joreth: (Bad Computer!)
2016-09-07 03:12 pm

"I Feel Bad When You Say That" As A Variation On #NotAllMen

[livejournal.com profile] margareta87 shared this website and suggested that everyone read everything on it. So I'm reading the most recent blog post and I want to share it specifically.

https://norasamaran.com/2016/08/28/variations-on-not-all-men/
"Sometimes he can’t tell the difference between him feeling bad because he hurt somebody, and feeling bad because someone hurt him. ... When Kyle is 20, or 30, or 40, or 60, and harms someone by action or omission, where will the ‘parent’ be who can say “you are good and loved and not shameful, and you did this thing, now stop acting like an ass and go make it right.”?"
I have an abusive ex that I talk about often. I *think* that I've done most of the emotional repair work so that I'm no longer acutely affected by my past relationship with him, but he makes such a good illustration of the messiness of emotional abuse that I continue to talk about him as a tool (heh, pun intended) to teach ethical lessons. This was basically what he was like. He was unable to distinguish between feeling hurt because someone hurt him and feeling hurt because *he* hurt someone and they reacted to it.

As the blogger, Shea Emma Fett phrased it, being victimized by acts of control is different from being victimized by my resistance to your control. In my most recent blog piece about beliefs vs. actions, I phrase it as raising your hand to slap someone and then having your hand hurt when you strike the arm that they raised to block your slap. Where was the grownup for my ex to say "people love you, and you did this thing, now stop acting like an ass and go make it right"? When I, eventually, tried to take that role, I got punished for it. I was lumped right in with the "bad guy" and we were both seen as "attacking" him. I was called "intolerant" and told that I was a One True Wayist because I told him that his method of keeping his partners small for his own comfort was unethical and hurtful and that *he* needed to do the work to let them grow rather than making them stay small on his own timetable.

"If you harm someone and then make it so that they feel afraid to tell you about it, be aware that women are likely coddling you constantly day in and day out in ways that exhaust them and that you take as normal and do not even notice."
He did this too. He made having a difference of opinion to him so intolerable that most of the family just let things go rather than argue. And they didn't make it clear that they were "agreeing to disagree" either. Often, he and I would have an argument, he would go away to complain to the others in the group, then come back and say "I talked to everyone else and we all agree that you're wrong", but then one or more of them would come to me privately to say that they actually agreed with me and disagreed with him but they didn't want to say anything because it was too much trouble to start a fight about it.

People in the group were constantly rearranging things in order to make him feel comforted or to accommodate him. If an argument got too heated, he would shut down, go into a semi-catatonic state, and when things got really tense he even reverted to self-harm and threats of self-harm. People in that group would literally force themselves into situations where they felt physically and emotionally unsafe just to prevent him from having a meltdown. Any attempt to tell him that his actions harmed them was met with said meltdown in which people had to back up and take back what was said. He called it "admitting they were wrong" and "owning their own shit" and he also called it "backtracking" and being "unreliable" which made them afraid because there was no right answer and no way to get out of the quicksand bog of arguing with him. I called it "badgering them into conceding." His victim called it "gaslighting". Whatever it was, he rewrote reality around him so that he was always right and everyone else catered to his "needs".
"Is it possible they have tried to tell you in a nice way, and you have clapped your hands over your ears or made it hard for them, and eventually they lose the capacity to be ‘nice’ while they are getting harmed? If you think back – really think back – how long were they trusting you and quietly asking you for help and empathy and support and compassion and honesty before they lost their buffer of capacity to speak kindly while drowning?"
This is what happens when people "blow up" seemingly "out of nowhere". If it looks like someone is "overreacting", there is a very good chance that they are actually acting appropriately if you add up all the times in the past, instead of taking this one instance in isolation. Regardless of how righteous you feel in your position (and believe me, I've seen plenty of people "blow up" at me on things that I'm dead certain that I'm right about - like gently pointing out something mildly racist and having them explode all out of proportion to what I actually said), embed this in your brain - if someone has lost their shit, there is probably something deeper going on. It is likely that they are reacting to an accumulation of things and your most recent encounter is just the straw that broke the camel's back. Now it's *your* job to step back and see if they are reacting to a lifetime of microaggressions and it's not personal to you or if they added together all the times they tried to talk to you about this and they're fed up with you not hearing them.
" if you make it hard for people around you to let you know you have caused harm, you’re going to invoke survival strategies in your friends and colleagues when you think you’re just having a regular hangout with your friend."
This partially explains when people of some sort of privilege get on their FB soapbox to preach about maintaining friends of different viewpoints. For someone with privilege, it's not a big deal to have a friend who has a different perspective when that person has less privilege because that different perspective doesn't affect the more privileged person directly. Their "debates" are all "academic" and they can take them or leave them. But the less privileged person is *harmed* every time they have that "debate" because, for them, it's not academic, it's personal. So one person thinks they're just having a friendly, spirited debate and the other person experiences it as one more cut in the death of a thousand cuts. So they have to employ fucking *survival strategies* in order to maintain that friendship, and eventually it becomes too much to bear. Think about that - the person you think of as a friend has to treat you like they're handling live plutonium and put on protective emotional "gear" just to be in your presence. I hope that makes you feel uncomfortable. Now sit with that discomfort because I'm not going to provide the coddling to make you feel better about yourself over it.
"I would actually apologize to him for having felt afraid. Because my hurt and fear hurt his feelings."
Being victimized by your control is not the same thing as being victimized by my resistance to your control.
joreth: (Misty in Box)
2016-08-27 03:44 pm

Beliefs vs. Actions and When It's Right To Believe The Defense

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

Modified disclaimer: "This is a personal post so it has extra rules. I don't want advice. I don't want condescension about my age or any other aspect of my identity or lifestyle or about not "seeing clearly" precisely because I've been through some fucked up experiences. I do not want devil's advocate. In fact, since this is all completely about lessons I've learned through very painful personal experience, I'm not interested in entertaining any debate over it. You are welcome to believe that I am wrong about my own life and experiences, if you keep that to yourself. If I see anything in the comments section that makes me regret having been open about my life, it'll be deleted without further explanation."

I have an ex-boyfriend. He abuses women. But he didn't abuse me. I'm not the kind to abuse easily. I'm not totally immune to it. I spent several years in my youth engaged to an emotionally abusive person who was successful at it. In fact, that's partially why I refused to believe it when his victim accused my partner of abuse. I had been through abuse, you see, so I should know it when I see it. And I didn't see it, therefore it didn't exist.

In general, I'm not the kind of prey an abuser looks for. I'm loud, aggressive, I have a strong support network, and I'm extremely confident in my memories and in defending my autonomy and my boundaries. Frankly, I'm too much work for an abuser to abuse. But, here's the thing I learned in my most recent lesson with abusive men: abusers aren't comic book villains twirling their mustachios and plotting out their Rube Goldberg-esque schemes to erase their partners' identities for personal gain. The term "gaslighting" is incredibly valuable, but not all gaslighting looks like the movie the name comes from. In fact, most gaslighting does not look like a film noir movie.

Abusers are often people in pain. They don't abuse because they hate their partners. They abuse because they're afraid. They're afraid of being abandoned. They're afraid that they're unlovable and if their partner ever discovers the "truth" about them, they'll lose that love. They're afraid of who knows what else. But a lot of us are afraid of things like that. So what makes them abusers and us not abusers?

They believe that they are right to address this fear by overwriting someone else's identity. There is also not necessarily a sharp dividing line between "us" and "them".

From the an article by Shea Emma Fett called Abuse In Polyamorous Relationships1 (all bold emphasis in all quoted passages in this post are mine):
"Most importantly, abusive behavior arises from beliefs, not from feelings, which is one of the reasons why people who are abusive are resistant to rehabilitation. I think this is a really important distinction, because people who engage in abusive behaviors can be kind and caring and gentle, and happy and wonderful to be around. They are not abusive because they are evil. They are abusive because the abuse makes sense and feels justified to them."

"[Lundy] Bancroft [author of Why Does He Do That?] says, “Anger and conflict are not the problem; they are normal aspects of life. Abuse doesn’t come from people’s inability to resolve conflicts but from one person’s decision to claim a higher status than another.”"

"What is this underlying thinking? Well, it’s all around you. It is the foundation of rape culture. It is the fundamental belief that women do not have a right to their own personal power. It is the fundamental belief that they can retain power over their bodies, minds and choices, only so long as we agree with those choices. ... It is the way we, all of us, men and women buy into the belief that we are entitled to women’s bodies, thoughts and choices. In polyamory, this belief makes it easy for us to treat our partners as things and not people.

But more than that, many of our fundamental beliefs in relationship[s] create a fertile ground for abuse. The goal of marriage is often longevity at any cost, and the presumption is mutual ownership over not just intimacy, but our partner’s choices, feelings and thoughts. And even if we take care to form our commitments outside of these assumptions, we still often carry a powerful sense of entitlement in intimate relationships. In short, intimate relationships often default to the power over model, and the relationship becomes a struggle for this power."

"The purpose of abuse is to erode a person’s ability to make choices for themselves. The abuser feels justified in taking proactive and punitive actions because of a fundamental sense of entitlement to their partner’s choices."
And from 10 Things I Wish I'd Know About Gaslighting2 by Shea Emma Fett:
"Gaslighting only requires a belief that it is acceptable to overwrite another person’s reality. The rest just happens organically when a person who holds that belief feels threatened. We learn how to control and manipulate each other very naturally. The distinguishing feature between someone who gaslights and someone who doesn’t, is an internalized paradigm of ownership. And in my experience, identifying that paradigm is a lot easier than spotting the gaslighting."
I'm not certain that identifying a paradigm of ownership is easier than spotting gaslighting, at least for me, because I've seen some people who are really good at twisting and using language to appear like they're on our side, but aside from that so, what? I've referenced these articles before, many times. Lots of people are talking about abuse nowadays. Why another essay on abuse that is basically just referencing something that's already been said? Well, because I don't think that the concept of "abuse is about beliefs" has really sunk in yet. I've spent many years yelling on the internet about why hierarchy* and rules in poly relationships are dangerous. People keep insisting that they can be done "non-abusively" or that everyone agrees to it therefore it's not abuse, but I don't seem to be able to get my point across - that it's not whether this specific action or that specific action is "abusive" or not or is "consented" to or not. It's about the underlying mindset and beliefs that allow people to think that hierarchy and rules can be done "non-abusively" in the first place.

From Relationship Rights: Can You Negotiate Them Away?3 By Eve Rickert:
"I believe that if you’ve come to a place in your relationship where someone has negotiated any one of their rights away, that relationship includes coercion, and that invalidates consent."

"There are certainly cases where you might choose not to exercise a right. It might be easy enough to say you don’t need the right to leave when, well, you don’t want to leave. But when you decide you do want the right? It’s still there.

And that’s what makes it a right."
That is the foundation of some later blog posts on whether or not hierarchy can ever be "ethical".

From Can Polyamorous Relationships Be Ethical? Part 2: Influence and Control4 by Eve Rickert:
"Healthy relationships are ones in which we can express our needs and desires, but it’s when we feel entitled to have our partners do what we want that things go off the rails. Entitlement makes us feel like it’s okay to overrule our partners’ agency (and that of their partners). If we’re part of a socially sanctioned couple, this is especially dangerous, because we’ve got lots of societal messages feeding that sense of entitlement. And the most damaging parts of hierarchical setups tend to come about when we enshrine entitlement into our relationship agreements."

"Once the tower of intimate influence is defended, however, we see the village once again reoccupied. The village is things that a person feels entitled to control in their partner’s relationship, or rules and structures that are put in place to ensure that one person’s needs are always favoured in the case of resource conflict."
I didn't recognize that my partner was abusive because he didn't *behave* that way towards me, and I didn't *see* him behave that way towards his other partners. So when this one person came forward and said he had abused her, I, along with his other partners, all stood up and said "He can't be! He's not like that! He's never done anything like that to us! The problem must be with you!"

But the truth is that he *did* do things like that to his other partners. They just looked a little different because we were all different people so he had to use slightly different tactics. His abuse was expressed differently with everyone so it didn't look like "abuse", but they were all expressions of the same set of *beliefs*. So when his other partners succumbed to his manipulation of them, it looked like everyone was consenting, therefore it couldn't be abuse. Because it wasn't necessarily the behaviour, it was the underlying belief that permitted the behaviour. "[I]f you’ve come to a place in your relationship where someone has negotiated any one of their rights away, that relationship includes coercion, and that invalidates consent."3
"Do abuse victims “consent” to be in their relationships? On the surface, perhaps it looks that way, but that is rooted in a victim-blaming, “why doesn’t she (he) just leave?” mentality and a serious oversimplification of the psychological dynamics of abuse. Abuse relies on tearing down your partner’s sense of self and personal agency to the point where consent is really no longer valid. And it doesn’t take physical violence to make a relationship abusive."3
The thing of it all is that this pattern was visible from the beginning. It wasn't invisible at all. It was just camouflaged beneath this community insistence that "anything" that two people "consent" to is A-OK. That whole YKINMKBYKIOK (your kink is not my kink but your kink is ok) mentality that I find so profoundly dangerous. I get why we started that. It's easy for people to place our own biases and judgements on other people even when we're trying to be all liberal and inclusive and shit. Look how often the furries get thrown under the bus by other kinksters, for instance. We had to teach ourselves that we don't have to agree or approve of someone else's preferences for those preferences to still be legitimate and valid and accepted. But instead of opening the door to inclusiveness, the door swung in the other direction and is now being used to bludgeon anyone who tries to critically examine toxic or harmful behaviour. It's like the religious extremists using "freedom of religion" to justify *imposing* their religious values onto other people by granting corporations personhood status to avoid covering contraception.

When I first met my abusive ex, he was in a hierarchical relationship that enforced triad structures only (FMF with bi-women, of course). So I thought "I kinda like him, but there's no way I'm touching that with a 10-foot pole!" Over time, their structure evolved until, many years later as our friendship grew, I was told that they had worked through their issues and they could now have independent relationships without each other and those relationships were allowed to grow on their own. So I thought "Hallelujah! People can change! People can learn and grow and break out of their insecurities!" Boy, was I wrong.

See, he and his wife still had a lot of rules with each other that I found ... disconcerting. But I wasn't told the full scope of all the rules, just that they found what works for them but that they had reached a point in their lives where they could accept that their other relationships couldn't work that way. So, in enters YKINMKBYKIOK - it works for us and we're not imposing it on you, so don't question it unless you want to be seen as intolerant of other people's preferences. So I didn't inquire too much, except to insist that this structure absolutely, without a doubt, no exceptions, would not work for me. They assured me they wouldn't try to impose it, and thus reassured, I entered into a relationship with him.

In the throes of NRE, I saw all the red flags, but I ignored them. Because he wasn't doing them *to me* and the person he was doing them to *said* she was OK with it and even claimed to be her idea in some cases. But they niggled at the back of my brain, so I stored these red flags in my memory (sometimes literally - a lot of our conversations were via chat, so I have the chat logs and I'm not relying purely on my memory) and when things came to a head years later, I was deeply ashamed that I hadn't paid more attention back then. And holy shit, when I learned what some of their rules were much later I was *really* upset with myself that I didn't press the issue in the beginning.

One of the red flags was that his wife didn't allow pictures taken of herself. Not just explicit photos, but any photos. Well, very occasionally she would pose for group photos of social events. But no candids and definitely no sexy shots. At the time, I thought this was just a quirk of hers. And it was, but sort of. She's also a very dominant personality, much like me in a lot of ways. Back in the beginning, when I thought "nope, not ever gonna go there!", I thought it was because *she* was calling all the shots and I didn't want anything to do with any relationship where the wife had more power over my relationship than I did. But they inadvertently introduced me to what I now call Relationship By Hostage Crisis. This is where two people get into a relationship with each other and one of them allows their partner to remove their agency in some way because the first person wants to remove the agency of the other themself. So they basically trade their own agency in exchange for controlling the other person's agency.

Some people seem to think that this is a fair power exchange, that it's not abusive if it goes both ways. But we're not talking about a D/s agreement where someone has the power to concede something. The reason why that's different is because *that person always maintains the power to take it back*. If they don't, it's abuse, by definition. I know this gets a lot of serious edge-players up in a snit when I say this, but kink is all about fantasy and illusion. None of it is real. Sure, it's real *enough* that it triggers the reactions in our brains so that it *feels* real. But it can end at any time. Franklin ([livejournal.com profile] tacit) once knew a guy who insisted his wife was his slave in every sense of the word and he owned her in exactly the same way he owned his TV. He insisted that it was a real slave relationship right up until his wife divorced him. You'll note that she wasn't summarily hunted down by the government and lashed or hung for leaving him.  But we do see cases where women try to leave their male partners and the men punish them by stalking, harassing, raping, and killing them.  He feels entitled to control her agency - her choices - and she is punished when she makes choices he doesn't approve of.  She does not have the power to take her agency back.  This is not a D/s consensual power exchange fantasy.

Giving up your agency in order to have control over someone else in trade is not a BDSM power exchange fantasy. You may indeed have power over someone else, but you *lose power over yourself* in exchange. This is not something you can renegotiate later when it's not working for you. You have become *powerless*, and it takes a great deal of effort to wrest that power back, if you ever get it at all. As they say, two wrongs don't make a right. Sometimes you can have two bad actors in the play instead of just one.
"Our brains are optimized to seek pleasure and avoid threat. It’s most of what we do. There’s nothing wrong with trying to avoid things that we believe will hurt us. However, most people would also agree that you can’t put a gun to someone else’s head in order to avoid the things you fear, no matter how uncomfortable the consequences. Sometimes we have to face what we fear because all other options require taking actions that we consider to be wrong. Therefore when we harm each other because of fear, let’s recognize that it was not the fear that was the problem. We all have fear. The problem was a belief system that said, well, maybe I can put a gun to your head."1
So, the wife wanted control over her husband in some way so she allowed her husband to control her body in this way (among others). He didn't want other people looking at her body in ways he didn't approve of. They held emotional guns to each other's heads. This is not a fair power exchange. No one was empowered by this situation, they were both disempowered *even while* they held power over each other. So, no pictures of her. Except that *he* obsessively took pictures of her. Of everyone.  At all times. And I mean at *all* times. I had ample opportunity during group sex to see him actually stop the sex, reach for a camera, and take a dozen pictures, all with her glaring at him in the picture because she didn't like having those pictures of herself taken. *She* wanted to control when pictures were taken and right then was not when she wanted to have pictures taken. But it didn't matter, because *he* wanted them.

I had a conversation with her about this once. This is where I learned that the no-dirty-pictures rule wasn't her own preference. She would have wanted to have posed for something for her own enjoyment, but he wouldn't allow it. She saw nothing wrong with his prohibiting her because, as her husband, he had that right to determine what happened to her body, but he also had that right (she believed) because she gave it to him. But there was no consideration for renegotiating that rule, at least not in practice. He made disagreement with him so traumatic to everyone in the family that everyone avoided disagreement with him at much cost. He literally made it a matter of life and death when people disagreed with him. So it was easier to capitulate than try to talk him out of one of his catatonic or self-harming states, and then they got to believe that it was their "choice" to negotiate that power away.

Later on, some other things were happening regarding her relationship with her boyfriend and my partner and I were arguing over his wife's autonomy and the boyfriend's rights in his own relationship with her, and we circled around to the subject of sex work, which led to the subject of dirty pictures. He was appalled, I mean *appalled* at the idea of a partner of his either "selling her body" or of his wife having nude pictures that someone else could see. We veered into all kinds of tangents, including me demanding him to explain how "selling one's body" through sex was any different from me getting paid to dance or to perform manual labor or how sex work was any more inherently demeaning than my soul-sucking retail job at barely above minimum wage.

I also had to watch him go through a series of mental gymnastics to explain why it was OK to be dating me, who has naked pictures of myself on a public website from when I posed as a tutorial model for [livejournal.com profile] tacit's BDSM site, but not OK to have a wife who might have similar pictures. The gymnastics got even more convoluted when I disclosed to him that I had been paid to pose for a nudie calendar years before and that picture is out there, floating around somewhere that I've never even seen and certainly have no control over what happens to it. The takeaway I got from that exchange was that it actually *did* bother him, but he was unable to admit it to himself so his cognitive dissonance forced him to justify on the spot why it was somehow different to be dating someone with that kind of exposure than to be married to someone with it.

But what really stuck in my memory was his explanation of why he believed he was in the right for not allowing nude pictures of his wife on the internet. He told me the story of the bowl of M&Ms. So, let's say you have a bowl of M&Ms on your desk at work. You love your M&Ms. They're your favorite candy. And sometimes you don't mind sharing your M&Ms with your coworkers, but you have this one coworker who you hate with a passion. He's a major asshole to everyone and he definitely doesn't respect you or your M&Ms. He feels entitled to them. You don't want him to have your M&Ms because they're not *his* M&Ms, and, in fact, you hate him so much that you don't want him to have any M&Ms ever because you don't want him to have the pleasure of eating M&Ms at all because he's such an asshole that he doesn't deserve the profound bliss that is the M&M.

I couldn't believe what I was reading (this was a chat argument). I couldn't believe this was coming out of the same person who was otherwise so aligned with all my values and beliefs and philosophies! So I said "but your wife isn't a bowl of M&Ms, she's a person who you can't own and she gets to make up her own mind about what happens to her own body." He tried to handwave away the objectification inherent in his analogy and pushed the "but he's an asshole and doesn't deserve to see the glory that is her body" angle.

He tried to appeal to my sense of justice but I don't actually want people I dislike to not have good things. I might often wish bad things on them, but all the times I can think of when I did that, what I wished was for the bad thing to be relevant to why I disliked them so that they would ultimately learn compassion and empathy from the bad thing, or at least be punished in the same way they were punishing others. I honestly don't give a fuck if Racist Joe in the next cubicle gets a lot of pleasure out of his cold Budwiser while sitting in his favorite recliner watching football at the end of the work day. I don't want to steal his Budwiser just so he can't have one. I'm not bothered by the idea that someone I don't like might actually be experiencing something pleasant or enjoyable or feeling happy. But I am deeply disturbed by the idea that other people are bothered by that.

There are so many other examples, that I have been using my experiences with him as moral tales for years since it all went down and I have yet to run out of examples. Argument after argument, random side comment after pointed discussion, there are a million different ways that he expressed his underlying belief that his partners could not be trusted to make their own decisions about their bodies; that if left to our own devices we would necessarily choose things that were not in *his* best interest; that what was in *his* best interest was therefore what was in *our* best interest; that what was "best" for the group took precedence over what was "best" for the individual; and that he was absolutely entitled, as the romantic partner, to have the power to make those kinds of decisions and to ask, demand, or manipulate his partners into doing what he decided we should.

I didn't see any of this because, for most of our relationship, what I wanted for myself and our relationship and what he wanted for me and our relationship were in alignment. "It might be easy enough to say you don’t need the right to leave when, well, you don’t want to leave. But when you decide you do want the right? It’s still there." Until one day, we weren't in alignment. He had no need to try any of the gaslighting or logic-circling or even more blatantly abusive tactics like threats of self-harm because I wasn't doing anything contrary to his vision of how our relationship ought to be or how I ought to be in our relationship. Until one day, I did. And then I saw it. I saw what his victim had been crying to me about just a few weeks before. I saw the entitlement. I saw the belief that he ought to be able to dictate my actions. I saw the carrot-and-stick game he played with her - using group acceptance as the carrot to get me to fall in line and group shunning as the stick if I didn't fall in line. "I talked with everyone else, and they all agree that you are wrong. You’re hurting the whole group, don’t you care about us?" I saw everything she said he had been doing to her for the length of their relationship, finally, in one day, directed at me.

And then I saw that I had always seen it. It had always been there.
"Therefore when we harm each other because of fear, let’s recognize that it was not the fear that was the problem. We all have fear. The problem was a belief system that said, well, maybe I can put a gun to your head.

The prioritization of fear arises when we replace a relationship of mutual support and co-creation, with one of parental protection. ... A relationship that is hostage to fear is one where everything, the relationship, the mental health of the participants, the future, everything hinges on the avoidance of something. Every relationship that forms on top of that avoidance, forms under the premise that the fear is more important than anything else. But just because you’ve agreed to never open the box, doesn’t mean the box isn’t there, informing the health and stability of every relationship that touches it."1
When we first broke up, it came as a shock to everyone. To everyone on the outside, he and I were the most compatible and stable of all his other partnerships. We were so similar in so many ways. And by the time we broke up, his relationship with the victim who came forward had gotten so tumultuous that all his other relationships were being affected, except, apparently, ours. Everything in his life seemed to be falling apart. He was so wrapped up in the drama with this one person that he had no more resources for maintaining any of his other relationships and they were all in danger of blowing up too. His last blog post prior to our breakup was lamenting the fact that his life was falling apart and I was his one port left in the storm. So no one saw it coming, because no one understood that this box containing his beliefs and fears was still there, informing the health and stability of every relationship including ours.

When I told people who had met him or who were privy to my gushings of my relationship with him during NRE, when I told them of how it ended, without exception everyone said that it sounded like I was describing two different people. It was a total Jekyll and Hyde story. His victim once said that she tried to reconcile these two people in her head. Part of what made her stay with him so long is that she kept thinking that she could get back to the nice Dr. Jekyll if she could only find the right way to behave that wouldn't let out Mr. Hyde. But her other partner pointed out to her, "He's not two different people. Your nice, sweet boyfriend is also the abuser. They're the same person."

I keep saying that patterns are important. But I also keep saying that it's the underlying beliefs that are important. People might be tempted to say "but look at all these other relationships he has! She was the outlier! The pattern is that he's a good guy and she's the problem!"  But that's not the pattern. The pattern is in his beliefs. Sure, he didn't try to manipulate me or control me ... as long as what I was already doing was something he approved of. So it may have *looked* like there was no pattern of manipulation or control because he didn't seem to try that on me. But the real pattern was that he *believed* that manipulation and control are appropriate methods of dealing with a partner whose behaviour was something he didn't approve of. "It is the fundamental belief that they can retain power over their bodies, minds and choices, only so long as we agree with those choices."

This is why benevolent sexism is still sexism and still a problem. The behaviour, on the surface, might seem like it's not oppressive because it supposedly elevates women. It rewards them. It "privileges" them. But only as long as women toe the line. Only as long as women fall within acceptable ranges of behaviour or dress or thought. A pedestal *seems* like a place of power and enshrinement, until you realize how confining it is to stand in one spot or risk falling to your death for daring to sit down or change positions.

It's tempting to say "he's not an abuser because he didn't abuse me!" I know, I said that at one time. But it's also tempting to say "but abusers don't abuse everyone yet they're still abusers". The thing is that they actually do, we just can't see it behind the camouflage. As [livejournal.com profile] tacit, and one of my metafores, are fond of saying, it’s not a problem … until it is. "Every relationship that forms on top of that avoidance, forms under the premise that the fear is more important than anything else. But just because you’ve agreed to never open the box, doesn’t mean the box isn’t there, informing the health and stability of every relationship that touches it." A racist who keeps his mouth shut when a black customer walks into his store is still a racist towards that customer. He's not a racist because he does racist things. He's a racist because he holds racist beliefs. And he holds those beliefs all the time, at everyone. A person who believes that they are entitled to control other people’s bodies, thoughts, and choices still believes those things even when they don't choose to exercise that entitlement, for whatever reason they choose not to in that moment. And those beliefs leave signs. It's not about whether or not he tries to manipulate a partner who is already doing what he wants her to do. It's about whether he *believes* he is right to manipulate her should she ever not want to do what he wants her to do. And that kind of thinking leaves footprints, if we only learn how to identify them.

The reason why this is important is because it is too easy to dismiss abuse when it doesn't look like how we think abuse ought to look. It's also too easy to accuse people of abuse when they are not, in fact, abusing anyone.

I wrote a paragraph in a recent post where I distinguished between "selfish" and "self-interest". That paragraph got quoted, and some people took exception to that distinction because abusers will just turn around and call what they're doing "self-interest" to justify their actions. What these detractors didn't seem to get was that this was my whole point.

What worked on my partner's victim was the accusation that she was being "selfish". That it was *she*, not he, who was the abusive monster. Her story is remarkably similar to the same one I linked to and quoted above. That's why I keep sharing Fett's writing - it really hits home with how similar it is to everything we (mostly she) went through. It all started unraveling for me when she called me crying, desperate that she had harmed him in some way, and how could she fix it? When she told me what she was afraid she had done, I was horrified that she could possibly think that she had done anything wrong at all. But how could she be such a monster? she wondered. How could she treat him so heinously? Are you fucking serious? I asked her. This had nothing to do with her at all. This was all about him.
"If you are being abused, there is a very high chance that you will be accused of being abusive or of otherwise causing the abuse. That’s because this accusation is devastatingly effective at shutting you down and obtaining control in a dispute. However, I also believe this accusation is often sincere. People often engage in abusive behaviors because they feel deeply powerless and that powerlessness hurts. But not everything that hurts in a relationship is abuse, and not everything that hurts your partner is your responsibility. It’s important to be able to distinguish abuse from other things that may happen in relationships that are hurtful, or may even be toxic or unhealthy, but are not fundamentally about entitlement and control."1
There are all kinds of things that are problematic to varying degrees. But they are not all about entitlement and control. And this is *very* important to recognize. And they should never be conflated. That harms actual victims of entitlement and control. It's not always just the abuser accusing his victim of being abusive. I see it in communities as well. Now that we're finally talking about abuse in my various subcultures, a lot of terms are getting bandied about - abuse, harassment, consent, violation, predator, narcissism, borderline personality disorder ... just to name a few. Not all of these terms are being applied where they should. When things that aren't abuse get mislabeled as abuse or "rounded up" to abuse, it makes it much harder for actual abuse victims to find proper support. When things that are indeed problematic but not "abusive" get labeled as "abusive" instead of their real problem, then we can't address the problem in ways that are effective for solving the problem.

And when people live in fear that any possible misstep might get them cast out of communities under accusations of "abuser", especially if those people are actually victims who have been told by their abusers that they are the abuser themselves, it makes it way more difficult for anyone to seek help or to seek correction for things that might actually be correctable (or not even offensive at all).

I think we're on the right track now that we're sensitive to abuse and harassment and control in our communities. But I think we're also in danger of slipping off the track too easily. We're not quite at the destination yet and we still have further to travel. One of the dangers is in stopping too soon. Now we know all these words, and now we have started supporting victims and accusers in order to break the previous chilling hold on victims from finding the support they needed when they come forward. But we still don't quite have our finger on the pulse of the problem yet.

Patterns are important, but it's the underlying beliefs that those patterns reveal that are the real key. Those underlying beliefs are what enable abuse and harassment and control and oppression and all the other bad things we're finally starting to look at and combat. Those beliefs set up the foundations that allow abuse and control and manipulation to happen. But not all bad things are about entitlement and control. It's the beliefs that make abusers so resistant to rehabilitation, so it's the beliefs we need to confront. If we don't confront the beliefs but instead attack the behavioural patterns, abusers will simply change their behavioural patterns to continue avoiding detection. It's the beliefs that need to change, and the behaviour changes will follow naturally as a consequence.

At the same time, if those beliefs aren't present, then not only is the attack the wrong way to approach the situation, the behaviour itself also has different chances of correction. It's much more likely to correct someone's behaviour if the behaviour doesn't stem from a deep belief that their behaviour was, in fact, already correct. I’m repeatedly told by those with social anxiety and other social awkward issues that we need to stop excusing bad social behaviour by labeling it some mental illness because people who aren’t predators but legitimately socially awkward often feel horrified when it is brought to their attention that they have done something wrong and they want to learn how to do better. That’s because they don’t have an underlying belief that they were right, they were simply unaware, and they don’t want to do these wrong things. These issues are correctable, but not if we ostracize everyone who does something wrong without first finding out if it was a social awkwardness / anxiety thing or if it was a boundary-pushing predator masquerading as socially awkward thing. One of them believes they didn’t do anything wrong and the other doesn’t. One of them can have their behaviour corrected with guidance and the other can’t because they don’t believe their behaviour was wrong.

How we address the problem needs to be changed if the belief underlying it isn't about entitlement and control, if we want our efforts to be effective. And, as my partner's poor victim learned the hard way, if there are no underlying beliefs about entitlement and control, then there's a good chance that she wasn't doing the abuse she was accused of in the first place. She, like Fett, wracked her brain trying to figure out how to stop this "abuse" she was doing to him, and that only made things worse for her. Fett describes many times about the extreme self-loathing and self-hatred they felt because they believed themself to be an abuser when they weren’t. Because they weren’t actually abusing anyone, the intense searching for the root of non-existent abuse only deepened the wound and left them more and more vulnerable to their abuser’s manipulation.

As Fett says, being victimized by your control is not the same as being victimized by my resistence to your control. His victim wasn't abusing him because, no matter how much he felt hurt, she wasn't the one doing any hurting of him. She did not have any underlying beliefs that she was entitled to control him. In fact, all of his hurt stemmed from her very strong belief that no one was entitled to control anyone else. She was resisting his control and that made him feel hurt. If your hand hurts after slapping someone who raised their arm to block the slap, that person didn't hurt you; you hurt yourself by slapping them.

But *his* underlying beliefs of entitlement were always there, and were always visible. When he first accused her of abusing him, almost everyone who knew her were shocked and suspicious. What do you mean she abused him? She had never exhibited that kind of behaviour before! They had relationships with her that weren't abusive at all! When she later accused him of the same, people said the same thing about him.

But she did not have those underlying beliefs, and her supporters were not wrong to question the accusation. It *was* contrary to everything about her. And because it was so contrary to her very nature, it was a sign that she was actually a victim of abuse herself. When his supporters questioned her accusation of him, well, I don't want to go so far as to say it was "wrong" to question, because serious accusations deserve to be treated seriously, which includes inquiry into the situation. But their dismissal of her accusation in favor of their personal experience with him *was* misplaced because they were looking at the wrong thing - his actions and feelings vs. his beliefs.

When her supporters questioned his accusation of her, they investigated her beliefs. In light of what she believed about entitlement and control, the accusation was patently absurd. The absurdity of the accusation is what led to the situation finally being identified accurately - that he was gaslighting her and emotionally abusing her. He accused her of abuse. Some people who knew her (not me, to my great shame), questioned that accusation. It didn't fit what they knew about her. She had never done anything like that to them. But, more than that, her *beliefs* were so contrary to the accusation, that her supporters were able to start piecing things together for her when she was so mired in self-doubt and illusion that she couldn't do it herself. So they started adding things up and told her "you are not this person he says you are. He is gaslighting you."

She finally broke free and accused him of abusing her. Some people who knew him questioned that accusation. It didn't fit what they knew about him. He had never done anything like that to them. But that's where they stopped. They did not question his *beliefs*. If they had, like I eventually did, they would have discovered that his beliefs are not actually contrary to the accusations at all. And they would have discovered, like I eventually did, that signs of his beliefs had been visible from the beginning. So no one else started adding things up, and to this day people believe that she abused him and that I also abused him because I withdrew my support and then resisted his attempt to control me when I withdrew that support. Because they looked at actions and feelings and not beliefs.

Those beliefs were visible, and showed a pattern, if you knew how to look for them. Without those beliefs, she could not have abused him. Hurt him, sure, because we all hurt people, especially when we are in pain ourselves and especially because the people who are the most vulnerable with us are also the most susceptible to being hurt by us precisely because of that vulnerability. But she *could not* have attempted to control or manipulate him because she *does not* hold any beliefs that she is entitled to his thoughts, his body, his choices. Everything she ever did in that relationship was an attempt to escape his control, not exercise it. But her attempts to escape that control were *felt* by him as "harm". And misunderstood by everyone else as "selfishness". And I, of all people close to that dynamic, should have been able to see the difference, since that is essentially my very existence within the context of romantic relationships - constantly attempting to escape control and being labeled "selfish" for the attempts.

The problem is that this subject is so complex and so nuanced that I don't think I'll ever be done writing about it. And so this post now becomes a mini-novel. All to explain that patterns are easy to disguise or misinterpret if we only look at actions and not at underlying beliefs. When we look at patterns of *beliefs*, things appear very different. Someone who seems totally affable becomes a manipulative monster (everyone's favorite TV dad, for instance). Someone who is accused of being that monster turns out to be a victim themself. And within communities concerned with social justice, it's hard to see sometimes because those monsters learn to co-opt the language of social justice. But the beliefs are still there, and they show up, if you know how to look for them. So when you go looking for them and they don't show up, it's time to wonder just who is the attacker and who is being attacked and maybe all is not as it seems.

When a bunch of people all stand up and say "I looked, and they didn’t perform those actions on me!", maybe we can question the validity of the group defense. But when a bunch of people all stand up and say "I looked, and those beliefs just aren't present", maybe we ought to question the validity of the *accusation*, like when my abusive ex accused his victim of being abusive for daring to resist his control of her. She (and later, I) was ostracized from her community and her support group because everyone automatically believed the "victim", meaning he called dibs on the label first and everyone jumped to his side by default, without critically examining whether his claims were even plausible, given the beliefs of the people involved. Her actions were deemed "abusive" simply because he felt hurt by them, without looking to see if there were any elements of entitlement or control present and, if so, which direction they flowed.

But those who cared enough to look beneath the surface finally saw the truth. Those who took the time to look for patterns of *belief*, not actions or not simply whether someone felt "hurt", when we saw the patterns of belief, we knew that she could not have been abusive, even if she might also have caused harm. And my refusal to see this pattern when it was first shown to me, that led to consequences of my own. Consequences that could have been avoided, and possibly even resulted in better protection for his victim sooner, had I learned to look for belief patterns and had I learned to recognize that internalized paradigm of ownership rather than quibbling over whether or not specific actions "counted" as "abusive".

Maybe, had I done that instead, I wouldn't today be wracked with guilt and self-doubt, all these years later. Maybe his victim would have escaped sooner and healed faster had I not backed the wrong horse and had I not challenged everyone else who said "but she can't be an abuser because our experience of her is different!"  Maybe she wouldn't have been so easy to isolate had I listened to *her* other supporters instead of arguing that they just didn't see how much drama the family had only when she was brought into the fold. Instead of questioning their support of her on the basis that they were too close to her to be "objective" and not close enough to the situation to see all the hurt feels he had. Maybe if I had acknowledged that, as people who knew her so well for so long, they might actually have had some insight into her belief structure and been exactly the right people to know if she had the beliefs necessary for her to abuse him. Maybe, if I had known that it was the beliefs that were important, not actions that happened behind closed doors that can be interpreted in many ways or rationalized and not simply “feeling” hurt by someone, things could have been different and we both could have been spared at least some of the damage that dating an abuser left us with. Maybe, had I understood all this back then, I wouldn't today feel like that house with broken windows**.

This is not the only time I made this mistake, either, although I was closer to this situation than to others. There was another time someone cried "abuse", and I believed them automatically because I was told I should, and only many months later did I learn that he was, in fact, an abuser. He was just the one who cried foul first. But, again, it took a confrontation with him personally where his beliefs that it was acceptable to overwrite another person’s reality became visible for me to see the pattern. Two people accused each other of abuse, and I took this side because I now "knew", thanks to my experiences dating an abuser, that abusers often think of themselves as victims. So, obviously, his abuser was just doing that, right? Except that later, he tried to gaslight me too. After telling him multiple times my feelings on something, he continued to insist that I did not feel those things, and to insist on his own narrative of what I felt. Now his "abuser’s" accusations of gaslighting sounded more plausible. He *believed* that he was entitled to control another person’s reality, and patterns of that belief were visible, if you know what to look for. That doesn’t let the other person off the hook for whatever wrongs they committed in this very messy situation. But it does mean that I was wrong to "believe the victim" without treating all the accusations flying around seriously and critically examining the situation even though I thought I did at the time. My bias towards "believe the victim" and my personal experience with abuse telling me that I should now know what abuse "looks like" fogged the matter and I did not examine the situation critically enough, or with enough information (knowing the difference between beliefs vs. behaviours or feelings) to be able to examine it properly.

So I yell on the internet, hoping people can learn very expensive lessons without paying the high price I paid to learn it first. After I believed the wrong "victim" more than once, I'm not positive that "believe the victim" is the right response. *Support* the victim might be a better response, because support allows for the ability to examine the situation and then provide the *right type* of support based on that examination. Had I "supported" all the actors in that messy double-accusation drama instead of "believed" just one of them, I might have been able to provide better support for the actual victims in the story, given that I had some community authority and responsibility in the matter. Had I "supported" my then-boyfriend instead of "believed" him, I might have discovered the truth sooner and been able to support him by holding him accountable instead of inadvertently contributing to the gaslighting of his real victim. Had I "supported" him instead, I might have been able to hear the chorus of "she couldn't have done that because we know her!" and looked into it more clearly instead of dismissing it out of hand, and I might have then learned about this beliefs vs. actions/feelings problem.

And maybe we might both have escaped without breaking first.



* I will not be hosting any debate in my comments about the definition of hierarchy. That’s why I linked to the definition I’m using here. If your definition differs, then you’re not doing what I am calling "hierarchy" and I don’t care. I absolutely refuse to hold space for this endless circular argument because it has managed to keep the entire community derailed for over 20 years. I’m insisting on moving on. Any comments that include anything even remotely resembling "but sometimes hierarchy is…" or "but I don’t do that…" or "but my kids really do take priority!" will be summarily deleted regardless of what other content the comment may have. If you’re feeling the desire to make a comment like that, go read the link I provided for the definition of hierarchy, and then parts 1 and 2 of Can Poly Hierarchies Be Ethical first. If you still feel the desire to make those comments, re-read all three posts. Continue re-reading until you no longer feel the need to make those rebuttals.

** This is in reference to an essay that might not be available. The essay is an analogy to living in a house with windows that aren’t perfect but that do the job. They’re good enough and the house is sound. Then one day, someone comes along and breaks the windows. And you spend a long time ignoring the broken windows, and then working around the broken windows, and then finally learning how to fix the broken windows. One at a time, you repair them. They’re not all repaired yet and some rooms are still unusable because of the broken windows, but the house is getting fixed, the new windows look great, and you learned a new skill. But the windows were fine to begin with. You didn’t need to learn this skill or replace the windows until someone came along and broke them. So you’ve had to spend all these years learning how to fix windows that shouldn’t have had to be fixed in the first place, and all these years ahead of you continuing to fix each window, when you could have been using that time to learn a different skill, to get better at something new, to grow or improve. Instead, you spend all this time just trying to move backwards to get back to a place you were before because you can’t move forward until you get there first. The breaking of the windows was a huge step backwards and now you’re playing catchup. And it all feels unnecessary because the windows were fine to begin with.



1. Abuse In Poly Relationships by Shea Emma Fett - https://medium.com/@sheaemmafett/abuse-in-polyamorous-relationships-d13e396c8f85

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

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

4. Can Polyamorous Hierarchies Be Ethical? Part 2: Influence and Control by Eve Rickert - www.morethantwo.com/blog/2016/06/can-polyamorous-hierarchies-ethical-part-2-influence-control
joreth: (Misty in Box)
2016-08-12 11:03 pm

The Troubling Trendiness Of Poverty Appropriation

www.theestablishment.co/2015/11/23/tiny-home-houses-poverty-appropriation/

I recently had to block someone because they posted about that common of white privilege memes - anyone can travel if you just commit to it and don't hold out for 5-star hotels! I didn't block them just because they made that post. I had to block them because I and someone else tried to explain the privilege inherent in the position in the comments, and *their friends* flooded the comments with more of the same "you just don't want to travel badly enough because if you wanted it, it could be done" and "you're just afraid". I had to block that person just to stop getting notifications about their privileged friends continuing to gaslight me and tell me what I "really want" or what I'm "really afraid of".

And yes, I *am* afraid to lose what little safety net I have managed to hold onto while the rest slips rapidly through my fingers, by living in the same country that recognizes me as a citizen and where my parents can send me emergency cash overnight. When your only means of survival requires your government to give you assistance and your retired parents to send their hard-earned (and dwindling) retirement funds on bailing you out every so often, the idea of leaving the country and not being able to access that meager safety net because you don't have any cash saved up is terrifying (assuming that "selling everything you own" even adds up to the amount necessary to get a passport and plane ticket in the first place, which my stuff doesn't). And yes, some of my friends are afraid to travel in countries where they can't easily get their insulin because they are so poor that their only travel option is that couch-surfing, get a dishwashing job when you get there option which doesn't exactly provide them with the ability to stock up on insulin in a foreign country. Travel, no matter how cheaply you spin it, is a luxury when it's a choice.

As I told those arrogant people in the comments, living hand-to-mouth and washing dishes and sleeping on someone's couch is not something that a person aspires TO when it is something they are currently trying to escape FROM. I don't care how magnificent the sunset looks over a pyramid, it doesn't mean shit when the only way to see it is to be worse off than I am at home and then, because of that, be too poor to get back home. It's not like the sun doesn't set here too, y'know.

That's actually how I ended up stuck in FL. I spent all my money, traveled as cheaply as possible, even worked odd jobs on the way, made it out here with nothing saved up (because of unexpected emergency travel expenses, I spent all the savings I was supposed to live on once here just to finish getting here) and no job waiting for me and no place to live. And the effort it takes just to survive out here means I have been unable to get back to even my starting point, so I can't afford to leave what was supposed to be a temporary trip. Sure, it takes less money to live in other places so you could conceivably survive somewhat comfortably by traveling cheaply somewhere else. But because it takes less money to live there, you also earn less money while you're there. If you spend all your money getting somewhere, there's no guarantee that you'll make enough money once there to get back. I've been stuck here for 16 goddamn years because I can't afford to get back home, thanks to it being cheaper to live here than back home.

I know EXACTLY what it takes to give up "everything" and "just do it", and I know how hard it is to recover from that and I know what happens when you "give up everything" and never recoup it so you can't ever go back at the end of the adventure. I know what happens after you ride off into that sunset. Life happens and life is a bitch.

"It’s likely, from where I sit, that this back-to-nature and boxed-up simplicity is not being marketed to people like me, who come from simplicity and heightened knowledge of poverty, but to people who have not wanted for creature comforts. For them to try on, glamorize, identify with."

"The drop-offs were happening at a white anarchist collective filled with people who were choosing not to participate in the system of capitalism.

And I couldn’t help but think: that must be nice. To have that choice. "

"the same people of color who may go on welfare out of necessity, out of the systemic oppression that makes it difficult for them to have the same access to upward mobility, are considered socially uncouth and lazy, while white anarchists (in this context) are praised for their radically subversive actions."

"But I do think it’s time to start having conversations about how alternative means aren’t a choice for those who come from poverty. We must acknowledge what it means to make space for people who actually need free food or things out of dumpsters, "

The only people flocking towards all these "live simply" hipster solutions are people who didn't come from a life where "live simply" wasn't a choice. It's easy to give up your extra "things" or space when your background tells you that you can always replace it again in the future. It's easy to look on a life of crawling through dumpsters and living on couches when you had your full vaccination schedule and medical benefits and a history of more or less healthy diet to make you hardy enough to withstand any medical complications that comes from accidental exposure or a poorer diet than normal or a 6-week *choice* of poor sleep on a couch that you can give up and come back to your nice bed when you're done.

It's easy to think all that stuff sounds like "fun" or even "responsible" when you haven't lost someone you know to exposure and malnutrition that could have been prevented had they ever had the "choice" to give it up when they were tired of playacting at being poor.
joreth: (Misty in Box)
2016-08-11 07:48 pm
Entry tags:

Guest Post: Control vs. Choice

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

So, today I'm providing a platform for Jess (Burde) Mahler over at Polyamory On Purpose:



Had a conversation today that pulled into focus some thoughts on “boundaries” “control” and, most importantly, “choice.”

I’ve said in other contexts that every day we choose to be in our relationships. I didn’t decide to be with Michael one day seven years ago and that was it. Every day we have been together, I have decided to be in a relationship with him and to make our relationship healthy(er).

In the same way, every (social) relationship you are in is one you choose to be in. Work, military and political relationships can be forced on us. Who we love, befriend, count as family, and bump bits with cannot. Every day we choose to be in those relationships.

Usually, we aren’t aware of these choices. If you choose to be in a relationship with Wanda, you aren’t going to wake up every day and say “Do I want to be in a relationship with Wanda today?” You default to the established choice. Somewhere in your subconscious a decision tree runs “I decided to be in a relationship with Wanda yesterday and nothing has changed (or things have changed for the better) so I’m still in a relationship with her today.” We only become aware of this choice when things go wrong. "Wow, I can't believe Wanda did that. Maybe this relationship isn't the best idea. No, I'm going to stick it out, we can make it work!" (Or "...Yeah, I'm not sure I can do this anymore. I think it's time to leave this relationship.)

People always have the right NOT to be in a relationship. At any day, at any moment, we can choose to end an existing relationship. Starting a relationship takes agreement, ending a relationship does not. No one can require you to be in a relationship with them.

Remember that.

Okay, so this conversation I had today, someone was bothered by the distinction between controlling and consideration for a partner’s feelings. The specific phrases were “My bf/gf won’t let me….” and “My bf/gf would be hurt if I did ____, so I won’t.” The person I was talking with basically saw the second phrase as emotional manipulation. Emotional manipulation is a way of exerting control on someone and is a form of abuse.

I, on the other hand, saw the second phrase as respect for a partner’s boundaries. My partner will be hurt if I do this, I don’t want to hurt my partner, I won’t do this.

The difference, the critical difference, (and why I still think I’m right ;) ) is choice.

Let’s break those two phrases down a bit.

“My bf/gf won’t let me...” In this statement, you do not have a choice in your actions. Your partner has made the choice for you. This is controlling. It would not surprise me to learn that this relationship is abusive. (Controlling relationships are not always abusive—you can choose to give control to your partner, a la power exchange relationships, but controlling relationships where the control is coercive are always abusive.)

“My bf/gf would be hurt if I did...” In this statement, you have a choice. You may choose to do this thing. You may choose not to do this thing. All your partner has done is give you information. In this case, the information that if you do this thing, they will be hurt. In consent, giving additional information is called making sure your partner is fully informed. Same applies here.

Now, if you choose to do the thing that hurts your partner, and your partner punishes you for it, that is abuse. Your partner is trying to control your choices. The next time you think about doing something that would hurt them, they want you to choose what they pick for you to choose. Not what you would choose for yourself.

Telling a partner what to do: controlling.

Telling a partner your feelings and preferences: informative and important for fully informed decisions.

Telling a partner your feelings and preferences and punishing them if they don’t do what you want: controlling and (outside of consensual power exchange relationship) abusive.

With me so far? Cause the next step is a humdinger.

“If you do ____ I will not be able to be in a relationship with you.”

I’ve been told in the past that this kind of statement is automatically coercive because it is an ultimatum. But if I fill in the blank this way:

“if you hit me I will not be able to be in a relationship with you.”

Suddenly the same people who were saying it is controlling or coercive language agree that you are making a perfectly reasonable statement.

Let’s drop something else in the blank:

“If you talk with your ex I will not be able to be in a relationship with you.”

All of a sudden, those same people will once again see it as controlling or coercive. But it’s the same language, the only thing that has changed is what your partner is talking about.

So the idea really seems to be “asking your partner to do or not do certain things in order to be in a relationship with you is controlling.”

And this is where we come back to where we started. No one can require you to be in a relationship with them. I can break up with you tomorrow because you have a hangnail. I can break up with you because your voice is squeaky. I can break up with you for no reason at all. And you can do the same, in all of your relationships.

It’s not asking your partner to do or not to certain things to be in a relationship that is controlling—they are asking you. The idea that “asking your partner to do or not do certain things in order to be in a relationship with you is controlling” This is controlling and coercive because it implies “you can’t break up with someone because they do something you don’t like.” Fuck no, I can break up with who I want, when I want, where I want. And so can you. And so can your partner. And their partner. Ad the nauseum.

But-but-but-

I can hear the objections. “Saying ‘if you do this I can’t be in a relationship with you’ isn’t asking! It’s telling them what to do if they want to be in a relationship with you!”

big sigh

Rather than argue, which I so could, I accept this framing. And?

Seriously, so what? I have the right to lay out requirements for the relationships I am in. This goes back to (again) No one can require you to be in a relationship with them.

If I want to, I can say that no one can be in a relationship with me unless they shit gold and fart rainbows, while dancing the rumba. That is my right. Deal with it. (It’s also your right. And your partner’s. And their partner’s. Ad the nauseum.) If I say that, chances are I’m not going to find anyone to be in a relationship with. That’s my choice. If I relax my standards to only people who shit and fart while dancing the rumba, I might actually find someone to be in a relationship with. But if I don’t want to relax my standards, I don’t have to. (also, ewwwww.)

So let’s go back to “If you do ____ I will not be able to be in a relationship wit you.” If it’s not controlling, and it’s not asking, what is it?

It’s laying out a decision tree.

It is saying “You have choices. You can choose to do this. You can choose to not do this. Those are your choices. After you make your choice, I get to make a choice. I get to choose (again, just like I do every day) whether or not to be in a relationship with you. If you do this, I will probably choose not to be in a relationship with you. If you choose not to do this, I will probably choose to continue being in a relationship with you.”

In this can, your partner is not taking away your choices. They are not controlling or coercing you. They are clearly stating “These are your available choices. These are the choices I will make depending on what you choose.”

This, like “My bf/gf will hurt if I do ...” is providing information. It is providing information that you need to make an informed decision. You can choose to do this, knowing it will probably end your relationship. You can choose to do this and coerce your partner into continuing to be with you (abuse) or you can choose to not do this because being with your partner is more important than doing this. These are your choices. These have always been your choices. The only difference is, they have now been stated clearly, so you understand them.

“But not letting me talk with my ex is coercive!” Yup. And if your partner said “you aren’t allowed to talk with your ex,” that would be controlling and wrong. (Again, assuming not a power exchange relationship.) However, your partner is allowed to say “I will leave this relationship if you talk with your ex.” Why? Because your partner can leave this relationship at any time. Because you cannot require your partner to be in this relationship. All you can do is choose to be in this relationship with them and make the right choices for you.

What if something your partner wants is harmful to you?

Well, then we have an incompatibility. One of the incompatibilities that gets talked about a lot is children. I want children. You don’t want children. We are incompatible. We have two choices. One of us can give up what we want to keep the relationship together, or one (or both) of us can choose to leave the relationship. Some incompatibilities can be worked around. “I am a vegan, I need to be in a relationship where I don’t need to eat meat.” “I’m not a vegan, I need to be in a relationship where I don’t need to eat tofu.” “Okay, how about we each cook our own meals, and we can make sure our families are on board with us bringing some vegan/non-vegan chow for the holidays.”

Now, someone saying they can’t be in a relationship with me if I talk with my ex would be a major incompatibility for me. I couldn’t give up talking with my ex even if I wanted to (we have kids together). So what would I do? I would not be in a relationship with this person.

What if I’ve been in a relationship with someone for a while and they say they can’t continue the relationship if I talk with my ex?

We go back to that decision tree. Being able to talk with whoever I want is a major deal for me. So I would reluctantly decide “I love you, but if you need me to not talk to people in order for our relationship to continue, I’m afraid I can’t do that. If you need to leave our relationship, I understand.”

Maybe they leave the relationship. Maybe we talk about it and they realize it was never about my ex, it was about their insecurity. Or maybe they tell me that every time I talk with my ex I’ve been picking a fight with my partner and didn’t realize it. (in which case, they kinda could have phrased their boundary better, but hey we’re all human). Maybe if there is an underlying cause of their boundary that isn’t directly about talking with my ex, we can find a compromise. Or maybe not. Maybe this is just an incompatibility that can’t be worked through. Or they aren’t willing to work through it. And they go their way.

And none of this is controlling. Or coercive. It’s just two people making the best of a hard situation and doing what is right for us.
joreth: (Misty in Box)
2016-05-24 12:36 pm

No, You Don't Have OCD Just Because You Like Things Neat & Tidy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



OCD & Anxiety Disorders: Crash Course Phsychology #29:





Debunking The Myths About OCD (TED-ed):





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





A video about OCD:





Preview Of The Touching Tree by James Callner:





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


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






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

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

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

More about OCPD at Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Obsessive%E2%80%93compulsive_personality_disorder and more about OCD at Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Obsessive%E2%80%93compulsive_disorder
joreth: (Bad Computer!)
2016-05-08 04:22 pm

If You Were Just Nicer More People Would Listen To You

So, there's a certain type of person for whom my words resonate. I became a pseudo-public figure so those people could hear me, not to gather a large following. It's more like I was just making myself into an available resource. I know that I'm not to everyone's taste, and I'm fine with that. The people who like what I have to say can read what I say, and the people who don't, don't have to.

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

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

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

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

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

So I will continue to swear when I'm angry. And when I'm happy. And when I fucking feel like it. And you will know that I am offering an honest, raw expression of my emotions. Because I have built a life where I can do that, and since so many people still don't have that luxury, I refuse to modulate my words and my tone on their behalf for the dainty sensitivities of the very people who won't let them do it for themselves. Anyone who is more upset at my use of language than the message itself is part of the problem.
joreth: (Purple Mobius)
2016-03-15 10:33 am

There Are Plenty Of Wrong Ways To Do #Poly And #Abuse Is One Of Them

http://polyamoryonpurpose.com/theres-no-right-way-to-do-polyamory/

It's about time other people are making blog posts on this subject. I've been saying this for years (it's even the catch phrase for Miss Poly Manners), and a handful of people have been saying it in online arguments for years, but there aren't very many articles, blog pieces - reference-able statements that take this position. Some try to be too conciliatory, as if they're afraid to alienate or piss off the people who are using this phrase as a silencing tactic.

We need more literature on this subject, particularly by names with larger audiences, and we, as a community, need to show a growing awareness and a harder stance against abusive tactics. These tactics masquerade as "reasonable", which is how they get entrenched; they co-opt well-meaning but misguided or simplistic philosophies because people who are trying to be well-meaning don't generally consider how they can be taken advantage of by those who aren't so well-meaning. We need to be uncovering them, revealing them for the manipulation that they are, and eradicating them from our lexicon, our philosophy, our communities.
"And for many people who do polyamory in a way that harms others “there’s no right way to do poly!” has become a useful tool to shut down conversation and deflect attention. As soon as someone says “There’s no right way to do poly,” the person confronting them has to defend their right to express their concerns. The conversation becomes about polyamory theory rather than whatever is concerning the person who spoke up.

This tactic can be used to shut down a secondary upset with the way their voice is being silenced, a mono partner who has agreed to try polyamory and is uncomfortable with the direct the relationship is going, other people in the local community calling out abuse or unethical behavior, and much more."
Abuse in polyamory is also a theoretical discussion, and this phrase is a useful tool to shut down conversation about that. When we talk about abuse in poly abstractly or generally, not speaking about a specific relationship, inevitably, someone comes along with "there's no right way to do poly" to justify gaslighting, manipulation, disrespecting of agency in the form of rules & hierarchy, control, and unequal distributions of power, even racism and sexism and other -isms that find their way into interpersonal relationships.

We are too afraid to say "there are wrong ways to do this", and we need to get over that.

In this article that was referenced in the previous link, Jessica Burde illustrates Shea Emma Fett's lesson that being victimized by one's control is not the same thing as being victimized by one's resistance to your control.
"In dealing with abusive relationships, it is important to recognize that playing the victim can be an extremely useful tool for the abuser. A classic example of this in polyamory is when one person tries to control their partner’s relationships. When their partner objects to this attempted control, the abuser responds with, “There is no one true way to do polyamory—you are just trying to control me and force me to do polyamory your way because you don’t like rules.”"
I ran into this a bunch of times in my past, but my most recent brush was also my most obvious example. He was so good at manipulation that I couldn't tell that he was doing it to others. I was convinced that he was ... well, not a "victim" because he had built up such a comfortable little power dynamic that everyone within it enabled each other so it didn't look like anyone was a "victim" of anything, but I was convinced that he was not in the driver's seat when it came to who controlled the group.  Ask me about poly-by-hostage rules sometime.

So when he employed those same tactics on a new partner and there was more turbulence than their little insulated, co-dependent group usually gave back to him, I, along with everyone else, assumed it was the new person's fault. The new person was the disruptive one, obvs, because things were running smoothly until they came along.

But the new person made large enough waves that the red flags finally started popping up in my field of vision. Not quite enough for me to have recognized it, but enough to have *primed* me for when he finally had the opportunity to turn his tactics on me. It was only when he accused *me* of victimizing him for resisting his control that I could finally connect the dots and see what he was doing to everyone else.

The kicker for me was when my life was falling apart by events totally out of my control - my landlord selling the house after my lease was up and not giving me enough notice to move out, the person who "rescued" me by offering me a room until I could find a new place to live torturing my cats while I was at work, a new partner who I was deeply in love with and deeply insecure about deciding to move away before the relationship had even gotten established, shit like that - when things were out of my control and I was flailing around trying to hold onto anything that wasn't sinking, he said to me "how could you do this to me?" It was in that moment that I finally realized that this was not a case of two people with different but valid styles of polyamory. This was a case of one person trying to control another, and the other resisting that control, and the one person then crying "victim!" when he didn't get his way.

Every argument we had where I tried to explain how his rules were hurting other people, he responded with "you're just trying to make me do polyamory YOUR way - this way works for us!" Yeah, in the way that any abusive situation "works" for the people in it - the one in control gets to stay in control and the one being victimized gets gaslighted into thinking that they're being abused for their own good. Every time I saw one member of his group try to reach outside the bounds, and he would freak out and try to reign them back in, every time I called him on it, he would yell at me that everyone in the group "agreed" to this manner of veto and group consensus and it "works for them" and that when I pointed out the pain it caused one of the other members to give up something in order to assuage his hurt feelings at things that had nothing to do with him, he would say that I was trying to "impose" MY way of polyamory onto him - that *I* was victimizing *him* and trying to force him into a style of polyamory that wasn't a good fit for them. There are lots of people who seem to think that "agreeing" to disempowerment is always acceptable, that their agreement makes it empowering. This is not a D/s arrangement we're talking about here, this is abuse. By definition, someone who is disempowered isn't *able* to give informed consent - that's why we have statutory rape laws. We can coerce people to "agree" to all manner of things, it doesn't make their agreement "empowering" or right.

"You don't get to arbitrarily decide how to take new partners without my approval" - uh, yes I do. You have choices you can make based on how I decide to take on new partners, but those decisions aren't about you, they're about me. I do have full control over those decisions that affect me. This should be especially obvious when I'm poly, I'm out, and my policy of no-rules is widely known and published in my online writings, but technically, anyone has that right even if they're in a monogamous or otherwise restricted relationship. Betraying a promise is hurtful, and I don't condone any kind of action where one takes a romantic or sexual relationship without one's existing partner's knowledge and then intends to maintain the ruse that the new relationship doesn't or didn't exist, but they still have that *right* of bodily autonomy. No one needs another's *approval* for what you do with your own body, mind, or emotions because those things don't belong to them, you just need their non-coerced informed consent to engage in whatever kind of relationship with *you* that you're asking them to engage in with you.

"You don't get to decide the terms of how I speak to you or what I'm allowed to say to you" (said to me when I told him he was not to contact me again unless it was to apologize for something) - uh, yes I do. Again, I have full control over decisions that affect me. I absolutely get to decide the terms of how you interact with me and you are not "victimized" when I resist your attempts to control me or your access to me. You are not a "victim" when I fall in love with someone new and our relationship moves at a speed and in a direction we didn't anticipate.  You are not a "victim" when you violate my space and I refuse you access to me without an apology for it.  You don't have to like my decisions, you can feel hurt by my decisions, but you are not *victimized* by my decision to not interact with you or when I resist your attempts to direct what I do with my body, my mind, or my emotions.

Things that I do with my body, mind, or emotions are not things that I do TO YOU. They can affect you (which is why I'm so adamant about building friendly, or at least civil, metamour relations), but they are not done TO YOU. They are not about you. They are things that are happening to me. And you have no right to control those things or cry victimization when you don't like what happens to me.  Manipulation, intimidation, and control are, in fact, the wrong ways to do polyamory.
joreth: (Dobert Demons of Stupidity)
2016-03-08 09:23 pm

You Can't Force Me To Have Sex With A Demographic!

So ... just FYI, it's possible to defend a person's right to say no while still acknowledging that their *reasons* for saying no stem from internalized cultural bigotry.

Like, they totally have that right to say no to sex with anyone at any time and for any reason. If I ever saw, say, a black person yell "you HAVE to have sex with me, otherwise you're racist!", I'd totally rip them a new one.

But it's also possible for a person to not want to have sex with a particular marginalized demographic (note: not an individual in that demographic, but the entire demographic) *because* the culture of bigotry that they grew up in affected their preferences and tastes as they developed into the adult sexual being that they are today.

Denying that we are products of our culture, that we don't develop in a vacuum, and that it's really difficult, if not impossible, to tease out exactly what parts of us are "nature" and what parts of us are "nurture" (save the false binary comments, I'm making a point here), are contributing factors to exactly that sort of cultural bigotry that usually ends up raising this exact issue.

Maybe if we could learn to accept that people are contradictions, that no one is a Good Person (TM) or a Bad Person (TM), and that we all do both good and harmful shit to people, maybe we could start admitting that bigotry influences us instead of defending ourselves as if our very integrity depended on never ever having a bad thought or bad motivation ever ever, like, ever, and then we could finally get on the road to moving past it.

Also, P.S. - "moving past it" doesn't mean "and now you have to start having sex with people you don't want to".
joreth: (Misty in Box)
2016-02-22 01:48 pm

What's The Difference Between A Gaslight Victim And A Gaslighter?

I have a question and I need for everyone interested in answering it to assume that I am asking in good faith, not trolling.

Are there any articles that directly compare and contrast the difference between being gaslighted and someone who is *actually* the horrible things that a gaslighter accuses the victim to be?

Let me expand a bit.  OK, a lot.

I've had the misfortune to see a gaslighter work his black magic now in person, right in front of my eyes but on someone other than me, and I've seen the devastation it caused. I've seen it in a poly context, which, for some reason, actually made it harder for me to see at first - easier for the gaslighter to hide. I've been an outspoken critic of what I have eventually come to see as real abuse in the poly community and how our own community standards protect and privilege abusive relationship structures and behaviours. So, in no way do I want to counteract any of the work done to bring awareness and solutions to gaslighting.

But I'm reading a lot of articles on gaslighting lately, and it struck me that, if I switched perspectives in my head and read the article *as if I were* the gaslighter himself (choosing a gendered pronoun because I am most familiar with male abusers and female victims, and I feel the need to use different pronouns to help keep the illustrations understandable), using the excuses and justifications he gave to make it look like he was the victim, if I took on that mindset for a moment, I couldn't tell from many of these articles who was whom. And a gaslighter or narcissist can find ammunition in these articles to continue their subjugation, and validation in these words.

So, for example, this one article lists several "tell-tale signs":

1. Something is “off” about your friend, partner, … but you can’t quite explain or pinpoint what.

So, this gaslighting observation that I mentioned above, in the beginning, he had me (a close but outside observer) convinced at first that he was the real victim. He confided in me his perspective. I do believe that he really did believe the stories he was spinning to me. It wasn't until I talked to the victim alone and then confronted him about the victim's side, and then HEARD him say "no, they don't feel that way, here [victim], tell Joreth that you don't feel that way" and then the victim proceeded to confirm the gaslighter *even though* I had just had an hour long conversation with them in tears about exactly how they felt. The victim told me that *I* must have misunderstood or misheard their anguished cries, that it wasn't a big deal, that everything was worked out.

I KNOW WHAT I HEARD. The victim felt a particular way, the gaslighter insisted that they didn't, and then the victim's story changed to match the gaslighter's version.

My point is that I believe the gaslighter is that fucked in the head that he (and most of them) really does believe his (their) version of events. I don't believe that most gaslighters are deliberately plotting to undermine people like in the movie, but I know for a fact that undermining people is the effect that's happening. I was one of his confidants, so I heard what I really believe to be his honest and true view of himself and his motivations. I believe that I understand the view of himself that he holds, at least well enough to read an article from a gaslighter's perspective who doesn't think he is doing anything wrong.

So, when I read articles like this and I put myself in the mindset of that confidante for whom I was on his side before I knew better, I have a hard time telling from these articles that *he* was the one who was doing the gaslighting. That's how he had me fooled for as long as I was.

He believed that something was "off" about his victim. They kept "changing their story". They weren't consistent. They saw things in strange, corner-turning ways that he didn't understand. I was constantly playing "interpreter" for them because he just didn't understand the victim.

4. You feel threatened and on-edge, but you don’t know why.

As the blogger Shea Emma Fett alluded to, abusers really do feel victimized, but they feel victimized by their victims' resistance to the abuser's control. When this gaslighter attempted to control his victim, and they resisted, the abuser felt personally threatened. I went out on a date once with a guy who I had a history with and I was interested in a future with, and my then-bf, when I told him all about it, accused me "HOW COULD YOU DO THIS TO ME?!" Listen here, asshole, I did *nothing* "to" you. This thing *happened* to me. It may have affected you, but it wasn't done *to* you and certainly not with malice. Nevertheless, he, and the abuser I'm talking about, felt threatened. This abuser was *constantly* fighting with his victim, to the point that he started working as late as possible to avoid being at home where another fight might break out. He was on edge all the time. He didn't understand why this was happening or how to avoid it (because he didn't understand that it was his own doing and he didn't understand the victim's wants - namely the desire to not be abused). He would check off "yes" to this one too.

6. You never quite feel “good enough” and try to live up to the expectations and demands of others, even if they are unreasonable or harm you in some way.

The motivation for this gaslighter's behaviour was a massive amount of fear and insecurity.  Every time he felt his insecurity crop up and it prompted him to try to control other people to manage his fear, I stuck my nose in to tell him that he should do better.  His victim also ineffectually tried to tell him that his attempts to control them was hurting them and he needed to do better.  In my own arguments with him, he accused me of being unreasonable for insisting that his attempts to control his partners were harmful.  He insisted that *my* suggestions for not controlling people were actually harmful *to him* somehow.  We argued in circles and I never got a clear explanation for how other men (even men that he didn't like) seeing naked pictures of his wife harmed *him* (for example), but he clearly believed that it did.

Remember that ex above?  He honestly believed that my date, and what we did on our date, with my new prospective partner was something done *to* him, and that it harmed him in some way, even though he wasn't on that date and he was told about the date both before and afterwards, prior to my seeing that ex in person again so that he could make informed decisions about how to relate to me in the future (and no, I didn't have wild, unprotected, fluid-exchanged sex with some random stranger and come home with an STD or something, which is usually what people point to when they want to defend the position that it's reasonable to be upset about what one partner does outside of a given relationship or to control, or even request, a specific set of behaviour for outside a given relationship).

I insist that a no-rules, boundaries-based relationship is the better relationship standard, and the gaslighter believed that my standards are too high, are unreasonable, and harm him in some way.  He's not the only one who thinks that either.  I have been told, verbatim, that not everyone is as "evolved" as I am when it comes to relationship and emotional maturity.  I call bullshit on the "evolved" part.  As far as I'm concerned, respect for agency is the bare minimum.  I get that it's not always *easy*, but it's also not some advanced, high level concept set aside for, I dunno, monks who have reached enlightenment or Clears who have spent millions of dollars to the Church or whatever.  Learning to respect other people's agency is something that children are capable of learning, and it's a lifetime of societal reinforcement that causes us to unlearn it (if we learned it in the first place) by instilling a sense of entitlement to other people's bodies, emotions, and minds.  When fear has a hold of you, respecting other people's agency may be challenging, but challenging is not the same as "harmful".  But because it can be challenging, someone who is an abuser or who is gaslighting someone can indeed believe that the standards their victim might suggest are "too high" and are "harming him".  Personal growth is uncomfortable, especially when you resist it.  That doesn't make it, necessarily, "harmful", but it can feel that way, so a gaslighter could see this "tell-tale sign" as evidence for his narrative too.

7.  You feel like there’s something fundamentally wrong with you, e.g. you’re neurotic or are “losing it.”

The gaslighter excused his efforts to control people away by claiming he had PTSD.  I do not believe that self-diagnosis, I believe another one made by an actual diagnostician but that's not actually relevant right now.  What is relevant is that the gaslighter *does* believe that he suffers from PTSD and he does, indeed, exhibit several symptoms, including "checking out" (which, I'm told by reliable clinicians, are also symptoms of a handful of other mental illnesses including the diagnosis I believe is more likely to be the correct one).  Every time he tried to control his victim and they pushed back, here's what would happen.  The victim would insist on their reality, and the gaslighter would go glassy-eyed and catatonic, unable to interact with the world around him.  *Until*, that is, the victim recanted and accepted the gaslighter's reality.  Then, suddenly, he would "wake up" and start interacting again.  Later, though, he would use that as "evidence" that the victim was "inconsistent" and kept "changing their story" and therefore shouldn't be trusted to know what reality was.

But because he would get "triggered" by his victim's resistance, he would often come to me in distress over how he was "losing it" or that there was something wrong with him.  PTSD and other mental illnesses are viewed as "something fundamentally wrong with you" or "neurotic" by society in general, so regardless of which mental illness he might have, he could legitimately think that "something is fundamentally wrong" and he would be "correct" about that.  He felt that he was being hollowed out, that he couldn't function in daily life anymore as their arguments increased in frequency.  He had trouble concentrating at work because he was always upset about their latest argument.  He was stressed and frightened by obsessive thoughts of losing his victim.  When I saw only his catatonia and the aftermath of their arguments, it was completely believable that he was the "victim".  But that required keeping the victim feeling isolated in an "us against them" tribalism within the group, because as soon as I started talking to the victim themself, and seeing the arguments from the beginning, not just the effect of the argument on him, things looked very different.

My second fiance was a gaslighter.  He was very young, though, and clumsy about it, and I'm way too self-confident for those kinds of tactics to work for very long on me.  He did things like this too, only he wasn't nearly as believable about it.  Whenever we got into an argument, if it looked like I was going to win (or that he was going to lose, since the argument was usually about whether or not he could have sex with me or I could go out in public without him), he would get "sick" somehow.  He got "the flu" twice a week on the nights of my ballroom dance class.  He got an upset stomach on laundry night if I wanted to do it at my parents' house instead of his parents' house.  He got another one of his upset stomachs on the night of a friend's bachelorette party when I told him it was "no guys allowed".

One time, he even "knocked himself unconscious" on a low-hanging pipe in the carport when we walked from the car to the house during an argument.  He managed to somehow hit himself in the head hard enough to lose consciousness completely without actually making any sound of impact and while moving at the rate of a slow lumber.  I've had someone swing a metal pipe at me with the intention of hurting me and hit me on the head and I didn't go fully passed out.  Head injuries don't work like they do in the movies.  And when I left his ass lying on the concrete, he also somehow managed to get "robbed" in broad daylight while lying unconscious (that one was the last straw and I called his bluff hard enough that he admitted his lie).  His various maladies and misfortunes were intended to distract me from the argument and trigger my compassion so that I would forget why I was mad at him and run to him to take care of him.  Fortunately for me, I'm not the "maternal" type and my reaction was to give the benefit of the doubt the first time or two, but then to become contemptuous of an adult who couldn't care for himself.  Contempt is the number one relationship killer, and unconsciously developing that emotion as a response to abusive tactics has probably saved my life on multiple occasions.

So, once I saw this gaslighter's tactic from the other side, I recognized it from my own abusive ex-fiance.  He would get "sick" and I would have to stop arguing to care for him, because if I kept being mad at him while he was sick, then *I* was the monster with no compassion.  Fortunately for me, I'm not terribly bothered by people I'm mad at thinking that I'm not compassionate because *I* know better, and that's what matters to me.  But this gaslighter was taking legitimate mental health issues and preying on his victim's concern over harming others and their fear of being seen as not compassionate.  Again, I believe that he really believes his side of things.  I don't think he actually deliberately calculated how to fake PTSD in order to win an argument (whereas I do believe my ex-fiance faked his unconsciousness - which happened more than once - although his upset stomachs were probably a real reaction to anxiety).  I believe that he really was "checking out" because I believe there is really something very wrong with him.  But it was always just so *convenient* that it ended as soon as the victim recanted, and then that recanting was used later to further undermine the victim's position and even their standing in the community.  If the victim stood their ground, they were "driving" the gaslighter to a mental breakdown, but if the victim backed down, they were unreliable and couldn't be trusted.  Either way, the victim was the "monster" who kept "harming" their abuser.

But from the gaslighter's perspective, since these episodes came more and more frequently as the relationship spiraled faster and faster towards its demise, he felt that he was "losing it" and becoming more and more unhinged.  And he was becoming unhinged.  He was a total wreck of a person by the end.  But he was still a gaslighter, and I do not believe the victim was doing it *to* the gaslighter.  I believe it is a consequence of the sort of person the gaslighter is who had to face the sort of person that the victim was.

8. You feel like you’re constantly overreacting or are too sensitive.
9. You feel isolated, hopeless, misunderstood and depressed.

This is really just more of an extension of the last one.  The relationship was spiraling out of control because the victim was doing more and more resisting of the gaslighter's attempts to control them and their own breakdown as a result of the gaslighting working, and that led to daily fights that consumed their every waking moment and also took over the atmosphere of the rest of the immediate community whenever either of them was present.  When you feel like your life is going out of control, regardless of why or how, it's not unexpected to feel isolated, hopeless, misunderstood, or depressed, especially if someone is trying to tell you that your behaviour is out of line.  When he wanted to control his victim, I told him that he was essentially overreacting.  I told him that he needed to dial it back and let his victim (who I had not yet begun to think of as "the victim") have their agency and do their thing.  I told him, more or less, that his feelings of fear and the need to control them were too much, out of sync with the reality of the situation, and that the solution was for him to get over his issues, not control the victim's behaviour.  In essence, it could be argued that he saw my words as telling him that he was "overreacting or are too sensitive".  So, from his perspective, these are a big "yes" also.


11. You feel scared and as though “something is terribly wrong,” but you don’t know what or why.

Again, I believe that he believes his own narrative.  This gaslighter felt that his life was spinning out of control and he didn't know how to wrestle control back.  Every day was fraught with arguments and intense fear.  More and more people were becoming unhappy by the splash zone of this one relationship.  Life began to look chaotic and turbulent.  Not only was this relationship a source of pain and fear, but because the two of them were constantly fighting, all his other relationships started to suffer and he started to fear that he was about to lose his other relationships as well.  Then, not a month after he told me that I was the one stable thing in his life, we had our own blow-out that he apparently couldn't anticipate.  Everything was "terribly wrong", but because the truth was his gaslighting and he didn't recognize it, he didn't know why everything was "terribly wrong" or how to fix it.

12. You find it hard to make decisions.

With his catatonic episodes happening more and more frequently, and the arguments happening constantly, he started to revert to a more child-like mental state.  He had trouble making decisions because his brain was just freezing up from all the chaos.  He was never good at making decisions anyway, preferring others to take the lead on things, which is actually one of the reasons why it took me so long to figure out that he was controlling the people around him to manage his insecurities.  It's hard to believe someone is a manipulator when they appear to be such a follower.  But because he felt that his life was out of control and that he was losing his own grip on reality, making decisions became more difficult than usual.

13. You feel as though you’re a much weaker version of yourself, and you were much more strong and confident in the past.

This was something he actually told me, more or less. He was so distraught by everything that was happening, that he felt like he was becoming "hollow", which is sort of like saying he is a "weaker version of [himself]". I have absolutely no doubt that he felt like he was losing his mind. His life wasn't looking the way he wanted it to look and the way he had always controlled his life in the past wasn't working with this partner. This partner was resisting his control, and he felt so entitled to controlling them to keep his own mental issues manageable that their resistance to his control was threatening and made him feel harmed.  Having those feelings, and the extent to which this whole relationship was disrupting everyone's life, it doesn't matter that he was the one abusing the victim, those feelings still feel real and still affect how one sees oneself and their place in the world.

14. You feel guilty for not feeling happy like you used to.

This gaslighter was *known* for his exuberance for life. In the dictionary, next to the word "happy", you'd see his picture.  I've known a bunch of people like that - in fact, it seems to be one of the elements of "my type". [livejournal.com profile] tacit is one of those people for whom "happy" is an integral characteristic too.  But, obviously, this gaslighter was not happy all the time during this period.  He was stressed and anxious and depressed and angry and sad all the time.  For someone whose very *identity* includes "happy", not being happy can make one feel like one is not oneself anymore.  And for some of those people, if part of their identity rests on their ability to be happy and for others to see them as happy, particularly if their happiness makes other people happy and their sadness makes other people sad for them, no longer feeling happy can feel like a personal failure.

So, this gaslighter failing to control his victim, causing them to be miserable, which causes them to challenge the relationship and the attempts to control, which makes the *gaslighter* unhappy, this can lead to a sense of guilt for not maintaining this happiness in the face of all this loss and misery even though the gaslighter is the one causing the chain reaction in the first place.  Since this sort of gaslighter doesn't realize that he's the one setting the spark, he has a difficult time recognizing that his unhappiness is something he can fix because it's something he caused.  Or, he might suspect or know (possibly subconsciously) that it's something he caused (even if he believes he caused it but have the wrong ideas on *how* he caused it), and so feel guilt for knowing that he did it all to himself.

So, this whole long exposition is to explain that I am looking for sources to help explain why, when a gaslighter feels these things, it's *not* a sign that they are a victim or being gaslighted by their actual victims.  When a person is gaslighted, they start to believe that they are an abusive monster who is doing terrible things to their abuser, but an abuser actually *is* doing all those things.  I could write a similar checklist of "how to know you're being abusive" and read it through the perspective of a gaslight victim and that victim could conceivably reach the conclusion that they are, indeed, an abusive monster because of the lens that each is viewing the world through.  I know there's a difference, I just don't know how to explain or illustrate that and I'm looking for sources to cite and other people's words to use as analogy or illustration or explanation.
joreth: (Misty Sleeping)
2016-01-27 01:05 am

The Big Sleep

www.theage.com.au/interactive/2016/the-big-sleep/

I'm seeing this article making the rounds on FB. It's a story about a married couple at the end of their years choosing how to finish their life. Consider this your content warning both for the article and the rest of my comments.

For most of my life, I have never understood the desire for suicide. Death, or as [livejournal.com profile] tacit and my metamour call it, The Void, has always terrified me. I want any and all methods possible to prolong my life. I suppose I could be called a transhumanist, because I'm in favor of radical life extension. I want to live for hundreds, thousands of years. I want death to be *optional*.

And that's what makes me support this couple. I couldn't understand this decision until recently, but I also have always known that it was not my place to decide what was right for other people. Just because I couldn't imagine the sort of circumstances that would make someone embrace death doesn't mean that I would *never* understand that decision, and the thought of longing for death but being denied it was just as terrifying to me as the thought of dying itself.

I have been suicidal twice in my life. The first time, I was a very young teen. That teenager doesn't seem like me. I see her from the outside now. So I was unable to empathize with people who wanted to die, although I supported their right to choose on principle. The second time was much, much more recently, and it was after I discovered words like "transhumanism" and "radical life extension". This time, I was able to experience being in the mind of someone who longed for death and who wasn't able to understand people who wanted to go on living. Now I live with the memories of being both people in my head.

You might think that, having come (mostly) out of a suicidal depression, I would feel grateful that I stuck it out long enough to no longer wish for death, and to find life even more precious for those (and other) close brushes with death. But this makes me even more strongly in favor of the rights of assisted suicide. It's true, I'm glad that I did not have the opportunity to go through with it. Now. But I am even more convinced now that our approach to suicide is wrong. There are far too few resources to help people like me who are having an emotional imbalance, for whatever reason, get past it and learn how to embrace life, and there are far too many laws that are unable to distinguish between people like me and people like those in this article. These are not the same kinds of suicidal tendencies, but in both circumstances, the tendencies are treated the same - as a problem we have to legislate against. Instead of placing benches in the courtyard, we put up signs telling people not to sit on the planter.

These people made a rational decision that they considered from all angles for many, many years. They do not believe in an afterlife, which could (and often does) influence someone's desire to die by convincing them that there's something better waiting for them "on the other side". They had nothing to gain from their suicide, and plenty to lose - including their daughters, their freedom if it failed, their daughters' freedom if they were found guilty of assisting the suicides, but most importantly, they stood to lose that which frightened them more than death - a slow decline into pain and confusion.

I am no longer certain that I can face that kind of future with a stalwart, steadfast commitment to life borne of fear of The Void. I'd like to think that I still love life as ardently as before. But I can't fault them for their choice, and I can understand their fear better than I ever have before. I have always stood for making death optional because my goal is to live forever. But in making life optional, that requires making death itself a valid choice. As the unrelated saying goes, consent is meaningless if you can't say no. Making death optional doesn't mean very much if you can't choose that option when you want it.

Surprisingly, this article actually made me feel hopeful and optimistic. Yes, they died. But they died on their own terms, just as they lived on their own terms. We should all be so lucky.

joreth: (Purple Mobius)
2016-01-27 12:45 am

But It's Not FAIR!

"But it's not FAIR that I have to give up X / not do X / he gets to do X!"

It's amazing how much more fair the world becomes when you stop feeling entitled to things that were never yours to begin with and when you see your partners are real human beings with their own agency instead of need fulfillment machines.

"But we're *married! It's not fair that she can just come along and start taking up his time!  He should be cutting time for her out of everything BUT his time with me!"

"But I was here first, so it's not fair for him to expect to get an equal amount of love that I get!"

"But we made an *agreement* that they would never go to that restaurant together!  That's OUR place!  It's not fair to go without me!"

My partner's time is not my time.  It belongs to them and they choose to share it with me or not as they wish.

My partner's emotions are not my emotions.  They belong to them and they choose to share their emotions with me or not as they wish.  They choose to allow their emotions to be influenced by me or not as they wish.

That restaurant belongs to neither myself nor my partner and is open equally to our business.  While it may be associated with certain memories and emotions for me, it is not, actually, the source of my specialness.  My specialness belongs to me.  My partner's specialness belongs to them.  Our relationship's specialness exists only because we exist in the relationship together.  No one can take my specialness away from me because it IS me.  My partner's specialness does not belong to me because it is a representation of my partner.  My partner can choose to share whatever of themselves makes them special with whomever they wish, and I am fortunate, not entitled, to be one of the people they choose to share themselves with.

My relationships are a gift that I get to open every single day. They are more than fair because they are not anything that is owed to me.

Releasing the sense of entitlement to my partners' bodies, time, emotions, and mind makes my relationships much more fair and tends to give everyone a larger slice of the pie.  Because agency is not a finite, tangible resource, so loosening the grip can actually make more of it to go around.

Sometimes, we have to let go of our hold on things in order to better secure our connection to them.  There's that saying about letting something go and if it comes back, it's meant to be, but if it doesn't, it wasn't meant to be.  I appreciate the sentiment, but it's not *entirely* accurate, because it depends on how you define "let it go".  You can't replace codependency or attachment with apathy.  If you don't nourish your relationships, they won't flourish.  The idea isn't to reign in your feelings for someone and stop caring for them.  In fact, letting go of entitlement is an act of caring *more*.  It's an act of courage.  You have to care so much for them, that you're willing to let them be a fully developed human being without your control to make them act as you desire them to act.

What you're letting go is your fear, your desire for power, your belief in control, your disbelief in their humanity.  Those are what you let go of, and those are things you don't want to come back.  When you let *those* things go, people are more likely to want to stick around.  When you let those things go, everything suddenly gets more "fair".
joreth: (Kitty Eyes)
2016-01-05 03:15 pm

Send In The Tanks Like We Did To Ferguson!

Just to be clear, with all my liberal friends posting from liberal sources, I have yet to see anyone advocate (beyond schadenfreude wishful thinking) treating the Oregon terrorists the way that black people are treated.  I'm sure that someone, somewhere, is actually, seriously, advocating that "solution", but every single comparison I've seen from my so-called "inconsistent" liberal sources are making the comparisons for the purpose of driving home the point that the way black "criminals" and black suspects are treated is patently unfair and excessive, not to suggest that the correct approach is to turn that same police overreach onto the siege.

With one notable exception that I kinda agree with. I have seen it suggested that, *IF* (and this is a hypothetical here, not an actual suggestion for action) the excessive police brutality was turned on to white Christian males, then and only then would the people defending the police actions against black people and other minorities understand and make a stand opposing police brutality.

The suggestion was that, because mainly white people don't see that kind of brutality enforced on people who they can empathize with (i.e. who look like them and talk like them and hold the same values as them), they will need to see it happening to their "own" people in order to understand the full atrocity of militarizing police and allowing excessive force as SOP.

The hypothesizing was suggesting that the only reason to want, or even contemplate, law enforcement to treat the Oregon situation the same as the way people of color are normally treated is not to encourage or support police brutality, but because that might ironically be the only way to stop it.  The hypothetical posed wasn't to suggest that we *should* do this, but to suggest that, *if* it were done, it might have the affect of speeding up the process of getting people on board with demilitarizing police and enforcing corrective action on law enforcement, and ultimately, demilitarizing police and reducing police brutality and enforcing police accountability is the goal.

Fortunately, many of us on the liberal side of the spectrum are also sci-fi and comic book geeks. We've already explored this concept in safe, fictional outlets. I *do* believe it's true that the people supporting shit like BlueLivesMatter won't see the horror of the entrenched police brutality culture unless it's turned on them instead of people they can rationalize as somehow "deserving" it.

But the reason why all the articles and posts that I've seen comparing the treatment of white terrorists to random black people on the street are pointing out the discrepancy and hypocrisy is NOT to suggest that we legitimize the use of excessive force by turning it on white terrorists because that's basically the origin story of a bunch of villains.

Remember Unbreakable? Remember Captain America's story arc through the current crop of Marvel movies? The bad guys are all using ... questionable ... tactics to ensure the safety of the people. They all have justifiable motivations for removing people's liberties, for supporting or promoting violence, for the use of excessive force. They're trying to stop *supervillains* and *aliens* for fuck's sake - extreme measures are called for!

And, in following through with those motivations they turn into the villains.


https://youtu.be/YeT7MzDcpeg


"I believe in something greater than myself - a better world, a world without sin."
"So me and mine gotta lay down and die so you can live in your better world?"
"I'm not going to live there.  There's no place for me there, any more than there is for you.  Malcom, I'm a monster.  What I do is evil, I have no illusions about it but it must be done." ~
the most self-aware villain in nearly all of fiction.

Which is why liberals continue to compare the treatment of Those Assholes (I refuse to name mass shooters and other terrorists to reduce their fame and their reach) to the treatment of people who might be class valedictorians or sports stars or cosplayers or they might be petty criminals but who have the audacity to be doing whatever they were doing when they caught the attention of law enforcement with dark skin or an unfamiliarly pronounceable name or clothing that represents different religious beliefs. To show that these actions are villainous, not to recommend turning around and doing them to those privileged enough not to have experienced them before.

Sure, the downtrodden fantasize and daydream about doing to their oppressors what was done to them. That's the reason an entire genre of revenge fiction exists. In Revenge of the Nerds, the nerds violate the privacy and the agency of all the "cool girls", whether those specific individual girls harmed them specifically or not. Because they're the oppressed protagonists, the movie was loved and their actions were excused as justifiable ... at the time. Now, however, with a new generation of liberals willing to be more critical and hold higher standards, RotN is widely viewed as the jackoff wish fulfillment porn of sad, whiny white dudes who are the current crop of villains in geekdom (see my other post on the new SW movie for more about that).

Progressive means that progress has to be made. We continue to evolve and develop even more nuanced and finer grained understandings of social justice and freedom, forged by compassion. Liberals are not content with our parents' liberalism, but criticism of liberalism continues to see it as a static, unchanging set of dogmatic beliefs.

So when people compare the treatment of high profile, violent, white male criminals to the treatment of, basically, any person of color, it is *generally* not a hypocritical call to treat the high profile, violent, white male criminal exactly the same (although some argument could be made that a white male firing a gun AT A COP and tricking cops into proximity of a fucking bomb really is deserving of having the cop shoot back). It's to point out that even violent offenders who may or may not actually deserve that kind of response are still treated with more respect, dignity, compassion, and care than a kid with a toy gun, a guy who illegally sells cigarettes, a kid who shoplifted, and another kid who smoked a joint.

The point is to treat that child, that shop owner, those teenagers, with the bare minimum of caution and rational threat analysis and avoidance of force that a white dude with a bomb, a deluded Bonnie & Clyde wannabe white couple, and a bunch of white supremacist conspiracist dudes who want to *overthrow the federal government with automatic rifles* (yet forgot to pack enough Doritos to last the winter) get.
joreth: (Bad Computer!)
2015-12-10 05:52 pm

When A Legitimate Criticism Of Ideology Becomes Bigotry

OK secular lefties, here's the thing...

You can disagree with an ideology. You can disagree vehemently with an ideology. You can even believe that the Slippery Slope applies here and is not a fallacy - that the fundamental concepts in the ideology sets up a culture in which the radical extension of that ideology is a natural consequence. You can even hope that some day, reason will win out and that ideology will be relegated to a chapter in a history textbook on "myths previous eras and civilizations once believed."

But what you cannot then do is ACT upon any individual person in the demographic that holds that ideology in a negative way, such as insulting them or physically assaulting them, unless it is a clear cut case of self-defense or it is a clear cut case of addressing their *ideology*, not their person. And I mean clear-fucking-cut, like they're charging you with a meat cleaver shouting "I'm doing this for my ideology!" at the top of their lungs (srsly, guys, entitled white dudes are writing manifestos - it's fucking clear cut race / gender / religion related, not a "loner" with "mental health issues").

When you take "This ideology is bad" and then follow it up with "this individual who uses this ideological label must therefore be bad so I will preemptively beat the shit out of them / call them names with historical or cultural oppressive contexts / refuse them the basic rights of survival and human dignity / bar them from entering a public place on principle just in case they might do something bad even though this individual hasn't actually done anything bad that I have proof of or said anything to me at all", that makes you a fucking bigot and part of the problem.

People are notoriously good at compartmentalizing their beliefs and at dealing with cognitive dissonance. Most people claim an identity label that is associated with a whole passel of shit they don't agree with. While that may actually be one of the problems you might have with that particular ideology or the people who hold it, this means, practically speaking, that you can't predict any given individual's likelihood of acting either harmfully or beneficially just by their identity label.

You need, like, actual proof of intentions for that.

Catholic doctrine, for instance, is very clear that it opposes all form of birth control, sex before marriage, homosexuality, and divorce. It takes a hard stance on those issues. There is no grey area, no wiggle room. Catholic doctrine is definitely, clearly, adamantly opposed.  But how many Catholics do you know who have done one or more of those things? And how many Catholic churches do you know have allowed those members to remain part of the congregation?

Fuck that, how many people are fawning all over themselves to gush at the Pope whenever he gets quoted out of context as saying something that can vaguely be interpreted as not being a total douchenozzle on those topics? Even though, in context, he says nothing of the sort and even though his PR team always cleans up after him and makes an official statement that the Pope didn't mean to sound so liberal but that he really is still a douchenozzle and even though the official policy is very clear and has been so for generations and even though he goes on to say exactly that sort of douchenozzlery in other places with other audiences who don't want to hear the wishy-washy version of the Pope but that the liberal media doesn't cover?

People claim all sorts of labels for themselves. Many of those people do not practice the literal definition of the labels, or they don't practice all the things associated with those labels. In fact, that's something that I complain about often - people who use labels in ways contrary to the label's intent and muddying up the waters for the communicative purposes of labels (and please don't derail the comments with "that's why I don't use labels" - I take issue with that too but that's a subject for another rant).

You cannot tell what actual beliefs a person holds by their labels. You ought to be able to, since that's what makes labels meaningful. But you can't. You can use the labels to give a broad, general idea, but they are not predictive. You cannot predict, by a person's label, which specific beliefs they hold or how those beliefs will express themselves on that individual.

That's why the whole men vs. women thing is bullshit. Even for the legitimate times when we can statistically make two categories of people called "men" and "women", those labels are not predictive and you cannot use a category term to make specific assumptions or predictions about individual people. Even statistically different categories like "man" and "woman" have such a high degree of overlap that they become completely useless terms when trying to guess things about a specific individual. At best, they can be used *descriptively* (as opposed to prescriptively) after that individual has self-identified as such and the people you are communicating with all have the same understanding of the label.

For instance, I often use MBTI as shorthand. I identify as an INTJ, so I might try to communicate to someone that I'm having trouble with their spontaneity because I'm a J. That saves me a lot of time trying to explain that being schedule oriented is an innate trait that causes me distress when upset, blah blah blah, and then the other person can know that I'm not having a *personal* issue with *them*, that this is just a thing about me that makes me "me". So, once we have established this baseline set of definitions for communication, then I and that other person can use the labels as shorthand in the future to reference a broader definition that we don't have to spell out every single goddamn time we need to reference that concept. "I am doing this thing because I am an INTJ, not because of some other assumed motivation or intention you might want to ascribe to me."  "Oh, got it, I understand your motivations now."

However, I once dated a guy who broke a Valentine's Day date with me to go out with his other gf. He used the excuse "but you're an INTJ, and INTJ's don't care about holidays, but she's an INFP, and they do care about holidays, so it's a bigger deal to her than to you."

WRONG! 1) He changed my schedule, which is a huge no-no for a schedule-oriented person. 2) He didn't ask me first, he just assumed I wouldn't mind, which is taking away my ability to control my own life. I might not have minded, but I wanted to be able to make that decision for myself. 3) I have personal insecurities that have nothing to do with MBTI about my poly relationships not being viewed as "real" by my partners and metamours, so couplehood markers like holiday dates are actually important to me even if the holiday itself is not. 4) She wasn't poly and I was having massive conflicts with her over her inability to deal with being part of a poly network that included me, including doing things that put him in awkward positions of having to "choose" between us and of him too often choosing her "over" me and this was just one more glaring example of how I was "losing" in a relationship that wasn't supposed to have "winners" and "losers".

Back to the main point: you can't predict based on a person's identity label how they will express the beliefs associated with that identity label. At best, labels can be used after-the-fact by the individuals who hold them to describe themselves and then to use as shorthand to refer to that description at a later time.

Of course, we're all going to try to make assumptions and predictions based on those labels. That's what our brain uses labels for. If someone tells me that they're a Catholic, I'm going to assume they hold a whole collection of beliefs that are associated with Catholicism. But I'm going to be *aware* that I'm making those assumptions and I'm not going to preemptively attack them or try to bar them from living in my area on the assumption that they might be anti-abortion, which might then prompt them to bomb an abortion provider's office. There has to be evidence that they are actively planning a violent crime before I can take any action, including verbal, intended to prevent the presumed crime.

So when secularists start supporting policies banning Syrian refugees, for instance, based on the argument that Islam is problematic therefore all Muslims should be presumed to be dangerous based on their holy texts justifying violence, you're being a bigoted racist shithead. I am totally opposed to all forms of religion, including Islam. I could go on at length about the problems with Islam and how privileging religion in general sets up exactly the sorts of cultures where radical extremism can flourish.

But refugees from a war-torn nation fleeing for their lives from radical religious wackaloons is NOT the time for philosophical debate on the pros and cons of ideologies. Now is the time for compassion for human fucking beings who are being tortured and killed and who are asking for our help.  Our first priority is to help them as fellow human beings, to protect their lives and their dignity as people. Only then, when their survival is not at stake and their dignity as sentient beings is not being attacked, do we have the ethical high ground for addressing their ideologies in an intellectual debate. 
joreth: (Purple Mobius)
2015-12-09 03:25 pm

Because He Cheated, You Must Give Up Your Privacy

Listening to people justify giving romantic partners full access* to each other's phones & emails in the aftermath of a broken trust in order to rebuild that trust. Saying that because someone did something related to texting that was "against their rules", it sucks, but it might be a necessary way to regain the trust of the person who was betrayed.

No, no, no, no, no, no, no.

If someone has broken an agreement or betrayed the trust of the other person, giving someone full access to things that DON'T BELONG TO ONLY THE PERSON IN THE COUPLE IN QUESTION is not acceptable. Texts and other communication owned by the "betrayer" are not their sole property. Those communiques (and, more importantly, the thoughts and intimacy they contain) also belong to the person who sent them. You are not sharing something that is private to the person who broke the rule, you are sharing something that is private of someone who is not in the relationship where the broken trust occurred.

By insisting on full access to the communications of a third party, you are pawning off the burden of repairing your broken trust onto that third party. The *third person* is the one who has to shoulder the responsibility for the "betrayer's" actions and for the "betrayed's" fear. And not just that person who participated in whatever action constitutes a "betrayal", but ALL third parties who might communicate with the "betrayer" in that manner - every single person has to give up their own privacy (and potentially hamper their own intimacy, even platonic and familial ones) to assuage the "betrayed" and fix this now "broken" relationship. All friends, all family, even all future partners (for those in open relationships) have to pay for what the "betrayer" and some other person did.

If your relationship is now "broken" and you are trying to rebuild trust between the two of you, it is your ethical responsibility to find a way to work through that pain and fear in a way that makes the two of YOU shoulder the entire burden for the work involved. It is not ethically right to violate the privacy and intimacy of people who are not in your relationship, who did not break any agreements (because they didn't make those agreements with you since they are not your partner), and who are not trying to rebuild any broken trust with you. New metamours may be trying to *build* trust with you, but they should not have added onto their load the responsibility of *REbuilding* the trust that someone else broke.

If you are choosing to put the work into this relationship so that you can eventually trust your partner again, that is your choice and you need to shoulder the burdens of your own fears regarding your partner's lack of trustworthiness. I'm not saying it doesn't suck. I'm saying it's YOUR burden to carry. All too often, poly people carry into polyamory with them bad habits from monogamy that go unchallenged in monogamous culture.

Until the industrial revolution, and really until WWI, marriage was not considered the One Relationship To Rule Them All.  In fact, just the opposite.  Philosophical treatises were written and sermons were preached condoning the act of making one's spouse the sole source of all types of support.  People were expected to find emotional, financial, labor, and sometimes even sexual support from all manner of relationships other than their spouse.  Placing one's spouse in a position of one's Everything was considered to be an affront to God himself because it was seen as replacing God with a human being.  Men and women were expected to have strong emotional ties to people of the same gender, and in some eras, those ties were expected to be stronger than the ties to one's spouse.  Parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, extended family in general were expected to live under the same roof, or at least nearby, to help with the labor of running a household and raising children.  One's pastor or preacher was expected to carry the burden of one's religious commitments and spiritual support.  And, in certain eras and locations, sex with one's spouse was considered a necessity for procreation but sex for pleasure was expected to be saved for one's lovers.  It was considered "unseemly" to be "too in love" or too infatuated or too attracted to one's own spouse.  That wasn't their role.

But then, somewhere along the line, mainly about the time that the industrial cities took over as holding the bulk of the population, all that changed.  With famine and war, people left the countryside in droves and flooded the urban centers, leaving behind extended family, generational churches, and best friends.  The nuclear family took over because single adults left their entire network behind to make a living in the big cities and started raising families alone, while existing families could often only pack up themselves (the spouses and kids) to search for a "better life" in the city, again leaving behind their support networks.  Suddenly, spouses HAD to become one's Everything because all they had was each other.

Although the U.S. has made attempts to build other sorts of networks from the wreckage the Urban Influx left on the old-style networks, the nuclear family and the myth of the One reigns supreme.  We have elevated the role of the spouse (and by extension, any singular romantic partner) to such a degree that people, even those of us conscientious objectors who ought to know better, can't even see the ethical dilemma with privileging one role above all others.  When faced with questions like "should your spouse have unrestricted access to your text messages", we don't even blink an eye when we shout "of course!"  That's not even a question for most people - it's taken for granted that spouses would share everything.  Even those things that don't belong to the other spouse to share.  It's written into marriage vows.  It's part of the cultural fabric.  And if some third party would dare to suggest that this thing here doesn't belong solely to the spouse in question to be giving permission to access, it's just flat out assumed that the romantic primary couple has "priority" so of course anything belonging even in part to the spouse belongs entirely to the spouse and simultaneously belongs to the other spouse.  Requests for privacy are seen as direct challenges to the primacy of the couple.

Personally, if my romantic relationship isn't strong enough to accommodate for individual privacy, I would say that the relationship isn't as "primary" as one would think.  The specialness and strength of my relationships and of my role within those relationships comes from the connection itself which is comprised of the individuals that make up the relationship, and nothing can take that away short of the individuals themselves.  Including the rights of the individual within the relationships.  Once the rights and integrity and very personhood of the individuals within the relationship are seen as less important than the relationship itself, the relationship is inherently doomed because the foundation of the relationship is the individuals in it.

So no one has "unrestricted access" or "full access" to those paths of intimacy, including communication, that involve anyone other than the two of us on that path together.  Some of my partners and metamours may have emergency access, but that is not "full access" or "unrestricted access".  Attempting to access the communications and therefore possible paths of intimacy of my other partners and loved ones is seen as a boundary violation, both my own boundaries and those of the other people, by the one doing the accessing.  It is understood that the wrongdoing here is in the accessing of data, not in the keeping of privacy.

When I was a teenager, my sister used to sneak into my room and steal my clothing and my cassette tapes.  No amount of shouting or sneaking into her room to steal them back would stop her.  I begged my parents for a lock on my door to keep her out.  They responded that a locked door would enable me to hide things from THEM, and as my parents, they had a right to access every space in the house, including my space.  I had no right to privacy as their daughter living on their property.  These are the kinds of assumptions that we bring with us into poly relationships - property and ownership of other people - their bodies and their minds.


As a child, I knew this was wrong.  As an adult, I know now why.  This is a violation of my very autonomy, the thing that makes me a person.  So, in my romantic relationships I can leave the metaphorical door unlocked because everyone knows that opening that door without an emergency-based reason would harm the relationship between myself and the person who opened that door.  My partners are not children or pets who can't be trusted to stay out of my room, nor are they overprotective parents who think that I am not entitled to my own autonomy.  Should I ever feel the need or the desire to lock my door, my partners understand that it's my room to lock and they didn't have a right to access that space anyway.  But, because they understand this, I can leave the door unlocked for safety purposes and everything that anyone gives me that I keep in that room is safe from anyone else getting to it.

I understand the desire to infringe on someone else's rights in order to make the bad feelings go away.  I understand how scary it is to shoulder my own burdens in a relationship where there is fear, insecurity, and broken trust.  I've been there, I've done that.  To this day, I may feel a strong enough fear to prompt me to ask to violate someone's boundaries for my own comfort.  But the key is that I do not assume it is my right to do so, and I must shoulder the burden myself to do the work on repairing the broken trust and calming that fear.  The allure of making someone else carry one's own burden is strong.  It will take everyone's effort to stand up to that allure and to create a culture that does not support the violation of other people's boundaries, privacy, and intimacy in service to our own fears and pain.



* By "full access", I do not mean that one *must* keep a lock on their phone and *never* show any texts to one's partner.  My phone doesn't even have a lock because it's a dumb flip phone, and I have a shared document online with passwords and other instructions for access to my files in the event of emergencies where someone else needs to run my life on my behalf.  But my partners have no interest in accessing my data short of an emergency, and everyone who communicates with me has a reasonable expectation that what they say to me will be held in confidence if they ask for it.  When they communicate with me, they know that they are communicating *with me*.  They do not have to communicate with me under the assumption that they are also communicating or sharing with someone else.  Assuming that all communications will be shared with someone else creates a built-in filter that hampers and infringes on the intimacy we can build together because they can only build as much intimacy with me as they are willing to build with this other person who will have access to that intimacy.

Partners who ask for "full access", in this context, are not asking for pragmatic, emergency-based access, nor do they technically have access but a lack of interest in accessing data.  Those are different situations and one that I am not addressing, so please don't derail the comments with "I can read my husband's texts because we trust each other but I don't because I don't care / we trust each other."  That's not what I'm talking about.  "Full access", in this context, is when one partner is suspected (or known) of possible relationship agreement violations and the other partner deliberately goes into their data (or wants the ability to do so) in order to check up on them.  They either want to police their activity like a child who can't be trusted to do their homework without the teacher sending home a homework sheet that the parents check off every night, or they want the threat of checking their activity to act as a deterrent to prevent their partner from misbehaving.

And these people will justify their actions or their request to violate privacy on the grounds that their partner has already proven that they can't be trusted, therefore punitive and corrective action is necessary.  That or if an infidelity of some kind hasn't actually happened, they will hand-wave away their violations with things like "if he's not hiding anything, then it shouldn't matter if I have access" and other hand-wavy justifications like the ones my parents used to deny me a lock on my door, which all have the underlying root of couple privilege and ownership.  It's not about "hiding" things, it's about treating partners as adults who have the right to make their own decisions (even bad ones), and about respecting the autonomy of both partners and third parties, AND about carrying one's own relationship burdens and responsibilities without pawning the work off onto someone else.
joreth: (Kitty Eyes)
2015-11-05 06:26 pm

People Are Allowed To Maintain Their Own Agency

In response to some comments I have seen on several other people's threads where they shared that graphic trying to explain that no one *owes* you their time, attention, love, sex, relationship, thoughts, etc. these blog posts are relevant.

Discussions about agency and abuse in relationships tend to get sidetracked by the minutia and strawman arguments of people pursuing *selfish* (i.e. not self-centric, but selfISH where it requires a lack of concern for how one's actions affect others) hedonism. In other words, there is some defense of "but if the other person is doing things for their own pleasure and it hurts you, that's not OK!" Of course it's not, but that's a different discussion.

"This is my experience. You can not know my experience.
That is your experience. I can not know your experience.
These are my choices. You are not entitled to control over them, you are not victimized by them.
Those are your choices. I am not entitled to control over them, I am not victimized by them."

"When we really understand the difference between these statements, we will understand how to support both survivors and abusers.

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

http://emmfett.blogspot.com/2015/01/the-community-response-to-abuse.html

And then in the article they reference:

"“An abuser’s behavior is primarily conscious — he acts deliberately rather than by accident or by losing control of himself — but the underlying thinking that drives his behavior is largely not conscious.”

What is this underlying thinking? Well, it’s all around you. It is the foundation of rape culture. It is the fundamental belief that women do not have a right to their own personal power. It is the fundamental belief that they can retain power over their bodies, minds and choices, only so long as we agree with those choices. It is the way in which we punish women if we feel they’ve stepped out of line. It is the way we always suspiciously ask “what is she getting out of this?” when a woman reports abuse, harassment or assault. It is the reflexive dismissal of female anger as irrational, and female pain as imaginary. It is the way we, all of us, men and women buy into the belief that we are entitled to women’s bodies, thoughts and choices. In polyamory, this belief makes it easy for us to treat our partners as things and not people
."

https://medium.com/@sheaemmafett/abuse-in-polyamorous-relationships-d13e396c8f85

This part is relevant because most of the objection to that graphic is in the idea that someone just has the *right* to go off and do whatever they want to do. OMG what is the world coming to that anyone can just LEAVE whenever they want?!? What if I don't want them to go?!?

"It is the fundamental belief that they can retain power over their bodies, minds and choices, only so long as we agree with those choices". It doesn't matter if we think they are making a poor choice for themselves. It doesn't matter if we are hurt by their choice to leave us, stop loving us, not liking us, revoking consent to sex with us.

They do, in fact, have that right. They might be behaving like dicks about it, but they still have that right. If someone gets involved in an explicitly monogamous relationship and then decides to have an unsanctioned sexual relationship with someone outside of that relationship, their monogamous partner does not own their body and they have the right to do with their own body what they will.

They're being a dick and I will harshly criticize and name-call and publicly shame people for making choices that infringe on other people's right to consent. *That* is not what they have the right to do. The choice to *remain* in an explicitly monogamous relationship without giving their partner the information necessary to give informed consent is what they don't have the right for. But they, and they alone, hold the rights to what happens to their own body and mind.

That graphic does not address the content of the person's character when it says a person has the right to leave, to not love, to stop loving, etc. It only addresses the one seeking to exert control over that person trying to leave.

"Understand, that when your reasons for disrespecting the boundary become more important than the boundary itself, you are displaying a belief of superiority, entitlement and control, and these beliefs are the foundation of a culture that tolerates rape and abuse."

"But what if…
It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter whether it was unjust. It doesn’t matter if it hurt you. It doesn’t matter in reference to whether or not you respect the boundary. It’s their right to set the boundary because they are a whole and complete and autonomous human being. When you don’t respect the boundary, you are telling them in no uncertain terms, that you think that they are less than this.

But…
No.
"

http://emmfett.blogspot.com/2014/11/how-to-respect-boundaries.html

Yep, it absolutely sucks to have someone want to leave a relationship that you want to keep. It absolutely sucks to have feelings for someone who doesn't reciprocate. It absolutely sucks to have a partner make partner selection choices that involve other partners who do not respect your own relationship with the mutual partner. They are still allowed to make their own decisions about their own body, mind, and emotions, just as you are allowed to make your own decisions about your own body, mind, and emotions, including whether or not to remain connected to someone whose choices result in your pain.
joreth: (Nude Drawing)
2015-10-08 11:49 pm

You Don't Have To Hit On Everyone You Think Is Hot

There is a special, sweet tension that comes with unresolved sexual attraction. There are several people I feel a strong sexual draw towards, whose personalities or other traits make them incompatible with me for any category of sexual partner - from one-night stands to full on Partners. Knowing this, I choose not to act on these feelings, not even to discover if they are returned, to avoid what will inevitably be a much more uncomfortable situation as the incompatibilities play out to a predictable conclusion. I would tell them honestly, if they ever wanted to know, but I have not been given any indication that they are curious, so I don't offer.

Actually, I find it increases the acuteness of the tension when we both are aware of the attraction and of the fact that it can't be acted on. The flirting takes on more nuance and is much richer when that happens. But many people find that knowing someone is attracted to them when a reciprocal relationship is unavailable (either because they're not interested back, or they are but I won't agree to one anyway) to be awkward enough to avoid wanting to know about it. Out of consideration for social mores, I generally choose not to reveal my interest in someone if I'm not at least willing to consider acting on it should they be so inclined. I don't like making people feel uncomfortable around me unless discomfort is my goal (I'm looking at you, misogynists, racists, & PUAs). Anyway, so I am attracted to certain people while simultaneously being repelled by the situation that acting on that attraction would create. Feeling this ambiguity creates a sense of tension that I have come to enjoy in a similar way to how people who like the pain of eating spicy food seem to enjoy that particular torture. Which makes my day when I have to work with one or more of those people very ... flavorful.

One of the effects of being able to experience physical attraction to people without requiring some kind of emotional or intellectual connection is that one might be attracted to someone who is not a suitable romantic partner of some stripe or another. And being attracted TO someone is not the same thing as finding someone attractIVE. I am perfectly capable of appreciating the aesthetics of a person without wanting to fuck them, or have some other sexual encounter with them. I find all kinds of things aesthetically pleasing, like architecture and sunsets and kittens, without wanting to have sex with them even a little bit.

The same goes for people. As a matter of fact, this created quite the dilemma for me just after puberty. As a photographer and an artist (although my proclivities in this area were as yet unrealized back then), I found lots of women attractIVE. Unfortunately, in the era and area in which I grew up, I was pressured by individuals and the culture at large to interpret this pleasure at seeing the female form as a *sexual* attraction, and I identified as bisexual for a few years. It wasn't until I actually started having sex with women that I was able to recognize a distinct difference in my attraction for women vs. my attraction for men - namely that I had no attraction *towards* women, just an *appreciation* for them. But, I digress.

Anyway, because I don't need to have some kind of emotional or intellectual connection to a person in order to develop sexual feelings for them, I can find myself desiring to have some kind of sex with a person who really isn't someone I ought to have a sexual relationship with. It could be that they don't feel any attraction in return. Or it could be that I might want a different style of relationship than they are interested or willing to engage in. Or it could be that they would be willing to have casual sex with me, but would then develop contemptible feelings towards me as a female willing to have casual sex because they have internalized the misogyny of our culture's attitudes about sex. Or it could be that they would be more than willing to have a relationship with me but they are not capable of having a healthy poly relationship (which is non-negotiable with me) and are either not able or not willing to do the work necessary to eventually reach that place. I am not a beginner relationship. If you aren't ready for the hard, advanced work, a relationship with me will be more struggle than pleasure and I do not believe in maintaining relationships whose risk-reward ratio is skewed towards the risk instead of the rewards.

It could also be something on my end. There are lots of traits that people can have that I find very off-putting, and I have discovered through trial and error that ignoring how the first rush of NRC (usually referred to as NRE) can make me overlook those things in the beginning always, and without fail, results in me developing contempt or disgust for my partner when that NRC wears off and my natural dislike of the trait reasserts itself. So, for instance, smoking; I absolutely hate smoking. I hate the taste, I hate the smell, I resent the addiction, and I tend to think less of people who are willing to harm their bodies in this way. I might be able to downplay all of these reactions in the beginning when I'm running on happy brain chemicals, but eventually my dislike of smoking will overcome the waning NRC. And as we know, contempt is the biggest predictor of a relationship's demise. I would rather remain friends with someone and maintain some platonic friendly emotional boundaries around them than engage in a relationship that will eventually trigger my contempt or disgust even though these negative feelings would be merely one of many feelings including many positive ones.

So I sit here, contemplating the tug-of-war going on between my body's sexual attraction and my brain's reminder that this will not end well, while a detached part of me watches all this going on and enjoys the tension it produces. It took me a long time to understand, accept, and lean into this tension. And it's still a balancing act - swing too far to one side and it reverts to that unrequited ache of a teenage crush (with a bit of self-doubt just to mix things up) but swing too far to the other and the body's urges take over and make regrettable decisions. I'm reminded of a comment I once posted on More Than Two's Facebook page, that they liked well enough to reproduce as its own post. I've been meaning to post it myself, so as to archive it, and today's contemplations on the subject are as good a time as any:

"The truth is, sometimes you fall in love with someone who’s a terrible fit for you. In polyamory, sometimes you fall in love with someone whose partner is a terrible fit for you. And sometimes you are a wonderful partner for somebody in one stage of your lives, but then things change, and you find after five or ten or twenty years that you’re holding each other back instead of helping each other flourish. None of these necessarily come down to mistakes; they’re just things that can happen, because people are complicated." ~ Louisa Leontiades' book review of The Husband Swap.

That's why I love [livejournal.com profile] tacit's aphorism so much about how sometimes we can really and truly love someone and still not make a good partner for them. We have to be able to see the end of a relationship as separate from the failure of a relationship and we have to be able to see that our feelings for people are not the same thing as our compatibility with those people.

The whole *point* of polyamory is to consciously design relationship structures that work for the people in them that break away from the "traditional" model. As long as we're admitting that the Flintstones model doesn't work for everyone, why stop there? Why not question everything about relationships, including the assumption that they're supposed to be forever, or that they're supposed to "be" at all.

The thing that liberated me from the devastating misery that is the unrequited crush (that, as a nerdy, bullied girl, was the majority of my early romantic experiences and the source of much later anguish and self-doubt) was the internalized acceptance that I could have feelings and that was all they had to be. I could love someone, or crush on them, or admire them, or have the hots for them, and the end goal for those feelings was to simply have them. *Doing* anything about those feelings, for example: pursuing a relationship, was a *different* issue. They might be related, but they are a *different* answer to a totally different question.

It's not "I have feelings, therefore...", it's "I have feelings - full stop." It's not even about not acting on the feelings. I'm not suggesting that we don't act. I'm suggesting that acting is *separate* from feeling. Fully recognizing that, perhaps ironically, opens up the possibilities for acting to include more choices. More choices, which might have more options for "success", if we define "success" as "the participants are happy / satisfied / fulfilled with the outcome of their choices" rather than merely "lived together until one of them died."

This is all a very highbrow, analytical, navel-gazing, philosophical essay to say, basically, that I lust after some people I know, including some coworkers, but who would make totally unsuitable partners, so I am not acting on my attraction, but I am enjoying the lustful feelings when I see those people.  If you have not yet learned how to lean into your discomforting feelings, such as desiring someone who doesn't desire you back or who would not make a suitable partner for you, I highly recommend learning how to do this.  In addition to merely removing the discomfort (and / or the drama that comes with poor partner selection), it also creates a new sensation to enjoy.  It takes a lot of practice and a lot of work on the self-esteem to do it, but it's totally worth it.
joreth: (Dobert Demons of Stupidity)
2015-10-02 03:04 pm

Before You Claim The UCC Shooting Was About Christian Persecution Consider All The Evidence

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2015/10/02/before-you-claim-the-ucc-shooting-was-about-christian-persecution-consider-all-the-evidence/

This supports the comments I've been making about this issue - that the culture around Those Assholes* is the important factor, and the ideology merely focuses the targets for them. The underlying motivations for these sorts of tragedies are toxic masculinity, entitlement, and the glorification and celebritization of violent offenders. That's what they all have in common. They are ticking time bombs, all they need is some ideology to point them in a direction.

Even if this guy *was* truly atheist, and not one of those pathetic "I am chaos, the Devil bows before me" poser jackasses who chose Christians just because they have the most power in this country so they make the most high profile targets (and therefore are guaranteed to grant him the celebrity status he so obviously desires), we have that same dark underbelly in our own subculture. We have those same dark alleys of entitlement, toxic masculinity, and the glorification and celebritization of violent offenders and violence.

Those dark alleys have been spilling out their filth over the last several years. They're the reason I now identify as Feminist. I was one of those irritating Chill Girls who thought the gender wars were largely over and we had won, so I didn't need feminism. Until I joined the atheist community. Then I saw how bad misogyny still is and how much of it still reigns in our culture. That's how I became a labeled Feminist. Atheists turned me into a big-F Feminist.

If this guy really is an atheist targeting Christians, I won't pull the No True Scotsman card. Atheists can be assholes and atheists can be Assholes. Any woman who dares to criticize atheists on any topic, but particularly gaming, knows this, especially those women who have been forced from their homes because of the public threats of violence. This is why Atheism+ was born and why, even those who didn't jump on the + bandwagon are fighting from within our own ranks to clean up our atheosphere metaphorical "streets" of these dark alleys and the disturbing elements they produce.

But it sounds more and more likely that he wasn't atheist, and that he targeted Christians for their publicity power. Which brings us right back to the original point, that what those asshole atheists and Those Assholes, and This Asshole specifically, have in common is a deeply ingrained sense of entitlement, toxic masculinity, and the glorification and celebritization of violent offenders.

Gun Rights proponents like to trot out countries with high gun ownership, low gun restrictions, and still low gun violence. The *reason* why those nations exist like that is because their culture is different. They don't have the same entitlement and toxic masculinity permeating their culture. Sure "guns don't kill people, people kill people", but those people are products of their culture.

I was raised in liberal-but-rural California where guns were not glorified, but necessary for hunting. Guns were weapons to be treated with respect. They were not part of our identities, but tools - dangerous tools - to be used with caution and limitations. I was raised in a culture that does not produce mass shooters, racism, or the idea that violence is a solution to anything.

I was also raised in gang-ridden urban California, where guns were glorified as a status symbol and a means to power. I was within the physical boundaries of that culture, but I was apart from it, thanks to my family. I knew of children, my own peers, who had been caught in gang wars. I even dated someone who had been removed from the entire school district because he threatened violence on a teacher (which he gleefully admitted at the time). Violence was all around me and my family. Both of us - my family members and the gang members in my neighborhoods - had access to guns. One of us thought guns were a solution and the other saw them as a tool. Guess which of us has a higher incarceration rate for violent offenses?

The *culture* needs to be changed. And until it can be changed, it shouldn't have easy access to weapons. As a child, guns were kept out of my hands until I could understand and respect them properly. I was handling guns at a very young age, because I could understand. But my father would never have handed a loaded weapon to a 2-year old. He introduced them to me as I was able to understand and respect their inherent danger. Apparently, we need to treat our nation as a toddler prone to temper tantrums with no control and no higher cognitive functioning. You can't have the guns until you understand and respect their inherent danger. When you understand that, like your older sibling - the countries who don't have the same violent glorification tendencies - perhaps you can have them back.

I won't pretend to know which, specific, policies will effect the change I'm talking about. I am not an expert on legal policy, so I'm not proposing specific restrictions because I don't know which ones will work. What I do know is that the evidence increasingly shows it's the culture that's prompting these shootings. It's our *culture*. It's *our* culture. We need to stop promoting toxic masculinity, stop excusing entitlement and start owning up to it when we have it so that we can work on dismantling it, and stop turning these shooters into fucking celebrities. Regardless of their specific ideologies that chooses their targets for them, they choose acts of violence because they think it's a good thing to display anger and aggression and violence as signs of their masculinity and that this version of masculinity is something desirable. They choose acts of violence because they feel entitled to remove other people's agency. They choose acts of violence because they crave the fame, the notoriety and WE FUCKING GIVE IT TO THEM.

They achieve their goals. They choose acts of violence because they're fucking successful. And they're successful because we have given them a clear path to their success. WE have. Our culture. Our society. We gave them exactly what they wanted. The number of people they kill, whether they "get away" with it or not, that's all irrelevant. They've asserted their dominance and commanded our attention. They are successful. *We* are the ones who need to change because we are their final targets.

As an atheist, if any mass shooter is actually atheist, I fight to change our atheist culture so that we stop producing Those Assholes from within, not denying that they exist, not distancing myself from the responsibility of the culture that produced them. I don't see the gun nuts doing the same. I don't see men (who aren't already feminists or feminist allies and therefore largely shunned from masculine culture anyway) doing the same. I don't see theists doing the same when it's one of their own. 4-chan, PUA circles, Southern Pride groups - these types of groups are the tinder for these firebombs.

Our larger culture that excuses rape, excuses casual racism, excuses religious posturing, excuses homophobia and transphobia, excuses any sort of dehumanization, objectification, othering, and the removing of agency - our larger culture gives places for these cesspools to thrive and fester. Just like the guy who doesn't actually agree with rape but who laughs at rape jokes so that the rapist standing next to him thinks they are allies, our culture provides the hiding places for those among us who would do such harm. Our culture built those alleyways and is refusing to install safety lights. It's time to root out the dark places, and that starts with us.



*Those Assholes or That Asshole is the term I use in place of the name of any violent offender, as doing my individual part to deny them the celebrity status that is one of the main goals for their actions.
joreth: (Bad Computer!)
2015-09-16 03:12 pm

Why Should Burger Flippers Get Paid More Than Soldiers?

One of the things that bugs me about the "why should burger flippers get $15 an hour when soldiers don't?" argument is that it implies that there are people who deserve a living wage and people who don't. It ranks human beings into Worthy Of Survival and Not Worthy Of Survival and it categorizes these people, not on their character or how they behave in society, but on what kind of job they managed to obtain at this one particular point in their lives - a job, I'll remind you, that is one you would definitely notice if everyone who held that job suddenly stopped.

Because, you see, the only people who are making the assumption that demanding a living wage is reserved for one category of people (burger flippers) and not another (soldiers) are the people who think it's appropriate to rank those categories in the first place.

The people demanding the living wage are not saying other people should make less, or even equally low amounts. It's like the ‪#‎BlackLivesMatter‬ crowd - we're highlighting one group who gets shit on because they need that attention right now but it doesn't mean that other lives don't matter. Those of us in support of living wages are not also prohibiting increases for those who already make living wages. "This guy deserves to feed himself and pay rent for working 40 hours a week" is not an argument that leads to or includes "but those guys don't." That is, as a matter of fact, the argument against living wages.

So why should a "burger flipper get $15 an hour when soldiers don't?" (Ignoring whether "soldiers don't" is even true for now). Why should they? I dunno, you tell me, since I'm not the one claiming they should. The question isn't why should one class of people get paid better than another class of people who are doing work that I value more. If that were the question, I'd be ranting about sports salaries vs. teachers, not talking about living wages. The real question here is why *anyone* should be allowed to starve to death or lose one's home when they're willing to put in as many hours as we collectively think is necessary for being "productive" in order to justify keeping those doing the work we *do* value at proportionally low wages.

If so-called "burger flippers" are making better benefits and pay than soldiers, then the people you ought to be mad at are the ones who decided to pay soldiers so little, not those who want to pay "burger flippers" enough to survive, since those paying the soldiers so little are the ones ranking human lives and compensation, not the people who give a shit about everyone being able to survive.
joreth: (Swing Dance)
2015-09-16 02:00 pm

Upbeat Swing Song & History Lesson In One

Those of you who don't follow me on Facebook might not know about the Orlando Ballroom Dance Party Portal.  It's a website intended to encourage social partner dancing in the Orlando area, but it also has some good resources for general social partner dancing - like the playlists.  Every day on Facebook, there is the Song Of The Day - a post that highlights a particular song by linking to the YouTube video for it and suggesting a style of partner dancing suitable to dance to that song as well as linking to a related page on the website with the history and description of that dance style.  I repost all those music videos on my personal FB page but it's not on Twitter or Google Plus yet, so I haven't been reposting there because I could only link back to the FB account.  But the point here is that this week highlighted a song popular among the neo-swing culture called Zoot Suit Riot by Cherry Poppin' Daddies.  Some of you may have heard of it.




There is some interesting history behind the Zoot Suit Riot that is related to the ‪#‎SwingDance‬ culture that the zoot suits were a part of. Many people don't take the time to really listen to the lyrics and just enjoy the bouncy swing of the song, but it's actually about a very racially charged time in US history.

The basic story of the song is during a time when Mexicans in California were experiencing a lot of racism during WWII. White soldiers and sailors began assaulting Mexicans for what they perceived as a lack of patriotism in spite of the fact that Mexicans were over-represented in the military during the war, simply because of their attire (the zoot suits). In the media, these zoot suits became a symbol and a target of the racial tension and hatred by white servicemen. This lead to a series of riots that targeted Latino youths, and this song is about those Latinos taunting soldiers about to go overseas as sort of a rallying song supporting marginalized people.

As a Mexican American who grew up in California, this song has always struck a particular nerve with me because the racism that led to the riots was never eradicated. As a middle class white-passing Mexican in the '80s and '90s, I didn't bear the brunt of it like some of my more clearly ethnic neighbors did, but I saw it and I felt it.

My own grandfather (who was a teen & young man in the '40s and himself racist) refused to attend my parents' wedding because my mother is Mexican and his objections were things like he didn't want her Mexican family hanging around his neighborhood because the neighbors would see a bunch of hoodlums and thugs with their low-rider cars and Chicano clothes and Spanish language.

I was fortunate enough to not have to personally experienced any race riots, but I wasn't terribly far from where some happened in the '80s and '90s, and the culture I grew up in sprang from some very terrible historical riots that happened right in my own town and the racial repercussions reverberated through the generations.

So I very much understand the rage and frustration that can lead to an entire group of people doing things like taunting soldiers and burning their own neighborhoods. When everything is taken from you - your dignity, your money, your ability to succeed, your children, even your voice, all you have left is the rage to get the attention of your oppressors. Sometimes that rage turns inward, sometimes it turns outward, and sometimes it gets expressed in ways that people who don't feel it, who aren't subject to its causes, don't see as productive.

But, although it may seem to be self-harming in the moment, the long view of history shows that this rage and its expressions are what lead to change. Because the people comfortable at the top can't hear you when you ask politely. They only take notice when you scream at the top of your lungs and break things.

For more information on the Zoot Suit Riots, visit the wikipedia page at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zoot_Suit_Riots, and while you're there, you might want to fall down the rabbit hole of wiki links that talk about all the related stuff like pachucos and the arrest that kicked the riots off.

joreth: (Bad Computer!)
2015-09-16 12:14 pm

Dignity Is Not Up For Debate

I think I get one of the reasons why I lose my temper online, and I'll try to expand later (but right now I'm running late, as usual). The things I post are about people's subjective experience, their personal autonomy, their personhood, and their dignity. These things are not up for debate.

Yet people treat the posts in my feed as though it's a stage where two equal ideas with equal merit are to be weighed and considered. The counterpoint to the stuff that I post about does not deserve to share a stage with the stuff I post about. They do not deserve equal time, equal consideration.

My rage is part frustration that I'm not being heard and I'm not making myself understood, and it's also the sheer horror that anyone could even think that these topics are up for debate in the first place.

I post things for people's education and information. Which means that people need to *learn*. Learning involves listening, not talking back. People's autonomy, personhood, dignity, subjective experiences, the right to exist - these things are not up for debate, and if you think they are, you're a horrible person and I will not host a platform that helps spread your position. The Flat Earth "theory" does not deserve to share the stage with real science and rejection of other people as people does not deserve the same stage as respect for those people.