trips with--sightseeing in Europe, relaxing on the beach in Mexico, exploring Tibet, rambling through Ireland or New Zealand, cruising to Alaska, discovering local Florida.  Share your interests with me, involve me in your world, and engage my participation.

  • I do not drink caffeine, alcohol, or smoke any substance, so being sober around me is a good start to any attempt at flirting, as is taking me places where sobriety will not detract from my enjoyment of the environment.

  • Be aware of times of the day when I’ll be most receptive to flirting. I probably have Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome, which is when the circadian rhythm is off by several hours.  This means that I am not a morning person, and nothing you can do or say will change that.  Getting on a “schedule” will not fix it, going to bed early won’t fix it, waking me up with sex won’t fix it.  My best times for interactions start in late afternoon.  If you can stay up late with me, bonus.

    I also probably have OCD, which means that if my mind is on something like a project or a task, I will be unreceptive to being interrupted with sexy times, although flirting without attached expectations may be appropriate, depending on the task that is distracting me.

Sexually: Sex

  • Casual sex: I have a wildly fluctuating libido, so I will go for short bursts of wanting sex all the time to long months, sometimes years, of not wanting sex at all.  This means that when I have a deeply intimate local partner, I don’t generally have enough attention or libido left over for casual sex and I find casual sex partners to be fun but ultimately not fulfilling.  So I generally don’t expend much energy in pursuing or maintaining casual sex partners.  However, I am also somewhat opportunistic about sexual activities.  If a rare opportunity comes up for a particular sexual activity that I might find interesting, I tend to want to act on that opportunity even if it means taking on a casual partner or one-night-stand to do it and even if my libido is otherwise in a low point.

    I have to be in the right frame of mind for a casual sex relationship, and I am usually aware of when I am and am not capable of such a relationship.  If I am not in the right frame of mind, I will likely be very unreceptive to casual sex propositions.  If you are hoping to have a casual sex relationship with me, it is absolutely paramount that you accept rejection gracefully and do not continue to push.  If I change my mind, I will approach you.  If you push, I am not likely to change my mind.

    If you are hoping to have an emotionally intimate relationship with me, I need the freedom to pursue the occasional casual sex relationship as certain opportunities arise without you feeling like it is a commentary on our relationship (this is particularly important if I become interested in a casual partner while I am in an otherwise low libido phase).  I accept temporary safety boundaries imposed between us due to my casual partners, as I would probably request the same of you.  I also prefer to have partners that do not desire casual partners themselves, at least not often, because of those safety boundaries – I don’t want to have many boundaries between myself and my partners so I’d rather be with people who do not do the sorts of things that result in me needing higher safety boundaries between us.  But I am not imposing a “no casual partners” rule for my partners.  I am just more comfortable with partners who themselves have a low desire for casual partners.  It’s a double standard, I’m aware of that, and I understand if you don’t like it.

  • Libido:  As mentioned above, I have a wildly fluctuating libido.  I am beginning to suspect I have what’s called a “responsive libido”, which is where the default position is “off” but it can be turned to “on” in response to the correct stimuli.  But it also means that even when it’s “on”, it can quickly be turned to “off” with the incorrect stimuli.  The difference, it is explained, is that people with non-responsive libidos think “hmm, I’m aroused, let’s go find someone to have sex with,” while someone with a responsive libido thinks “hey, this activity is arousing me, I guess I can have sex.”

    It’s more nuanced than that, and we can talk more about it, but the gist is that my libido will take a sharp nosedive after the NRE has worn off and it’s not a statement on the relationship or my feelings for my partner.  I will lose interest in sex and I will stop initiating.  This can be very difficult on my partners, but repeated attempts to stimulate my libido when it drops usually result in lowering the libido further.  I need partners who have a strong sense of self-esteem who can withstand the drop in sex without feeling it as an assault on their attractiveness or the state of our relationship, and who can work with me on compromises so that I can continue to show and express my love and affection without instigating the resentment that comes from implications of entitlement and neediness (i.e. low self-worth) that many attempts to boost my libido often come with.

    That all being said, with the right context and contact, my libido can often be coaxed into being “on”.  Check in with me to see if the context and contact is right at any given moment.

  • What is sex to me? To me, in general, sex is anything that I am most likely to get an STI from such as vaginal or anal penetration or oral sex or genital contact as well as anything that contributes to and/or results in sexual arousal and/or orgasm such as fromage (dry humping), “making out”, heavy petting, “snogging”,  sexting and webcaming. I do not consider kissing to be sex, but it is a behaviour that can transmit an STI, as well as other infections.  I have a chronic respiratory condition, so when it comes to safety measures, I do include kissing in STI and safety discussions even though I don’t consider it “sex” in the same way that I consider other acts.  Also, I separate BDSM scening and sex; kink for me does not necessarily involve sex or sexual contact, so in discussions about sex and/or safety, BDSM is not included unless a specific activity also falls into the category of STI transmission, sexual contact, orgasm, and possibly arousal.

    I also separate out “things that are a safety issue” and “things that are an emotional issue” with regards to sex.  So even though I don’t consider kissing to be sex, I’m still going to want to be notified about intentions to kiss and as soon after kissing has happened as possible when my partner’s other partner is not an established partner, and only part of the reason I want to be notified will have to do with safety issues.  When a partner has an established partner, I am much more comfortable with not knowing about each specific instance of sexuality.  But I have difficulty with change and I have my own emotional issues (discussed elsewhere in this document), so knowing ahead of time that there is potential for sexuality with a new partner, knowing that there is *interest* even if the other person isn’t aware of the interest / hasn’t expressed reciprocal interest, and being notified as soon afterwards as possible of a new sexual development or encounter is very important to me and I may ask for emotional reassurances.

  • People often ask me what I'm into sexually. And in truth, the answer is, "It depends." There are a few activities I know I enjoy, to be sure. I've discovered, though, that it's often not the activity; it's the dynamic between the people and their respective levels of enthusiasm for and skill at the activity that matters. If you do something really well or have some special skill or kink, just let me know. Even if it's not my favorite thing now, it might be with you. And my favorite thing now might not be all that great with you. Let's just see what we're into together, shall we? That being said...

Turn ons:

  • Grabbing me by the hair but not pulling.  I do not like the pain of hair pulling at all, but I do like the intensity of emotion or passion that is often signaled by gripping the hair and I enjoy the use of hair grabbing to control me.

  • ForcefulnessOnce we are in an established relationship and once I feel comfortable and safe with you and once I feel accepted by your other partners, I am really turned on by a partner manhandling me and pinning me to a wall or a bed, or pretty much anything in that vein.  Slam me up against a wall (protecting my head with your hand), push me down, hold my wrists above my head or behind my back, and don’t let up when I resist unless I say “ow” or “stop”.  If I say “no” in this context, I might not mean “no”.  You have to be able to tell by the tone of my voice and if  I’m explaining something seriously whether “no” means no or is just part of the aggressive scene.

  • Watch porn with me. Not boring straight porn. Gay and/or gang-bang porn.  And parody porn, although that might illicit more laughter than arousal.

  • Flirt with me in public.  Use double entendres and over-the-top promises or threats.  Make it light-hearted, something that can be taken as a joke.  You can even flirt by saying things that are totally off-limits in real life or that you do not actually intend.  The point is to make me smile and think sexy thoughts, not to be a serious negotiation.

  • Tease me.  Make promises/threats, touch me in almost-erotic zones, flirt with me in public, steal me away from work or public events for quick make-out sessions and then send me back while I’m still hot and bothered, draw out the foreplay until I beg to be fucked.  Foreplay can last a few minutes, a few hours, or even a few days.  Just pay attention to see if I’m enjoying the foreplay or if I’m starting to get frustrated.  If it goes on for too long, I’ll lose my arousal.  But don’t just go straight for the nipples, the crotch, or the sex.  I need to get worked up first.  However, if you’ve been teasing me well, like getting me aroused while I’m at work, then when I finally do get you in a place where sex is appropriate, you can go straight for the sex with no warm-up because the warm-up will have been happening already.

  • Be a good kisser. This is very subjective, so what it means is to pay attention to how I'm kissing you and attempt to match my style (as I'll be doing with you), as well as modifying the style for different purposes. I love deep kissing and that's a huge turn on, but I also like sweet, tender kisses, and quick I'm-just-thinking-of-you-and-wanting-to-connect-with-you kisses. I like kisses that start out chaste, and then turn flirty and teasing, and then turn passionate, just like sex. And I especially like partners who like to kiss just for the sake of kissing not only as a prelude to something else. If you're interested in some hot, passionate kissing (especially in public, or pulling me aside privately when we're in a place where that kind of kissing is not appropriate) that gets us both worked up but then ends with the kissing and we go about our business, that's almost a guaranteed way to keep me coming back for more.

  • Give me oodles of aftercare. Cover me with a blanket and hold me. Let me cry if that’s where I go afterwards.  Let me ramble if *that’s* where I go.  Let me sit in silence.  Have my favorite after comfort food ready for me – milk chocolate Symphony bar and Martinelli’s sparkling apple cider.  If that’s not available, one of the many sweets that I enjoy will work too, but that’s my favorite.

  • Make sure I get home safely, and call me the next day to connect.  Live chat online may work as a substitute, but texting is less preferable, especially if I have to work the next day.  I hate back-and-forth conversations by text, but I love small, immediate reminders of my loved ones and our time together.

Turn offs:

  • Insulting your former partners. I understand needing to complain about past relationships or being honest about the problems or flaws with past relationships, but guys who call their exes “crazy” or who can’t maintain any friendships post-breakup are a major turn off and red-flag for me. The same could be said for present partners. If you don't respect your current partners, then I'll have trouble respecting you for your choice to be with them.

  • Lack of communication. I fall in love with the brain first, so if you can’t talk to me (or your partners can’t), we probably won’t go anywhere.

  • Being too popular / high turnover. Guys with five or more partners or high partner turnover will probably find dating me challenging, since I like to take the time to get to know my metamours.

  • Dating too young. Guys who are dating in the 18-25 range tend to enjoy either the drama or glib dependence of youth, and I have a low tolerance for both in my dating life.

  • Not getting tested. Not being willing to wear protection and not getting tested regularly are hard limits for me.  Let me repeat that – this is a deal-breaker.  Getting tested and wearing protection just with me isn’t even enough.  I am only interested in sexual relationships with guys who are interested for their own sakes in getting tested regularly and using protection when appropriate no matter who their partners are or how many they have.

  • Not respecting feminism or agency or autonomy or personal sovereignty.  You might not understand that feminism is all about the latter three, and so don’t consider yourself a feminist.  That’s OK, education can clear that up.  But the issues of agency et. al are literally about my very humanity, so not respecting them means not respecting me as a human being, and not respecting me is a turn off.  Any current connection with MRA or PUA culture is a deal-breaker.  Libertarianism or admiration for Ayn Rand also don’t work too well for me.

  • Missing The Point Pedantry.  I get very irritated when I’m trying to make a point and all knowledge of who I am, my history, precedent, social convention, casual language, and poetic license get pushed aside in order to argue with me some issue of pedantry that misses the point of what I’m trying to say.

  • Co-dependency.  Just like I need my partners to respect my own agency and autonomy, I need for my partners to be autonomous, independent individuals who choose to share their lives with me and their other partners because they want to, not because they feel that they need to.

  • Unwillingness to explore sexuality.  We don’t have to have all the same kinks, and you can have tried and ruled out certain things before I came along, and you can even have thought about something and decided without trying it that you’re not interested in it.  But even with our overlapping Venn Diagram of sexual interests, we will each have interests that the other has not explored yet, and I need for my partners to exhibit a sense of curiosity and active exploration about sex and BDSM in order to remain sexually attracted to someone.  “Vanilla” sex is fine, even if that’s the majority of our sex.  It just can’t be the only kind of sex we have or I will get bored.  Since my sex partners are not interchangeable, “getting it from someone else” won’t solve my problem.

  • Chivalry.  I absolutely loathe any and all expressions of sexism, even "benevolent sexism", and that includes gender-based “politeness”.  Treating me different from others because of my gender (as opposed to our unique relationship or connection or personal preferences), even if you treat me “better” is not acceptable in any form.  I like nice people.  Gestures of politeness on the basis of my gender or to live up to some standard of your own gender (i.e. being a “gentleman”) are not nice.  This is not up for debate and I am not interested in hearing justifications or why it’s “different” when you do it.  If you can’t understand why I have a problem with this, we will have much bigger differences later on.

  • Woo.  I am a skeptical atheist and I have lost all patience for being in romantic relationships with people who view the world in a fundamentally different way than I do when I consider that worldview empirically wrong.  I have no problem being friends with people of different worldviews, but if I’m going to build an intimate romantic connection with someone, I have to be compatible with them on the most fundamental levels, including what reality is and how to approach life.

joreth: (Self-Portrait)
Someone asked me the following question, and this was my off-the-cuff answer (with a couple of minor additions & polishes after the fact):

What is your "price of admission" in a romantic relationship? Something that could be considered a flaw or a drawback, but that someone has to deal with to be in a relationship with you.


  • I'm independent, solo poly (even if I choose to someday cohabitate and/or marry, I will still be an independent person who happens to be partnered, never "half of a single unit"). I make my own decisions. I ask for input and I consider how my actions will affect my partners, and I will try to make them part of the decision-making process if I can, based on how these decisions affect them, but ultimately, I make my own decisions about my life, I need to be seen as an independent, unique, and individual human being by my partner and the world around me, and that's that.

  • I still need public acknowledgement of my relationships and to present as part of a "couple" at social functions, even though I'm solo poly (to me, presenting as a "couple" is not exclusive and does not preclude my partners from also presenting as part of other couples, even at the same events, nor does it preclude me from presenting as part of a couple with other partners, even at the same events).

  • I'm a mass of contradictions on the surface and it may take some digging to understand the motivations that actually make my contradictions totally not contradictory.

  • I'm poly and that's not changing, although the structure of my network will ebb and flow and change over time and I will occasionally have only one, two, or no partners.  The number of my partners and/or metamours is not what makes me poly, it's how I view & structure relationships that make me poly. I will never leave my other partners for someone, and I will never be comfortable dating someone who wants only me, unless he's even more solo & independent than I am and the reason he wants only me is because he spends so much time alone that he can't fit in another partner and still give me the time I need from him, and it's his choice that he's fine with.

  • I'm atheist. I fucking slam the needle on atheism. I'm anti-theist. I'm firebrand atheist. And I will mercilessly mock religion and supernatural beliefs. My friends know this about me and accept it of me because I don't pick fights with them over their beliefs, and they can choose to read my social media or not, knowing how I feel and that I will express my opinions here. Although I will challenge them if they say something to me directly that I know to be false, I am perfectly capable of holding my tongue and not *bringing up* my opinions against supernaturalism right at my friends because I can still like people as people even if I think they have silly ideas. However, I am *not* perfectly capable of holding my tongue with intimate partners and I need for them to be on board with my brand and style of atheism.

  • I'm feminist. That actually explains most of the above. And a good portion of below too.

  • I'm a ballroom and swing dancer. If my partner won't dance with me, I'll dance with others. Even if my partner *will* dance with me, it's proper ballroom etiquette to dance with others, and I happen to like that etiquette because it's primarily responsible for making me as good of a dancer as I am, since I've only had 2 real classes in dancing. And I will always feel like something is missing in my relationships where dancing is not an important shared activity.  I view dancing as a metaphor for life and relationships, and vice versa.  It's hard to overstate how important dance is to me.

  • I have a very dangerous job and I love it.

  • I have a job that keeps me poor, and I love it (the job, not being poor).

  • I cuss. A lot.

  • I do not want kids. Like, not even a little bit. And I'm pro-abortion.

  • I do, however, enjoy having pets. And those pets will always come first because they are dependent creatures that I have accepted responsibility for. Some days I have a reasonable handle on this, and some days I don't. So I might appear inconsistent in when I prioritize my pets above my people, but it's consistent in my own head and that's where it counts.  You do not get a say in how I prioritize them, and you do not get a say in when I'm being unreasonable about handling my responsibilities.

  • I'm a teetotaler. I don't drink *at all*, and I don't do any kind of drugs that aren't prescription and absolutely necessary for medical recovery or treatment. I'm not opposed to those around me drinking alcohol, but I don't date people who use drugs or smoke cigarettes (but I'm fine with people who used to or people who try things once or twice for the experience and that's enough), and I'm only going to barely tolerate social drinking and vaping. I will never stop hoping that someday my partners (who do them) will give up those things too, although I won't pressure anyone to change what they don't want to change.  I will, however, assist in their efforts to quit if they want.

  • I'm a cranky, cynical motherfucker who gets into fights on the internet, even though they cause me massive anxiety and make me disappear for several days. This isn't likely to change.

  • As [livejournal.com profile] tacit has once said, I'm a little bit scary sometimes. And I consider that a compliment.

  • I'm kinky. I don't have to have kink in all my relationships, but I am kinky and that's not likely to change.

  • My gender identity today is "tomboy". It may not be that tomorrow. But whatever it is, I probably still won't want to have sex with your girlfriend.

  • I am inconveniently straight. Yes, I find it an inconvenience. No, that doesn't mean that you can find some magical phrase that will "fix" this. On the rare occasion that I do engage in sexual activity with people of female biology, it's usually twigging some kind of gender play in my head, so I *still* consider myself straight even in that context. If you're wigged out by my fluid gender or by me experiencing mixed or different genders during my sex, we're really going to be a bad match.  And I still probably won't want to have sex with your girlfriend.  But I might be willing to have sex with certain of my metamours, under the right circumstances & with the right chemistry.  If you don't understand the difference between those last two sentences, we're going to be a bad match.

  • I likely have what's called a "responsive libido", meaning that it's mostly low-to-non-existent, but can be revved up on occasion. Sex will likely fade to nearly gone over the course of a relationship and the only thing that will prevent it from disappearing all together is the acceptance of this fact and appreciation for the times when I can get it going. No wheedling, pressure, or moping about its loss will help.

  • I am not a beginner relationship partner.

  • And I do not react well to being "dealt with" or "tolerated" by partners.  This "price of admission" needs to be paid gladly, gleefully, considered an honor to pay, or else I will begin to feel dismissed, condescended to, and unappreciated, and that will sour any relationship with me.  The price of admission for a relationship with me is someone seeing all these things about me, truly seeing them, and saying "I'm not paying a goddamn thing.  I'm so privileged to be in a relationship with you, that these are not deficits that I have to pay, they are things I am getting in return for providing you with the space to feel safe in being who you are around me.  It is you who is paying me with the honor of seeing you as you are."

joreth: (Misty in Box)
In our collective fear of "looking like the bad guy", of being unwilling to say "you're wrong", in our social insistence that we "educate" people who are doing harmful things using a kind tone and hand-holding them to a "better" way, instead of flat-out condemning harmful behaviour, I wonder what kind of impact that has on abuse victims.

When a person has spent a lifetime, or even just a few months of being gaslighted and having their self-esteem eroded and disempowered and programmed to subsume their own needs and concerns to another, how much harder is it for them to learn how to advocate for their needs and/or gather the strength to leave a harmful situation when the message they receive from their community is that, on top of all their pain and suffering, in addition to their own self-doubt, they also have to consider the feelings of their abuser (or other abusive people who remind them of their abuser because they do similar things) and lead their abuser to a "more successful strategy"?

Because, remember, we're talking about people who are already not well; people who have already internalized massively destructive amounts of negative feelings like guilt and shame.  Someone who is in healthy relationships or someone who has a healthy sense of self can afford to hear the message "be nice to people who just don't have good relationship skills yet and teach them how to improve" and they can identify those situations for which that advice is useful and when it's not.

If you ever wanted to know why they stay, it’s probably because of a deep sense of responsibility and compassion, overwhelming feelings of guilt and shame, and a deep and pervasive confusion about how to make it right. If you ever wanted to know why it’s hard to talk about it, it’s because the thing you always seem to remember the most, the thing that really hurts the most, is the guilt over hurting them, abandoning them.

But someone who has been broken by another person, someone who is fucked over, someone who has lost themselves, someone who is trapped, someone who isn't as strong, someone who needs help themselves, all those people - how can they hear that message in their state and not similarly internalize the, perhaps unintended, subtext "the person you are in opposition to has delicate feels and it's YOUR JOB to treat those delicate feels like precious Fabrege Eggs, no matter what you're feeling.  It's rude to lose your temper, it's rude to call them names, it's rude to arm yourself with condescension or to defend yourself with sarcasm, and you don't want to be rude, do you?"

There's a heart-breakingly beautiful blog post about what it feels like to be emotionally abused.  After reading that, I find myself getting even more enraged than usual at the relentless admonitions to be "nice" when we come across posts in the community with all the same, tired old tropes that those who have been in abusive situations are all too familiar with as the first steps towards abusing someone - dehumanization, objectification, disempowerment.

He pulled his arm back again and I covered my face again. "Why are you doing this to me?" he pleaded, coming at me over and over. Finally, I stood up and pushed him back. "Stop abusing me!" he shouted. I stopped, stunned. Why did I do that? I looked at his arms, red from where I had blocked him. Why was I hurting him so much?

"Be nice."  "Try educating them instead of name-calling."  "They just don't know any better, you should make yourself vulnerable and tell your own story so that they understand."  "Don't say it's wrong, explain gently that there are lots of different ways to do things and some of them are a little better."  Fuck that. As activists in the feminist and anti-racism communities have been arguing about for decades, stop getting mad at people for yelling when the reason they're yelling is because someone else is stepping on their toes.  Or, as Tim Minchin said in a totally unrelated song:

And if you don't like the swearing
That this motherfucker forced from me
And reckon it shows moral
Or intellectual paucity
Then fuck you, motherfucker
This is language one employs
When one is fucking cross
About fuckers fucking boys

I'm wondering how many abuse victims, and how many people in perhaps toxic or unhealthy but not quite "abusive" relationships, are hearing the constant message to be "nice" to people doing bad things, and have not been able to adequately stand up for themselves because they don't want to be perceived as "not nice"?  I'm wondering how many people we, as a community, are enabling people to remain in bad situations because we're so fucking pathologically afraid of calling others "bad" or, not even calling them bad people but just telling them that they're wrong or that they're doing something wrong or bad?  And I'm wondering how many people dishing out this advice can do so because they've never been in the position where advocating for their needs in any tone has been equated with being "rude" and where their deep sense of compassion and guilt has been manipulated so that they can't tell the difference between standing up for themselves vs. actually hurting innocent people so they don't do the former out of fear of the latter?  I'm wondering how many people playing the Tone Card are living in the privileged position of never having been abused and are speaking from their position of privilege when they tell other abuse survivors how they ought to experience their survival and how they ought to react to their triggers?

How many people continue to go unsaved because we're more concerned with etiquette and delicate abuser-feels than with creating an atmosphere that encourages people to believe that their feelings are not less important than being polite to those stepping on their toes?  How many people remain lost because we don't give them the space to be angry, to be strong, to fight back, because it's "rude" and we mustn't ever be rude.  Anger and defensiveness have no place in polite society because the people who are doing things worth getting angry about might feel bad, and we can't ever let them feel bad about hurting you, can we?
joreth: (Purple Mobius)

Rules:  Why We Make Them, Where They Can Go Wrong - http://bit.ly/1pSe1cS

"One of the things that came up on that hashtag again and again, though, was the idea that abusers can gain power over their victims by making their victims doubt their own judgment. “You can’t be trusted.” “You don’t make good decisions.” “You mess things up.” “You have poor judgment.” “I have to make decisions for you or you’ll screw up.” “You’ll hurt me if I give you a chance.” I saw dozens of variations on this theme all through the hashtag. And it got me to thinking.

“I will limit my behavior in this way because I know my in-the-moment decision skills are a bit crap” can be a reasonable approach to healthy boundary-setting. But I see the potential for abuse when it becomes “I want this rule because your decision-making skills are crap; you can’t be trusted to keep your commitments.”"

I can't tell you how many times I've seen this play out in destructive ways. It seems to me that the people who are most interested in the latter example ("I want this rule because your decision-making skills are crap; you can't be trusted") are more likely to be the sort of person who is actually abusive. The ones who make rules for themselves, however ("I will limit my behaviour because my in-the-moment decision skills are a bit crap") are exactly the ones who do not need rules imposed on them in the first place because they are owning their own limitations and they're making their own rules out of concern and compassion, rather than edict and imposition.

This goes back to [livejournal.com profile] tacit's saying "if your partner truly loves and cherishes you and wants to honor your relationship, a rule isn't necessary; if your partner doesn't cherish you, a rule won't make them".

I attended a poly meeting once. In it was an
asterisk family (a single person with multiple partners) who were first-time visitors to that group. It was a guy who had two female live-in partners and a third girlfriend (if I recall correctly; there were definitely two live in partners so it could have been a V but I'm pretty sure there was a third girl in there somewhere). When he and his original partner first opened up their relationship, he had no rules imposed on him. He just found another girl, dated her, moved her in, and that was that. Same with his newest girlfriend. His original partner struggled with it but eventually learned to accept it (it is not clear if she actually embraces and cares for the other girls, but she didn't seem terribly resentful).

Now the original female partner was branching out to find partners of her own. She had finally managed to get the guy to grudgingly release the One Penis Policy and was dating men. Except her existing partner hated everyone she chose. He went on at great length to explain to the group, in front of his partners, how his original partner had terrible decision making skills and partner-selection skills; she had absolutely no ability whatsoever to make good sexual decisions. So he, of course, had to be the responsible one and step up to interview all her prospective dates to make sure that they passed muster*.

His entire justification just dripped condescension and paternalism. I mean, he was cruel in his description of her. She tried to get a word in to defend herself now and then, but he talked over her and quickly put her back in her place. Other attendees tried to very gently steer him into being more accepting and tried to give him the benefit of the doubt that this was some sort of healthy BDSM dynamic and not an abusive relationship, but by the end of his defense, his partner was in tears and she ran out of the building. When he started in about "women just have different methods of dating" and "women just aren't as good at ...", that's pretty much when I lost my own shit and the whole group erupted into a shouting match; I was down to only one word by that point, "bullshit".

On the other hand, I have known people who fully understand that they get twitterpated easily and have asked their existing partners and friends to reality-check them. I like to use [livejournal.com profile] tacit's observations skills for that purpose, but he's far too accepting of my ability to make my own decisions to ever tell me that someone I'm interested in is a bad choice, so it doesn't actually work very well to have him be my reality check. *Sigh* the downsides to dating someone who completely accepts your autonomy and consent and trusts you to make your own decisions, I suppose

I, myself, have frequently told would-be suitors that I could not do certain activities because I had a "rule" about when and under what circumstances I could do things. Occasionally, one of those pursuers (and I use that word intentionally, because these types of situations are usually not a back-and-forth discussion about boundaries, but me trying to put the brakes on someone else's aggressive advances) would have actually paid attention to my previous rants against rules and say something like "I thought you didn't do rules?" or "but he doesn't have to know!" (the latter ones don't get any further than that, btw), and I would clarify that these are MY rules for MYSELF, so breaking them would, in fact, be known by the very person they were most important to.

Of course, it is also up to me to decide when I can and can't break them, because they're my "rules". The point is that they are not rules imposed on me by someone else. They are limitations I impose on myself for reasons that happen to be limitations that my other partners are comfortable with me imposing on myself. This actually makes them boundaries, not rules, although English does funny things so sometimes we might use the word "rule" when we mean "boundary" (and vice versa as well).  As soon as it becomes someone *else* saying "you can't make this decision for yourself, I have to make it for you," that's when my autonomy is threatened. And when autonomy is threatened, that is not a healthy situation to be in.

An agreement is more about expectations. If I make an agreement with a partner, that means they have a reasonable expectation of me doing or not doing certain things. But it it STILL my choice to live up to that agreement or not. It never becomes something that my partner is preventing me from doing. It is always something that *I* am choosing to do or not do for myself. It never comes to "well, I WOULD do this thing with you, except I promised my other partner I wouldn't do it." It is always "I made this agreement because I believe not doing this thing with you is the better choice for me, so even if I hadn't made this agreement, I still wouldn't want to do this thing with you because it's not the better choice."  The former foists the responsibility, and hence the power and the agency, onto someone else.  The latter is using the psychological trick of stating one's commitments to reinforce or cement the willpower to maintain those decisions during times when pressures to ignore those decisions compete with the desire to maintain those decisions.

I've seen too many people use the word "agreement" but behave as though they were rules, with one person dictating another's behaviour, relationships hinging on 100% follow-through of the agreement, and no ability to renegotiate or alter the agreement if it doesn't work for someone in the future, relationships being literally irreparable after an agreement is even sort of kind of nudged a little, and those "agreements" used as blunt weapons with which to beat someone over the head with piety or towing the line**.

So I'm even more careful now to avoid words that imply some sort of contract and to avoid relationships with people who use that kind of language, including the word "agreement". I never again want to be in a relationship with someone where I can say "this is my Standard Operating Procedure, generally speaking, so you know what kinds of things to expect from me" and they hear "from this day forth, I hereby pledge my undying soul to live up to this procedure at all times and at all costs to make you happy or forfeit your trust and this relationship forevermore and you hereby agree to the same so that every time you have the opportunity to break this agreement and don't, you can be given cookies for being a Noble and Honorable Partner."


I now know far more about what an abusive relationship looks like from the inside, and how reasonable, rational, intelligent, self-respecting people can find themselves in one, and how the abuser can justify their actions, even making themselves look like the victims of abuse to those on the outside.  Unfortunately, I can now see some of the more subtle red flags that mark the sorts of mindsets that often lead to abusive behaviour.  I hate to see people have to learn that same lesson the hard way when they don't have to, but people will always think that their situation is completely unique and no one ever felt what they're feeling, so people will justify, excuse, and jump in blindly even with warnings from people who have gone before them.

I do not do rules. I do boundaries.  I make my own limitations and restrictions and it is completely within my power to determine when to flex those boundaries and when not to - when to give and revoke consent for my body, my mind, my emotions, my space, and my limitations.  I.  Do.  Not.  Do.  Rules.  It's like putting a drunk chimp into the gunner's cockpit with all barrels armed with nuclear warheads and all safety protocols turned off. Sure, there's a chance that the monkey won't hit the giant red "fire" button in the center of the console, but I wouldn't bet money on it and the consequences for betting wrong are disastrous.



* Site note: as a person with the Love Language of Words of Affirmation, I can't tell you how offensive I thought this behaviour was.  To publicly demoralize one's partner is one of the most hurtful things I think another person can do, even if their own Love Language isn't Words of Affirmation.  It's even worse, from my perspective, than physically assaulting a partner in public, because a public assault may be intervened and is a much clearer case when it comes to legal proceedings.  But to just insult a partner matter of factly like he did was vicious and cruel, and judging by her reaction, I think she feels the same, even if she's too tightly buried in that abusive relationship to admit it.  Emotional abuse is sometimes hard to identify, especially from the inside but also sometimes by onlookers, but I would say he was clearly being abusive and using the D/s angle to hide it.  That's the danger with the BSDM community - it too easily hides abusers like this because there are no safety measures to distinguish between consensual dominating / humiliation play and actual abuse.

Also people are way too easy to fall back on "your kink is not my kink and that's OK".  While that is a very important mindset to learn acceptance of diversity, it is, in my observation, used to ignore abuse.  I have a whole other post brewing about that concept.

** A healthy relationship where two people believe in consent and agency and fully trust each other to make the best decisions for themselves, a relationship in which the people are more important than the relationship, is one where someone choosing to do something contrary to a previously stated agreement is one where the other person ultimately accepts the first person's decision even if it hurts or they feel a sense of loss or they need to renegotiate the relationship in light of new information.

An unhealthy relationship where at least one person does not grant the other person the right to their own agency and does not fully trust them to make the best decisions for themselves, a relationship in which the people are less important than the relationship itself, is one where someone choosing to do something contrary to a previously stated agreement is one where the other person throws their own adherence to the agreement back at the first person as "proof" of their nobility, how much better of a partner they are than the first person, using punishment & reminders of "but you agreed to this!" to reinforce the desired behaviour and attacks the first person's very humanity for choosing to revoke consent, change the agreement, want something different, or even legitimately having a lapse in judgment.  This is fundamentally different from the other person choosing to renegotiate the relationship and/or revoke some kind of consent themselves in light of the previous agreement now being changed or broken - that's maintaining one's own boundaries.
joreth: (::headdesk::)

For future reference: if I ask you to drop a subject or to stop talking to me for a period, and I warn you that continuing to press the issue will result in me blocking you, it is not a "threat" that you should feel afraid about; I am giving you necessary information to make informed decisions about your future interactions with me.  I hold no illusions that anyone is "afraid" of no longer having contact with me or that it's even something worth fearing.  Frankly, if someone is afraid of that, then I worry about their emotional stability.  Nor is it because you have a difference of opinion. I am quite good friends with a lot of people who have radically different opinions to me, some positions to which I am actively opposed and even work against. The reason why they remain friends is because we both respect each others' right to hold those positions and not argue about them for the sake of peaceful interactions.  I am opposed to the ideas themselves, not the people, and we can coexist, not just peacefully, but even amicably and as friends as long as a basic level of respect for each others' humanity is in place (if their opinion itself is a disrespect of others' humanity, well, that's a whole other can of worms).

No, when I tell you that I do not wish to discuss a topic anymore, it is not because of your opinion. It's because of your personality. It's because I find your approach to be disrespectful and I am attempting to keep the peace by just agreeing to disagree, at least for now.

If I warn you that I will block you, it is not because I can't handle differing opinions or that I live in an echo chamber. In fact, accusations of such are worth blocking for on that statement alone. It is because you are violating my boundaries in my request for peaceful disagreement and the only way I have to enforce my boundaries is to block you entirely because continued pressing of the issue is direct evidence that YOU DO NOT RESPECT BOUNDARIES and are therefore untrustworthy to be around.

I am posting this because I cannot message you after I have already blocked you to explain why you have just been blocked. So if you get blocked by me, this is why. It's not me, it's definitely you. It's not your opinion, it's you.

You are being blocked because you are untrustworthy, not because you hold a different opinion and certainly not because I can't "handle" that opinion, and not because I have to have to have the last word. In fact, there's a good chance that you already had the last word, since I will often not even bother to refute people I'm about to block, I just say "drop the subject or you will be blocked".  You are not being censored (although I appreciate that you think I am a powerful enough person that I have the force of the government behind me, I simply do not have the ability to censor you). You are not more rational than I. You are not more level-headed than I. You are not more open-minded than I. You are entitled, rude, belligerent, pushy, manipulative, and a conversational terrorist*. None of that is more "rational" or "open-minded".

By the time I feel the need to resort to blocking you, I couldn't give a fuck about whatever opinion you think is so important that I'm blocking you over it. By that point, your opinion is the least objectionable part about you. By that point, I am more concerned with your total lack of empathy and your willingness to trod all over another person's request for space. If you can't even give that space on a stupid social media site, I have to wonder if I'm even safe being around you in person, or will I need one of the weapons that I carry on me at all times**?

And the internet is the ONLY place that I have the power to remove people like you from my presence. Every where else in the world, I am forced to coexist with people I am not safe around. Every where else in the world, I am smaller and less capable than those I am not safe around. But here, on the internet, I can force YOU to give me the space I need to feel safe.

So that is what I'm doing when I block you. I give fuck-all about your stupid opinion on whatever stupid subject that started this whole thing. I care that you have no consideration for the people around you. And THAT is why I will block you.



*Even for me that title is a little too hyperbolic, but that's what it's called and I didn't make up the term so that's the word we're stuck with.

**I have had to pull my knife on 3 occasions, only two of which were strangers but all 3 were people who did not back off when I repeatedly and clearly stated my desire for space.

joreth: (BDSM)
Another blogger wrote a post called When Dance Gets Kinky with some examples of BDSM elements found in dance performances.

I often use dance as a metaphor for sex and relationships, but for me, the parallels are so strong that "metaphor" is not always the right word. Dance, sex, and romantic relationships all rely on the same elements - communication first and foremost, physicality, and passion. Just like sex, dance can be done with strangers, friends, long-time partners, solo, or in groups. It can be awkward, silly, hot, fun, tender, or chaste. It can be comfortable or challenging. You can teach or learn something new or fall into predictable patterns.

Like good sex and good relationships, good dancing incorporates the skills and steps you learned from past situations to blend with the new partner, forming a unique, one-of-a-kind experience that can never be duplicated or replicated with anyone else ever again. Even with the same partner and the same steps, it will not be the same. The chemistry will be different, or it'll be more effort some times than other times, or it'll be faster or slower, or you'll hit it just right or it'll be a little bit off.

For me, dancing is not just a metaphor for sex and relationships. Dancing is almost interchangeable for sex, and what I learned from dancing I apply to relationships. The three very different activities are inextricably intertwined in my head, even though I am perfectly capable of having relationships without sex, dancing without relationships, and I certainly don't have sex with everyone I dance with! It's just that, to me, they are three sides of the same coin, as it were.

So naturally, I'm interested in examples of dance that also incorporate elements of BDSM. To stretch the coin metaphor way too far, BDSM would be the fourth side of that coin - in requiring the same elements, in who it can be done with, in the moods you can have while in a scene, and in how it can be mixed or isolated from the others. Most of my kink is separate from sex, I have to mix my kink with relationships but I don't have to mix my relationships with my kink, and I am desperately hoping to one day mix dancing and kink but finding a partner who does both (and who does my style of poly, since I can't do kink outside of a relationship) AND has that chemistry that makes any kind of relationship even possible is a pretty tall order.

Just a tip, if anyone really wanted to increase his chances with me, he'd learn to ballroom dance and be interested in at least some of my kinks and have advanced poly skills and he'd mix all that up under a rational & skeptical worldview. Seriously, the dancing & kink stuff REALLY goes a long way towards catching my attention - just as much as the poly & skeptic stuff does. None of this is a guarantee, of course, but dancing will catch my attention immediately and at least make me consider the dancer, even more than the other stuff (but, to be honest, the other three are more likely to *keep* my attention once I've decided that I'm interested).

Anyway, the examples she gives are from the TV show So You Think You Can Dance, but from a night when the dancers are doing the same choreography from previous episodes. While all 3 examples are exemplary, I am still partial to the originals just because they did them first and they are now associated in my brain with those routines. So I'm going to include the original videos in the comments, while the ones the blogger highlighted are embedded in her post:

http://reginawest.com/2012/08/16/when-dance-gets-kinky/



This dance is actually about addiction. It's passionate and entrancing and heart-wrenching and I cried when I saw it for the first time. But the blogger included it for the domineering manner of the male dancer and how rough he is with his female partner, who keeps coming back again and again for his treatment.

I want to take a moment to make absolutely clear that BDSM relationships are not about addiction and they are not abusive, 50 Shades of Fucked Up notwithstanding. They are also not exclusively about male Doms and female subs. This song and this choreography are NOT about BDSM or even about abusive relationships. The male dancer represents the addiction itself; he is the addiction personified.

But within BDSM there is role playing that superficially takes on the trappings of things that might look like abuse or pain or even addiction to someone outside of the relationship or unfamiliar with BDSM and kink. It was this superficial resemblance that attracted the blogger. Rough treatment and the resistance can sometimes be found in some BDSM scenes and the blogger's point was that there were elements of kink found in the choreography's individual steps, leading her to imply that the choreographer herself may have a background in kink to draw on.







This one is all about spanking. That should be self-evident why the blogger included it on a list of kinky elements in dance routines.


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T209HHIJ8bc




The first song included on the blog post is a little different. It doesn't appear to be a remake of a past choreography and it's not one of the dances in the competition. It's one of the group dances that the contestants often perform as the opening number to kick off the show. Their performance will not be rated or included in the judges' consideration of the contest.

The video she embedded also doesn't work. At least, when I tried to watch it, it said that the user had been banned for too many copyright violations, so here's another upload of that same number:


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I9okkG-8BOM
joreth: (Kitty Eyes)
"I've never been there, but I once met someone who talked about it and I didn't like that person, so I'll just assume that he's representative of the entire experience there and say that it'll probably suck."

When it's not a subject with objective data that can illustrate, contradict, and/or remove our own logical fallacies and cognitive biases regarding experiences, I'm going to take a pretty dim view of any review that includes "I didn't experience it myself", especially when combined with "because I don't like a person who likes it".

Now, if the objection is "the entire content is this subject I don't like" or "the target audience is people I don't relate to", it's probably a safe assumption to make that you're less likely to like it yourself.  But...

"I don't want to go to an adult store because only losers go there" and

"I don't want to go to Kentucky because my cousin is a redneck and he lives there so it's filled with rednecks" and

"I don't want to read Shakespeare because elitist snobs read Shakespeare" and

"I don't want to listen to country music because I once heard the joke about listening to it backwards gets your dog, your wife, and your truck back so it must all be filled with stupid lyrics" and

"I don't want to go to the ballet because I once saw a picture of a guy in tights so I assume there's nothing there but men in tights" and

"I don't want to go see your dance performance because I know a guy who pops gum and likes the theater so the audience will probably have people there who pop gum and I can't stand that" and

"I don't want to try Indian food because I was once in an Indian person's house and it smelled funny"

are all examples (from real life, I might add) of people being prejudiced, close-minded, and in some cases just stupid.  Telling others not to try the experience without having done it yourself (again, with experiences that are enjoyed or disliked subjectively, not that make truth claims and have objective data to verify those claims) only lets those around you *see* you acting prejudiced, close-minded, and in some cases just stupid.  And since I know no one thinks of themselves as prejudiced, close-minded, or stupid, I know that none of you will want to APPEAR that way even by accident, right?  So don't do that shit.

This is not to be confused with reading several reviews about an experience from people/organizations that have a stable pattern of having similar opinions as your own and reporting "I heard/read that This Person didn't like it for these reasons".  I want to be very clear that I am complaining about a specific thing - criticizing an experienced based on association with another person that you don't like, not for the content of that experience, which can be verified even second-hand, and assuming content of an experience based solely on the presence of another person that you don't like without verifying that content is, in fact, the content.

I have a habit of liking movies that get poor critic reviews, so I might decide to go see a movie just because all the critics said it sucked.  If my close feminist friends all say a particular movie was sexist and offensive, I might give it a miss.  But if one of my coworkers, who happens to be sexist, likes a particular movie, I won't assume that the movie is sexist just because he likes it unless he actually SAYS something about the content.  Him just liking it is not enough for me to assume anything about the content.  I need some other data point, like WHY he liked it or the demographics of the entire audience who liked it, to give me a clue as to whether or not I might like it.

And even then, I often surprise myself by discovering things I used to swear I hated and would never like.  Hummus, for example.  Absolutely hated it until about a year ago.  Tomatoes are another thing.  I've hated the texture so much that my mom had to puree them in pasta sauce before I'd even look at it.  Now I love them both.  I also used to really love the Chronicles of Narnia, even though I was an atheist child.  But back then, I lived in a liberal bubble where my atheism wasn't the target of oppression.  Now that I'm more aware of oppression, I can't help but feel turned off by the obvious religious apologetics in the series.  My tastes change over time, and the more I deliberately test my assumptions about my opinions, the more aware I become of who I am and I am better to more accurately predict what I might like or dislike and in what direction I might change.

And the more I find to like where I previously assumed I wouldn't like.  The universe is a vast and wondrous place, far more interesting than any individual can really comprehend.  And there is far too little time to discover all its wonder, so I don't want to waste time avoiding things that might turn out to be amazing just because some other jackass also happens to like it.

“Your true self can be known only by systematic experimentation, and controlled only by being known.” Francis Bacon
joreth: (BDSM)
Some time ago, I had the occasion to connect with Michael Chapman, filmmaker and creator of the movie The Ledge.  Because of that connection, he started following me on Facebook and has seen me rant about the 50 Shades of Grey pieces of shit er, I mean novels.  Now, it turns out that the actor who played the lead in his movie, The Ledge (alongside Liv Tyler), has been positioned to play the lead character in 50 Shades, Christian Grey, in the upcoming movie version of the book.  So Chapman has even more of an interest in the new movie.  And he asked me my opinion on whether or not the new movie has any hope of being good.

Flattered that an actual filmmaker would seek me out for my opinion on the subject and kind of shocked that he was even aware I had one, I thought about it, and wrote him a long response, trying to summarize my feelings for this book and its sequels into a single email.  It's a lengthy response, but I still think I only barely scratched the surface of what I was trying to convey.

Nevertheless, he liked my response so much that he asked if he could publish it on The Ledge's Facebook page.  Naturally, I said, of course!  I hadn't written it with a public post in mind, so it's clearly an email response to a question, but he was welcome to post it if he wanted.  So, he did, and it has now been read by over 6,000 people all around the world (The Ledge apparently has quite the international following, considering it's a movie with an atheist protagonist and a Christian is the bad guy, and theism vs. atheism is a big part of the conflict).  This is the largest platform I've ever had for one of my opinions.  So I'm pretty stoked!  If you're on Facebook, you can see the post and like it and offer your own perspective: https://www.facebook.com/theledgemovie/posts/598254666879883.  If you're not on Facebook, here's what I wrote:



I think the only way a good movie can come out of that book is if it keeps just the title in common and basically becomes a whole other movie, without the author's "creative" input. There are no redeeming features of that book.

Now, whether it will make *money* or win the cast and crew some acclaim is a different story. But the very premise of the story is that it romanticizes abusive relationships and reinforces the "if you love him he will change" trope, all with very boring, unkinky sex and a lot of really bad writing. It's Twilight fan-fiction for fuck's sake.

It's very premise is flawed, and if the story foundation is bad, there's nothing you can do to dress it up and make it better. Keeping the title and changing everything else about it is common in Hollywood, but it might piss off the book fans. The best thing that anyone in the kink community can say about that book is "at least it got mainstream people talking about BDSM, and maybe, because of their interest, they'll research the healthy ways to do kink." I think my favorite criticism I've heard so far was "It angered both the librarian and the pervert in me", but I don't know who said that.

I think anyone involved in filmmaking as an artform would do well to pay attention to the BDSM community's view on the book. If they are part of a film for the art of it, then 50 Shades is not a good choice. But anyone wishing to earn a little notoriety and be shocking would probably get something worthwhile out of being affiliated with the movie, because it will get attention.

The "big strong domly man trains a submissive woman who just doesn't know she's submissive yet" storyline is one of the most common kink storylines ever. There are hundreds, perhaps thousands of books with that same plot. Any of them is going to be better written than 50 Shades, and at least some of them are going to be written by people who actually have some experience in the kink community, unlike the author, James.

In fact, I'll recommend one right now. It's called The Training of Eileen and it's available on Amazon - Elicitation is the first book in the series. It's the same plot - rich guy finds innocent young wife and trains her to be his sex slave. But the difference is that he wasn't abused and raped as a child and who now takes out his sociopathic rage towards women on his partners. This main character is caring and loving - he does what he does because *the submissive likes it*.

It uses the "she just doesn't know it yet" trope, but in this case, it's not a rapey excuse, it's that he paid attention to her early on and detected submissive tendencies in what she revealed about herself. In this story, it's all about giving the submissive what she wants and giving her permission to want it. In 50 Shades, it's all about what the dom wants (to beat women) and the power struggle between him and his girl who wants to "fix" his broken kinky ways.

So, my opinion is that there is no salvation for this movie. It cannot, by virtue of its source, ever become a good movie without doing the Hollywood bait-and-switch - capitalizing on the name but completely rewriting it from the ground up. But it *can* become a money-maker and it *can* catapult the cast and crewmembers into some measure of fame by association. The question is, is that the kind of association one wants to be known for? The kink community does not support the book, except to for those who welcome *any* conversation-starter, even bad ones. Since I have enough trouble getting trapped by men (as I am a single heterosexual female) who think that "coercion" is merely another word for foreplay, to say that I am not one of those who even welcomes it as a conversation starter is an understatement.

I'll leave you with some chapter-by-chapter reviews of the book, if you're interested to hear exactly what is so wrong with it and why:

http://collegeatthirty.blogspot.com/search/label/fifty%20shades%20of%20grey
http://jennytrout.blogspot.com/p/jen-reads-50-shades-of-grey.html
http://zephyrscribe.tumblr.com/tagged/50+Shades+of+Grey
http://theramblingcurl.blogspot.com/2013/02/need-more-evidence-that-50-shades-is.html
joreth: (::headdesk::)
In which I ramble nearly incoherently about entitlement and agency and autonomy and other buzzwords )
So, in case it hasn't occurred to you yet, the tl;dr version is this: communities and groups of like-minded people are not a convenient location in which we have rounded up a bevy of people for your attention or perusal. Even those groups for which the purpose *is* whatever you're looking for (i.e. a dating site), the group members are not there for you specifically. Do not treat such groups and communities as your personal pool to fish from, stocked with said fish for your pleasure. Being part of a "singles" group, or a submissive group, or a childfree group, or a poly group, or a kink group, or a whatever group, does not mean that the group exists for you to use as a collection site like a temp employment agency. Being part of one of those groups does not mean that the members are there for you. Even being sexually available does not mean that they are sexually available to you.

And for fuck's sake, stop posting personals ads on the internet unless you're specifically signed up for a personals ads service! Just have a fucking conversation with people, and through those conversations, you will eventually find people who are compatible enough with you to consider the sort of relationship you're looking for (or even a whole new kind of relationship you hadn't considered before, but you'd never have known that you'd be open to it if you hadn't just fucking talked to people first).
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: (Bad Computer!)
or The Misuse Of The Argument From Authority Accusation

First, a couple of disclaimers. 1) I'm going to use the word "skeptic" in this post to lump everyone from the skeptics, secular, humanist, and atheist communities into a single label. Those communities are absolutely not interchangable, let's get that straight right up front. Being an atheist doesn't make you a skeptic, as everyone's go-to example, Bill Mahr, can attest. Neither does being a skeptic automatically make you an atheist, as our resident non-atheist skeptic, Pamela Gay, proves. Irrelevant for my point here. I don't feel like listing out all the groups every time I reference them, so I'm going to lump them into one place-holder label, and I chose "skeptic" because I say that word often enough that it comes out easily.

2) I am a skeptic, and damn proud of it. I love the label, I love what I learn from both the community and the process of skepticism. I am in no way considering dumping the label. I'm uncomfortable in skeptic spaces because there are certain problems I encounter, but I want to fix those problems so that I can continue to be part of the skeptics community; I don't want to split off into a whole new group that has the exact same premise as the skeptics community but who refuses to be connected to skepticism because of the bad association.

3) This is not the only problem with the skeptics community. In fact, it's not even one of the top 10 worst. It could be considered a symptom of one of the more major problems, but I don't want to hear "that's it? That's your big problem? Why are you bitching about that when there are real problems with the skeptics community that need to be addressed?" This is an irritation that has real-world implications, and this is my journal where I specifically set it up to bitch about things. So I'm going to bitch about it.

So, on to the problem.

Skeptics, overall, tend to be a fairly well-educated, intelligent group of people. When you have a group of well-educated, intelligent people, the arguments have a tendency to take a particular form. People tend to try to remove all emotional content from the argument and argue everything academically, even when the subject is about emotions, is personal, or is subjective. Many times, they will argue something just for the sake of academically arguing it - it won't even be a subject they're particularly invested in exploring, they just want to argue. If that subject happens to be something that their opponent is invested in, then because the skeptics aren't, they have a tendency to, not only be totally unaware of how damaging it is to academically argue about something the opponent is personally invested in, but to also be completely dismissive of the emotions of their opponent because, hey, it's just an intellectual exercise, no need to get your panties in a twist over it.

Now, as an intellectual exercise with no emotional investment in the outcome other than being right, skeptics will tend to throw accusations at each other, and anyone they're arguing with, like they're in the middle of a Logical Fallacy oral exam in school. Except that these dispassionate skeptics are not actually unemotionally invested in the argument. They are, just not in the topic. They're invested in the idea that they're well-educated, intelligent, and not emotionally involved. So any criticism of this really irritating way of arguing is taken personally and defended with great vehemence and their own set of logical fallacies.

Final disclaimer, I'm not immune to the subject of this rant. But I can still be irritated when I see it happen.

So, the one I'm going to vent about today is the Argument From Authority. There are a handful of logical fallacies that are easier to identify and remember than the others, so every time they come up, skeptics immediately jump to accusing their opponent of using said logical fallacy. The Argument From Authority is one of them.

The Argument From Authority Fallacy is when a claim is deemed to be true simply because the person who made the claim is an authority figure of some sort.

The Misuse of the Argument From Authority Fallacy is when someone is accused of using said fallacy when it's actually a legitimate argument.

So, for example:

  • Quinn: Acupuncture TOTALLY works! You should try it!

  • Devon: Uh, no it doesn't. Here are citations from well-regulated, double-blind, placebo-controlled, large sample population studies from a variety of research facilities that all confirm there is no measurable effect from acupuncture.

  • Quinn: Psshhh! My acupuncturist is a guy I've known for 20 years and he's a karate sensei  so I believe him, not your studies. Science gets things wrong all the time, but THIS guy knows karate! I think he knows what he's doing with acupuncture!

  • Devon: *blinkblink*

You might now want to accuse me of Strawmanning by pulling out a ridiculous argument, but this is, I swear, a conversation I actually had with someone. It was a person I know in real life and had the conversation face-to-face so it's not a troll either. This is actually how it went. In order to keep the peace, I had to end the conversation simply by advising him to make sure that his sensei at least uses brand-new needles and wears gloves because of the recent hepatitis scare among acupuncture patients in Florida. Even the thought of getting a life-threatening illness didn't phase him, because his guy is a guy he "knows", who would never do anything dangerous. Karate. Acupuncture  Nothing dangerous. OK, I'm done.

So this is an example of a legitimate accusation of the Argument From Authority. Quinn believes the claim that acupuncture works because "a guy" said it does, with complete disregard to the mountain of evidence to the contrary.

Here are some examples of legitimate USES of the Argument From Authority:



  • Paula: As a black trans woman, I've experienced sexism, racism, and homophobia in skeptic communities, so I'm less likely to want to attend skeptic events.

  • Paul: That's ridiculous, there's no sexism, racism, or homophobia in skeptic communities! We're a rational group of people, we require evidence to hold beliefs, and there is no evidence supporting the unequal treatment of other genders, other races, or other sexual orientations. Therefore, you couldn't have experienced any of those things because we're just not any of those things.

  • Paula: Look, I'm telling you that I've experienced all of those things. Just because you weren't there or you can't see it doesn't mean it doesn't happen. It does, and I've felt it, and so have a lot of other people. That's why there are so few women, people of color, and people of alternative sexualities at your little events - we get treated poorly and we'd rather just not go.

  • Paul: I don't see you citing any rigorous studies supporting your claim, therefore you're just spouting anecdote, and anecdote does not equal data. You're wrong, it doesn't happen.

  • Paula: I think I get to be the authority on my own personal experiences and you can't tell me that I didn't have them.

  • Paul: That's the Argument From Authority! Your argument is invalid!







  • Jordan: Polyamory is a legitimate relationship style. I love more than one person at a time and polyamory is a valid way to ethically explore those feelings.

  • Sam: You don't love more than one person at a time, you only think you do. Real love doesn't let you love more than one person at a time, so if you think you love multiple people, you don't really love any of them. If you did really love any of them, you couldn't have feelings for the others. QED.

  • Jordan: You can't tell me what I do and don't feel! I know what I feel, and I feel real, true love for each of my partners!

  • Sam: You're just deluding yourself, that's not real love. Dictionary.com says love is exclusive, therefore what you feel isn't real love.

  • Jordan: No one gets to overrule what I say about my own feelings. I have feelings that I can feel, I am part of a community you've never even heard of before today, and I have an academic sociology background. I am the final authority on what I feel and anyone who says different is wrong!

  • Sam: Aha! That's the Argument From Authority! Your claim is now invalid - polyamory is not real because you can only support it with logical fallacies!

Before anyone tries another accusation of Strawman, these are also both absolutely real conversations. And both are absolutely misuses of the accusation. There are times when it is completely valid to take an authority figure's word on a subject. It can, and should, be provisionally accepted, but it should still be accepted. When the authority figure is an authority on a subject with actual experience in the subject and not just "I read Wikipedia for hours about it" or took some classes on it, and you're not, you can provisionally accept his word. When the authority figure is telling about her own personal experiences, you can provisionally accept her word. When the authority figure is telling you about their internal feelings, you can accept that they do, indeed, have those feelings (even if you remain dubious regarding the nature of what caused those feelings - i.e. just because one feels attacked, it doesn't mean someone actually attacked them). Especially in the third example, their word automatically trumps everything else.

I have been feeling more and more uncomfortable in skeptic spaces over the last year or two, and the smug and dismissive attitude when it comes to topics the speaker has no experience in that is so prevalent among skeptics keeps me away. I don't even want to bother attempting to educate them, because they're so confident in their own intelligence that they don't think they need education on anything they have already formed an opinion on, even if they formed that opinion without the benefit of any education on the subject or with speaking to anyone relevant to the subject. Even worse is when they claim to have done their own "research" on a topic (it usually means they've Googled it or read Wikipedia) and think they're fairly well-read, but they have no personal connection or experience with the subject and dismiss anyone who is actually living the subject but who hasn't done any formal research on it.

Take Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory - he is constantly lecturing Raj on Indian culture, even though Raj was born and raised in India and Sheldon has never left his own apartment, let alone the country.  But Sheldon has read stuff and is smart therefore Raj's personal experiences don't count.


So misapplying the accusation for the Argument From Authority pisses me off. If you aren't kinky, poly, female, transgendered, non-white, poor, or anything else that is as much "experience" as academic (if not more), and when someone who is talks about their experiences or their feelings or their own community, your ability to recite all the logical fallacies by heart and have an argument without getting "emotional" does not make your opinion as equally valid as theirs. "There is no authority and all opinions are equally valid" is a classic logical fallacy among pseudoscience cranks. Don't fall into the same trap and don't dismiss personal experience when the subject is a subjective one. We're not talking about the chemical makeup of water or the physics of gas planets. Those have yes/no answers - either something does or does not, and we can test it and find an answer that is right and an answer that is wrong (insert appropriate error bars here, for those who are pedantic). But a physicist with credentials and published papers and a university behind him is probably more right about physics than the guy who hasn't left his basement in 5 years spouting Deepak Chopra and Dinesh D'Souza is, because the physicist is an authority on the subject, and we can provisionally accept his word that cold fusion is highly improbable and that we will never develop a free energy machine that sucks electrons from the ionosphere but that could turn into a doomsday weapon with only a small modification to the plans (again, true story).
joreth: (Super Tech)
http://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/?p=9416

Read and add your signature, if you want to. It’s easy and fun, and shorter than an iTunes TOS update!

I pledge not to fetishize civility over justice. I recognize that the very notion of “civility” is defined in large part by those in whose benefit the status quo is maintained. I further recognize that the structure of “civility” at least in part has been created with the express purpose of bolstering chronic injustices. As Malvina Reynolds sang, “it isn’t nice to block the doorways, it isn’t nice to go to jail; there are nicer ways to do it, but the nice ways always fail.”

I pledge to remember that civility and compassion are not the same thing. Executive Order 9066, for example, was an emphatically civil document. There was not a mean-spirited or insulting word in the entire document, with the exception of the phrase “alien enemies.” In fact, it specified that a group of people would be provided with food, housing, and transportation. And yet it was one of the most unkind, uncompassionate acts of the US Government in the 20th Century. Civility is a very effective camouflage for hatred.

I pledge to remember that a fetishized civility is a field mark of insulation from suffering. The cries of the wounded on a battleground may be very unpleasant and uncivil indeed. I pledge to nod sympathetically and help bind those wounds rather than chide the wounded for bleeding so indecorously.

I pledge to keep a sense of perspective. Tossing basic civil rights under the bus in order to maintain a jury-rigged superficial peace in a single-issue movement is a bad bargain.

Rather than worry overmuch about civility, I pledge to be as kind as possible. And sometimes the kindest possible contribution to a discussion with someone acting in bad faith and harmfully is to tell them to go fuck themselves sideways.
joreth: (strong)
Let me tell you a little story. I was at a fetish event recently, and I witnessed the following encounter:

A very small, dainty-looking young girl, early twenties at best, approached the head honcho of this event while I was speaking to him. He asked her how she was doing, and she confessed that she came outside to where we were standing to escape a "creepy guy". The head honcho asked her what was wrong, and she told us that there was a guy inside who was being "creepy" towards her and she had had enough.

You see, she was a submissive girl, young, petite, and collared to her Daddy. And, apparently to Mr. Creepy, that meant that she was fair game. He kept approaching her to tell her things like "I'll be your Daddy" and "Daddy says..." He apparently went to strike her at one point (or offered to, I'm unclear which) and she said, flat out, "my Daddy did not give you permission to hit me!" But that didn't stop him. Oh no, he kept intruding on her space and forcing her to defend her boundaries when what she really wanted was to just run around naked and not think about things like personal safety.  She wanted to be in her role as a submissive to her Daddy, but that did not mean that she was anyone else's sub.

As she told this story, Honcho got more and more stone-faced. Finally, he cut her off and said "oh, he's not a bad guy, you just have to get used to his sense of humor!" She said "no, he is really bothering me!" So Honcho said "look, you're a sub and you're pretty, you have to expect that Doms are going to want to order you around. Just be a good little girl and do as you're told and there won't be any problems!"

The others standing nearby, all women, nodded their heads in agreement and gave more advice on how to be a proper submissive in The Lifestyle. I could see the subbie was becoming more and more defensive, and more and more withdrawn. She looked cornered, ganged up on, and as if she was ready to bolt. Or cry.

I'm sure many of you reading this right now are probably thinking how horrible this was for the poor subbie. Some of you are probably also remembering witnessing similar events, or even participating in them - either as the subbie, or as those Lifestyle Cops, trying to tell some poor, confused girl that she deserved what she got because she wasn't playing the role properly.

And probably some of you are saying "I don't get it, what's the big deal? He didn't touch her, he just said some things to her. She has her Daddy there to protect her - look, she even said that part about her Daddy not giving the guy permission to hit her, so she's totally safe. Mr. Creepy is probably just socially awkward and now you're just telling us this story to make all us guys feel bad just for being guys. Honcho was right, she just needs to relax and take it as a compliment that this guy wants to play with her. You just want to keep anyone from flirting with anyone ever again and then the whole human race will die out because no one will ever get laid again!"

Except this scene never happened. Well, actually, it has happened ... thousands of time in many different places.  But this is not the scene that I witnessed and that I am referencing now.  Let me tell you what did really happen.

Everything up to the "oh, he's not such a bad guy" is true. A small girl did come outside and a fetish event organizer did ask her how she was doing and she did tell us the story of a creepy guy who was bothering her. When Honcho said "oh, he's not such a bad guy", she cut him off and said "no, he is, he has been doing this..." and gave examples of things that Mr. Creepy said that were intrusive and presumptive. Mr. Creepy clearly took the position that she was a sub and he was a Dom, therefore she should submit to him.

And this girl was having none of that. So she complained. And Honcho, after one attempt to smooth ruffled feathers, listened to her tell her story.  And when subbie was done, he said, "OK, I'll take care of it."  And those standing around who overheard all nodded their heads in satisfaction and everyone went about their business as Honcho went inside to deal with Mr. Creepy.

Listen up people in the BDSM community and the skeptics community and the atheists community and the sci-fi geek fandom community. THIS IS HOW YOU DEAL WITH THIS PROBLEM.

A girl felt uncomfortable with a guy taking liberties with her chosen role as a submissive. She complained to the man in charge. The man in charge tried to soothe her & smooth over potential conflict first, but when she repeated that it was a problem, he shut the fuck up and listened to her. And then he took care of it. He gave her, and by extension all of his guests, a safety net. He provided a safe place for her to voice a complaint, with no retribution for bringing a problem to his attention. He understood, if not exactly why this was so bothersome (maybe he did, I don't know), that when the organizers are not proactive in making spaces feel safe to women, that women stop coming to those spaces.

This is the bare minimum of what I expect of any kind of community or event organizer. There was no hushing up of the event, no shaming her for complaining, no instance to excuse his behaviour behind "socially awkward" or the culture of Domism. And, I'll point out, he is a white, middle-aged, dominant male who has spent the majority of his life within the kink community and all the bullshit that goes with it.

But as an event organizer and community leader, his job is to listen to the complaints of his attendees and deal with the problems as they come up. Not to defend the status quo, not to put on a white-washed facade and pretend as though we never have problems like this, but to face them and deal with them. For the safety and comfort of all his attendees, but particularly those who have less power than those seeking to harm them. He recognized that it was in his best interest as an event organizer to handle this issue, not to sweep it under the rug and make this girl go away unsatisfied with his conflict resolution strategies.

Thank you for providing a place where I feel safe to play.
joreth: (BDSM)
I added this to my Netflix queue because it was either on a poly list or Netflix recommended it to me when I added some other movie that was on a poly list.  I can't remember.  I was pretty sure there wasn't any polyamory in the show, but I had heard about the famous Belle and her blog-then-book, so I thought I'd at least check it out.

I've only watched 4 episodes (the first disc of season 1), so I'm not prepared to declare yea or nay to the poly question yet, but I did want to mention two things about one episode.

In the 4th episode, Belle discovers one of her regulars is into S&M, but she has no idea what it's all about.  Curious, she seeks out lessons with a London Domme and learns how to be a professional bitch.

I say that, because it seems that if television is your only resource, you'd think that the only thing to BDSM is hot chicks in black latex & corsets ordering fat old white men in thongs to clean the toilets with their tongues, stepping on them with high heels, and then beating the shit out of them with riding crops.  Also, doing so in a "I'm pissed off at you" or "I'm bored" voice seem to be the only options.  If you think that's all there is to fetishes and BDSM, please visit www.xeromag.com/fvbdsm.html

Anyway, there were 2 parts in particular that I liked.  In the first one, Belle mentions that she wants to learn about S&M because a client has expressed interest.  She explains that the client is married & the wife doesn't know about his interest.  The Domme says "well that's a shame" and when Belle looks at her questioningly, the Domme continues "so many secrets!"  Later, it comes out that the Domme is married and her husband knows.  In fact, he is often at home during the sessions - not participating, but puttering around the house, making tea, watching TV, whatever.  Belle expresses a wistful sort of envy at having someone to share her job with, not necessarily to do it with him, but someone she can confide in, who knows who she is.  The Domme's attitude is that honesty is not just the best policy, but a given.  When Belle says how nice it sounds, the Domme says "well, it's a marriage", implying that, of course they share these parts of themselves with each other, as if it never even occurred to her that she wouldn't.

I really liked that honesty-is-a-given attitude, and from the character that the mainstream audience would think of as the most deviant.  I really like when the "deviant" characters are the moral centers of a show.

In the other part that I liked, Belle takes a few lessons, then immediately redecorates her entire "professional" apartment as the kind of dungeon that non-fetishists think a dungeon looks like - dark red walls, black plastic over the windows, elaborate black candelabra stands with a dozen thick candles, and a professional, leather-covered "chair" of sorts whose only function, it seems, is to look as unlike any other normal sort of furniture so that you can't pass it off as something else (i.e. it's not a chair and it's not a massage table, but something in between).

So she invites her client over for an S&M session instead of their usual sex.  She orders him to strip, put on a thong, and kneel.  Then she addresses the audience (this show regularly uses the broken 4th wall tactic) to explain that everything has been pre-negotiated, and she means EVERYTHING, right down to the insults that she will use.  She says "yes, even the insults I will use".

I really, really liked how they made a point to emphasize the negotiation part of BDSM.  I don't think that can be stressed enough.  When people first start out, if they have any exposure to a fetish community at all, they know all about negotiation and rules, but it takes experience for it to really sink in just how much negotiation is required.  Even people who have done this for years can find themselves in situations where they forgot to cover something and get surprised when something happens (or could happen) that they didn't negotiate for.

And, here's the thing, it's not just about thinking up every possible scenario and every possible activity and then laying a bunch of rules down about it.  Sure, within BDSM, rules can actually be a healthy and important part of the dynamic (unlike in relationships in general, but that's another rant), but just making a list of rules isn't sufficient.  What's important is to understand why those rules are necessary, so that you don't have to think up a million specific activities.  If you know that condom use, for example, is for disease control, then you know to be careful about fluid transfer in general, which means no semen in the mouth, wash the floggers carefully & pay attention to blood, etc.  But if condoms are for birth control only, then an accidental or non-pre-negotiated semen in the mouth might not ruin the scene.

Now, a lot of people get overwhelmed at all the talking & negotiating that goes on in poly & kinky situations.  "It's not romantic or sexy if it's not spontaneous!  All this planning just seems cold and calculating, it takes all the passion out!"  Well, I have a bit of a surprise for you then.  All the planning & talking & negotiating is what allows for the spontaneity and surprise and wild passionate abandon.  Once you've taken care of all the logistics, you can just let things happen when the mood strikes you, if you want.  Because, if you've done it ahead of time, then you don't have to stop a scene to say "oh, wait, is this OK?"

I mean, you do want to check in with your partners and make sure everything is OK but a check-in is not the same thing as a "we didn't talk about this before so I have no idea what you're feeling or how you're going to react, and I'm not really sure I can trust your decisions because you might feel differently about this once the endorphins wear off".  It's also not the same thing as being surprise-penetrated*, thereby being dragged completely out of the fun fantasy into the real world as it suddenly hits you what all the implications are to this thing that you forgot to talk about and now you have to do a whole bunch of quick calculations in your head to figure out how this will affect you now, in an hour, in a day, in a week, in a year.

Plus, it can be extremely liberating to go into a situation where you already know what's off the table, what's definitely on the agenda, and what things you can decide on the spur of the moment to try.  There's no more guessing, no more wondering "am I really going to get laid tonight, or are we just making out & I'm going home with blue balls", no more "I really wish he'd just try this thing already!", no more "oh for fuck's sake, if I fake it maybe he'll hurry up and finish", no more "I think he's hinting about this and I don't want to, but if I tell him I don't want to, he might leave and never call me again", and no more "if I try this, will it freak her out & send her running, leaving me alone tonight / forever?"

The outcome is never guaranteed and you can still go in unplanned directions.  But with a trusted partner in a scene that you have pre-negotiated, I know that this thing that I really, really like - he's gonna do it, and this thing that turns me off every fucking time - he won't do it.  I know that when I'm in the mood for rough, that's what I'm going to get because that's what we agreed on.  I know that when I'm in the mood for soft and romantic, that's what I'm going to get because that's what we agreed on.  I know that this time, I'm in charge and I already know in what ways I can hurt him that will make him happy with the scene and in what ways I can't hurt him without ruining the scene.  I know that next time, I can give up control and let him take care of me because he agreed to only doing the sorts of things that make me feel safe when I'm not in control and he won't do the sorts of things that make me feel unsafe.

Because we have talked.  It's sex and it's kink and it's pain and it's mind games and it's all sorts of naughty fun, and the reason it's fun is because we talked first.


*People not part of the fetish community, and even people who are but who don't talk about this topic, might be surprised at just how often "surprise penetration" happens.  It's a serious problem, one that we need to shed more light on and work to eradicate from our communities.
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: (polyamory)
I hereby disallow anyone to accuse me of strawman or hyperbole when I speak of Those Couples, the Percivalians, the Unicorn Hunters, for using phrases like "interviewing for the job position of Third".

I will not reveal any identifying or personal information, but I *did* receive several emails and participated in a forum where the phrase "interviewed for our household", in quotes, was used. Also used were phrases like "looking for someone seeking a position..." and "meets our criteria".

This is not a single instance. This is multiple communications, in black-and-white text, where their own words included "interview", "position", "criteria", and other job-like language, all within a week of each other.

I can't imagine why they are having such trouble finding partners!؟ What person wouldn't feel honored to have been selected out of the masses for having the appropriate skills necessary to perform the duties required of them؟

If you can't tell that was sarcasm, even without the percontation points, and you don't see how creepy and fucked up that is, then you're part of the problem and I lack the ability to sufficiently explain to people without empathy why empathy is important and why lack of empathy is problematic.
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: (sex)
I think the big problem I have with stories like the Sleeping Beauty saga and Story of O is because they never establish the main character's personal interest in BDSM.  In many of these stories, she's a timid, passive sort of girl, with an air of innocence that suggests that she knows nothing of sex or kink.  This means that she can't have chosen it for herself.  She goes along with the punishments because she is told to, by someone who has authority over her, or by someone she wishes to please, but not because she has fantasies of being spanked or some desire to give up control to someone else.  Stories like these seem to imply that all you have to do is introduce a woman to the submissive role, and she will automatically find the pleasure in the pain, or that the desire to please is inherent and makes the pain pleasurable.

Sometimes there are side characters who knew what they were getting into and went joyfully, and sometimes you even find side characters who are submissive men or sadistic women.  But the main character is just some girl who is told to submit, and she does so with no real motivation given other than she's "s'posed to".  Maybe she internalized the "love, honor, and obey" bullshit, or maybe she's afraid or overwhelmed at the newness and strangeness of the situation, or maybe she doesn't know how to exert her own wishes, or maybe she doesn't even know her own wishes because she doesn't know herself at all.  These stories lead me to believe that this was not her choice, but once there, she magically discovered a taste for submission and pain.

As someone who likes pain and resistance play naturally, I call bullshit.  Just once, I'd love to see a story of a girl who is inexperienced, maybe she had Abstinance Only education and is completely unaware of any sexual behaviour other than missionary position for procreation, an inexperienced girl who meets a worldly and charismatic man who wins her trust and awakens in her a sexual desire.  Gradually, he gets her to relax and experiment and, one day he convinces her to visit a BDSM club with him.  Only, instead of walking in and her lover ordering her on her knees to service the other patrons, she gazes in wide-eyed wonder and longing at the tall, statuesque woman in head-to-foot leather, impatiently tapping a riding crop against her thigh while her male subbie grovels at her feet.  When the lover introduces our protagonist to the local Florentine expert, she inquires not how the whips feel, but how he spins them.  Instead of blushing prettily and baring her breasts to be bound, she surprises herself by suggesting, in a halting voice, that the rope master try a particular weaving pattern that she learned at summer camp when they made little plastic bracelets and keychains, on a rather fetching older lady who is bouncing eagerly, awaiting her turn at the hands of the rope master.  And then the lover hands our budding young kinkster over to be trained, not as his slave, but as his master because it is HE who craves the whip and the rope and the desire to please.

Just once*, I'd like to see some girl be introduced to kink in a story and have her gravitate towards the top or Dominant positions, or even as a bottom but not a sub.  Just once, I'd like to see a girl in a submissive position in fiction negotiate her own boundaries with a top, to show that she wants the role she is about to be put in.  And just once, I'd LOVE to see a fucking dom actually care about what the subbie wants, and to take the time to discuss and negotiate with her or him what the subbie wants and how to create the scene for the subbie's benefit.  That'd be a nice change.  And it might help those poor subbies who get into kink with no experience but a few books read, to understand that THEY are the ones in charge and THEY are the ones who set the rules.  Being a sub does not mean being a doormat.

The Story Of O seems to be about as poly as The Ethical Slut.  Which is to say, not at all.  Both stories are only tangentially related to poly by way of having lots of sex partners.  I do wish people would stop recommending both as poly.  

Throughout this movie, the characters kept using the word "love".  I do not think it means what they think it means.  O is that innocent young girl who gets dropped off at a submissive training house by her boyfriend, Renee, with no explanation and no backstory and is immediately gang-raped.  She spends her time there being whipped and raped and ogled and talked about as though she had no hearing and no feelings.  After a while she falls in "love" with her master.  With no conversation, mind you, nothing that tells each other anything about each other - she only knows how hard he whips and how hard he fucks.

Then her time is up and she goes back to her boyfriend, whom she "loves", and it is the love for him that prompts her to "love" every man she is given to.  Eventually, we find out that Renee has a twisted, co-dependent relationship with his much older step-brother, Sir Steffan.  They share "everything", she is told, which implies that she is now to be given to Steffan.  She is to obey him exactly as she would obey Renee.  Although, the only real difference between this order and every other time she was given to someone, is that Steffan is to become her regular master, not a one-time gift to someone Renee deems worthy of bestowing O's charms on.

Over time, O falls in love with Steffan and, I believe, is the only time she actually loves anyone, in a sense that at least resembles the way that I use the word "love".  So, it would seem that her relationship with Renee and her growing love for Steffan make this a poly movie, right?

Well, except that her feelings for Renee dwindle at about the same rate that her feelings for Steffan grow.  After a while, she stops thinking of herself as belonging to both Renee and Steffan and thinks of herself as belonging only to Steffan.  She even tells him, at one point, that she never knew love before she met Steffan, which negates all that "love" she supposedly had for all the men she was given to, her training master, and even Renee.

Soon, O falls in lust with Jacqueline, a model that O photographs for magazines.  Steffan lays out the plan for O to seduce Jacqueline & get her into their kinky underground subculture.  Everything O does with Jacqueline is scripted by Steffan and done to make Steffan happy, even though it was O who first desired Jacqueline for herself.  Finally, O delivers Jacqueline into the tender care of the same training house that she was brought to, and O spends the evening gloating with Steffan over the success of their plan and how much Steffan loves O more than any woman, more than he thought was even possible to love a woman, followed by O puffing up with power over having conquered the man who conquered her.  To symbolize their mutual ownership of each other and no other, they bear brands of each other's initials.

Tell me, where is the poly in that?  Well, now that I think about it, ownership, couple-privilege, a primary pair-bond, confusing sex for love, and using a hot bi babe for their own selfish desires without concern for the emotional torment she goes through DOES sound like the unicorn hunters that plague the poly community.  So, I guess if I wanted to be snarky, I could call it a poly movie for that reason.

I wouldn't say this is a bad movie.  To be honest, the fantasy submissive story that doesn't take into account things like periods and moods or how unhygenic it is for everyone to sit bare-assed on leather couches, and that doesn't give us a clear personal motivation of the submissive isn't my cuppa tea.  So the movie could be a really good example of a fantasy submissive story and I wouldn't get it.  So don't decide to see or not see this movie based on my own total lack of enjoyment of it.  Just don't watch it as an example of polyamory.  It's not.  It's BDSM, it's erotica, it has plenty of female nudity, and it's non-monogamous.  But it's not poly.



*Exit To Eden is an exception to this.  The main characters *did* seek out the training houses on their own, the female character, after thorough training as a submissive, eventually became one of the most famous and cruel dominants, and the male was forced to give up his ego and bravado to accept the submissive side of himself that he kept denying. Whatever else you say about Exit To Eden (and there is plenty negative to say about it), the story did not fall into the stereotypes of the girls-are-all-subbies-men-are-all-masters or the girls-just-need-to-be-exposed-to-pain-to-awaken-natural-desire-for-it tripe.
joreth: (BDSM)
I have been asked by several people what they should know on their first visit to a public dungeon, what to wear, and what the dungeon etiquette was.  So I decided I should write up a post with these very answers.  This is for people who have never, ever been to a dungeon or fetish club or public play party of any sort, and who have no experience at all with the kink community or scene, and who wish to attend a fetish event to learn more without offending or insulting anyone, or embarrassing themselves:



First, I recommend visiting http://www.xeromag.com/fvbdsm.html and http://www.symtoys.com for ideas, suggestions, tutorials, and explanations of all manner of kinky things.

If you're in the area, I very highly recommend visiting The Woodshed in Orlando. It's the best dungeon I've ever attended, anywhere. They have a website at http://www.thewoodshedorlando.com and they also have a group on Fetlife.

One of the good things about The 'Shed is that there is no dress code. You can come dressed however you want (as long as it's legal between the car and the door). As you get more comfortable and begin to build your kink persona and learn your interests, you can develop your own kinky attire over time.

If you have absolutely no clothing that counts as "kinky" or you have absolutely no idea, but want to dress "appropriately", wearing solid black in whatever you have is usually a safe bet. There is a fetish for everything, so even if the only solid black you have is conservative, office-safe business attire, that will still fit in. In fact, prim & proper, conservative business attire is its own fetish even if it's not in solid black! Red and black is another popular combination, as is purple & black, and silver and black.

When you go to other clubs, they often have more stringent dress codes, and hopefully their website should tell you what that is. Usually, jeans are not allowed, even black jeans. Military clothing is usually allowed, and can be found in camouflage or solid black at almost any Army/Navy store. I often wear black BDUs (the military cargo pants) because they don't look like fetish wear when I have to be in public, they're comfortable, and they're affordable.

Then, depending on whether you become a top or a bottom (definitions at the end), and what style of kink you find suits you best, you may want to look into some leather or latex clothing later on. Some men like to wear kilts and combat boots, some men wear leather pants and vests, some men wear women's clothes, some men wear normal but dressy clothing like slacks, button-up shirts, ties, vests, etc. Women wear sexy nightclub wear, leather pants and dresses, latex, mens' clothing, uniforms, and lingerie (just make sure to wear some form of cover-up if you go that route). Fairvilla, in Orlando, is the best adult store around and has a modest "kink-light" section upstairs with leather and other fetish clothing. JT Stockroom has more hardcore clothing, as does Extreme Restraints. Don't spend a lot of money until you become comfortable with the kink culture and have begun to develop your fetish tastes. Fetish gear & clothing can be quite expensive, so hold off on that for a while. You can also go nude if you're feeling particularly brave!

(P.S. I realize the above paragraph was gender-binary.  Even if people are on a gender spectrum, clothing is not - there is either male, female, or unisex clothing (which is usually just "male" clothing that is acceptable for women to wear), so people of alternate gender identities may still arrive in one of the common fetish outfits described above.  I attempted to highlight some of the most common, perhaps cliche, outfits, to give a new person some direction to go in if they choose to put together a fetish outfit, either from their own wardrobe or from a store (particularly if the club they are attending has a dress code) and to give them things to look for in other people's outfits as ideas when they start to build their own kinky wardrobe.  This is not intended to be an all-inclusive list of fetish attire, nor a recommendation that newbies go out and build a wardrobe before their first club attendance.  Notice the first sentence "depending on whether you become ... may want to look into ... later on")

But if you attend The Woodshed first, you can just go there in regular clothing and look around and just see what's out there. Tell them that you're new and ask for a tour and some guidance. Their staff is more than happy to assist and introduce new people to the club and to other people.

As far as etiquette goes, the rule of thumb is "if you don't know, ask." Ask people if they would mind explaining something to you that you don't understand or would like to learn more about. If someone is wearing a collar, ask them if you are allowed to speak to them or if they have a Dom that you should speak to first. Be clear that you are asking about the appropriate method - do not assume, or imply that you are assuming, that someone with a collar should not be talked to - only some submissives use that particular protocol.

When someone is in a "scene", that is, when someone is actually using some of the furniture in the club, or flogging someone, or tying someone up, or otherwise interacting with someone in any way other than just talking, do not interrupt. If you're not sure if someone is in a scene and you want to talk to that person, ask someone else if it would be appropriate or not.

Many places are a lot more strict than the Woodshed, they have a lot more rules, or they are, what's called, "strict protocol". That's another reason why I recommend the 'Shed first - it's much more relaxed and it's OK if you don't know the rules yet or what things mean.

For your very first visit, I do not recommend actually playing with anyone at all, even your partner. If you have never been to a club or dungeon at all before, make your first visit an observation visit. If the owner or a staff member offers to show you something, you might want to agree to an instruction or tutorial, but I recommend saving the actual playing until after you have had time to process your feelings and reactions to being in a public dungeon, and perhaps even after you have been to a workshop or instructional panel and learned some of the safety issues involved in whatever style of play you are interested in trying.

Playing in public has a very different feel from playing privately, and you may be surprised by your reaction to the idea of playing publicly, so try to spread out the number of emotional surprises and don't do too much in any single visit, especially your first.

Also, you will want to learn more about how to negotiate a scene before you actually try it. Just because someone is a regular dungeon attendee, and even if they have other play partners, that doesn't mean that they have scene-negotiating skills. People can be participants in kink for many years and still never develop good communication or negotiation skills. You don't want to have to process your first exposure to all this kink stuff, PLUS trying to negotiate a scene for your first time, PLUS whatever emotions pop up from playing in public, PLUS whatever emotions pop up from the scene itself, all on the first visit.

Agree to exchange contact information or set up a negotiation date if you happen to meet someone who seems interesting and you want to try playing with them. If they seem pushy about trying to get you to play right then and do not want to set up a future date, it's probably in your best interest not to play with them at all. Someone who is good with first-timers will understand the need to move slowly and take things one step at a time, and they will be willing to play with you at some future event if they are interested in playing/teaching at all.

**ADDED**
More etiquette:

Flirting in a sexually-charged atmosphere is tricky and filled with landmines.  Some people think it's entirely appropriate to flirt, hit on, or pick up people they meet in fetish clubs, and some people get really offended, and there is no clear, accepted-by-everyone definition for the words "flirt", "hit on", or "pick up".  So, until you have spent some time in your particular local venue and have learned the local customs and etiquette, start here.  These guidelines are not intended to be permanent or concrete rules - if your local venue has a different set of etiquette, switch to that.  These guidelines are meant as the *safest* approach for when you do not know the local atmosphere:

Do not offer compliments on physical appearance until you have clearly established that the recipient of your compliment appreciates them from *you* (some people only like compliments from people they know).  If you simply cannot restrain yourself, limit your compliments to their attire or accessories (in this case, tattoos, piercings, restraints, rope-work, etc. all count as "accessories") - things that the recipient had some control over and made deliberate decisions about.  After you have determined that the recipient appreciates compliments on his or her appearance from you, you can discard this guideline *with that person*.

Do not make sexually suggestive comments until you have had some sort of conversation with the person, where they seem interested in you.  It is not always easy to tell when someone "seems interested in you", and oftentimes, signals get mis-read.  This will happen, and when it does, just apologize and try not to do it again.  But even if someone is "making eyes" at you from across the room, talk to that person first and get to know a little about them (at least, in the context of the venue) before suggesting, even in jest, that they accompany you in some sexual or fetish-related activity.

Also, people usually like it when you look them in the face while talking to them.  I know there are lots of neat outfits and nudity in fetish clubs, but when actually having a conversation with someone, focus on their face if you're not referring to something specific in the room.

Do not make derisive or negative comments about other guests' appearance or their activities, even if they are not your preferred "type".  If you must, save those comments for when you get home.  While you're at it, attempt to control your facial expressions so that you do not make obvious expressions of disgust or horror.  If you are put off by the people or the activities in the club, leave.  But also know that there are other clubs with other atmospheres and what you see in this club is not necessarily indicative of BDSM everywhere.  It may not even be indicative of that particular club if you are attending on a theme night or there is a particular guest who is not a regular.  There are a LOT of different kinds of people and activities covered under the umbrella of BDSM, and no one will be into every single aspect of that.  If you see something that is not for you, don't worry, there will probably be something else that you will like better.

Do not arrive under the influence of drugs or alcohol.  Some clubs have a strict policy against that.  Other clubs sell or offer alcohol there, so you can "fix" your sobriety after you arrive if you must.  It is my personal opinion that all BDSM activities, which have an element of danger or risk, should be performed sober anyway, but if a club offers alcohol while on the premises, I leave the responsibility in their hands.

Do not assume any consent.  ALWAYS ask for clear consent, for clarification if you are unsure, and permission (remember, this is for newbies - if you already have a partner for whom the issue of consent has been pre-established, this does not apply to you).  This is a big issue with people who tend towards the dominant end of the spectrum.  Even if you have established that you will take a dominant position over another guest, it does not hurt your authority to ask "may I?" before beginning.  It also does not hurt your authority to check in with your play partner throughout the scene, or the event if you are not scening, to ask how he or she is doing and if they want to continue.

Do not assume you have to give consent.  You may reject any offer and any person, for any reason and at any time, even in the middle of a scene.  If someone offers to play with you, you are not obligated to accept.  If you already have accepted but have changed your mind, you are not obligated to continue.

Here are just a few visual signals you might see and what they often mean:

Collars - This often, but not always, means that a person is "collared", or "belongs" to someone. Someone wearing a collar or a choker is usually a bottom or a submissive, and probably has an "owner" of some sort. If their collar has a ring for a leash on it (or the leash itself) then they are more likely to belong to someone. Although some people just like how the collars look, and a top or a Dom might wear a collar that does not have a ring if they like the look of a collar. If someone is wearing a collar, especially if it has a ring on it, and you want to talk to them, ask them if you are allowed to speak to them directly or if you need to ask someone else permission first.
Boots - A person wearing boots, either male or female, is often (not always) a top or a Dominant. The exception is when the boots are especially constrictive, such as boots that chain together or boots that force the foot into an extremely pointed position like a ballerina on point. I will often wear boots just to keep aggressive Doms away even on nights that I plan to play as a bottom.
Bare Feet - Someone who is barefoot is often (not always) a bottom or a sub. The more vulnerable skin that is exposed (i.e. bottoms of feet, backs of legs, butts, backs), the more likely that person is to be someone who receives floggings, spankings, to be tied up, or is someone's slave or property.
Armbands - this is the most common symbol for a Dungeon Master or Dungeon Moderator and will usually say "staff" or "DM" on it. These are the staff members of the club who are here to answer your questions and make sure that everyone is playing safely and abiding by the rules of the club. Some staff members have staff shirts, but some prefer to dress in their own kinky attire, and will have an armband around their arm, or tucked into their waistband like those strips of fabric used in "flag football". Keep an eye out for these people and go to them if you have any questions.  If the club that you attend does not use armbands, ask what identification the staff does wear so you can recognize them easily.
Some definitions of terms used here:

  • Top - One who administers some form of stimulation, such as spankings, floggings, or some other kind of stimulation on another person but does not have psychological control or power over that person

  • Dominant / Dom / Domme - A person who assumes a role of power or authority in a power exchange relationship. A dominant takes psychological control over or has power over another person, and may, for example, give that person orders which are to be obeyed.

  • Bottom - A person who receives spankings, floggings, or other forms of stimulation in situations which specifically exclude power exchange. For example, a masochist may be interested in receiving some kind of stimulation but may not be interested in giving up psychological control; whereas a submissive has given up authority and may receive some kind of stimulation on the instruction of a dominant, a bottom does not give up authority and may control exactly how, under what circumstances, and to what degree he or she receives some form of stimulation.

  • Submissive / Sub / Subbie - One who assumes a role of submission in a power exchange relationship. A submissive is a person who seeks a position of or occupies a role of intentional, consensual powerlessness, allowing another person to take control over him or her.

  • Flogging - using an implement consisting of a handle with several tails or lashes, usually made of leather but sometimes of other materials as well.

  • Spanking - smacking someone with an open hand or a flat, hard object like a paddle.

  • Protocol - Any defined, enforced code of behavior by which a submissive is expected to abide. A protocol often imposes constraints and limits on the submissive's behavior, particularly in social settings; for example, a protocol may specify that a submissive is not to speak to another person without the dominant's permission, may not speak unless spoken to, and so on.

joreth: (frustration)
 I'm an activist, a community leader, and somewhat of a public figure.  As such, I am often "in character" or "on stage", meaning that there are some topics it is not advisable to rant about publicly and some behaviours I cannot allow myself to express while in the role of that community leader (or ever, some might say), lest it reflect poorly on the community I am leading or the subject I am fighting for.  We are expected to always think about how we reflect upon our cause because outsiders can't seem to wrap their little minds around the fact that a person who is good at fundraising might ALSO like partying on the weekends and one activity does not affect the other, or that sometimes, we get our feelings hurt or get angry or have any other human emotion, sometimes at inopportune times.

This means that, when someone criticizes me for something I'm doing or not doing in the role of community leader, I'm supposed to smile, and thank them for that criticism, and take that criticism to heart, possibly implementing it at the next opportunity, with grace and dignity.

It also means that I can't say things like "dude, your suggestion sucks and you're a moron" or "yeah, already doing that, but thanks for not noticing!" or "great suggestion, now do you want to explain to me how I'm supposed to fund this little scheme of yours?" or "do you have any fucking idea how massive and impractical it would be to implement that?"

So I'm going to say those things here, even at the risk of offending members of my various communities who might think I'm talking about them (even if I'm not).  Because, like all other community leaders, I'm still only human and I still lose my temper and need to vent.  And, hopefully, seeing me blow my top may make others realize that all community leaders are not supermen, and they have their own limitations too, so that maybe we'll all treat our community leaders with this in mind so that they don't *have* to expose themselves this way and their reputation as the calm, cool, collected leaders remains untarnished.

Fortunately, I have never had that reputation online, so even though I might offend someone, it really shouldn't be unexpected of me.

Something that gets really frustrating to hear as a community leader is "I have a great idea for the community!  You should do these 10 things and take on these 8 projects!"  Yeah, great, except chances are, if I haven't already done it, there's probably a reason for that, namely I don't have the time, money, or expertise to do it (or it's been tried and failed, is another common reason).

Most of what I do as a community leader is volunteer.  Scratch that, ALL of what I do as a community leader is volunteer.  I volunteer my own time, and often my own money, to provide things for the community that the community has asked for.  I'm happy to do so because I think it's necessary.  But when I'm the only one stepping up, it can rub me the wrong way to be told that there is *more* I should be doing.

I dedicate most of my waking hours to working on forms, organizing events, building and maintaining websites, even going so far as to learn complete new sets of skills for the purpose of having a member of the community qualified to teach others those skills.  I even steal time while at work to get stuff done.  I bought new hardware to record podcasts; I invest in graphic software & learned how to do graphic editing to make the websites I maintain look presentable; I interact with the general public & talk about polyamory & facilitate group discussions & give presentations even though it is physically and mentally exhausting & I have to pass up on personal plans to recover.  I do A LOT.

And that's not intended to generate any sympathy, as I said, I'm happy to do what I do.  I turn down those things I can't do, and I don't overextend myself, or I try not to.  I have a lot of "causes" that I don't organize for because I just don't have the time or energy for it.

But when I *do* put forth all this effort, all this time and energy, only to have people tell me that I'm not doing enough, when those same people haven't done *anything* for the same cause, I get a little bitter.  I am a COMMUNITY leader, not a dictator.  This is not all about me, this is about everyone.  So since it's not all about me, it also shouldn't be all ON me.

I'm also not fishing for praise - I don't need to hear how wonderful everyone thinks I am right now, that's not what I'm complaining about. I'm not feeling underappreciated, I'm feeling overwhelmed and resentful.

I know, I know, I've heard the rants from other community leaders before - this is just what it's like to be a community leader.  Everyone wants the benefits but no one wants to do the work.  But this is the reason why so many community leaders, and the poly community specifically, suffer from Activist Burnout.  So many of us burn out after only a few years because we continue to feel as though there is always more work to be done than we can possibly get done, and we see so few people stepping up to pitch in and help.  If we are supposed to be a community, how about we all contribute to its wellbeing?

I was part of one group of people who all gathered to brainstorm about what to do to help the community grow.  Everyone threw out tons of ideas & we all got excited about the bright new future it seemed we'd have with all these projects and possibilities & creative people at the helm.  When it came time to sign up for each of those ideas, to volunteer as people to implement them, suddenly everyone started shuffling their feet and explaining how swamped they were with these other Really Important Things.  I have, in the past, offered to do the preliminary organization for something, and asked for volunteers to assist with certain details or aspects of the project, only to have 20 people sign up and 2 people contribute 1 thing each, leaving me with the bulk of the work.

At one particular meeting for organizers, the organizer of *that* meeting spelled out, on the invitation, that members of this group should not volunteer for projects if they didn't actually want to help, or if they only thought they could *maybe* help.  Only people who were actually committed to helping should actually volunteer.  I thought this was a good idea and inwardly raged that it needed to be said at all.  But it's incredibly disheartening to head up a project and have none of the people who said they'd help actually help.  That's the main source of Activist Burnout - the activist takes on progressively more and more work because the people she was depending on to support her keep dropping out & she begins to feel that if she doesn't do everything herself, nothing will ever get done (sometimes it's a perfectionist ego, but more often, it's because shit really won't get done).

The sad part was that people actually got upset at the request to not volunteer if you don't intend to follow through.  I didn't really understand what the objection was, so I won't attempt to repeat it here.  But I was surprised to see that anyone would be upset at this.  The organizer merely communicated what all of us community leaders and organizers already know - that it really fucking sucks to have most of your team disappear on you when you were counting on them to complete an integral part of the project, so please don't do that.  

One project I once volunteered for was actually originally suggested by someone else, who, over time, managed to retreat further and further from the project, leaving me defacto in charge simply because I was the only one left out of the original brainstorming team who was actually doing *anything*.  I volunteered because I believed in the goals of the project, and I had a few specialized skills that I thought I could contribute.  I have since learned a bunch of other new skills to take up the slack left by the qualified people who found Really Important Things to do & bailed out.

So, that's basically my rant.  I'm getting frustrated with people suggesting to me that I ought to do more for my various communities, particularly when those suggestions come from people who have yet to contribute anything to those same communities.  So people, if you have a suggestion for your community leaders and organizers, while we really do appreciate feedback and suggestions, what would really please & help your community leaders would be for you to volunteer to (and follow through with) assist or head up whatever it is you're suggesting.  

Telling  your community leader that what the community needs is a nationwide drive to sell Christmas ornaments with the symbol of your particular community to raise awareness would go over a lot better if, instead of saying "so how about you get on that?", you said "and I will personally hand-paint all the ornaments & distribute them to our sellers across the country".  We really do want your feedback, but we really NEED your assistance.
joreth: (Purple Mobius)
May 23rd The Woodshed will host the Orlando Munch's Polyamory Discussion Panel. Join several members of the Central Florida community as they discuss polyamory and what it means to them.

The panelists come from a variety of backgrounds and include those who mix BDSM into their poly relationships as well as those who don't. They'll talk about what has worked for them as well as the pitfalls that they have discovered along the way.

We hope to make this an interactive discussion with plenty of time for Q&A so please don't be afraid to bring your own thoughts and questions!

The dungeon will be open afterward starting 8pm.

Date: May 23rd
Time: 6:00PM-8:00PM
Location: The Woodshed Dungeon
6325 North Orange Blossom Trail,
Suite 138A,
Orlando, FL 32810
joreth: (Flogging)
I'm attending Frolicon for the first time, and I'd like to know if anyone is interested in carpooling.

I will be driving up on April 9th, the first day of Frolicon.  The schedule is not yet available, but last year's schedule is posted and it says that nothing happened the first day until that evening.  So I did not reserve a hotel room for the night before Frolicon, to save some money and I plan to drive up early that morning.

Last year's schedule also says that nothing was scheduled at all on Sunday, although events ran until late Saturday night, so I'm pretty sure that I did not reserve a room for the night of the 12th either, and I am planning to leave Atlanta on Sunday the 12th.  If the hotel would get back to me with my confirmation, I can say for sure if I reserved a room Sunday night or not, but no one on the Frolicon staff or the Frolicon LJ community can tell me whether there is programming on Sunday or not, let alone which panels are scheduled for which times.

So, until I find out further information, I am planning to drive up early on April 9th to arrive by roughly 5 PM, and leaving Atlanta on Sunday, April 12th in the afternoon (departing from and returning to Orlando).  Is anyone else going to Frolicon and do you have similar travel schedule and interested in carpooling?
joreth: (Flogging)
From [livejournal.com profile] tacit:

I (he) have enough pre-orders for the poster version of the Map of Human Sexuality, and the job is at the printer's right now. Plates are done and it goes on press Monday. I expect to have the posters by the time I (he) get back from the Poly Leadership Summit next Monday.

Once I have the posters in hand, I (he) plan to raise the price to $15, so if you want one at the pre-order price (or you want it signed), now's the time!

 
joreth: (Nude Drawing)

Remember that Sex Map I posted a while ago? Now you can get it on a poster!   Hurry up and order one now!  Click on the image below to order your very own Sex Map Poster!


joreth: (Nude Drawing)
I made a couple of mistakes, but I didn't want to have to reset it, so I just left them in there.  For instance, I have a green "I've been there" pin for rape and a purple "I want to go there" pin for rape because I didn't see there was a rape fantasy land in another place.  In this case, I've been to "attempted but not completed rape" but I don't particularly want to go there again, but I *do* want to visit "fantasy rape".

tacit has updated the map but not the interactive map, so I'm just going to leave it as it is until the interactive map gets updated.  Since I'll have to do this all over again anyway, I can fix the mistakes in the next version.

I'm also thinking of adding this to my Sexual History and Health Disclosure procedure, along with the History form and the clinic paperwork.  I think it'll add a little bit of fun and be less dry and technical (and hopefully less off-putting).




Find out where I've journeyed
on the Map of Human Sexuality!
Or get your own here
 

joreth: (Flogging)

I find Spongebob disturbing as it is, but tied down to a chair? That goes way beyond my comfort zone! RED! RED!







joreth: (Flogging)
Pennsylvania University has an A Capella group called Pennsylvania 6-5000 and, one year, the group did an homage to Tom Lehrer's Masochistic Tango, with some ... interesting ... lyrical additions. 

I have a copy on casette tape and, as casette tapes do, it is aging and is probably no longer even playable after its last performance as I converted it to mp3. But I wanted to save this album from extinction because of the quality of the group's harmonics and the very humorous content of their parodies. 

And, to share with people, I created a slideshow of images to go with the audio track ... there is some graphic content and definately some sexual innuendo, but it's probably OK for teenagers and up (except for maybe one full-frontal of an anatomically correct male paper doll), although I hesitate to call it "work safe".

  

*I got this cassette copy when I was in high school.  One of the members of this group (not the lead singer of this song) was in my choir when I was in high school, which is how I came by it. 
joreth: (Super Tech)
Well, my picture is, anyway.  They did an article on Orlando's Newest Dungeon, The Woodshed, and asked me and my sweetie [profile] zen_shooter to pose for the pictures.  So I got to get half-naked and tied up to a giant wheel and whipped in front of a camera!  What Fun! 
joreth: (Default)
I finally got my latest work uploaded to my website

Here is my favorite:

 


joreth: (Flogging)
This is an article taken from Greta Christina's Blog about why she likes pain.  I am linking to it because I want everyone who has not read her work to go to her blog and read her stuff directly.  But I'm also reposting it in full here because it says something to me.  I'm not quite sure if this is the whole and entirety of my feelings on pain, but she raises some answers to the question that I had not previously thought of.  As I commented on her blog:  I have been wondering this very question for a while. When people ask me why I like BDSM, I give the standard answers like "flogging doesn't feel like it looks like it feels" and "endorphins make it feel good", etc.  Because the real answer is "I don't know why, it just does". The pain hurts. It doesn't hurt any less, really, than when someone smacks me on accident at work. But I like it. And I don't know why.  Now I have an inkling why. [Her] words rang a bell in my head. I have more processing to do, but there is at least now a direction to go in.

joreth: (Flogging)
I wrote an essay some time back about pain.

The summary is that I had a friend back in my early college days who used to be a wrestling and sparring partner for me.  I've always enjoyed resistence play, but had absolutely no experience with it in a healthy context.  He, apparently, had a hidden kink that made that sparring just "do it" for him.  Naturally, our fist-fights and wrestling matches eventually led to sex.

We maintained a sexual relationship for many years.  Our sparring also got more and more violent.  For me, it grew into a full blown resistence fetish.  I revel in the violence.  I scream in pain and without drawing another breath, it disolves into giggles as my partner fails in whatever attempt he's making.  He eventually moved away and I lost the only outlet I'd ever had for a no-holds-barred violence/sex.  And I intentionally separate the "violence" and the "sex", as opposed to writing "violent sex".  Because the violence was a need in and of itself, just as the sex is.  That's the basics about the essay.

A few years ago, he moved away to pursue higher education and a career.  We are still in the same industry, although at different ends of it.  An industry convention brought him into town this weekend.  We ran into each other, went out to dinner, reminisced about "old times".  I started poking fun at him for becoming this new "peaceful" person he claims he's turned into.  He used to have a bad temper and he terrorized our fellow students, and then our lab students as we moved into positions of authority at the college.  I was the only one not afraid of him, but that's because I loved it when he hit me and I would swing right back at him.  We'd limp into class, bruised and stiff, and eventually our classmates stopped asking if I got mugged and started rolling their eyes when they realized I had gotten into another fight (when I say "fight", I never mean it was in anger.  We never fought out of anger, we fought the way most people tease their friends or give hugs).  

So anyway, I started giving him shit, provoking him without realizing I was intentionally provoking him until he finally hit me.  I grinned and threw a punch right back.  He couldn't back away from that challenge and we started sparring again.  3 years without a sparring partner, let me tell you we were both rusty!

I have a couple of sexual triggers that are quite unusual outside of the realm of BDSM.  I have to warn people about these triggers because my reactions are rarely what people might expect.  Some of these triggers can be accidentally done during a wrestling match, so when he did one of them, I had to warn him that it was a turn-on for me in case that was not the reaction he wanted from me.  After all, he has a girlfriend and is not poly.  Plus, I had no intention of having sex with him this weekend - I have a complex set of poly rules for sex and he's a typical mono guy ... you just fuck the cute chick when she lets you and assume she'll tell you anything you need to know.

So he apologized and avoided those triggers ... for a while.  During our sparring match, we slowly remembered some of the rules we had - things like "no fighting on concrete" and "all jewelry and tools come off".  At one point, he had me completely pinned and he did something that hurt, and my first reaction was to bite him as that was the only way I could inflict any pain with my hands and legs secured and his shoulder so temptingly close to my mouth.  I didn't bite him hard, but when he stopped I asked if biting was ever allowed in our rules.  He said he thinks it was.  So the next time he got me in the same situation, I bit him again ... hard.

He hissed and drove his groin into mine.  Then I remembered that biting was one of *his* triggers.  Hmmm.  That at least explained my overwhelming desire to bite his neck every time it got close enough for me to smell him.  My nose remembered better than I did.

Then he started doing those things I warned him about.  It took me a while before I started to guess that it was intentional.  So I bit him again.

During the wrestling match (and it did remain a wrestling match - no devolving into a torrid affair with an old lover who has a girlfriend or breaking any of my personal safe-sex rules ... see [personal profile] tacit?  I am a good girl!),  we had bits of conversation.  Gathered all together, it went something like this:

Me:  How're you doing?  You gonna live?
Him: Yeah, I'll live.  I'm getting old though.  I don't do this kinda thing anymore
Me:  You seem to be enjoying it.  We can stop anytime old man
Him: Oh, you're gonna pay for that
Me:  If you like this so much, why on earth did you ever give this up?
Him: I don't have anyone to do this with.
Me:  You mean you've never found anyone else who likes to fight with you?
Him: Most people would beat the shit out of me.  Everyone else I would hurt too bad.  There's no one else like you.

Here's the real point of this entry, it's not really a blow-by-blow account of my latest resistence scene.  I'm absolutely amazed that he has never found anyone else who gets off on rough sex.  Hell, both of my sweeties seem to have nothing *but* partners who like rough sex.  Within the various fetish communities (both the formalized one and the looser social network I have that just happens to enjoy fetish sex that isn't all old-school formal), I feel very vanilla.  I'm not into the full lifestyle thing and I have only a very few kinks that I don't think of as that unusual or flashy.  I mean, I'm not a sub, I'm not into pony play, I have very little PVC clothing, I have almost no toys or gear.  [info]tacit says the whole resistence-play thing is somewhat rare, but he doesn't seem to have any problems finding women interested in some sort of resistence or torture play so I don't see it as being very rare.

So I have this image in my head of being not very kinky, certainly not very experienced in those kinks I do have.  Then I interact with the "real world".  And I realize I'm a freak.

I walk around at work discussing my sex life and my interests in a bland sort of manner, all very matter-of-fact, because I tend to not think of myself as being unusual.  (For those who are unfamiliar, talk of sex is commonplace at my work, but when coming from other people, it's either as vanilla as it gets, or it's as kinky as possible with the intention of grossing each other out ... ask me about the anal sex comment sometime!)  But occasionally my closer coworker-friends tell me things.  They tell me of things other people say about me behind my back and they tell me their own thoughts about me.  I'm called bitch, freak, slut, whore, wierd, kinky and other sort of words like that.  I think I'm supposed to be ashamed.

But I'm not.

Apparently, being called a "bitch" is supposed to make me angry and is taken as a challenge.  I usually just blink at them and say "yeah, what was your first clue?"  When called a slut, I challenge them to name even one person I've had sex with.  Never has anyone been able to answer that question without referencing my current boyfriend who, of course I'm having sex with, just as they are having sex with their current partner.  And several times the current boyfriend-answer was given, I was *not* having sex with the boyfriend in question.  Because I, unlike they, do not need to have intercourse in order to define someone as a "boyfriend".  They, however, seem to need to justify having sex by labeling their partner "boyfriend" or "girlfriend".

I occasionally do get upset by the disrespect or offense that is *intended* with these kinds of insults, but the insults themselves are not actually insulting to me.  I know who I am and what I want.  I like sex.  I like physical sensation.  I like having orgasms.  I like the feeling of a lover cherishing me and abusing me.  And I don't think I'm all that different from anyone else.  Where I am different, is that I admit that I like it.  (And no, you do not get to use this admission against me the next time the Good Girl comes out to play, [info]tacit!  This doesn't count because she's a different girl :-P)  

I've been approached by those coworker-friends, who are closer to me than the other acquaintences, who have confided in me that my self-confidence and acceptance of sexuality are what drew them to me in the first place.  They felt comfortable with me, like they could be more like themselves without fear of judgement or condescension.  They wished their girlfriends were more interested in or appreciative of sex ... and it didn't have to be kinky, just sex in general.  Or the wished they could find women who didn't have guilt complexes and neurosis about sex.  And yet, they continued to date these women even while expressing their distaste of them.

Today, now 3 days later, I am still bruised and sore.  I still can't take a deep breath without my ribs protesting.  Nor can I lean on anything without some part of my battered body brushing a sensitive spot against whatever I'm leaning on.  I didn't have sex, didn't even get any clothes off.  No direct genital touching, other than a few brushes and some pressure of his leg or groin while we wrestled.  But I'm feeling as content and happy as if I had gotten laid.  It's actually remarkably like the feeling of satisfaction and contentment I get when I dance.  I feel physically and emotionally as though I've had a really good fuck.  And like any really good fuck, I'm craving more.  It's leaving a background hum of arousal that remains somewhat dim because I am not physically capable of taking care of it, but I know it will begin to rage once I'm healed.  It always does.  There's this renewed desire for violence just out of reach.  Usually, my partners are so much bigger than me, that any violent scenes involve me as clearly being the victim.  And that's fun.  But with him, I am equally an agressor.  I am hitting and biting and hurting him as much as he hurts me.  That's what I'm craving right now.  That equal exchange of violence and pain.

I love the bruises, the marks.  I love the feeling of soreness.  I love the awareness of every minute part of my body.  I love the feeling of power for every time I bested him, even while I love the feeling of being overpowered every time he bested me.  In all encounters, not just with him, and not just with this equal-violence-exchange, I love the bruises, marks, soreness, awareness.  I know my kinks and I know myself very well.  I also know just enough to know that I want to keep experimenting to find my limits and to understand why I like the things I like.  I am unashamed in my love of sex, in all my vanilla and kinky interests.  I am a bottom, but not a sub.  I am a voyuer.  I am a latent top.  I am a pain slut with a low tolerance.  I am a glutton for punishment and force, but only by a select few whom I give the power to take that position over me.  I am a tease.  I am a lover of sex.  I am that "bad girl" your mothers warned you about.

All these things I am not supposed to like, nor am I supposed to admit to it if I do secretly like it.  Yet it is my acknowledgement and acceptance of all these things, and my desire to learn more about myself, that makes me attractive to people.  How can anyone possibly live up to that?  You're not allowed to like sex, but guys like you better when you do like sex.  Huh?  How does that work?

Because I know myself, because I enjoy sex, I make a better partner.  I can more fully give of myself to my partner and I can more fully accept him in return.  I am a bad girl.  And because of that, I am a good girl.
joreth: (Flogging)

Some people have heard me talk about my job and some people are shocked and downright disbelieving of some of the tales. It's just incomprehensible to some people the amount of freedom I have in my workplace. I can tell my boss he's a cocksucker when he's being an asshole. I can tell the schedule coordinator that I'm not availble for a month and still find work the following month. I can be totally out and open about poly and BDSM. Sure, I get raised eyebrows and differences of opinion, but I can be myself with no fear and no constraints.

And here's a video to prove it.

joreth: (Super Tech)

A playfellow I'll be, but no man's toy.  A partner, helper, but no one's servant nor slave.  I will be captain of my fate and commander of my destiny, though the path I may share and the course I chart be followed by others.  What I have, I'll share, but I'll not give it over.  What I am, I am, and I'll not change it  What I will be, I will be, by my own will and no other.
~Mercedes Lackey, The Fairy Godmother

...although this does not preclude me from voluntarily giving up "control" in a temporary BDSM setting with very particular individiuals, but this is how I see life in general.

joreth: (Polydragon)
You scored as Dragon. Dragon: Now talk about a legend. These magnificent creatures are of many species. Some can be as large as the Earth itself, while others are as small as a mouse. One image that comes to everyone's mind is the large, fire breathing Dragons that loathed humans and loved to sleep on massive piles of gold. Not all dragons have a bad reputation. Most dragons are very wise, caring, and protective. It would make a person very lucky indeed to meet a dragon. Especially if they walked away untouched. I admire your wisdom, for you are the Ancient Dragon.

Dragon

 
67%

Faerie

 
50%

Demon

 
50%

WereWolf

 
25%

Mermaid

 
25%

Angel

 
0%

What Mythological Creature are you? (Cool Pics!)
created with QuizFarm.com



 

  

 

Congratulations!

Your Hotlanta Kink Test score was 651!

Here is the chart so that you can see how you are rated:

100 or lessYou need to lighten up and live a little!
101 to 200You have an average sex life in need of kink.
201 to 300You have sweet hints of a kinky nature.
301 to 400You have kinky playful tendencies.
401 to 500You are definitely a kinky player.
501 to 600You are kinkier than most!
601 to 700You are a major league kinkster!
701 to 800You live and breath kinky!!
801 to 900Wow! You're too kinky for most!!!
901 or moreSUPER FREAK ALERT! You da BOMB!

 

The maximum score for this test is 1000.


joreth: (Flogging)
I get a lot of people who ask me (or ask the message boards I'm on) why those of us who enjoy BDSM, enjoy BDSM. I wrote an answer and I think I can explore this post and turn it into an essay that I can use to better answer this question in the future. So I'm posting it here for safe keeping (I expect my computer to crash at any moment, causing me to lose all my files ... some things are just safer in storage on someone else's server right now). Eventually I'll revisit this and work on it more. I could post this as private since I'm not really requesting any comments, but I think I'll go ahead and make it public in case someone's comments help me to better clarify future drafts.

Pain

Nov. 19th, 2006 11:06 pm
joreth: (Default)

This is an essay entitled "Pain", written a little more than a year ago.  Added to my website in the Writings section under the Projects heading.  This is quite explicit and revealing about me, some people may not want to know this much about how my mind works.

joreth: (Default)
Wow, who would have ever thought I'd come up as a "romantic" in anything?

You scored 83% in romance and 88% in BDSM interest!
BDSM activites, fantasies, and interests are as personal as anything else in the realm of human sexuality. I hope that this test has given you a sense of your interest in integrating your desire to engage in BDSM into a long-term, loving relationship. For some people, this is essential. Other people are just as happy with "play partners" with whom they can engage in BDSM activities but do so without the real emotional attachment of a long-term, loving relationship. A high score in BDSM indicates a demonstrable interest including experience and a desire to engage in these activities in the future. A high score in romance shows that not only do you hope to be in a long-term relationship, but it would ideally be one in which the caring that you have for your lover results in flexibility on your part and a willingness to learn of the interests of this special person in an open and non-judgmental way. This may both enhance the relationship by bringing the two of you closer and help to keep an erotic charge for a long time to come. If you get a warm feeling when you think of such a future, you are a romantic (like the author of this test!). I hope that you have enjoyed this test and feel that it was worth your time.
 
My test tracked 2 variables How you compared to other people your age and gender:
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 93% on romance
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 82% on BDSM interest


The BDSM & long-term relationships Test
http://www.okcupid.com/tests/take?testid=7719556931081060901

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