joreth: (being wise)

As a kid, I grew up on Kenny Rogers, Dolly Parton, and Crystal Gale. That was '70s country. Crystal Gale is the reason I gave to my parents, when I was finally old enough to articulate rather than just scream and throw a tantrum, how much I hated having my hair cut. I had my own 8-track stereo in the room I shared with my sister and a stack of cartridges with these '70s country icons (among others).

Then, as I started going to school and became aware of the social strata of popularity, I decided that I wanted to be one of the "cool kids". So I dumped the country in favor of Madonna, Janet Jackson, Paula Abdul, Corey Hart, and Culture Club.

Then, around 8th grade, I hit my rebellious phase and decided that being "cool" wasn't cool anymore, so I got into edgier music like glam rock, hard rock, and metal. If my mom wanted to throw the album in the trash, I thought it was great - Poison, Motley Crue, Alice Cooper, Metallica, Lita Ford, Def Leppard, Megadeath, Slayer, Skid Row, Ratt, etc.

But I still secretly harbored an interest in country. I wouldn't even admit this to myself, but it's true. And then, in my junior year, I found myself at a school dance with two guys who were vying for my attention, both of whom were total metalheads. We were standing in the courtyard as I desperately tried to make this encounter less awkward, when the Alan Jackson song, Chatahoochie, came over the speakers.

These two blond haired guys wearing ripped, stone-washed jeans, black band t-shirts, and heavy leather motorcycle boots playing passive-aggressive dominance games with each other both immediately stopped their one-upmanship, looked at each other, and shouted in unison "Chatahoochie!" and ran back inside the building together, while I stood there with my mouth hanging open.

Still under the mesmerizing sway of popular opinion (only now it was the "we're all so unique that we reject the mainstream in exactly the same way" type of "popular"), I decided that if these two rockers could like country music, that was enough permission for me to like it again. So I got into country music right then and there, with Alan Jackson, Martina McBride, Garth Brooks, Shania Twain, Tim McGraw, and Faith Hill.

About a year or two later, I was driving my sister around (who was not *quite* old enough for her license yet to drive herself). She liked rap and hip hop, which bothered the hell out of me. I couldn't stand the lack of melody lines and complex harmonies and the overwhelming percussion to almost the exclusion of any other instrument.

But it was my car, so it was my music. I don't remember if a Dixie Chicks song came on the radio and my sister expressed an interest in it, if the song was on one of my mix tapes, or if *she* put the music in herself. But somehow or another, she ended up admitting to liking the Chicks "because they're not really country".

So I said to her, "honey, they're bluegrass! They're more country than any of these other country stars on the radio!" She insisted that she didn't like country music, just the Chicks, who didn't "count".

This is the first memory I have of noticing the inconsistencies with the phrase "I like everything but country and rap". How could anyone like bluegrass music but not "country"? And then, a popular country song hit the charts that was released as a hip hop ballad almost at the same time. It was exactly the same, except for the accents of the singers - white twang vs. "urban" (i.e. "black").

This song became huge radio hits on their respective stations, but I noticed that A) most people had no idea that there was a version in the genre that they "hated", and B) when they did find out, they were outraged and they "hated" the other version in spite of using almost the exact same backing track and being nearly identical except for the singers' accents.

That started me down the path of learning about how the different genres influenced each other, which led me to the history of music in general (well, that and I was forced to take a Musical Theory class, which didn't actually teach us much "theory" (which I got more from my piano teacher) but did spend the whole semester traveling through time showing us how music genres begat other music genres), which finally led me to the conclusion that people who "like everything but country and rap" are full of shit. Including myself.

I have never been able to articulate why this now bugs me so much. I spend a lot of time rambling about the frustration of people who just don't know their music history. But this article simplifies the whole thing. This isn't just a widespread musical ignorance, it's a deliberate marketing decision to racially segregate an industry. And we all buy into it, literally almost a century later.

"That’s when the “everything but country” comment started to bug me. I figured people just weren’t trying, heard Toby Keith on the radio, and changed the station. Still, I couldn’t understand how some of the people I knew who were deeply interested in music like I was couldn’t see the light and recognize the worth of country music."

"“Everything but country and rap” at its core is a class issue. I just needed someone else to say it, and it confirmed why it had been bugging me. ... Where there’s class issues, there are race issues. This is no surprise. But that’s where the story of “everything but country and rap” starts: a formal racial division."

"When popular recorded music was first able to be distributed and marketed in the 1920s, a decision had to be made. This is the South-- do we keep all of the blues-based music together? That would mean white and black in one category. It was an easy answer at the time: no. This created two, in Hubbs’ words, “racially distinct marketing categories:” hillbilly and race."

"While they seem completely separate, hip hop and country sit on the extremes of the spectrum of popular musical genres, and find themselves subject to many of the same criticisms. This, to me, threw open the door on why “everything but country and rap” is a bigger deal than it seems. Authenticity is important in both musical communities, both policed inwardly and from outside listeners."

“Authenticity seekers today reject modern commercial country and its market-driven anything-goes stylistic idiom, idealizing past artists and purist notions of a genuine folk idiom,” Hubbs explains. In embracing this fantasy, listeners forget that “country has always been a commercial music.”

"To admit you like country music is admitting you like something inherently and purely working class, which jeopardizes your status as middle class. ... The middle class white actively avoid identifying with country music and hip hop because it represents something they’re afraid of being perceived as: something other than white, and something lower than middle class."

"Country and hip hop are seen as extremes: one very conservative, religious, and traditional, and the other vulgar and violent. ... These blanket statement topics are how the cultural majority is taught to interpret these genres. There’s no discussion that these are very rich groupings of music, with many vibrant subgenres of their own. ... The anxiety that causes people to avoid being fans of these genres, however, prevents understanding this. It all sounds the same because it all sounds different than what you listen to."

I've been trying really hard over the last several years to describe the sounds that I like or dislike, rather than blindly listing entire genres. I prefer melodic music, even better if it's in my own vocal range. I also like catchy hooks, and I also like complex harmonies and intricate interplay among different instruments. This means that I do occasionally like some songs that fall under the "rap" and "hip hop" genre titles because these are rich and diverse genres that sometimes incorporate these elements.

I don't like "country" so much as I like the sound of fiddles, banjos, and Southern accents, specifically. I am more likely to find that in country music, but not always. I also like blues bass lines, so I'm also going to find that in a lot of country music, because what's more "white culture" than appropriating "black" art?

After my departure from pop music into rock and metal, I adopted the typical rocker arrogance (which has since turned into hipster snobbery) where I didn't like anything "popular" because "everyone else liked it" (completely oblivious to the immense popularity of my own hard rock idols who filled stadiums with thousands and thousands of fans).

It has taken me a really long time to finally admit that I do actually like pop music. When I first started admitting to it, I tried to soften the revelation by saying that I only got into it because I do ballroom dancing, and we have an aging-out problem. It's really hard to continue bringing in new dancers when the dance style is an older style associated with older music.

So, as you might have noticed if you watch Dancing With The Stars, a lot of dancers have been dancing to modern pop music, partly in an effort to attract newer, younger dancers, but also because some of those dancers *are* new and younger and that's the kind of music they like.

If someone looked at me sideways for having a pop song or artist on my playlist, I would shrug and say "I'm a dancer. I build playlists, and this is what brings people in." But, honestly? It's on my playlist because I fucking like the song. Maybe not my YouTube playlists, which are deliberately built to introduce people to partner dancing and get them to learn how to identify rhythms suitable to each dance style.

But my personal playlists on my iPod contain songs that I like to listen to. And yeah, I have music from Nickleback, Britney Spears, NSYNC, and about half the former-Disney-bubblegum-artist squad. That music is commercially successful because it capitalizes on sounds *that people like to hear*.

So here is yet another rant on why I dislike when people dismiss entire genres of music when I know that they haven't put in the time to actually experience those genres. You can't always help the sounds that you like or dislike, and that's not what I'm talking about. I don't care if you don't like the sound of a fiddle. But that's not "country music". I don't care if you don't like lyrics that "glorify violence", but that's not "rap music".

What has bothered me about the "I like everything but country and rap" is something that I didn't have the words to explain - this is an inherently classist and racist attitude that was deliberately, consciously, developed in our society by a commercial mega-industry for the two-fold purpose of increasing profits and solidifying bigotry in our society.

http://www.runoutnumbers.com/blog/2015/11/16/everything-except-country-and-rap

(One of these days, I still want to put together an audio quiz with little snippets of songs and challenge people to identify the song as country or not, because I bet that people who don't listen to the genre and don't recognize the songs won't do well on that test.

I also plan to put together a YouTube video of snippets of songs that exemplify the different subgenres of country music, to show the diversity of the genre - Zydeco sounds WAY different from Beach Country which sounds way different from Southwestern Country which sounds way different from Pop Country which sounds way different from this new rap/sing-talk/country crossover thing, and sometimes it's *really* hard to tell if a song is bluegrass or Irish folk music.)

joreth: (polyamory)

This is one of those ageless questions that have been going around the poly forums for DECADES. Well, ok, 2 decades tops, because the word itself is only 27 years old as of this article, and it certainly can't have been very common when literally everyone was a n00b. The point is that ever since some people felt that they had enough experience under their belt to only want to date other people with similar experience, baby polys have been getting their feathers ruffled at the thought that experienced people might not want to date them.

Every so often, one of them stomps into a forum, crosses their arms, and pouts at us, demanding to know what's so wrong with dating newbies, and how are they ever supposed to learn anything if experienced polys won't date them (sounding very much like entitled white boys demanding to know how they're supposed to learn about feminism or racism if we won't drop everything and explain it to them in the tone they prefer or getting upset if women or people of color say they don't want to date cis white boys anymore because it's too much work). And then, no matter what we answer or how we answer it, somebody gets huffy at the response that they are not entitled to our wisdom, knowledge, experience, or emotional connection. This very reaction is exactly why poly vets use the phrase "don't date the newbies".

Although that phrase is popular, it's also not entirely accurate. This is a culmination of several comments I made on the subject that I hope will answer the question sufficiently to just refer back to this over time.

The short answer is that it's an issue of ethics, entitlement, emotional resources, roles within relationships / separation of roles, emotional labor, burnout, and boundaries.
 



Q. Why won't poly veterans date newbies? How else are we supposed to learn? What's wrong with teaching newbies?

#DoNotDateTheNewbies #DateYourSpecies

It's not that vets don't want to teach, it's that vets don't usually want to teach *the person we're dating*. I've been poly for more than 20 years. I don't date newbies anymore precisely because I can't mix the Mentor role with the Partner role anymore. It creates an unequal power dynamic (that isn't consensual PE, which is equal, by definition, because it's an *exchange* of power) and I just can't do it anymore.

Teaching and dating at the same time is VERY emotionally exhausting and also creates an unethical situation because of a built-in uneven power dynamic. Those of us who have been around a while have learned the hard way to separate our teaching from our personal lives. A dead giveaway that someone is a newbie is someone who doesn't understand the danger of uneven power dynamics in romantic relationships. You'll see this in other forms of uneven power dynamics too, not just the vet / newbie one. Just asking the question, or not seeing power dynamics in relationships, or not seeing the danger in them, is an obvious sign that someone is new, or at least inexperienced and ignorant which is often shorthanded to "new".

You get your mentoring and instruction from a mentor and from other resources like online forums, books, discussion groups, etc. Then you can go back to your romantic relationships as a *partner*, not as a child / student. Most of us vets have no problem teaching. Most of us vets lead workshops, write blogs and books, and even take on a student in a mentorship role.

We don't mind teaching. We mind teaching *our partners*.

If we didn't want to teach, we wouldn't be here, on the internet, in these groups with y'all newbies. We'd all start backing out and making our own vets-only groups if we didn't like newbies and didn't like teaching them. Kinda like some weird, poly Logan's Run, where our palm crystals turn red when we've reached a sufficient poly vet age and we all ascend to a magical poly vet carousel in the sky to be with other poly vets, leaving only the children behind to govern themselves. As much as I might like to do that some days, remember how well that ended for Logan and his people?

And there absolutely are vets who back away from poly groups. After a while, they tire of having the same conversation over and over again, and they've been doing this long enough that they have a dynamic, active, supportive group of people who grok their style of relationships, and they just withdraw from the "poly community" because they're' too busy just living life and loving their extended families of choice. So those of us still here, it's not the teaching that bothers us, it's the context in which the teaching is requested or demanded.

I think that there may be a difference between poly vets and poly vets who are also community leaders. I would bet that a lot of poly vets who are also media spokespeople or lecturers or who teach workshops or who are intersectional activists - I would bet that those are the poly vets who are less likely to want to date newbies. But poly people who aren't activists and educators but who have just been poly for a while - I would bet that those people probably have more emotional resources for mentoring in their romantic relationships.

I'm an educator and activist. I need to be able to let that role go in my romantic relationships.

Also, this whole vet / newbie thing isn't binary. It's not like all vets are 20+ year vets and all newbies are 3-month old infants, and we're all set up across some imaginary line in opposition to each other. Someone who has never had a poly relationship before can still get into a relationship with an experienced person. Someone who has only been doing poly for a few months or a couple of years might feel "new" but might have garnered a lot of experience in that time and be well-suited to someone who has been technically poly for many years but has little experience. 3 years, 5 years, 8 years, - that's a lot of experience to draw on.

And not all vets are also *educators*. Vets who don't also write, blog, teach, mentor, give lectures and workshops, etc. and/or who aren't also educators in other, probably intersectional, subjects, don't reach burnout as fast. So you'll find people with lots of lived experience still willing to date newbies and also some who are willing to play the mentor at the same time.

Poly people are people, which means that they are diverse. There are all kinds of people at all levels of experience - people with little experience but who are still good at poly, people with lots of experience but who are still bad at poly, people who like to teach regardless of how long they've been doing it or how good they are at it, people who don't particularly like to teach no matter how long they've been doing it or how good they are at it, solo polys, RAs, hierarchical polys, 2nd generation millennial polys, aging hippie polys, just discovering poly after 40 years of monogamy polys, asexual polys, queer polys, straight cis polys, polys with mental illness, kinky polys, closeted polys, Libertarian polys, etc. All of these different kinds of people can be put into broad categories, and come with likely pros and cons of getting into relationships with them.

But the *specific* problem of mixing a Mentoring role into my romantic relationships is a set of cons that I no longer have the patience to deal with. Many other vets come to similar conclusions about their own energy and resources. I find that it's personally exhausting in a way that some other sorts of problems aren't, and I find it ethically questionable to have that sort of power dynamic embedded in my relationships.

Not that every single person who has been poly for more than a certain amount of time who is dating someone who has been poly for less than a certain amount of time *necessarily* has this exact same ethically questionable power dynamic. It has been pointed out in other contexts that being poly doesn't make one "enlightened" and there are certainly people who have been "doing poly" for a long time who still lack the advanced relationship skills, and who lack the power behind a community-held authoritative position.

But *I* am not a beginner relationship. I am not *just* a 20-year vet, I am also a 20-year *activist*, educator, and spokesperson. I *train other vets* on how to be even more advanced vets! I have a position of respect and authority in the poly community (or, at least, of notoriety), which adds weight to my side of any power dynamic that any relationship I engage in might have.  Even people who aren't that good at relationships but are pretend famous on the internet have a degree of power in relationships, because of that fame, that automatically influences their partners.

To me, dating newbies is like a tenured teacher who also sits on board at the school and has a vote in making policy or in deciding curriculum or in influencing the status or experience of other people in some way who then dates their under-age student who is in their class. It's an unethical power dynamic for *me*, and people in similar positions, to do it.  Since my whole interest in polyamory is in *ethical* non-monogamy, I choose not to deliberately add unethical power dynamics into my relationships when it's something I can avoid.

And because I spend so much time educating, I am totally out of the emotional resources to do it at home. Other problems that I might encounter with experienced people don't tax my reserves the way that *educating my lovers* in the basics does.

I mean, I still have to educate everyone I date on who *I* am as a person because that's part of getting to know people and finding out shared paths. But they're doing a reciprocal educating of me about them, so it's more of an equal exchange. I don't have the patience to add Poly 101 on top of that. That specific form of emotional labor is too much for me. I have other forms of emotional labor that are also too much for me, like teaching Feminism 101.

I shouldn't have to have debates and lessons *with my own lovers and partners* about whether or not I am an equal human being deserving of rights and equal treatment. When I get into a relationship with someone, I expect them to already have some of the basics down, like how to be ethical in a relationship. And those lessons on ethics are often the same lessons, whether we're talking about feminism, racism, or poly relationships - not treating people as things - so it's just tiring and frustrating to have to have those lessons with people I'm being emotionally intimate with at the same time.

I have other problems with experienced polys. But, 1) that wasn't the question, and 2) I can more easily deal with, and recover from many of those kinds of problems. I need partners who have a history I can verify, other partners I can check in with, and who have ties to poly communities. Those don't necessarily guarantee that they have all the skills I'm looking for in a partner, but it gives me more avenues to *verify* that they have the skills and more accountability for when they don't, and I don't have to spend time in my romantic relationships having the same annoying conversations that I end up in online, like repeating for the millionth time what the difference between polyamory and polygamy or poly and swinging is. By the time he's been poly for a few years and had a couple of partners, I don't have to tell him to check the glossary anymore.

Franklin's post about dating black belts is a good summary. A black belt isn't someone who has *mastered* it all. A black belt is someone who is proficient in the basics and now has enough knowledge to grasp just how much more they have to learn. A black belt in relationships is basically someone who can compensate for the Dunning-Kruger Effect (although he doesn't mention that term in the article) - it's someone who has enough education and training to be able to see how much they still don't know and to be confident in the skills they do have with a reasonable degree of accuracy.  I can have a student who is learning how to become a black belt, and I can have a partner who *is* a black belt, but they are mutually incompatible roles in my life. I can't have a partner who is also my student. It's too much work and it's unethical to date your students.

I also make a distinction between "well, I've never heard of it but I want to date you so I guess I can try it" newbies and "YOU MEAN THERE ARE OTHER PEOPLE WHO FEEL LIKE ME?! I’M NOT ALONE AND I CAN FINALLY EXPRESS ALL THESE FEELINGS I'VE ALWAYS HAD BUT OTHER PARTNERS MADE ME SUPPRESS?!" newbies. The latter type may be technically "new" to the word and the community, but they very often have the more advanced skills that I'm looking for because they often keep trying to find a way to turn their relationships into poly-like relationships except only with 1 sex partner at a time.

That's how I was when I first discovered the word back in the '90s and how one of my current partners was when I introduced him to poly 13 years ago (10 years before we actually started dating). When most of the reactions to my teaching are "there's a word for what I'm already doing?", I wouldn't really call that person a newbie. I usually call them "isolated polys", because they're naturally, inherently poly or have already received many of the skills necessary for healthy poly relationships, they just didn't know that they weren't alone.

But when the conversations are filled with "wait, why can't I call it polygamy again?" and "but I still don't understand how you can say you love me if you have sex with him!" and "can't we just have some rules in place so I can learn first, like training wheels?" and "I don't see why I need to talk to some strangers in a discussion group when I have you," I just can't anymore.

There are some common pitfalls when vets date newbies:

  • The newbie constantly feels that they are never good enough;
  • The newbie feels that they are being held to standards they can't possibly be expected to reach yet and may not even be possible;
  • The newbie feels like they can't just enjoy the relationship because everything gets turned into another lesson;
  • The newbie starts to feel like a project;
  • The newbie starts to feel like their partner can't relate to them or doesn't understand how hard things are for them;
  • The newbie feels that they are being controlled by the more experienced partner or molded to fit the experienced partner's vision of polyamory instead of learning to find their own vision of their poly self.
  • The vet constantly feels like they're a parent in a romantic relationship;
  • The vet can feel frustrated that they have to revisit lessons that they've already covered or already learned themselves the hard way, like they're doing double the work;
  • The vet can lack patience;
  • The vet can feel held back from their own personal growth because there's nobody around to challenge *them*;
  • The vet can reach burnout and lose empathy;
  • The vet can feel that there is pressure to always be the Perfect Poly Partner because they are more experienced so they can't ever make mistakes of their own;
  • The vet may have trouble relating to the more inexperienced partner, and may lack the ability to empathize and therefore expect too much of the more inexperienced partner;
  • The vet may indeed try to control or mold the inexperienced partner into their vision of polyamory instead of allowing them to find their own path;
  • The vet may start to feel like they're not really the inexperienced person's partner, but their science experiment.
When there is an extreme experience difference between partners and the relationship doubles as one big learning experience, then there's no space to relax for either partner. Think of what it might be like to date a math teacher who makes you show your work on bill night and tests you at restaurants when the check comes and makes you prove that you know how to balance a checkbook and assigns you homework.  Doesn't mean that the math teacher *never* gets math problems wrong anymore or never gets stumped by hard ones, and it doesn't mean that the math teacher is any good at anything else.  It just means that if you date someone who is also your teacher, they're going to be *better*, not perfect, at that thing and their job is to keep pushing you to get better too.

When the subject you're trying to learn about IS your relationship, you're never out of the classroom. *Everything* is Another Fucking Growth Opportunity. It adds another layer of stress on top of everything. And THEN, you still have all the usual sorts of conflicts and growing pains that comes with any old relationship.

As a vet, my relationships are *already* filled with relationship processing. We are already spending huge amounts of time digging in deep, analyzing, introspecting, communicating, revealing, and just generally working. I simply don't have the energy to *teach* someone how to do all of that in addition to *doing* all of that.

But I've also been doing this for more than 20 years. And I teach other things - I teach dance, I teach newbies at work how to do our job, and I teach other poly vets more advanced poly vet stuff. That's a lot of teaching, so when I come back to my relationships, I need to be my shoes-off self. I need to take off the Teacher hat and go braless in the Girlfriend t-shirt for a while. I need for my partners to take up some of the slack and do an equal amount of work in our relationships.

Read up on the concept of unpaid emotional labor. That's what a lot of the conflict about newbies vs. vets is here. People of color are frequently asked to perform unpaid emotional labor in their everyday lives, especially by white people. So are women or people socialized as women or people perceived as women, especially by men(etc.). Add on some intersectional issues like female queer POC, and basically their entire lives are nothing but unpaid emotional labor for everyone around them.

Most of the resentment in these poly groups over the whole vets vs. newbie thing is basically one long example of requests and demands for unpaid emotional labor. It's not appropriate to say "just don't do it". The solution is for everyone to respect the burden of emotional labor more and to shoulder their own share of it, so that teaching *can still happen* while people stop expecting others to carry all the weight of emotional labor.

Emotional Labor is a huge subject with *tons* already written about it elsewhere, so if you don't know what it means, you need to go off and read about it on your own. There, I introduced the concept and provided some context for you. I did that as an educator. Now y'all's job as students is to do some homework and look up more about it.

That's sharing the burden of emotional labor.

There are plenty of vets who enjoy teaching newbies the ropes as mentors and educators. There are also plenty of vets who are also educators who don't mind dating people with less experience, as long as they don't also have to play Teacher to their partner. If their newbie partner can find mentoring from someone else, or does the emotional labor on their own to go out and find resources and talk to others and build their own support networks, then a lot of vets are totally willing to date someone who is doing their own work. Or who did the work with vet as a mentor *first* and later traded in the "student" role for the "partner" role.

So vets dating newbies is a lot of *extra* work and an ethically questionable situation. But y'know a great way to make sure a vet doesn't date a newbie? Having the newbie complain that vets won't date them. It's kinda like when guys complain that women won't date them because they're "just too nice". Feeling entitled to someone else's experience because you are "owed" that lesson or "deserve" that lesson or that gaining experience automatically requires a payback in the form of teaching someone else is very unattractive. So maybe some vet *would* date a newbie, or mentor a newbie, or explain something to a newbie, but just not you because you're annoying and entitled and presumptuous about it.

joreth: (polyamory)

Commitments Parchment

* I am committed to discussing harm reduction plans and contingency plans for when bad things happen, because I understand that we can’t always prevent them from happening.

One style of relationships, not just in poly but in all romantic relationships, involves legislating away bad things. Fear of losing a relationship that is important is a completely natural and reasonable fear to have. It's what we do about that fear that makes the difference. For some people, the way they deal with that fear is to make rules saying that things that could lead to losing a relationship simply won't happen. I've seen lots of poly relationships with rules that say "you cannot get anyone pregnant but your wife" or "I promise not to get pregnant by anyone other than my husband." As if we can stop that from happening in relationships that include PIV sex. Oh, sure, we can significantly reduce the likelihood of that happening, absolutely. But condoms break, vasectomies fail, and sometimes someone forgets to take a pill.

A more successful strategy than trying to rule away something like that is to take all reasonable precautions (with "reasonable" being defined by everyone involved, not just the "primary couple") and to also discuss contingency plans and harm reduction. A more successful strategy is to realize that sometimes shit just happens and sometimes Game Changers come along and change the game. Therefore, we can't afford to pretend like we have control over our future. We have some, but not ultimate control. We need to accept that the best laid schemes of mice and men often go awry. If we go into our relationships with that as our premise, we are better equipped to deal with change when it happens. When it happens. Change is often unexpected, and we can't expect the unexpected, pretty much by definition. But we can expect that the unexpected will probably happen at some point even if we can't predict what form it will take.

So rather than freaking out about it, or feeling betrayed even though change was inevitable, I can accept that change was bound to come along and fuck things up sooner or later and just plan to change the plans. This is how my J-ness (INTJ on the Meyers-Briggs scale) handles P people - how a schedule-oriented person can deal with spontaneous people. I put on my schedule that this is Anything Can Happen Time. Now it's on the schedule, it's part of the plan.

I am committing myself to attempting to address contingency plans beforehand for those scenarios we can think up (like an accidental pregnancy) and immediately afterwards both for those scenarios we couldn't think up until they happened as well as those scenarios we did think up but now someone wants to change the predetermined plan, because Game Changers happen. This is especially important no matter which direction the change comes from. I might want something different than I did at the beginning of a relationship, or my partner might want something different. Either way, I need to be willing to consider alternate options. I want to be more committed to considering alternatives and backup plans than I am to any given plan, so that I can weather change with more grace and dignity than I have in the past.

(Read the full list of commitments at www.theinnbetween.net/polycommitments.html)
joreth: (Kitty Eyes)
Your relationship cannot "grow" if you try to keep everything the same. Even if you try to keep it "the same except this one thing". For growth to happen, you need Change.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



To address some confusion:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Change happens. We have to learn how to deal with and accept change, not make a bunch of rules trying to keep change from happening.
joreth: (being wise)
The latest chapter in my Street Cat Saga: Some of you may remember that I posted recently about now feeding the original 4 feral cats (one of whom was pregnant), an orange tabby, a new black cat, a possum baby, and a raccoon?

For those who missed it, I have a family of 4 feral cats living under my house - 2 black males and 2 tortoiseshell-tabby females. Both the females have these tabby facial markings that result in exaggerated eye stripes and remind me of old Hollywood "Egyptian" makeup, so I've named the cat with the true tortie markings Nefertiti and the pregnant cat with the tortie patches and tabby stripes Cleopatra. The two black cats are Mark Anthony and Julias Caesar - Titi, Cleo, Tony, & Julias for short.

I planted catnip under the house to attract ferals in order to keep the mice away, now that I finally got rid of all the mice in the house. And it seemed to work because these 4 hang around all the time. But they're very skittish about people and won't let me touch them. So I started leaving a bowl of cat food out on the back steps. Tony is the bravest and will wander into the house when I leave the door open. Occasionally he will convince one of the two females to investigate with him, but they are uncomfortable and will dart out again as soon as they see me. But Tony will now allow me to touch him.

Occasionally, a very large orange tabby will come up to the steps to eat, and if any of the other 4 are there, they will arch, hiss, and run away. He doesn't seem aggressive, but he also seems confident that he will eat the food. He is obviously not part of their pack.

One night, I left the back door open and a possum wandered in. These don't run out when they get scared, they back into corners. So I spent half an hour chasing it out of the house while trying not to hurt it. A few nights later, I heard loud crunching, which is unusual for the cats. So I peeked, and found the possum eating out of the food bowl. A few nights after that, I heard the crunching again and went to peek, but this time I found the teeniest little baby possum scooping food out and eating it! Around this same time, a fairly large raccoon had started making late night appearances at my back door when I had food out too.

Recently, I was on my front porch doing laundry and saw a black cat shape and reflective eyes. Thinking it was Tony, I clicked at it as I usually do. But this time, the cat immediately ran towards me and cautiously up the porch stairs to meet me. This was a totally new black cat.

The new black cat is clearly not a feral, but possibly abandoned. She has a rabies tag and ratty collar but no other ID, and she's REALLY friendly. She has no problem coming when I click at her and she loves being petted. She also has no hesitation investigating the house and doesn't freak out if I wander around the house, even if I block her path. She is clearly used to human companionship.

So today she wandered in while the back door was open. So I sat down in the living room and she came right up for lots of love, even resting her paws on my leg and kneading (which was very painful, given that she's a street cat with sharp claws).


My food was in the microwave so I got up when it was done and sat back down on the floor to eat and pet her. I haven't been pestered by a cat while I was eating in a long time, so what used to annoy the crap out of me was quite amusing as I tried to eat and fend off a nosy cat. She managed to knock her head into my bowl, spilling some food on the floor, so I let her eat it. Normally I don't feed people food to pets, as it's bad for them, but I imagine it can't be much worse than whatever street cats manage to scavenge normally.

Now she's wandering around the house again, and even took some time to sit on my lap while I typed for more pets. She's more anxious than house cats - hardly able to sit still in any one place for more than a few seconds, but totally comfortable in my presence and in my house.



Well, that was a close call. Tony and the new black cat officially "met". The new one is hanging out on my front porch and the door is propped open so she can come and go. Tony wandered in from the back door, as is his usual entry. He made it all the way to the front of the house and into my front bedroom. I followed him around, because he's an intact male so I usually watch him to make sure he doesn't spray.

Well the new cat saw me and came back in looking for attention. Eventually Tony wandered back out of the room and they came face to face. The new cat seemed curious, but Tony's tail started swishing. So I nudged her back towards the front door and Tony darted towards the back door.

But then they both turned back around to face each other. She moved closer, but Tony arched and hissed, so I stepped between them and they both ran out their respective doors. Tony slowed down when he reached the porch steps and seemed to no longer be agitated, but he didn't stop to eat from the bowl at the top of the steps and went straight for under the house, where he often hangs out.



Tony does seem willing to come back. He has since wandered into the house a couple of times. But because of the weather, I keep my doors closed and the air conditioning on more often now, so I don't see any of the cats as often as I used to.

The new black cat (whom I haven't named yet) has come in and spent the night with me 2 or 3 times. The first night she slept on my bed with me, but the next couple of times, she slept on the floor in the living room. I'm apparently going to need to get a litter box so that I can shut the door while I sleep and not have her damage the house.

She often spends her time cuddled up to me on the couch while I'm crafting, or on the floor at my feet when she comes in. But since the weather has turned and I keep my doors shut, I haven't seen her in a few days. I appear to have been adopted, though.

joreth: (Purple Mobius)
We're printing All The Things today and tomorrow and mailing out formal invitations next week! And the only way to get the address for the ceremony locations is through the mail!  Which means that we need your physical mailing address to send you the information you need to attend mine and Franklin's wedding, and we kinda need it right away.  The formal invitations will include all the details of the date and location, directions, lodging information, FAQs, RSVP cards, Pre-Wedding Party info, etc.  

You can download our wedding app, or login to the wedding website to give us your address and update RSVPs, or you can contact us in literally any other way that will reach us and we can update your address in our wedding app database on your behalf.  Then, if you prefer to do things the traditional way, you can RSVP using the included pre-addressed, stamped RSVP card in your formal invitation.

Please don't worry that you're "inviting yourself" - if you can see this post (and one of us hasn't blocked the other or otherwise refused to engage in multiple or all forms of interaction (see my recent post about temporary or contextual blocking vs. total blocking boundary violations)), then you're not "inviting yourself", you are invited!

But, since we don't have your mailing address (and probably your email address too, hence the public and generic posts), we can't send you an invitation yet. That's why we have to reach people this way. So you're not "inviting yourself", you are invited, but we need your contact info.

You can find our wedding app and website by visiting http://bit.ly/SquiggleWeddingCon and clicking on the RSVP link in the sidebar. Only 2 months to go!
joreth: (polyamory)
A few reminders:

1) Our wedding is public so if you can read this, you are invited (with only a few exceptions and they probably know who they are, mostly involving people I've had to block - if I've ever told you to fuck off, especially if I knew you in real life and I still told you to fuck off and then blocked you on all forms of contact, then you're probably not invited).

2) Plane tickets are going up, so make sure you make your travel arrangements soon for the wedding. San Jose (SJC) Mineta International Airport is the closest airport to the traditional ceremony and Seattle (SEA) International Airport is the closest airport to the handfasting ceremony.

Also remember that you need Northwest Recess event tickets to attend the handfasting ceremony.  

3) We have secured a block of rooms at an inexpensive (for Silicon Valley) hotel that is the closest hotel to the location for the traditional ceremony. This means that the rate is locked in and will not increase even as regular room rates increase. Any rooms not claimed under that room block 30 days before will be removed from the block and you will have to pay full price to get a room, assuming there are any left by then.

You don't have to stay here. We chose it for convenience and proximity to the wedding location and you can choose other accommodations if you prefer, but prices are going up. Silicon Valley in summertime is not a cheap place to visit, so make your reservations soon.

If you are getting a room there, please let us know so that we can adjust the number and types of rooms available. If you tried to reserve a room and the kind you wanted (2 double beds or 1 queen bed) was not available, let us know and we can add more of those rooms to the block.

4) We will be sending out formal invitations with instructions, maps, addresses, etc. in less than a month, so make sure you RSVP with your email address and mailing address before then to receive them, even if you aren't sure yet.

You can fill out the RSVP form, leave the specific events blank, and just add your addresses and comments for now if you want, and then come back and change your RSVP later.

All of this information and more, including relevant links, located here:  http://bit.ly/SquiggleWeddingCon 
joreth: (feminism)

In honor of today, a little history and a video about labels.

Today is not Mexican Independence Day and is not as widely celebrated in Mexico as it is in the US. When it is celebrated in Mexico, it is done so as a military memorial kind of day. It's only in the US that it's celebrated as a generic "yay Mexican culture" day. This date is actually the anniversary of Mexico's triumph over France during one battle (in a war that they ultimately lost). This is important to the US because, had Mexico not defeated France in this battle, the French would have been in a position to aid the Confederacy during the US Civil War, turning the tide of history.

It *started out* as a holiday celebrated by Mexican gold miners and farmers in California, who were excited about the defeat of the French at the Battle of Puebla in 1862 and was celebrated only in California until about the 1940s when the Chicano movement started to fight for Mexicano civil rights in the US. Then it spread out across the country, but still mostly among people of Mexican descent or in areas with high Mexican populations.

It wasn't until the 1980s when fucking beer companies decided to use the holiday to market their products that the rest of the US got in on the act. So, pretty much everything about this holiday as it's celebrated today is literal cultural appropriation capitalism. No one but the Chicano activists cared about "Mexican culture" until beer companies told us we could get drunk to "celebrate" in order to sell us more beer.

Y'know what? I'd actually kinda welcome the US "appropriating" Cinco de Mayo if the reason was that we were celebrating Mexico's symbolic victory *because* that victory meant that the Union won the Civil War, instead of "hey, we have a lot of Mexicans here, so let's throw them a bone by selling them beer with Spanish names and letting them have parades once a year to pretend that we like having them in our country".

Like, if we acknowledged that this one battle led to the defeat of the Confederacy, so we metaphorically reached across the border to shake Mexico's hand to say "thanks for being badasses, we benefited from the sacrifices that your military made in its own struggle for independence and we honor your fallen", I don't think I'd have any problem with the US celebrating another country's holiday.

"Today, class, we celebrate a small victory of our neighbors against their invaders. Even though those invaders ultimately won, this single victory kept those invaders distracted from us long enough for our own government to clean house and defeat the rebel traitors in our midst.

And, to thank them for their sacrifice, we offered our military support to oust their invaders once we handled our own rebel factions. So we celebrate in solidarity with a nation whose success is inextricably linked to our own."

#PatrioticCompersion

The Battle of Puebla

The actual history behind the holiday is kinda fascinating. The Mexican-American war and the Reform War basically bankrupted Mexico, so they tried to suspend paying off their foreign debts for a couple of years. France, led by Napoleon III, said "no way, Jose" and invaded Mexico. In a massive battle where France totally outnumbered Mexico, the smaller Mexican army managed to defeat the French at a fort they tried to occupy.

This wasn't a strategically important battle, but this military version of the David & Goliath story boosted Mexican morale, which led to the Mexicans in the mining towns in California during the Gold Rush celebrating the victory that led to the US version of the holiday. Shortly afterwards, France sent 30,000 troops and totally crushed Mexico, installing their own emperor, although France continued to be besieged by Mexican guerrilla attacks. The following year, the US Civil War was over.

If Mexico hadn't had that one win, France would have occupied Mexico much sooner and been in a position to aid the Confederacy. But instead, they were busy with their own war with Mexico and by the time they had resources to devote to our own conflict, the US Civil War was already coming to its conclusion.

France held control of Mexico for only about 3 years because, with our own war over, we sent aid to Mexico to help get the French out. Napoleon III didn't much care for the thought of tangling directly with a now united USA, especially when he was also dealing with the Prussians, so he withdrew.

In addition, since the Battle of Pueblo, no European military force has invaded any country in the Americas.


Nowadays, what to call people of Mexican ancestry living in the US has become its own political battle. Growing up, I did not identify as Hispanic because I don't natively speak Spanish, although the term is applied to people with ethnic ties to Spanish-speaking countries. When I referred to my heritage, I preferred Latina. It was much later that I learned of the term Mestizo, which is more accurate for me - a person of mixed European and indigenous Amerindian descent (which is accurate for most people from Latin America, being descended from Spaniards & Native Americans during the Spanish occupation of Latin American lands).

The term Mestizo has a checkered past, being associated with the casta system (a system of racial hierarchy imposed on the Americas by Spanish elites). But in Mexico in particular, during the struggle for Mexican independence, Mestizos made up a political majority so the term became central to the new independent Mexican identity and became more about the dual nature of heritage and ethnicity than the casta system.

As a youth, I rejected the term Chicana because I heard it as a borderline slur used by white people. I wasn't one of *those* Mexicans, therefore I wasn't chicana. But later, I learned the history of the term and came to adopt it over Latina. Latina / Latino is an colonialist term imposed upon those whose whose ancestry or ethnic heritage comes from one of the many, diverse countries in Latin America.

I also rejected the term chola for the same reasons. Cholo has been in use since the 1600s and is another casta term. It also means someone of mixed European and Amerindian descent, but the proportions are different. It means the offspring of a mestizo and a full-blooded Amerindian. Because that makes someone lower on the casta ladder, the term became synonymous with lower class.

After the rise of gangs in California in the 1970s and spreading into the 1990s, cholo came to refer to specifically Mexican-Americans who were in gangs or who adopted stereotypical attire, because of the word's association with lower class, which is the only way that I knew the term at the time. So, because I wasn't one of *those* Mexicans, I rejected the term chola as well, although I have not since reconsidered adopting the label, as it still doesn't fit me as well as mestizo or chicana.

People of Latin American regions do not typically refer to themselves as Latin American, instead usually preferring to identify more locally as the region from which they come, like Mexican, Cuban, Puerto Rican, or even more specifically, the pueblo (village or tribal) identification such as Mayan, Zapotec, Mixtec, Huasteco, or any of hundreds of other indigenous groups. Generally only the US refers to people of those regions as Latino.

"Latino" is basically like calling someone "European" and ignoring their country of origin, only if we had colonized Europe (instead of the other way around) and then named them all generic "European" whether they liked it or not just to make it easier for our census bureau and corporate marketing departments.

In the 1960s, the Chicano Movement was started to fight for civil rights for people of Mexican descent in the US. Chicano was originally a pejorative and is still used that way by some, but some Mexican-Americans chose to reclaim the label, specifically for activists.

"According to the Handbook of Texas:

Inspired by the courage of the farmworkers, by the California strikes led by César Chávez, and by the Anglo-American youth revolt of the period, many Mexican-American university students came to participate in a crusade for social betterment that was known as the Chicano movement. They used Chicano to denote their rediscovered heritage, their youthful assertiveness, and their militant agenda. Though these students and their supporters used Chicano to refer to the entire Mexican-American population, they understood it to have a more direct application to the politically active parts of the Tejano community."

"For Chicanos, the term usually implies being 'neither from here, nor from there' in reference to the US and Mexico. As a mixture of cultures from both countries, being Chicano represents the struggle of being institutionally acculturated into the Anglo-dominated society of the United States, while maintaining the cultural sense developed as a Latin-American cultured, US-born Mexican child."
"Juan Bruce-Novoa wrote in 1990: 'A Chicano lives in the space between the hyphen in Mexican-American'".
"And as Chicanos come to terms with what it means to be a part of two worlds, post-colonialism, they must now deal with the fact that they have one foot in the Anglo-dominated world, that they are indigenous to and contribute, in their own, unique cultural experience, to the American melting pot; and all the while having another foot in New World they descended from, Latin-American, Spanish-dominated through conquest and Anglo-dominated through American Manifest Destiny, empiricism, and greed."
"Journalist Rodolfo Acuña writes: When and why the Latino identity came about is a more involved story. Essentially, politicians, the media, and marketers find it convenient to deal with the different U.S. Spanish-speaking people under one umbrella. However, many people with Spanish surnames contest the term Latino. They claim it is misleading because no Latino or Hispanic nationality exists since no Latino state exists, so generalizing the term Latino slights the various national identities included under the umbrella."
It should also be pointed out that none of this refers to *race*. The US counts Hispanic / Latino as "white" even though we are not white or are of mixed ancestry. Mexicans are typically descended from Spaniards (counted as "white") and Native Americans almost equally, with something like 10% of African ancestry mixed in. In fact, genetic research on Latin Americans, and Mexicans specifically, show a very strong paternal European line with a strong maternal Amerindian line - meaning that our mixed ancestry is overwhelmingly due to colonization of conquering Spanish men impregnating local women so often that the entire genetic makeup of the country was changed to a predominantly mixed ethnicity of nearly equal amounts of European genetics through male genes and indigenous genetics through female genes. This, in itself, is an interesting rabbit hole to explore.

 

Incidentally, this is why I have not accepted this new shorthand for polyamory as "polyam". The argument is that "poly" is short for "Polynesian" and we are somehow oppressing "Polynesian" people by using this term for polyamory, in spite of the fact that the term "poly" is actually Greek and is a prefix for a great many things. Much like the controversy between Latino & Chicano, "Polynesian" is a controversial term among people for whom that term applies. Some accept it readily just as some of Mexican descent accept "Latino".

But others recognize it as a symbol of their colonization and do not self-identify as "Polynesian", instead preferring to identify more locally as the region from which they come, much like many don't like to refer to themselves as Latino and instead refer to themselves from more local regions like Mexican, Cuban, Puerto Rican, or even more specifically, the pueblo (village or tribal) identification such as Mayan, Zapotec, Mixtec, Huasteco, or any of hundreds of other indigenous groups.

Like the myriad cultures in the region known to the US as the Polynesian Isles, each region in Latin America has its own distinct culture, identifiably and often contentiously separate from its neighbors. I empathize with and strongly identify with those under the "Polynesian" label who reject the term as a symbol of colonization because of my own ethnic relationship to colonizationally imposed ethnicity labels.

With many decades having passed, the debate about accepting our colonizers' labels for ourselves vs. maintaining our ethnic identity vs. breaking off and creating a new identity that accommodates our split heritage continues, even among ourselves. I choose the terms that reflect my split heritage because I feel split, torn, apart from, and I choose terms that celebrate and encourage activism and deliberate intent and personal choice.

I like the terms "chicana" and "mestizo" (the lower case is appropriate in Mexican Spanish) over "Hispanic" or "Latina" because I like the association with civil rights, activism, and the acknowledgement of a unique culture that results from the blending of the old ethnic ancestry and the new country into which one is born. Although I still use Latinx because that is more readily understandable, I am mestizo or chicana - a person of mixed ethnicity with ties to Mexico but no place in Mexican culture; an activist who is struggling to find her own place in this world with pressures to assimilate battling with pressures to recognize and remember; someone who is neither from here, nor from there; a person with a rich cultural tapestry and yet no home.

 

 


joreth: (anger)
It's really irritating how often people insist you have to be "tolerant of intolerance" or that when you stand for one thing in a romantic relationship between two people who are operating in good faith, that you must also stand for that same thing in non-romantic relationships, businesses or organizations, or people who are trying to harm you or harm others.

I was once part of a poly group whose focus was on community leadership. They couldn't get *anything* done. They literally debated *for years* about what the group's official definition of polyamory ought to be. Everyone had to have an equal say in everything else, even if they had no experience in the subject.

In another group around the same time frame, I was hired to be the organization's webmaster. The previous webmaster, who hosted the site on their own server, was leaving so they needed to find a new host. I made some recommendations, but if you don't have the ability to host your own, hosting costs money (if you need your site to do things like e-commerce, which they did). I was argued at for *days* over why can't we just make a free Yahoo or Geocities site? Yahoo hosts their email and they've never had a problem with them, so why not use them to host the website too?

Like, just stop. I was brought on for a reason. I have skills that you don't. You should not have input on organizational topics that you have no experience with. That's not how businesses or organizations are run. Not if they want to be successful, anyway.

Both of these groups were poly, and every time I objected to literally every single member having an equal voice on every single topic, I was yelled at because that didn't match their personal philosophy of egalitarian relationships.

THESE ARE NOT ROMANTIC POLY RELATIONSHIPS, these are *organizations* that have goals and shit that needs to be accomplished. You can't run your business the way you run your love life.

Back to the intolerance thing, liberals are often dismissed for not being "tolerant" of intolerant people or ideas. The very idea of tolerance, ironically, is dismissed out of hand if the person holding the idea doesn't provide a platform for literally every single fucked up idea that crosses their path. And "free speech" is often used as a defense when people simply don't like what they have to say.

So, 1) what I advocate for in romantic relationships is not necessarily applicable to other kinds of relationships, particularly business relationships or relationships between groups or entire nations or whatever. Sometimes it is, but sometimes, often, it's not. How groups, organizations, and businesses ought to be run is not how relationships ought to be run and vice versa. Sometimes hierarchy really is the better way to do things. Just not in romantic relationships.

2) What I advocate for in romantic relationships often doesn't hold true for people who aren't operating in good faith, like abusers, rapists, Missing Stairs, misogynists, racists, etc. Yeah, you should be kind and compassionate to your romantic partners, unless he's abusive and then your compassion will be used against you. Yes, you should listen and empathize with your romantic partners, but you don't need to empathize with internet trolls. Shit like that.

And that's not at all internally inconsistent. I never once advocated for unconditional anything. My advice is contextual. Failing to see that is intellectually dishonest.
joreth: (Default)
I've been on LiveJournal since May, 2006. It's amusing - my first post says "don't expect too much, I don't have time to keep this updated." Since then, I've gotten ... prolific. But recently LiveJournal moved its servers to Russia (having been bought by a Russian company quite a long time ago). Now, it's subject to Russian laws.

Specifically, it has 1 provision that affects me and 1 provision that could potentially affect me: according to Russian law, any blog or community read by more than 3,000 readers is considered a 'publication' and is subject to State controls on publications, including the provision that the blogger or moderator is legally liable under Russian law for any content posted by any user; and blogs are prohibited from "perform[ing] any other actions contradictory to the laws of the Russian Federation."

I don't think that I have more than 3,000 readers, so I don't think I'm considered a "publication" by their standards, although I might someday have that many readers, or maybe I do and I'm just not aware of it.  I don't think of myself as being that big of a name. But Russia does have some laws regarding content. The Russian "gay propaganda law" forbids discussion of "sexual deviancy," which includes LGBTQ issues and "propaganda of non-traditional relationships" is forbidden by this law.

Now, I don't think I'm in any real legal danger here. I seriously doubt I'm going to be arrested or sent off to Russia to stand trial or anything. But my LiveJournal blog could just up and disappear someday.  And, frankly, that's been a possibility for a while, although not for reasons of archaic and barbaric "sexual deviancy" laws.

I've been wanting to move away from LJ for some time now, mainly because people keep telling me that it's an outdated platform. Which I think is a shame, because it does everything I ever wanted in a blog. It keeps a running log of my posts, it archives them, it allows comments and gives me control over comments, it gives me design control, it's free, it doesn't take up the limited server space that I pay for on my website, and it also gives me a convenient way to follow the blogs of other people. It's basically Facebook before there was Facebook with more personalization.

But every time I looked into moving my journal over to another platform, I came across technical problems. Until recently, there was no good way to copy everything from LJ (posts, comments, design style, user icons, permissions, etc.) and set it back up on another platform. There were some clunky ways to do it, but I always seemed to hit a wall - this exporter stopped at X number of posts, that exporter didn't get comments, this other platform refused to accept my LJ password even though it's supposed to transfer from one to the other ... stuff like that.

I was able to find an archival service that could back up my posts on my own hard drive, but I had other problems getting that archive to upload somewhere else. And there were a couple of other options that were just above my technical expertise, so when looking at the long set of instructions, my eyes bugged out and I just gave up.

But with this new Russian law thing, I was motivated to look once again and this service was recommended to me. Dreamwidth offered a built-in exporter/importer that grabs all the content I wanted it to grab and actually worked, unlike some other platforms that just kept telling me that my username or password to LJ was incorrect when it wasn't. It's a free service, and it appears to have a similar "friends list" sort of reader for other Dreamwidth users. Not that I really have time to keep up with a blog reader in addition to my FB and Twitter streams (which most people use to link to their blog posts anyway). But still, I like the option.  Which means that if you have a Dreamwidth account, hit me up with it and I can follow you back.

So, for now, Dreamwidth is my new blog home and you can find it at http://joreth.dreamwidth.org. I have it set up to cross-post to LJ, which is also set up to automatically tweet links to new entries. If I can figure out a way to cross-post directly from here to Twitter, I will do that instead of tweeting my LJ.  But comments are turned off on LiveJournal so if you want to comment, you'll have to come to the Dreamwidth site, which uses OpenID so that even people without a Dreamwidth account can still participate (a plus over LJ). If you choose to link to one of my blog posts, please use the Dreamwidth URL from now on. I *think* I have it set to include the Dreamwidth link on the LJ cross-post, but if not, I will.  I still have to go through all my 1,300+ posts and manually update links to LJ posts so that they now go to my DW posts, so that's a long-term project still in the works.

Also, Dreamwidth is still, as of this posting, importing all the comments from my past posts. Their servers have been working overtime lately with the mass exodus from LJ and things are taking longer than normal. As it was, I had to wait in the queue for about 40 hours before the blog posts imported.

As always, my website is www.TheInnBetween.net and links to my blog and my most commonly used social media can be found there. I have accounts on most social media but I only use Facebook, Twitter, and my blog regularly. But if you want to find me somewhere, search for Joreth, Joreth Innkeeper, or some variation on The InnBetween.
joreth: (Purple Mobius)
Him: I just want to ask, and I don't want to be rude, so if I'm stepping into anything here, please tell me. But, is it ... do you just like the thrill? I mean, I don't know how to say it, but, you know, the thrill?

Me: No, I actually don't like the beginning of relationships. I don't like the novelty, the newness, the excitement of dating. Some do. I like the old, comfortable relationships that have been around a long time and you really know each other and you're "settled".

I'm poly because I just keep falling in love with people before I'm done being in love with the pre-existing partners. There are a lot of interesting, wonderful people in the world and I fall in love with some amazing people who all bring value to my life.

There's nothing missing or lacking or broken about any of my relationships. I fell in love with new people while still loving someone else.

Him: Yeah, I can understand that. It happens all the time.

#RealConversationsIHave #PolyEducatingBackstage

When I have conversations in real life, as when I hashtag #RealConversationsIHave, about polyamory, the conversations are necessarily limited. There's something about verbal speech that makes conversations linear. So I can't get to every talking point in the conversation because my response sparks a particular response in them and I respond to that and we go in a particular direction.  This particular conversation even continued in another direction from here.

Plus, a lot of times, I'm at work. For most people, being at work means you can't say certain things, but for me it means that our conversations are interrupted when someone yells across the room for help RIGHT NOW and we have to stop talking to run over and save someone from being crushed by a falling truss or road case. Or, in less dire circumstances, we're just walking in two different directions so the conversation can only last for as long as we're in earshot. A lot of my soundbites were developed this way. That and Twitter, which I deliberately used as a tool to create soundbites for complicated and nuanced concepts. But then the Twitter-created soundbites also come in very handy in these situations at work.

So there are several reasons why I am poly, not just the one I happened to address in this conversation. One of which is my aforementioned falling in love without falling out of love reason. That's why *I* have multiple partners myself. But a big part of being poly, as opposed to some other form of non-monogamy, is in how one feels about one's partner having other lovers, and in how one feels about those other lovers.

I am also poly because I very strongly believe in agency and autonomy. Because of my aforementioned reason, I know that it's possible (and even likely) for my partners to fall in love (or lust) with someone other than me and still love or like or care for me. So, because I value agency and autonomy, I am also poly because I do. not. believe. in restricting my partners' expressions of feelings for other people. If they fall in love with someone else, they should be allowed to explore those feelings because it is not my place to "allow" or "disallow" it in the first place.

The stronger I really internalize this value, the less often I feel things like jealousy. I am not prone to jealousy mainly because, deep down, I honestly do not see my partners as things to feel jealous over. Envy, sure, but a romantic relationship is not required to feel envy of other people. Envy can be felt over any number of other people, even people you don't even know personally. And envy in poly relationships is pretty simple to solve - I want to do that thing that other people are doing, please do it with me too? Boom, solved.

And the third aspect of polyamory - how one feels about metamours - from the very beginning I felt empathy and compassion for metamours. And over time, as I explored the reality of polyamory, I learned the real-life value that metamours bring to my life as friends, confidantes, pillars of support, activity mates, co-conspirators, and sometimes simply other people to share in the emotional labor and the joy that comes with relating to our mutual partner. I am polyamorous because I see my metamours as opportunities, not as threats or competitors or even "other". The people I count among my best and closest friends are people I met through a mutual partner. In fact, if my metamours weren't already going to be the groomsmates, I'd have them as my bridesmates and one metafore is my bridesmate. Their presence in my partners' lives, and by extension in my life, makes my life better.

There are definitely people who like the NRE and some who like it at an unhealthy level (NRE-junkies), but there are those people in monogamy and other relationship styles too. I, however, am not in it for the "thrill". None of the main reasons *why* I am poly involve "thrill" or excitement or novelty or newness. They all involve complex emotions and interactions which are easier to handle and feel better with time under the relationship, with familiarity.

There are some fun parts to "newness", to "the chase", to the uncertainty, to the novelty, to the NRE, but that's not *why* I am poly. I could get a lot of that from being a serial monogamist too, or a cheater, or a swinger, or any number of other relationship styles. That's not the part that attracts me to polyamory. The more complex parts are what attracts me, because those more complex parts have higher returns, for me.
joreth: (Misty in Box)

https://themighty.com/2016/03/when-you-feel-suicidal-but-dont-want-to-die/

When I was about 13, I was so severely bullied that I became suicidal. I gradually lifted myself out of that state without ever once actually attempting to take my own life.

Then, many years passed. So many years, in fact, that I forgot what being suicidal felt like. I'm not naturally depressive. I don't really have the brain chemistry for it on my own. My depression is entirely situational. When the situation is resolved, I go back to being "me".

So I spent the vast majority of my life not being depressed. In fact, I was so in love with life that I was absolutely terrified of death. It was unthinkable. It was unmentionable. It was the thing that could never happen. I was (and am, in my "natural" state) so opposed to death that I would be an Alcor member if I had the money for it. That's one of those cryonics groups that freezes you at the point of death in hopes that they'll cure whatever you died of sometime in the future and bring you back to life. Any hope, even far-fetched hope, that death won't claim me was worth having that hope.

A metamour of mine calls death The Void, and she is so opposed to it that she is dedicating her life to defeating death through science. She is a dragonslayer. I remember being that afraid, and that affronted by death. Or, I should say, I know that I used to be that person, but I don't remember how it feels to be that person these days.

2 years ago, I slipped into a suicidal depression again for the first time since junior high school. I didn't even recognize it at first, because I wasn't me. I kept losing things and I didn't see an end to the loss in my future, so I started longing for death. But I didn't self-harm. I sought help and I worked on my situation and I eventually pulled out of it again.

But unlike my childhood depression, I did not swing so far to the other side that I forgot what suicidal depression felt like. I changed my circumstances but only marginally. The fear of slipping back into those circumstances remained constant, so the suicidal thoughts remained nearby - gone but not forgotten.

With the new Trump presidency, I lost my battle again. I've been in a suicidal depression since the election and it's not letting up because it's not a situation that I can change. But I'm also not in any immediate danger. As this article tries to explain, suicide is not black and white, it's not an on/off switch. I know these thoughts aren't mine, I know what's causing them, and I know how to seek help if the thoughts get louder than my voice.

But this is what it's like inside my head these days. I'm in the grey area. I can laugh, I can have fun, I can orgasm, I can smile, and all of those things are genuine. But there is a layer underneath that doesn't go away. It's like trying to grow a garden on top of permafrost, or like trying to grow anything in this fucking sandbar of a state - It can be done, but the roots don't go very deep and the sand can take over.

The hardest part about living with suicidal depression is the inability to talk about it. I have made a conscious choice to talk about it online, but I know that it makes other people feel bad. That's really what's so hard about having a mental illness. On top of the symptoms of my illness, I also have to manage other people's emotions about my illness. I can't talk about the thoughts in my head because they will hurt the people who care about me. I can't share the emptiness with others because they feel sad for me or frustrated and helpless because they can't fix it.

I have to feel these feelings and also feel the disappointment and responsibility because my inner feelings made someone else feel hurt. So I keep my thoughts to myself except when they start to bubble over and I write a post about it because I just can't contain them anymore.

I don't want pity or to make others feel sad for me. I'm not complaining or seeking sympathy or hugs or anything. I just want to be able to have my feelings, to be understood, and to be accepted that I have depression without taking on additional responsibility of making other people uncomfortable about my feelings. I want for people to, when they hear or read my words of depression, to just go "oh, that's Joreth and her depression," not "OMG it's so sad! I feel so bad that I can't help! Now I have bad feels because you have bad feels!"

So I share these things hoping to make other people understand what it's like, so that maybe they can learn to just hear and acknowledge their loved ones suffering from mental illness without also feeling guilty or pity or sad or frustrated or hurt just because *we* aren't having the positive emotion that *they* wish we would have in this moment.

Depression, even suicidal depression, is a livable state. It's not a comfortable state, but a livable one. We need more nuance in how we approach and interact with people who have mental illness. Many of us don't need hospitalization or extreme care. Many of us just live in the grey area.

joreth: (Misty in Box)
Ever since the presidential campaign trail, the effort to work alongside people and make happy small talk yet avoid important topics takes more spoons than normal.

I'm fucking exhausted and distressed at the end of work days because I'm forced to coexist alongside of people who I now know to be truly terrible people. So I can cut off all non-essential contact with my coworkers and lose one of the main reasons why I love my job, or I can very carefully manage dozens of relationships per day to stay within very specific parameters so as to be able to laugh with my coworkers and not be reminded that they honestly don't care about my existence on a daily basis.

I used to love my job. It was one of the things that gave me meaning. It wasn't just a paycheck to me, it was a passion. I still love doing the physical act of my job, but I don't look forward to each day the way I used to anymore.  I used to say that being at work was where I could be the most "me". I had the fewest filters, was the most authentic, and enjoyed life most often. Even a bad day at my job was better than a good day at any other job (and I've worked in something like 30 other industries, so I can say this with some authority).

I no longer feel that I can be my most authentic self at work. I have more filters now, and I have to put on more of an act. This takes a lot of emotional energy and I'm less happy to be working than I used to.

I once said (OK, more than once) that even if I were to win a lottery big enough to live in style for the rest of my life, I would still work at my job because I love it that much and I like staying busy. I don't think I would do that now. I have enough other hobbies that I also love, and enough other interests that I'd like to try, that tip the scales once we add on the weight of managing coworkers' awfulness.

Now, since I still need an income, this is still the job that I love the most and I'd rather do this than any other job. But if money weren't an object, I no longer love my job so much that I'd do it for free. I'd rather be costuming or photographing something or dancing (as long as I don't have to talk to those people either, because here in the South, the dance community is filled with some awful people too), than putting up with my coworkers' bullshit just to be able to climb some truss or fight for a seat behind a camera watching another talking head lecture about quarterly projections.

And I'm sad that my job is no longer one of the greatest passions of my life, or rather that the passion has been dimmed with prolonged exposure to the reality of my coworkers' bigotry and ignorance. After 25 years in the business, I guess the honeymoon is finally over.
joreth: (Swing Dance)

I got an amazing compliment last night. I have never danced bal before (balboa, a variation on the original lindy hop swing dance that was developed for really fast music in really crowded nightclubs) and I don't even know what the basic pattern is.  But a guy in the local lindy scene who knows bal was at the Gatsby party last night and none of the other follows knew how to dance it either, but a good bal song came on and he wanted to dance.

I've always wanted to learn and, through years of dedication and commitment to learning dance, I have learned how to push through my fear of looking foolish in public and I asked him to teach me right there at the (non-dance-event) party, with dozens of strangers looking on.  He showed me the basic step and then led me into the dance. I know I was off-beat the whole time - I could feel it. We weren't in sync and it felt awkward. But he led me and I followed.  Afterwards, he gushed, not just to me but to the others in the party, about what a good job I did, that he couldn't believe I had never danced bal before, and that I was able to keep up on some non-beginner steps that he threw at me.

This has inspired me to add bal to my "I will learn these dances this year" resolution. I mean, it's already on my list of dances I want to learn, but I am resolving to actually take lessons in certain dances in the coming year (Argentine Tango being the top of the list, previously the only one on the list).  Pushing through my fear of messing up in public has brought me more skills, more enjoyable memories, and more confidence than literally any other thing I've tried. The dance community has been instrumental in that because of the embedded nature of acceptance and welcome for newcomers, especially those who look foolish.

We were all that goofy newbie once, and we are all that goofy newbie again with each new skill we learn. No matter how long we've been dancing, or how good we get at it, we're still always that goofy newbie who messes up on the floor, steps on our partner's toes, bumps into someone else, and generally makes a fool of ourselves in public.  I've been that fool so many times, and it still frightens me. But I do it anyway because I have lived through the embarrassment in the past and nothing truly bad happened to me for being embarrassed. And now that I know that, I can tell my anxiety to shut up and I can do it anyway.

I can't always push through my anxiety - as my messy house and full sink will attest. But the more times I do it, the easier it gets to do it the next time. Sometimes I backslide and I just can't in that moment, but I know that I'm a flawed human and that's OK, so I can find the strength to do it next time.  It's that "do it next time" that's important, though. Accepting that I'm flawed and then not pushing through next time as every time becomes "I'll do it next time" doesn't make me better. Dancing, because of the acceptance of the community and the knowledge that we are all still beginners at something, makes it easier for that "next time" to happen, to not allow "next time" to become code for "never".

So, I had a good compliment - one that actually makes me feel good about myself as a person and inspires me to be even better. That's what a good compliment should do - not simply notify the other person that you have pants feels for them, but inspires them to be their best self and accepts them for their current self at the same time.

#WordsOfAffirmation #5LoveLanguages #DancingIsLifeSkills #MadFollowSkillz #NewYearsResolutions #RealMenDoNotHarassComplimentWomen #ToDanceIsToLive #JustKeepDancing #IWillLearnAllTheDances

joreth: (Self-Portrait)
I am, I think, technically, a relationship anarchist although I don't identify with that label or the communities that have sprung up around the label. If I read the various definitions of the term (because dog forbid we let someone coin a term and everyone use the same damn definition), they more or less describe my viewpoint better than not.

One of the reasons why I don't identify with the term is because, in the early days of polyamory, those definitions *were* the definitions I was given for polyamory. I feel resentful of what I see as all the couples finding out about us through Montel Williams and the early news articles and invading "our" space. It's more complicated than that, but to me, we anarchists had this space first and the couples with their toxic monogamous paradigms infected it, driving out the later generations of people like me who came looking for community, didn't find it, and created their own space instead. I feel resentful of that and I keep trying to "take back" what I think of as my space so having throngs of people abandon the fight (because they aren't invested in the community like I am) makes me feel angry, and that is one of several reasons why I don't connect to the term.

But, aside from all of that, the whole reason why I gravitated towards polyamory in the first place is because I had all of these relationships that didn't fit into the neat and tidy little boxes that mono-centric culture insisted I must have. I was good friends with most of my exes. I had "best friends" to whom boyfriends had to take a backseat. I had casual partners who were good for a fuck but not good to call on in times of need. I had different ways of prioritizing my relationships that weren't tied to the kind of sexual activity we shared (or didn't share).

Some RAs insist that they don't do any ranking of relationships at all - that absolutely everyone in their contact book is exactly equal to everyone else. But others (and I would fall into this camp) say that it's not about never "ranking" anyone, it's about removing the requirement of sex as the most important ranking factor. It's about acknowledging that we have all these different kinds of relationships that mean different things to us, and romantic-sexual love should not be given the highest rung of priority *just because* it's romantic-sexual. There are other factors that are just as or more important in determining which person is given more of our priority, time, attention, emotional connection, etc.

As Charlotte once said in Sex And The City, "maybe we could be each other's soul mates, and guys can be these great, fun guys that we have sex with?" That's simplistic, sure, and there are tons of problematic things about the show, but even this heteromononormative piece of entertainment understood that sometimes people come into your life who are your anchor, your core, your foundation, and they are not necessarily the same people you have sex with.

My whole life I have struggled to explain my relationships. Part of the problem is because categorization is an inherently ranked system. Look at the words I've used so far - priority, important, more of... On the one hand, I rebel at the the thought of "ranking" anyone, but on the other hand, Dunbar's Number is still a valid theory. We have, essentially, rings of associations, and the closer someone is to the inner ring, the more ... just the "more" they are to us. That's how the brains of social animals work. Once someone is outside of our monkeysphere, they are Other, but inside that sphere, they are Someone and there are different levels of Someone inside the sphere.

I recognize that I have different levels of priority or connection to different people. I just don't associate those priorities or connections with the same markers as mononormative culture (i.e. sex, cohabitation, even relationship labels). Back before I rejected the primary/secondary terminology outright, I described my "primary" relationships in terms of connection rather than logistics. So, my Long Distance Relationships might be "primary" to me because of the strength of the connection I felt, but a local partner might be "secondary" or even "tertiary" because the connection was less, or ... different. Lots of people, particularly those aforementioned couples, in the poly community had a difficult time understanding this redistribution of primary/secondary terminology, which is what first made me reject those terms even before I really began railing against the inherent ranking in them.

So, I can explain all of this, and I have been for years, but it takes a lot of words for me to explain it. Today I read a sentence that explains it in way fewer words than I ever use.

"[H]aving a relationship with someone gives you an insight into how heavy or not heavy an emotional support request may be."

That's it. That's how I categorize my relationships. My "closeness" to someone, how often I talk to them, who gets "priority" and for what, who has sex with whom ... those may be factors that shade the relationship categorization, but those are not deciding factors. What "level" or what ring in the monkeysphere they reside on is based on how heavy an emotional support request of them might be. Can I call on them to vent for an hour on the phone about something or nothing? Can I ask them to perform Acts of Service for me? Which Acts of Service? Can I ask them to drop everything, pay for a last-minute plane ticket across the country or across the world, and just sit with me until I can quell the urge to reach for my gun without help? How emotionally expensive are these requests to them?

How heavy the request is and how not-heavy they feel the request to be is how I categorize my relationships. Not how long we've been together, not whether or not we have sex or what kind of sex, not their physical proximity, not how often we talk to each other, not the relationship label we use for each other, and not the outward markers of our relationship such as selfies together or going on "dates" or holding hands in public.

How much emotional labor is it a mutual joy to share with each other?

I've written before complaining about the amount of emotional labor I often do for others, particularly men. Those complaints are centered around an uneven distribution of emotional labor and the one-sided blindness of who is doing all the labor. By itself, emotional labor is not necessarily a bad thing. It's what partnerships are for - to share the labor to make the load easier for everyone. In happy, healthy relationships, there is a balance of emotional labor - not necessarily an equal division, but a *balance*, where each person feels comfortable shouldering the burden being requested of them and comfortable with the amount and type their partner is shouldering for them, based on their respective needs and desires and preferences.

That one sentence; it's so very simple to illustrate such a complex concept. Having an idea of how heavy of an emotional request I can make and how not-heavy they will receive that request - that's what separates out intimates from acquaintances from strangers for me. It's ranking, but it's not ranking. There's no implications of how many. There's no implied judgement (in my view) of someone being "bad" or "lesser" for the answer being a lighter load than someone else - just a different category, just as valuable, fulfilling a different niche. This request might be "too heavy", but that request might be OK. Not better and worse, just ... different. Not everyone is or can be *or should be* an emotional tank or heavy fighter. We need all kinds of skill sets to make up a good raiding party. So, to me, I don't see an implicit value judgement in this phrase, but some people probably will. There is probably a strong overlap in those people with the people who don't get polyamory in general, with those who *think* they get it but still say things like "I just can't imagine not caring enough about what my partner does with someone else, but you do you!"

But before I go off on another tangent about people's misconceptions of poly, let's wrap up this already long post. My relationships are categorized because that's how the brains of social animals work. But my categorization doesn't match the culturally accepted categorization system. The most important factor, culturally speaking, is sex - you save sex for The One Most Important Person or the sex is a representation that this person is The One Most Important Person. That seems, to me, like a rather shallow way to rank people. I have deemed you Most Important, therefore I will have sex with you (and only you), or I have deemed you Most Important *because* I have sex with you. Making that the defining criterion just seems so ... weird and arbitrary to me, especially when I *see* that it's not true in practice. Even monogamous people have platonic friends and family who are also The Most Important Person. But somehow their sex partner is elevated to this Other No Really The Most Important Person state?

I have lots of important people in my life. They are all important for different ways. They are all important because they are them and I am me and our relationships are a totally, unique organism made up of the blending of them and me that can never be reproduced or replicated by anyone else. And yet, even though everyone is important because they are unique, there is still a difference between them. There is still a difference between intimates, acquaintances, and strangers and even those 3 categories have fuzzy edges and blend into each other.

That difference is based on how heavy of an emotional request can I make and how heavy do they feel that request to be. No value judgement, people are not "bad" or "good" for the amount they can carry for me, they just are. Some people are heavy lifters, some are short burst sprinters, some can only carry certain types of weight and not others. But that's how I see my relationships. That's how I determine who are my core relationships, my satellite relationships, and my comet relationships. That's how my relationship constellation is organized.
joreth: (Purple Mobius)
* I am committed to prioritizing the happiness of the individuals over the longevity of the group if / when those two values are in conflict.
This is a new commitment. I have always advocated for a family-style of polyamory. The ex I mentioned in a previous post, who prioritized his own desires above my feelings or our relationship, I remember having conversations with him where he was offended and horrified at the idea of "censorship". I remember him demanding of me "so you think it's appropriate to censor me?!" And I remember my answer was "no, I think you should want to self-censor, that this is something you would choose because our relationship is worth making that choice for." The hard part for me is that I still feel this way. I still feel a strong desire for partners who are willing to weigh their options, and who value our relationship so highly that sometimes the other option is not worth the cost, that sometimes the health of our relationship and my comfort or preferences are too valuable to trade for the other option. I still feel this way even though I always have, even as a child, believed that staying together out of obligation (i.e. "for the children") was one of the worst things you could do for a relationship.

In the commitment about refraining from hurting my partners, I discussed a situation that a metamour and I went through separately but together. That story applies here too. That was a situation where, even though she and I both want to build a poly family, sometimes desperately need that family, we discovered just how dangerous desperation for family can be. We each learned the price of family obligation. We each learned that when the relationship is too important, it becomes coercive. It becomes coercive when any member feels that they can't leave, that their individuality and their individual needs are less important than maintaining the group itself. I referenced this point in a previous post, which further linked to an article on this very subject. This kind of coercion sneaks up on you even when you think you're on the lookout for it. With all my talk of autonomy and the new poly term "solo poly" and independence, I still didn't see it coming.

One very effective trait of abusers is isolation. An abuser isolates his victims from friends and family, from anyone who might be able to see what's going on and who might have enough pull on the victim to give them the strength or motivation to leave. Something I never even considered before was that this tactic can also be used effectively from within a family to keep a family together through force as well. That sounds counter-intuitive - isolating a victim from family in order to bind a family together. It's very subtle. What you do is you make the promise of a relationship, or a family, so desirable that the other person feels afraid to leave (the other person can give you a head start by desiring that family fantasy before they even meet you); that being without this family or this relationship is a terrible option they can't even consider. Then you turn everything that they do into them attacking and hurting the family group or relationship, even if what they do is for their own emotional or physical health or has nothing to do with the family.

When everything they do somehow manages to hurt everyone else in the group - the group that they desperately need to belong to - it drives a wedge between that person and the rest of the group. Soon, communication between the individual and the others in the group dries up because the individual feels a constant wash of disapproval. If you can orchestrate this so that the disapproval is coming through you and not the other people directly (because you're the one who said everyone else is mad, not them), and direct communication starts to become affected, then eventually it doesn't even have to be true and the group starts to blame the widening rift on the individual for pulling away because they're not aware that the individual is pulling away because they think the group has positioned themselves in an us vs. them struggle. So eventually, the individual becomes too afraid to do anything for themselves or for their own good because the consequence is losing the relationship. The individual loses their agency and subsumes their autonomy into the group. This makes the relationship more important than the individuals.

I still very much want a close-knit family style of poly. But I also still very strongly believe that one does not have to lose one's individuality to the group. I mentioned this very concept way back with the commitment to respecting my partners' life choices. But this one is less about focusing on my ability to let go of my attachment to my partners' decisions and more of a step back and a look at the bigger picture. This is an acknowledgement that there are two conflicting goals in my relationships - maintaining individuality and autonomy vs. building family. I believe that most of the time, in healthy relationships, these are not directly in conflict and both can be achieved simultaneously. But sometimes, they will come to a head and conflict. I am establishing a baseline for myself that, in the event of a conflict of these two goals, the one that serves the individual must be given more weight right out of the starting gate. Because if the individuals' happiness is not being served, I believe that the health of the relationship cannot be served either. The latter requires the former, but not necessarily vice versa. So the former must come first, and the latter will follow automatically as a result, or it will end in service of the former.
joreth: (Xmas Kitties)
If people ever wanted to support me but didn't want to buy a gift or send money and didn't know what else to do, consider buying something from one of my stores for yourself or someone else.

Lots of us don't have much money to be donating or to give a meaningful amount to people we aren't financially entangled with. Or maybe we're not that close to someone and afraid it might be weird to send them cash or gifts. But some of the people we might want to help may be struggling to support themselves with products or services that they provide. If you are going to be spending money on yourself or a loved one anyway, consider looking through the stores that belong to people on your friends lists to see if any of those stores offer the sorts of items you were already thinking of purchasing.

Artists and content creators often live off commission or units sold, so your holiday shopping could not only provide some support to an online friend, but could possibly even contribute to a holiday bonus on top of whatever they make normally from the sale of that item or service.

My stores include:

Poly Tees - www.PolyTees.com
Atheist Tees - www.Atheist-Tees.com
Backstage Tee Shirts - www.BackstageTeeShirts.com

And my entire department at my retail store is up for a cash bonus based on sales for this month. It doesn't matter which employee makes the sale, the whole frame department is credited and the whole frame team gets the bonus. So if you ever wanted custom framing done and have the money for such a high-priced service, now (along with the steep holiday sales) is the time to get them done.

If you live locally to me and want to support my department, but you don't know where I work, PM me. I try to keep my online persona disconnected from my retail place of employment, to avoid any conflicts with the rules regarding social media, so I'd rather not post my store publicly.

Another option is to use someone's Amazon Affiliates link when you buy stuff on Amazon. Some people are Amazon Affiliates, which means that they get a commission when people purchase things through Amazon using special URLs. These people usually have links directly to their products or other people's products on their websites or blogs and those links include the special Amazon Affiliates codes already embedded in the URL for you. There is no additional cost or effort from you. They get a commission from something you were going to purchase anyway and the process is invisible to the buyer. So if you see someone sharing an Amazon link from their website or blog, consider clicking through instead of going to Amazon directly and searching for the items.

And one final option for helping others is a new feature offered by Amazon called Amazon Smile, which donates money to the charity of your choice when you purchase something on Amazon. Their website has more information about how this service works.
"Thanks for sharing your post on how to support you, but is there anything those of us on a tight budget can do that doesn't involve money?"
Why yes, thank you for asking! If you know content creators that you would like to support but can't afford to spend money even to buy things for yourself where a cut would go to the creator, a very important way to support them is to periodically share their content (in the manner in which they approve - don't go sharing artwork without permission or a watermark, for instance, that's a copyright violation).  You can like their Facebook pages, but liking the page once only helps minimally. What's really helpful is to regularly like and share the posts that they make and engage on their pages.

FB's algorithms eventually stop showing page content in your feed if you "like" something once and then never interact again. So you have to keep going back and doing things with their pages. This will continue to show content in your feed, which you can then pass on to people who read *your* feed, thereby showing this creative content to other people who might be able to spend money to support your content creator friend.

You can also support them on other social media platforms, whether they have an account there or not, by sharing their website directly on your social media platform of choice. Again, this brings their wares to the attention of people who *could* possibly afford to buy them, even if you can't or aren't interested in them.

And here's another thing that you can do that is *really* helpful to certain people - leave reviews for their podcasts or any store that offers reviews as a feature.

Podcasting, for the most part, is a net loss in terms of time and financial commitment. Most of us do it as a labor of love. But podcasting costs money. If we're very, very lucky, we'll get donations or we'll get big enough to have sponsors and make enough from the sponsorships that will at least cover our hosting and equipment expenses. You can help support your podcasting friends or idols by listening to their podcasts, donating to their podcasts, posting positive reviews of their podcast on iTunes and Stitcher (or wherever it's available), and sharing their podcast for others to hear.

So, Facebook pages that I operate that bring me money that you can support by sharing and interacting with are listed above. Pages that do not bring me money directly but that make people aware of me who might eventually find their way towards one of my money-making ventures and that are also labors of love that would just feel nice to be supported:

Miss Poly Manners - www.MissPolyManners.com
Poly-ish Movie Reviews - www.PolyishMovieReviews.com

And the podcast that I would love to see some reviews on iTunes to increase my rankings in the iTunes search engines so that more people will find it is Poly-ish Movie Reviews - www.PolyIshMovieReviews.com (with a link for posting a review on the contact page and at the end of every Show Notes).

So, if you're in the giving mood but not for financial contributions, make a post asking your friends to tell you about their creative endeavors so that you can share those endeavors to a wider audience, or, if you already know about them, you can just go ahead and share these endeavors unprompted.
joreth: (Xmas Kitties)
It's that time again! The time of year when I start reminding people to create online wishlists for holiday gifting!

Gift giving is a complicated social custom with a lot of implicit expectations behind it, and people with different backgrounds often have different (and conflicting) expectations from each other. Some people feel obligated to give, some people feel obligated to accept, some people refuse to give, some people refuse to accept, some people are good at guessing, some people are terrible at guessing, some people feel bad about asking what someone wants, some people feel that it's rude to be asked for specific gift ideas, some people expect others to just magically know or to read hints, some people have monetary limitations, some people have very specific wants and are hard to shop for, some people are easy to shop for ... on and on!

I recommend that everyone creates an online wishlist of things that they want. Many services offer the ability to create multiple wishlists per account and/or "family" accounts so that multiple people in one group can all create (and share) their own wishlists under a single account. I think this is an excellent way for parents to keep an eye on their children's wishlists or to manage the wishlists for the ones too little to manage their own, and for individuals to set up different lists for themselves, such as a personal wishlist and a gift recommendation wishlist, or wishlists with items suitable for different people to view (parents vs. coworkers vs. spouses, for instance) or for different occasions.

This is especially helpful for long-distant relatives wanting to buy gifts for children and who may not know the children well enough to know what to buy or who don't know what the children already own. As a parent, you can create wishlists for your children and just leave them up for holidays and birthdays, periodically coming back to revise the list as the children's interests change over time or as they get things on the list that someone forgot to mark as "purchased".

Here's why I recommend that everyone have an online wishlist - it does several things that I believe help to navigate the complicated expectations behind gift giving:

  1. You can be as specific or as vague about the sorts of things that you want to make sure that you reduce the number of gifts you have to return or that you are not pleased with. With the right wishlist service you can even list non-material things like hugs or donations to charity in your name. I think online wishlists are especially important for people who really aren't into the whole gift exchange thing because they can keep the gifts down to a minimum with specific items or they can specify those non-material gifts I just mentioned.

  2. Nobody has to read your mind to get you the perfect gift in their budget.

  3. If you don't like telling people what you want because it feels too much like you're "asking" for gifts, you can make your wishlist into a "list of things that I want to have someday even if I buy them myself" list, and then other people can choose to look at your list and buy stuff from it or not. But you're not asking anyone for presents. Think of it more like a shopping list that other people can look at and buy from if they want to, rather than a request.

  4. If you have friends or family who are too embarrassed to ask what you want or don't feel comfortable asking for specific things, this relieves them of the burden. They can just look at your list without saying anything to you and buy something that they know you want if they so choose. And you know that whatever they get you will be something you want even if they refused to ask you what you wanted.

  5. You can use the wishlist yourself to remember where you saw that cute thing online that you wanted to buy but didn't want to buy it at the time and now it's several months later and you can't remember what it is! Or you can use your wishlist as a reminder of where you did buy that thing that one time and now you need another one but you can't remember where you originally got it. You can even use it as motivational goals - things you want to save up for.

  6. You don't have to worry about people buying the same item twice like you do when you send out an email to several different people because when something is purchased, it gets removed from the list and other visitors won't even see the item.

Gift Registries for weddings and baby showers are considered a normal, acceptable custom where some people want to buy one person a gift and the recipient gets to specify exactly what they want. Nobody is offended that the recipient lists specific items, nobody is offended that the givers want to know specific item suggestions, and nobody actually has to ask directly for gifts or ask directly what to buy. I think this should apply to all gift-giving events like holidays and birthdays, and even hard-luck times like job loss or illness or funerals, when it might help to have people give useful items to make it through a tough time, because it simplifies the exchange and removes or reduces the sense of obligation that some people feel regarding gift exchange events without removing the joy of gift exchange.

I recently lost my wishlist service and had to go hunting for another one. I had been using the same service since about 2002 and it had every feature in a wishlist that I could possibly have wanted. Now that website is down and has been for months. So I had to attempt to find another service that had all the features I wanted and recreate my wishlist from memory!

I never did find a wishlist service that had *all* of the features of my previous one (nor did I remember all the items on my old list). But I did find only one wishlist service that had *most* of the features I wanted - www.myregistry.com/ :

  • This service is not attached to any particular retailer and I can add items from literally anywhere. I can add items from online stores with a browser plugin button, and I can manually add items that are not online. It also offers the ability to accept cash donations.

  • This service allows me to have several wishlists, so I have a Clothing Wishlist, a Miscellaneous Wishlist, and a Gift Card Wishlist, to make it more manageable to navigate.

  • It also allows me to manually order the items in my list so that visitors see the items in the order that I want them to see them. Visitors can also reorder the list by price, store, and favorites as well as the site allowing the visitor to view items by category. I can create my own categories and assign the items to whatever categories I come up with.

  • This service shows the list of items with a thumbnail of each item, the price, ordering information like size and color, additional notes that I can enter if I want, and a link to the store where the visitor can view and purchase the item.

  • This service offers a browser plug-in and a smartphone app to make it very simple to add items to any of your lists, as well as managing the lists.

  • When visitors click to view or purchase the item, this service will open the store's website in another tab or window so that you do not lose the wishlist itself. It then gives you the option to go back to the wishlist and anonymously mark the item as "purchased" so that no one else will buy the same thing you did. Once I share my wishlist for Christmas, I do not look at my wishlist again until the holiday (and my birthday the next month) is over, so that I will be surprised by my gifts. That way visitors can safely mark items as purchased and still keep it a surprise.

There are two things that this service does not do that my old one did: one is to give me the option to tag my items. Tagging an item allows me to associate multiple tags to each item so that it can be cross-referenced and viewed under several different tags. So, I might have an item that is both a household item and an electronic item and I could tag it with both keywords and visitors who want to look just for household things as well as visitors who want to look just for electronic things would all see this item. The new service only gives me the option of putting items in a single category, so I have to choose - is this a household item or an electronic item?

The other is priority ranking. My old service allowed me to rank my items on a scale of 1-6 with one being "must have" and 6 being "don't buy for me, I'm just thinking about it", which I thought was a very useful feature. Visitors could sort the list by priority order and only look at those things you wanted the most.
But other than these features, this service does everything else that I was looking for. I was willing to give up the tagging because of the categories and I already manually order my list by priority because an extra step to view priority was just a touch too complicated for my parents. But I do miss these features and feel that they made the previous service more valuable to others who don't have my same limitations and made me even more enthusiastic about recommending it. I had to look at and try out more than a dozen different wishlist services before I found this one that even has all of these features! So I'm passing it on so that other people can take advantage of it.

And now, because several people have requested that I do so, I am including a link to my online wishlists for those who want to see them:

www.myregistry.com/public/JorethsClothingWishlist
www.myregistry.com/public/JorethsMiscWishlist
www.myregistry.com/public/JorethsGiftCardsList
joreth: (Self-Portrait)
http://tacit.livejournal.com/627806.html

This is fascinating! I also had no idea that other people don't feel cold as pain. I mean, I knew other people had higher thresholds for cold than I do, but I still assumed that their experience of cold was similar to mine, just at higher doses, if you will. For me, cold is *pain*, like stubbing your toe pain, as well. I absolutely can't do ice treatments for injuries because the ice causes a deep ache that I interpret as being "in my bones" and in my joints and aggravates the pain from the injury.

I do sometimes use ice to numb the area around insect bites because I'm allergic and numbing the entire area is the only coping mechanism that works even a little bit. But the ache from the cold hurts so much that I don't know which is worse, the body-aching cold or the mind-maddening itch. Both sensations are so unpleasant that I often wonder if this time will be so bad that I will literally lose my mind in order to escape the sensation.

I also find being wet very uncomfortable. Especially the *transition* from dry to wet. It's one of the things that I associate with my OCD that prevents me from doing the dishes as often as I should. If I get hot and sweaty *enough*, I will start to find the thought of being wet less unpleasant, and once I'm in the water, I'm mostly OK about it. But I'd rather not get wet. I was just talking with Ben the other day about how grateful I am that we all come with electronics on our bodies nowadays because I have a built in excuse that everyone respects for not being thrown in pools (since, y'know, my consent isn't a good enough reason on its own).

Oh, and I don't do caffeine. Like, at all. I went off caffeine some 21 or more years ago as part of the process to diagnose a sleep disorder and by the time we ruled out caffeine as a causal factor, introducing it back into my system started giving me migraines. So I just don't take caffeine. Chocolate, as having something very similar but not exactly the same as caffeine, doesn't trigger the migraines, and also doesn't cause any other similar symptoms such as more "energy" or the ability to fight off exhaustion or sleep deprivation better. It does, however, help keep my mood more even and less volatile, so I eat chocolate fairly often.

But I otherwise *do* inhabit my body. I *feel* myself in my space, almost all the time. I'm acutely aware of where I exist and I believe that's related to being in chronic pain as well as having to compensate for other people (mostly men) being largely unaware of the space that they occupy, with a little bit of "oh no, am I going to sit on my cat?" pet-owner-concerns thrown in. The chronic pain and being acutely aware of my body is why, I believe, I developed the reaction to pain of feeling sleepy. It's the only time I can disassociate from my body so when I hurt, I sleep. This has the drawback, however, of being able to sleep through some discomforts that ought to wake me, like needing to pee or my arm being asleep or whatever. Because, otherwise, I'm very much "living in my body".

What's more, I can also start to "feel" my partners as extensions of myself when I am in close proximity for extended time periods or when I am granted extreme amounts of physical intimacy. They did a study on dancers a while back (I don't have the citation on hand) that showed that partner dancing develops this particular encapsulation of other selves over time, so I suppose it's not surprising that I do it too. Knowing that it's a dancer thing, I now use this to teach people how to deliberately foster this sense of partner-as-extension in relationships through my and Sterling's Simple Steps workshop where we use dance techniques (with no actual dancing required) to improve relationship communication.

I am one of those people who "feels" music the way [livejournal.com profile] tacit describes never having understood before. I knew that others didn't have that same sensation because I've tried to teach people how to dance and I've seen the lack of recognition when I try to describe this feeling. Knowing that he has synesthesia, I didn't realize that he also doesn't "feel" music. I sort of imagined the act of "seeing" music as being like "feeling" music only with extra visual stuff. Because of my connection with music, I'm particularly fascinated with how he experiences it and how his experience can be consensually manipulated to better communicate with him through music.

One thing I noticed, though, is that I do have periods where I don't feel like I'm living in my body and I feel like I'm this ball sitting at the top of a meat vehicle. Those periods are my depressions. That description of being a ball sitting on top of a biological vehicle isn't metaphor, it's literal - that's what my awareness of my self actually is in those periods. If you've never been aware of your body yet separate from it, I think it's very hard to understand from the descriptions. If you've *only* been aware of your body yet separate from it, I think the feeling of being connected to your body, of *living within* the body is very hard to understand. In both cases, the descriptions all seem metaphorical to the person who doesn't know those feelings themselves. I know because I am both of those people. When I am feeling connected to my body, the description of a ball atop a meat vehicle sounds metaphorical and I can't quite wrap my head around it empathically even if I grasp it intellectually. But when I'm in a depression, I can't remember what it feels like to be connected and I doubt that I ever really did, and my brain insists that my memories of once *believing* I was "living in my body" are lying to me and that I never *really* felt that way at all, therefore I likely never will again, or if I ever do, it'll just be a return to a delusion. Depression sucks.

I find this particularly noteworthy because Franklin isn't prone to depression that I know of so this sensation is either different from his or isn't dependent upon depression to exist. I don't know if the sensation of not living in my body has a causal relationship with my depression or just a correlated relationship, but they always go together. In fact, that's one of the red flags I use to determine if I'm in a depression. When the depression turns suicidal (thankfully rarely), I don't just feel like a ball sitting inside a meat vehicle, I feel like a ball being *constrained* by the vehicle, limited, like the vehicle is filtering out all the color and warmth in the world and if I could just break free of the body, I would no longer feel the pain of being colorless, of being cold, in a sense, of an absence of life and warmth and color and joy.

Because to me, cold is pain.
joreth: (Purple Mobius)
* I am committed to choosing the Path of Greatest Courage by always being honest with myself and my partners while simultaneously allowing compassion to dictate the delivery of my honesty.

Yet another old commitment, this one is best explained by two preexisting blog posts: Thoughts About Truth And Virtue and Radical Honesty. The post on truth and virtue introduces the concept of the Path of Greatest Courage, where courage is best defined at this other post.

The summary is this: "Courage is making decisions that take you closer to what you want, or to the person you want to be, even when you're scared." Courage is a virtue and life rewards those who move in the direction of greater courage. Honesty, in most situations but particularly in romantic relationships, is usually the best method for displaying courage as well as for building intimacy in relationships. But honesty without compassion is often nothing more than cruelty. Framing the discussion as honesty vs. "little white lies" is a distraction. The real discussion is between compassion vs. cruelty because both honesty and lying can be either. Honesty can be tempered by compassion, which serves the goal usually offered by those supporting the "little white lie" side ("I don't want to hurt her, so I'll just tell her a nice little white lie that will make her feel better") without sidestepping the path of greatest courage. I'm setting my bar high to strive for the path of greatest courage, which requires me to be honest in my relationships, but without using my commitment to honesty as a blunt object with which to beat my partners over the head. I am setting a goal for myself that I can and will be both honest and kind in my romantic relationships to the best of my ability.
joreth: (Misty in Box)
(If you are seeing white text on a black background and the reverse is more comfortable, you can read the Google doc that I used for my final draft here: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1jDo84msoBu74TQIW2OM4MLiILCoDIiQyzNllinU_FVg/edit?usp=sharing. The wording is identical.)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And maybe we might both have escaped without breaking first.



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

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



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

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

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

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

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

In a completely different context, I have been known to say to my coworkers:



"I can totally tell you're a straight dude, because you've *obviously* never dated another guy.  Y'all think you're all rational and logical and shit, and that you're all about the sex and not the romantic stuff, but I know what y'all say to women when your dudebros aren't around.  You whine about not 'connecting' and missing the romance and all the fucking talk, talk, talk.  After a while, it's like 'do we have to talk about our relationship ONE MORE TIME?  Can you please just shut up with all the relationship talking?  Is it too much to ask to just come home, have some dinner, watch a little TV in quiet, have a little sex and go to bed?  Jesus fuck, you guys with all the talking!'  You sit there and complain about girls doing that but as soon as a girl doesn't WANT to do that, y'all turn into the whiny little bitches you complain about!  And don't tell me it never happens, unless you've dated as many men as I have, I'm pretty sure I have more experience with how dudes behave in relationships than you do.  You're getting the story your dudebros TELL you and the side they want you to THINK.  You're not seeing them behind closed doors.  I am.  Y'all are just as whiny and emotional as any of the girls you complain about."

Now, keep in mind that, when I phrase it like this, I'm talking to dudebros.  I'm talking to guys who are working in a masculine industry, talking to other guys, and doing that toxic masculinity bonding thing where they complain about how girly girls can be.  But the story under the language is true - I have spent a lot of time in relationships throwing my hands up in the air, yelling in frustration, "what the fuck, dude, I don't want to talk about our relationship anymore!"

Before I started dating [livejournal.com profile] tacit, about 13 years ago, just about every relationship I ever had ended in accusations of being a cold-hearted bitch.  I've had a few since then too, but he sets a high bar and my tolerance for partners who can't even come close to meeting that bar is rapidly dropping as I age, so my other partners since dating [livejournal.com profile] tacit have been a better ratio - with only a couple of outright abusive assholes using that accusation and the rest breaking up for other reasons.  By the end of things with those who accused me of being a cold-hearted bitch, I was no longer interested in hearing about their day, in listening to them whine (because that's how I thought of it by the end) about how much they "missed" me, in making them dinner, in sitting with them to watch their favorite show, in, really, doing anything at all kind or compassionate for them.  There would come a point in the relationship where I would just ... check out.

And I bought into this idea that I was some kind of borderline sociopathic monster (or, a dude in a girl's body, because the other common accusation is that I act like "the guy" in the relationship, which "forces" them to act like "the girl", because there always has to be one of each? Oh right, if *I'm* not performing the emotional labor, *someone* has to, and it's just not *fair* that it has to be the actual penis-holder!).  So I would warn people up front that I'm "the guy" and this is what I do.  But, in the beginning of a relationship, I like performing some amount of emotional labor - I like hearing my partner's inner most feelings.  I like baking for them.  I like validating them.  I am actually pretty schedule-oriented so I will keep the calendar and schedule events and remember (or get calendar notifications for) people's birthdays and anniversaries.  I even like the cuddling and the sex, in the beginning.  So they get used to me behaving in a way contrary to my warning words.  Then they start to feel entitled to that behaviour, and that turns me off.  So then they're surprised when I start acting exactly like I said I would because they weren't hearing my words, they were seeing my actions which contradicted my words and they put a filter over their interactions with me that projected their own biases onto my actions and filtered out my words.  Then they accused me of being "cold" and I would yell right back at them "what part of 'I'm a cold-hearted bitch' that I said in the beginning didn't you understand?"

The Five Love Languages theory claims that everyone has one primary Love Language that they use to express their love for people or that they feel love when expressed towards them.  It claims that it's possible to learn the other languages just like it's possible to learn actual languages, but that there is always The One.  I disagree.  I think that there is no limit (upper or lower) to the number of languages any given person naturally "speaks".  Some people have a single language and all the rest will always be a struggle for them.  Others, like me, speak all five fluently and naturally.  And most everyone else is somewhere in between.

Here's something I learned about the Five Love Languages - if a person has a particular Love Language, and that Love Language gets abused from an early age, and/or often, then that person will develop a strong aversion to the expression of that Love Language precisely because that Love Language is so important to them.  It's like touching an exposed nerve almost.  Maybe not quite, but touching something sensitive - if you do it exactly right, it will make them melt with pleasure, but if you do it wrong, it'll be a screaming, painful experience for them when the rest of us are all like "I don't get it, what's the problem? This doesn't hurt *me* that much!" (we see this very clearly in the "can't you take a joke?" defense where some people have no problem slinging insults around as signs of affection, but get confused when someone they love takes it "personally").  If that Love Language gets abused early enough, before the person is aware that this is a Super Important Way To Express Love, this person might believe that they are actually opposed to it completely, instead of it being extremely important to them.  And then, because they are avoiding the expression of that Love Language out of self-defense, their "love tank" runs on empty for most of their life.

A "love tank" is often compared to a car's gas tank or a bank.  It's this metaphorical space that gets "filled up" when you do things that makes the person happy.  When the tank is "full", they have a reserve to fall back on when things are tough.  When the love tank is full, and you have a fight, they are more likely to be charitable or compassionate during the fight and get over it afterwards because they have this extra cushion to fall on, this extra reserve to draw from, so they can afford to bend more, be more flexible, give more during a conflict.  This is why conflict, anger, or arguments are not necessarily a sign of a bad relationship - all relationships have these.  It's contempt that is the big warning sign.  Contempt, and similar emotions, are what gets brought out when these love tanks are running low.  Contempt and disgust lead to a lack of empathy, and that lack of empathy leads to "selfish" behaviour.  If you can't empathize with someone's position, you prioritize your own safety or your own security or your own escape route.

These behaviours are labeled "selfish" because you are putting yourself ahead of them.  I, personally, make a distinction between "selfish" and "self-interested".  "Selfish", when I use it, means putting WANTS ahead of someone else's NEEDS, and doing so either knowing that your actions will harm another and not caring; or thinking of yourself to the exclusion of the other person so that it doesn't even occur to you that someone else might get harmed.  When I say "self-interested", I mean that you are putting your NEEDS ahead of someone else's WANTS.  I might include "putting your needs ahead of others' needs" as well because sometimes there are situations where two people have legitimate "needs" that are incompatible and someone might have to choose themselves over someone else.  I don't consider that to be "selfish" so much as "self-interested".  Often, the person putting their own needs ahead of someone's wants is aware that someone else might feel hurt by it, but they feel it is a regrettable necessity.  They aren't lacking empathy, they are making a choice about priority.

I think this distinction is very important because the accusation "selfish" is a very powerful tool of abusers to maintain their victims.  Being "selfish" is one of the worst things a person, especially a woman or someone coded as "female" or "feminine", can be.  So it's easy to keep her in line by grooming her for her entire life to not be "selfish" and then drawing on that grooming whenever she acts self-interested.  Meanwhile, the actions of the abuser are, in fact, "selfish", by this definition.  I think it's important to note these two similar but distinct actions and belief systems with their own labels.  This is not a criticism of the original article's use of the term, but an explanation of my own position on the subject and how I normally use these terms.  Regardless of which term is used, I completely agree with the posted article's position on this subject, which is why I'm sharing the article.  It prompted me to take a look back on all the times I've been called "selfish" and "cold" in relationships and to be critical of those accusations.

So, back to the Five Love Languages - I apparently speak all 5 fluently and naturally.  Which might sound awesome at first hearing, because there are so many ways that people can express their love for me and I can speak naturally to any of their individual ways so you'd think that I'd get along well with a whole bunch of different people.  But, as I like to joke, it's actually more like there are so many *more* ways that people can fuck this shit up than those who only speak 1 language.  Because there are *5 separate love tanks* that people have to keep filled, not one, if they want me to feel secure in our relationship.

So, I would start out in a relationship with the NRE filling the role of the "cushion" or "reserve" in the relationship.  Kinda like how lactic acid works when there's an oxygen deprivation to keep you physically moving, only in reverse - I start *out* with the NRE giving me a boost just long enough for the new partner to start making emotional "deposits" that I will eventually start drawing on when the NRE wears off.  So, the NRE makes me all physically affectionate, verbally validating, intensely interested in everything they have to say, interested in doing things for them, and even wanting to give tangible things to represent my feelings for them or to show them that I was thinking of them when they weren't around (in order, the Love Languages of Physical Touch, Words of Affirmation, Quality Time, Acts of Service, and Gift Giving).

But here's something that the Love Language theory doesn't cover.  I propose that "entitlement" can actually draw *out* any saved reserves from love tanks.  So, even if my partner is actually expressing love for me in ways that might otherwise fill up my love tanks, if he is acting *entitled* to any of these expressions of love from me, that entitlement will start to siphon off some of those reserves.  So, he may be showing his love for me by wanting to spend Quality Time with me, but if he's also *demanding* that time of me because he feels that I owe it to him as part of our relationship bargain, that Quality Time now starts to act as a deficit instead of a deposit.

"Leaving aside the fact that it’s still her phone and she still gets to decide who gets to use it and for what–a very important fact that I’m only leaving aside because I’m writing about something else–our brother has a pattern of entitled, demanding behavior towards her. He treats her time, belongings, and energy as if they’re his to take. Unfortunately, that happens a lot to selfless and caring people.

Because of that pattern, my sister has stopped being as giving with our brother as she used to be. Often she angrily refuses to do even tiny favors for him, like letting him borrow her phone for a few minutes to take some photos. Occasionally he makes his requests in a more appropriate way, but sometimes she still reacts with knee-jerk irritation and, raising her voice, tells him no."

I have been quoted as saying that I have a long fuse, but a huge blast radius.  This means that I seem to have these endless reserves of patience and caring and compassion and empathy ... until you reach the end and then I blow up in what appears to be a totally disproportional way.  I have yet to find a way to fix this, because I actually have gotten very good at clearly stating my boundaries and warning people that I'm nearing the end of my rope.  But that seems to make it worse for me, because then when they overstep my boundaries, they're doing it *knowingly*, from my perspective, and I take it now as a deliberate blow.  But, there's something else that gets added on top, it's just that very few people ever get to see it these days because I've gotten more comfortable with the banhammer and burning bridges.

When I have finally lost my patience with someone on a particular thing, but for some reason I haven't decided to nuke the entire relationship, I never again build up any resources to deal with that particular thing.  So, for example, my family.  My family doesn't do anything so horrendous that I'm willing to cut ties with them.  They're not abusive, they're not racist (at least not all of them, and the ones who are aren't overtly racist), and since I live 3,000 miles away I can enjoy their company in small doses of my own choosing.  But when we were kids, my sister used to steal my stuff.  My clothes, my cassette tapes, whatever I had, she would steal it whether she liked it or not.  One day, I'd had enough and we got into a fight about something probably not even related, and I shoved her bedroom door through the connecting wall.  I got grounded forever and I had to do the repair work on the wall when my parents got home.  To this day, I am extremely short-tempered about my stuff going missing and I'm incredibly territorial about my stuff.

Another example is my parents not respecting my agency.  In a million tiny ways almost too hard to describe, my parents have never respected my autonomy and my desire or ability to make my own decisions or be an independent person.  It's hard to describe because any one example is minor enough that many people just don't get why it's a big deal.  The big deal is the aggregate.  It takes a lifetime of tiny little chips away at my autonomy before I finally blew up about it.  I got into a huge fight with my mom and moved out (and into the arms of my first abusive fiance, but that's another story).  My mom tried to physically restrain me from leaving the argument and, for the only time in my life, I pushed her back and into the hallway wall.  My sister came running down the hall and broke up the fight and I left.

My mom and I have repaired things and I consider her a good friend in addition to being my mother now, but every time she does even the slightest thing to remind me of an infringement on my autonomy, I get red-faced, temperature-raising, pissed off.  The most common example is that, every time I visit or they visit, mom asks me if I need her to wake me up in the morning to get to whatever we have to do that day on time.  She doesn't believe that I can do it myself just because my sleep disorder showing up in my teen years took me some time to learn how to compensate for.  No, I don't fucking need mom's help to wake up.  I'm motherfucking middle-aged and I've been getting myself up for two-thirds of my entire life.  Don't fucking wake me up before my goddamn alarm.  I have a system that works for me, don't fucking do it.  See?  Totally unreasonable reaction if seen out of context and in isolation.  But I have never been able to build up any extra reserves to my mother infringing on my autonomy, so it is *always* that exposed nerve, that empty tank.

"Once I realized that my partners thought that it was my job to do emotional labor for them, I started rapidly losing the desire to do it."

"Even now, even to myself, I sound selfish and cold. But so does my sister, out of context. Neither of us is selfish or cold. What we are is exhausted. What we are is tired of being unable to set any boundaries. What we are is totally done doing things for people who have never, ever asked us what we need."

"When someone’s reserves of compassion get drained like that, they start setting boundaries that are much stricter and tighter than what they would’ve been otherwise. No, you can’t borrow my phone for even a few minutes. No, I don’t want to listen to your feelings at all. No, I honestly don’t even have enough emotional energy to give you a compliment to make you feel better about yourself."

"Because others’ entitlement often shuts down our desire to help them, and when we’re constantly afraid that our boundaries will be ignored, one strategy that many of us feel compelled to use is to start loudly, bluntly stating and defending those boundaries, as if to remove any plausible deniability from the person who continually crosses them."

The author goes on to say that they're not very optimistic about salvaging a relationship after the point at which it has collapsed from one person just flat out giving up on doing any more emotional labor.  I can relate there too.  Once I "go cold" like that, once I'm just done giving a shit about their feelings in the matter - any matter - I really have no interest in trying to repair the relationship and I don't see it as being very likely that anyone else will have any success in their own relationships after someone reaches that point.  I'm reading a book now that claims to be able to help people come back from that precipice, but I'll be honest, I have some reservations about it.

The book I'm reading is all about the scientific research being done about "trust" in interpersonal relationships, and it actually had me for about half of it.  I was on board, I was nodding my head as I read, I was already trying to come up with ways to work some of its theories into my Love Languages and Breaking Up workshops.  And I *still* think those parts have merit, so I may still reference them.  But then I got to this one part where he lumped kink into "impersonal sex", which tells me that he has no fucking idea what kink is, which means that he really doesn't understand what's going on in the minds of people regarding trust at all.

He moved away from kink and went back to just talking about repairing trust and betrayal and I thought, well, OK, the 5 Love Languages is deeply problematic too, coming as it does from a heteronormative, couple-centric, deeply Christian perspective, but I managed to strip it of all that bullshit and find something usable to present to the poly community so perhaps I can pick and choose with this book too.  But I'm not entirely sure I agree with his premise for using his research on trust and betrayal to mend broken relationships.  He seems, from my perspective as someone who has been thrust down the rabbit hole of abuse in poly relationships, to be fetishizing the couple and prioritizing the needs of the relationship over the needs of the individuals in the relationship - a core axiom of ethics violation in poly relationships.

We go through so much trouble to try and salvage relationships after things have gone sour.  There is a point before which things are rocky but there are enough good parts to a relationship that things can be improved and bring value and joy to everyone involved, and there is a point after which I'm not so sure it's worth the effort even if it *can* be turned around and start bringing more joy than suffering again.  And that's not a hard and fast point that I can just say "if X happens, it's not worth it anymore, for anyone, no matter what!"  I think that's something only the people in the relationship can decide for themselves, and I think it's possible for it to be true for one / some of the people and simultaneously not true for the other(s).  But I think that point exists, and I think it's very important that we as a society acknowledge this.  Relationships and love are abundant.  We can find them all over the place.  But we can't *see* them, or won't be open to receiving them, if all of our resources are tied up in Scotch-taping broken relationships back together.  Sometimes, we might just be better off by using our resources more efficiently by giving up on a broken relationship and spending those resources in other places that aren't so broken.

In this book that I'm reading, the author talks about this point where someone in a relationship starts comparing what they have to what they could have elsewhere, either a real person / relationship that they know of or a fantasy in their head of something that might exist elsewhere if only they could go look.  I really want to expose this researcher to healthy poly relationships where believing there is "someone else" out there who can do or be this other wonderful thing *isn't relevant* to whether or not we choose to stay with our current partners.  But there is a nugget of truth in there, that if we are too busy spending all of our resources on a sinking ship, we don't have any resources to maintain or repair all the other ships in our lives, whether it's other romantic partners, family, friends, hobbies, or jobs.  This even has a name - the Sunk Cost Fallacy, where we keep dumping in resources after resources into an endless pit because we feel that we have to justify all the resources we have been dumping in so far.  To cut our losses and run is to have "failed" and to invalidate all those spent resources.  So we keep spending.  And that contributes to people staying in abusive or toxic relationships (among other things).

I think we need to stop romanticizing the Forever After and accept that relationships, even successful ones, may not always last until Death Do We Part.  I think that it is not necessarily a bad thing to reach this point of No More Fucks To Give and decide that, even if it's possible, it's not desirable to try to "fix" the relationship.  I think that, not only is not a bad thing, but it's actively a good thing in many cases, and that it's also not a bad thing to decide it's not desirable *before* reaching that point in order to meet a different goal of maintaining a civil breakup and post-breakup relationship.  Better to walk away still remembering the relationship fondly and perhaps even harboring some loving feelings, than to wait until the only feeling you have left for them is contempt, disgust, or anger.  Assuming, of course, that you can choose when to walk away, but that's a different discussion.

When we have someone who repeatedly violates our boundaries, or regularly draws upon our emotional reserves in the relationship without putting enough of their own back in to compensate, "selfish", or as I have termed it, "self-interested" behaviour is a valid response.  If you're wondering why someone seems to have "checked out" or why they seemed to have lost all their compassion for you, it may be because you've been drawing on their "love tank" reserves instead of filling them up.  If you're being accused of being "selfish" and you're wondering why you seem to be this heartless monster around this person in particular but you either remember not being that person or you aren't that monster around other people, it may be because this particular person is crossing your boundaries in small, almost unnoticeable ways or because they're acting entitled to your emotional labor or because they're withdrawing your love tank resources instead of depositing into them.

And if that is the case, it may be for everyone's benefit that you act a little more "selfish", or at least self-interested, and remove yourself from that relationship.  If full removal isn't possible at this time, I'd recommend embracing the accusation of being "selfish" and/or looking into ways that you can get away with enforcing as many of your boundaries as possible and acting in your own self-interest in as many ways as possible, as often as you can.  If "reclaiming" the label of "selfish" gives you the strength you need to do what you have to do, go for it.  If just reminding yourself that "selfish" and "self-interested" are two different things and that people who have a vested interest in keeping you under their control often use the "selfish" accusation when you're really being "self-interested" - if that reminder is enough make you feel better about taking care of yourself in the face of boundary-crossing and entitlement, then hold onto this until you can improve your circumstances and keep reminding yourself of it.  It is not a bad thing to take care of yourself in the face of this kind of violation, even if that means you have to "shut down" something in order to cope.
joreth: (::headdesk::)
From Tumblr:

"here is an idea: normalize the idea that adopting kids is a valid option even for parents who could conceive a child themselves, and not just an inferior backup option for parents who can't." ~ monsterkissed

I've been trying to do this since I was a kid. I'm adopted. There is no difference between the love my parents have for me and the love people feel for their genetic offspring. I have maintained from the first time that anyone ever asked me about being a mommy that I would adopt if I were to have any children at all.

To me, it seemed the only thing to do. I was given a home when I might otherwise not have had one. The right thing to do was to pay it forward and give some other child a home who might not otherwise have one. There is nothing wrong with my reproductive cycle. I just believe that children already born should be given a chance at the same kind of decent life I had growing up.

I am ever thankful for the decisions of both my sets of parents that led me to the home I had. Adoption is a valid, noble option for anyone to choose. There are few things more selfless than to either choose another set of parents when you know you cannot give a child the best life it deserves or to choose another person's child to raise as your own.

Not everyone who was adopted had my good experience, of course, but that doesn't make adoption an inferior choice. Adoptive parents, like genetic parents, are a mixed bag. Some genetic offspring are far worse off for having been born or kept, but no one suggests that parenthood is anything other than a "miracle" or "noble" or "the best thing a person can do with their life". It's like monogamists blaming all of polyamory for a poly relationship failing but blaming the couple for a monogamous relationship failing.

The truth is that parenthood and families in general are incredibly complicated and nuanced no matter how those families are formed. So the point should be not that all adoptions are wonderful, but that adoption should be a valid option and if it WAS a valid option, it would have more cultural support than it currently does, which would make it a good option *more often*. Kinda like polyamory.

If adoption had the cultural (and governmental) support that such an incredibly important choice like this deserved, the negative stories would decrease because of the support given to ensure the safety of the child and to care for the emotional needs of the parents releasing their parental rights. More children would have the positive experiences that I had growing up, at least on par with biological parenthood and likely higher simply because adoption requires deliberate, thoughtful choice and planning and oversight and independent approval whereas the decision for biological parenthood can be made after the fact by pretty much anyone.

Kinda like polyamory - if it had the cultural support to be just one option among many, the intense introspection and thoughtfulness required to do it would likely result in higher satisfaction ratings among practitioners than other options if we removed the social pressures, stigmas, and cultural baggage that poly people have to unlearn in addition to learning the extra skills.

And P.S., if you adopt an older child, you are still a "real parent". That comes with its own set of challenges that ought to be acknowledged.

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


"In a world that embraces the notion that it takes a village to raise a child, why is it so difficult for people to understand my family and Simone’s family? Setting aside the idea that it isn’t anyone’s business for the moment, what makes adoption so confusing? It is not a rare occurrence. Since (at least) biblical times, when Moses’ mother floated him in a basket, babies have been raised by others who aren’t necessarily their biological parents. Each year in the United States, about 135,000 children are adopted."

"DNA was not the defining characteristic of our relationships."

"Ask yourself, what tethers you to your own parents or to your own children? Is it a shared recessive gene that caused you to both have green eyes? ... Rather, isn’t it the time your heart was shattered and your father hugged you tightly and let you cry on his shoulder? ... That is what makes us parents. What makes us sons and daughters. That is what makes us real."
joreth: (Purple Mobius)

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

This is another really old commitment and should be as clear as the intention of the commitment itself. I am a direct communicator and it is my opinion that direct communication is the best form of communication between people in romantic relationships. [livejournal.com profile] tacit says that we can't reasonably expect to get what we want if we don't ask for it. People suck at telepathy, no matter what those wooager "psychics" say. We just can't do it. I cannot expect my partners to read my mind. However, as established [in previously posted commtments] and elsewhere, I believe that my partners are with me because they love and cherish me, and I believe that part of love includes wanting to meet each other's reasonable expectations whenever possible. But if my partners are not aware of my expectations, then they can't hope to meet them even if they intend to meet them.

Dr. Gary Chapman, of the Love Languages books, says that it's important to tell our partners how best to love us. We need roadmaps and instructions on how to best love each other. That's what my entire Me Manual tag is for - an instruction manual for how best to love and understand me. But even telling my partners about my expectations won't work if I'm not clear about my expectations to myself. Clear communication starts with clear thoughts. In order to clearly communicate my expectations, I need to know what my expectations even are. I am committed to practicing introspection so that I can understand myself and my expectations, so that I can further communicate those expectations to my partners so that those expectations get met whenever possible.

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

There are all sorts of little things that I do that, by themselves don't really seem like a big deal, but when I'm spending a week with a new partner and nearly every interaction we have involves me saying "so, this thing about me, I do this thing and here's why", the aggregate of all my emotional labor is more apparent.

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

But I have learned over the years that some men do not like to be schooled on proper cutting technique. I'm not sure if they don't like to be schooled by women or they just don't like to be schooled in general and it doesn't really matter for this discussion. But I have had some men react harshly to what they perceive as criticism of their manly cutting skills, and still more men who just ignore my corrections entirely and continue to mash the bread. I have never had either reaction from any woman I have had this conversation with.

So, in order to avoid hurting feelings or eating smashed bread for the rest of my life, I now automatically reach for any communal bread on a table and slice off two slices for myself and a few more for whoever else is at the table, without trying to teach anyone anything.  I just kinda do it as if I just happened, by coincidence, to be the first to reach for the bread and oh, by the way, here are some slices for you too, honey.

So, as I said, this is not a big thing in isolation. But when I tell this story and it is the third story I've told that day that involves me changing my own behaviour in order to manage someone else's feelings or to get something that I want without a confrontation or conflict over it, I am reminded at just how often I shoulder the burden for maintaining my relationships.

That's the thing with emotional labor - it's largely invisible to both sides, the side shouldering the burden and the side not carrying the weight. It isn't usually one giant rock weighing us down, it's a sack full of pebbles that grows over time. One person carries a handful of pebbles while another is bent over double from the sack on their back. They didn't notice how heavy the sack got because each pebble only weighs a few ounces and they were added one at a time over a lifetime. But if you try to split the weight and make the other person carry two handfuls, suddenly it seems "unfair" that they're having to take up so much extra work! Why do they have to do these things anyway? It's just a pebble, can't you just keep holding it?

This is why it's important for adults to know how to do their own fucking laundry. This is why it's important for adults to know how to cook a number of meals that provide for their nutritional needs and not just that tastes good, even if they have the money to pay other people to cook for them. This is why it's important for adults to know how to cry. This is why it's important for adults to have a friend and family network of some sort to turn to for emotional support and celebrations, in addition to their romantic partners. This is why it's important for adults to know how to use a calendar system *of some sort*, whether it's Google or paper or whatever. This is why it's important for adults to know about culturally appropriate dress codes, whether they agree with them or not, and how / when to break those codes along with the consequences for doing so. This is why it's important for adults to pay attention to their bodies, eat as healthy as they can under their given circumstances, exercise as they can under their given circumstances, take their damn medication when they can access it, and treat their mental health as seriously as their physical health (which is to say, treat them both seriously) including utilizing mental health professional services when they can access them. This is why it's important to stop calling what fathers do "babysitting" when they watch their own kids or asking them to "help out" around their own house.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* see also http://polyweekly.com/2015/01/pw-418-emotional-abuse/
joreth: (Purple Mobius)
www.morethantwo.com/blog/2016/06/can-polyamorous-hierarchies-ethical-part-2-influence-control

"But in giving Gilles an ultimatum, was [Elena] prepared for the possibility that he might say no—thus leaving her in the position of having to make good on her promise to end her relationship with him? Or was she working from an expectation that he would say yes—thus making the ultimatum dangerous for only Louisa, and not for Elena? What would her response be if Gilles said no? Would she be angry? Consider his choice a betrayal? Use shame and guilt to try to get him to do what she wanted? Or would she accept his decision—and leave the relationship?"

Eve Rickert follows up with part 2 on the question "are hierarchies ethical?" I pulled this quote out because of my own experience with "accidental hierarchy".

I was not always as secure in my relationships as I seem to be now. Hell, I'm *still* not always as secure in my relationships as I seem to be now. But my security has grown over time, as have my skills in handling my insecurities. In the past, I have taken advantage of Couple Privilege (without realizing it) and I have been in sort of de facto hierarchical relationships, even though I have never approved of hierarchy.

One common tactic I have actually participated in was the pre-approval veto - where any new partner must be pre-approved by the existing partner before any moves are made towards a partnership. This is often seen as an exception to the no-veto rule because the new potential partner often isn't even aware that they are being considered as a potential partner at this point - they might not even be interested, or at least they might not have expressed any interest yet. And if the veto is played, they may never know. I could go on a whole blog post about how that isn't really any different or better from a regular veto, but that's not the point of this piece now.

A long time ago, I dated someone who sought to reassure me about a new partner he was interested in. She wasn't poly. She had never heard of it before. She hadn't even had very many romantic partners at all. I was concerned about how "advanced" her relationship skills were and how this would negatively impact my relatively new relationship with our mutual partner. But I was here first.  So my partner volunteered that, because he was committed to *polyamory*, not just me, if this new interest of his started making "enough" trouble, he would break up with her and not just for me, but because he also didn't want any mono-poly drama.

So, fast forward something like a year and a half, and I decided we had reached "enough trouble". So I pulled out my defacto veto. I reminded him of his promise and told him to break up with her.  This has always bothered me. In hindsight, I see where I went wrong and I am now opposed to even the pre-approval veto. But it bothers me that I could have been opposed to veto and hierarchy for the whole power imbalance thing and I still pulled rank when I had it.

So that's where this quote comes in. Before I called his hand, I thought long and hard about doing so. I thought of every possible outcome to challenging him to break up with her. And I didn't do it until I had decided what the worst possible outcome was and accepted it. I waited until I was fairly certain that he would *not* break up with her, and that my challenge to him would result in our own break up.

When that's exactly what happened, I wasn't angry. I was sad and disappointed, but not angry. I did not feel betrayed. I felt let down because I felt as though he hadn't lived up to his commitments, but that's actually part of a pattern - he had broken several commitments to me over the course of the relationship and those commitments were *to me*, not about her, but that's what led me to the decision to issue the challenge in the first place. So I felt let down, but not betrayed.

However, many years later, I dated someone who believed that I had violated some agreement that I still do not believe I ever made, and he felt *betrayed*. Based on this partner's reaction, my emotions to that earlier partner choosing not to break up with his other partner were nothing like, and not even in the same family as, the emotions that this later ex seemed to feel towards me and my choices of partners.

I did not shame or guilt my then-partner into breaking up with her and staying with me. I accepted his decision immediately, and I left the relationship. We hugged, and got to work on building a new foundation for a friendship. I'm not saying it wasn't painful, and that I didn't have feelings of resentment, but there was no coercion and no entitlement there.

Later, when the shoe appeared to be on the other foot with that other partner, I worried about consistency. When *I* had a partner who took a new partner that I wasn't happy with, I told him about my unhappiness and I broke up with him when he didn't "do what I want". But then when this later partner was unhappy with my new relationship and this time *I* refused to either curtail or end this new relationship in favor of my existing partner's feelings, how was I any different from this later partner?

I *felt*, deep down, that there was a difference. But of course I did. I am the hero of my own story, after all, as is everyone. Of course it's "different when I do it"! But, was it really?

I think it was. As this article explains, it can be really difficult tell from the outside because often the end result is the same. "An outside observer who did not know Elena would in fact not be in a position to say whether her actions were a veto or not. Why? Because the difference comes down to expectation and intent."

This later partner felt *entitled* to have me choose him. He felt *entitled* to make demands on who I chose as another partner and how that new relationship could progress. He attempted to shame me for not allowing him to dictate the constraints of my other relationship, still trying to shame me even after he broke up with me. He felt betrayed. In fact, that's the exact word he used. He felt it was OK to override the agency of his partners, and not just me. Part of the reason why I refused to be flexible with respect to how difficult this situation was on him was because I saw him override other people.

See, I'm one of those annoying people who, when you back me into a corner, I'll just dig in my heels, bare my claws, and fight back out of spite. I'm working on that, but it's something I do. When I see someone having a hard time with something, and I don't see a good faith effort to own their shit and deal with it, I tend to throw people in the deep end.

Which means, in practice, that when I first start dating someone, I'll be extra considerate to make sure that they're comfortable with all the new poly stuff. I am not a beginner relationship. Even other poly people need a little adjusting when they start dating me. But if I start to notice that they are not making an equal effort to move past the discomfort and grow, if they are instead taking advantage of my consideration, I'll stop coddling them all at once, kind of like throwing ice water on someone. It may not be my best self, but I'm at least self-aware about it and I do warn people up front.

I had witnessed him being unreasonable towards his other partners. I saw him attempting to control their bodies. I saw him even trying to control their minds. He was startlingly successful at it. So I got pissed off. Then I started talking to someone new. This was the first time I had added my own new partner since he and I had started dating, and he was *not* prepared.

Incidentally, this is why I do not subscribe anymore to the principle that you should let your newbie partner start dating first. I mean, if it happens that way, then it happens that way. But I do not believe it is actually doing them any favors to "ease them into" polyamory and I no longer believe that all people need is to experience how it's possible to love more than one and they will magically not be afraid when their partner starts loving someone else.

Personal experience and observation of hundreds, if not thousands, of relationships in the poly community over the last two decades that I've been participating in it have taught me that putting off one's own entry into the dating world, or "easing them in" only makes one's partner comfortable in a fiction. They start to get accustomed to life as it is - with you not dating anyone - and then it's a shock to the system when you finally do start dating someone, because it's a *change* that they never really accepted. How often do we see people have no problem at all dating someone who is already partnered, only to freak out when that someone gets an even newer partner? The existing partner was part of the calculation, but a new partner is a *change*. The kindest thing you can do to someone like that is to show them up front what sort of relationship they can expect from you - and that includes how actively you date others.

Anyway, this partner had become accustomed to me not having any other partners for several years, because I made him a priority. But he added several new partners of his own and his time became more scarce. So eventually I had more time and emotional resources to devote to meeting new people as he dealt with the distraction of trying to control too many women at once. With his time being taken up by all the fires he had to put out with his mismanagement of his other relationships, and his attention definitely not on me or us, I felt alone and was open to considering other partners for the first time in several years.

But I wasn't *just* open to considering new partners, I was also pissed off at him for how he was treating his other partners. So I took off the kid gloves and I just did my other relationships however it felt natural between myself and the new partners and I expected the existing partner to just deal without any coddling from me.

Let me be clear and say that I don't believe I was *cruel*. I don't believe I was *anything*. My other relationships were between me and my other partners. They had nothing to do with him. He and the other partners didn't even live in the same city (or state). What I did was refuse to limit or restrain or shape these other relationships according to *his* wishes even a little bit. Not even the pre-approval veto that I previously believed didn't "count" as hierarchy or infringing on agency. But I'm quite sure that he disagrees with me on whether or not I was "cruel".

So when he confronted me about my new relationships, he was *angry*. He was mad that I wouldn't get pre-approval. He was mad that they progressed at a speed he didn't condone. He was especially pissed that I disagreed that we ever made some sort of "agreement" where he *could* have a say in those things. He called me names. He called me unethical - a sure stab right into my very sense of self. He accused me of betraying him. He accused me of being *unsafe* and putting him and all his other partners in danger, even though A) I had done nothing to put them in "danger" and B) I gave him all the information he needed to make his own safety decisions before we were even in the same city together again.

These are things meant to control. These are things meant to disempower. These are things meant to overrule agency. These are the tower - safety, ethics, consideration for existing partners' feelings. But I saw the village behind them - control, entitlement, fear, disempowerment. And these are not the things that I did with my prior partner, even though the outcome looks superficially similar.
joreth: (Super Tech)
"Our bodies are special so only our (future) husbands should get to see them!"

My body isn't special because no other man has seen it, nor is it tarnished because men have seen it. My body is special because it is part of me and *I* am special. It is the vessel which houses my soul, my essence, me. No man is so powerful that he can remove my specialness just by looking at me.

No matter how many men see or touch my body, it remains special because *I* am special. No matter how many men I share the experience of my body with, every experience with me is special because *I* am special. No one, man especially, is powerful enough to remove my specialness.

Just because I exist, I am special. Just because I *have* existed, I will always *be* special.


It's also why I'm not afraid of polyamory. Nothing my partners do or say or think or feel with other people changes my specialness, and our relationship is special because *we* are special and *we* are in the relationship.
joreth: (Misty Sleeping)
Very long and rambly post about flawed female reproductive systems and my own personal experiences with my reproductive system with lots of gory details.

Endometriosis is severely understudied. We really don't know that much about an affliction that affects a large percentage of the population, and affects it in a debilitating way.  The main reason for this is because it's a woman's issue. I've been told my entire life that my cramps "aren't that bad" and "I have bad cramps too, but I still make it to work every day so you're going to have to learn how to get to school every day" and "does the ibuprofen help? Well, keep taking it then."

Women's pain is not taken seriously, and women of color especially are ignored when it comes to complaints of pain. In fact, women are generally seen as the weaker sex (yes, I'm using both binary and mixing gender and biology because those fallacies are also mixed up in this whole problem) - whiny, unable to handle the sight of blood, unable to bear pain, even though when men are hooked up to machines that simulate labor they can't tolerate it even half as well as women.

Consequently, the only forms of treatment for endo remain copious amounts of painkillers with their own side effects and long-term usage consequences or dangerous invasive surgery that A) most doctors won't even do because baby-making is a priority and women don't know what they want or what's good for them; B) if successful will still likely result in even more long-term consequences, particularly the full hysterectomy which requires the woman to go into early menopause and spend the rest of her life on drugs to treat *that*; and C) isn't all that successful, given the specific details that is endo in the first place.

So, all of that is to prepare the background for some musings I have about my condition - musings which may very well turn out to be incorrect because I am not a medical research professional who specializes in this area but that seem very plausible to me because of the dearth of knowledge that we even have on the subject.

Often, pregnancy can alleviate the symptoms of endo for a few months after childbirth. See, what endo actually does is cause some of the uterine lining to grow outside of the uterus. Most of the time, it means that it grows out past the cervix and into the vaginal canal, but sometimes it also means that random patches of uterine lining are hanging around in various places in the abdomen. So, when it comes times for the monthly cramps, the uterus tries to shed its lining and those contractions used to push the lining out, in essence labor contractions but without the baby, can happen in places where they're not supposed to happen. In addition to other things endo is doing, labor contractions outside of the uterus and lining shedding outside of the uterus can cause pain.

But when someone gets pregnant, sometimes the extra uterine lining that has grown down into the vaginal canal sorta gets sucked back up into the uterus to cushion the fetus. Because there are no periods for 9 months, those specific labor-cramps might not occur when this happens. Then, after childbirth, all the lining is basically used up (I'm summarizing here to make it more understandable in a short-form, obviously my language isn't going to be 100% medically accurate) and sometimes it takes a few months to grow back to pre-pregnancy levels. This means that, if this happens, the endo-caused labor cramps (which are above and beyond "normal" cramps) might not exist for a few months until the uterine lining grows back in those places where it's not supposed to be.

So, for what little we do know about endo, we know that pregnancy can affect the severity of the pain and some of its other symptoms. Unrelated to endo, we also know that many, many, many times a body might reject a fertilized egg for a variety of reasons and miscarry even before the host body is aware that it is pregnant. A rather large number of periods are actually miscarriages that we don't even know about. So now onto my particular case and my musings.

I was pregnant once. It was one of the worst experiences of my life and I hope to never go through it again. I had terrible cramps even without shedding the blood lining. I had the worst "morning sickness" all day long. I became extremely sensitive to smells, which further triggered the vomiting (a permanent side effect, btw - I remain that sensitive to those same smells years later and often have to fight nausea and vomiting when I smell them). And I had my other digestive symptoms common with endo - diarrhea, constipation, severe gas pain, etc. Basically, it was like having my monthly 2-day ordeal at its worst but for every day between the time my period was *supposed* to start and the day I was finally able to terminate the pregnancy.

Then, for the next 3 or 4 months, I had the easiest periods I've ever had. I experienced absolutely none of the digestive symptoms, and my cramps felt more like the early twinges that let me know that I'm about to start a 24-hour cycle of hell. I mean, they hurt, but when your pain scale is parked at 8, pain at 4 feels like a relief. I was downright giddy at how easy my period had gotten! If that's what non-endo people feel during their periods, no wonder they couldn't understand the severity of my situation! No fucking wonder women in commercials could go horseback riding and surfing during their "time of the month"!

Eventually, my cramps went back to normal and life resumed. But then, one month, I had an episode that was so bad, I started to wish for death. And as I had just come out of a suicidal depression, I mean that literally. I was actually hoping that I would just cease so that I wouldn't have to endure the pain anymore. I couldn't even get out of bed long enough to evacuate all the bodily fluids that were causing all the pain in the first place, and I had one bucket next to my bed for the vomit and another for the poop. I stayed in my sweat-soaked bed for 28 hours in a feverish delirium, awaking only long enough to void some cavity and immediately passing out again.

I wrote about that month. A friend even remarked on how hardcore I was to use my own pain like that to further my feminist goals by trying to help normalize the discussion around women's bodily functions and issues.  Then I got to thinking. That month, my endo was the worst that it's ever been. It was as if my body had taken my entire few-week pregnancy and condensed into a single day. I did some math. Given the timing, I had a close call that month. It was within the realm of probability to have gotten pregnant given the last time I had unprotected sex with a partner who was still fertile.

So, now I wonder ... can the severity of cramps be related to the frequency of miscarriages or other situations involving failed implantation or fertilization? If so, would it only affect people with endo or could it affect everyone? I mean, non-endo people also have a range of severity for their monthly symptoms too, right?

As I was explaining yesterday, some months I pop a few pills and I'm like "WOOOO!!! Drugs!! I feel fucking great! Let's tear this shit up!" At least, I feel that way for as long as the drugs are in my system. About 5 hours later, if I forget to take my meds because I'm feeling so fantastic, I start curling up into a ball and crying, but as long as I take the meds, I'm floating on air that day. Other months, I pop a handful of pills and the best I can hope for is to be able to stand just upright enough that I can at least get myself from point A to point B without collapsing. The cramps are like a string is pulled taught in my abdomen and the straighter I am, the more tension is on the string and the more the cramps hurt. Some months all I get is just enough tension let out of that string to enable me to not be horizontal, which allows me to be technically functional.

So, since endo is obviously related to my reproductive system and the shedding of my uterine lining, and it can sometimes be temporarily relieved by pregnancy, I have to wonder if its symptoms are also otherwise affected by the variability of the reproductive system. Because the Far Right is hell-bent on reversing Roe v. Wade, some of us are becoming more aware of the complexity of the subject of conception. It's not a binary state - either you are or you are not pregnant / either there is or is not a baby. There are all these other states - an egg can be fertilized but not implanted. An egg can be fertilized and implanted but in the wrong place. The body can spontaneously abort before the host is even aware there is a pregnancy. More and more and more, that I don't feel like researching and listing. Bottom line is that it's not as simple as the anti-abortionists want us to think. It's not "you have sex, and then BOOM, a baby exists".

Throw into the mix alongside the complexity of the human reproduction system a lack of understanding of that system and especially of when that system is not working optimally under its given limitations, and that leads me to wondering how often I may have actually been experiencing a miscarriage? One of the symptoms of endo is the inability or difficulty to carry to term. The reason I am adopted is because my mom couldn't carry to term so she had to adopt in order to become a mother at all (of course, the doctors waited until she had 2 adopted children and at least one hospitalized miscarriage before they'd deign to give her a hysterectomy, knocking her into menopause at age 34 and condemning her to hormonal therapy for the rest of her life).

Since I've always been so careful about timing, I haven't had all that many close calls in my life, and the one time I was confident we were too close really did result in a pregnancy which I terminated, I don't have very many data points about how pregnancy or conception affects my personal association with endo. It makes me wonder, if we could hook up all fertile people with uteruses who have PIV intercourse with fertile people who have penises, if we could somehow monitor the "pregnancy" status of all those people all the time, how often would we see the loss of a fertilized, viable egg? A fertilized but non-viable egg? What would that mean for the fight for abortion rights? And how would that pattern correlate with each person's own patterns in their reproductive cycle?

I have no answers, no directed rant, no challenge, not even any real awareness-raising goal. I'm just pondering my body and wondering what all these things about my body *mean*, and what *that* could mean in the larger cultural context if we had the answers to all my questions.
joreth: (Misty in Box)
One of my pet peeves is when people straighten something and then laugh and say "OMG I'm so OCD!"  No, you're not.  OCD is not about liking things tidy.  Yes, some people with OCD do express it in ways that include straightening things like crooked pictures or their table settings, but that's not what OCD is.  Look at the letters - OCD is about having intrusive thoughts that you obsess over, and then having compulsive behaviour that you literally cannot stop yourself from doing no matter what.  What makes it OCD is that last letter - D for Disorder.
A psychological disorder is a deviant, distressful, and dysfunctional pattern of thoughts, feelings, or behaviours that interferes with the ability to function in a healthy way.
Let me repeat that:  distressful; dysfunctional; interferes with.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



OCD & Anxiety Disorders: Crash Course Phsychology #29:





Debunking The Myths About OCD (TED-ed):





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





A video about OCD:





Preview Of The Touching Tree by James Callner:





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


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






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

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

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

More about OCPD at Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Obsessive%E2%80%93compulsive_personality_disorder and more about OCD at Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Obsessive%E2%80%93compulsive_disorder
joreth: (Bad Computer!)
So, there's a certain type of person for whom my words resonate. I became a pseudo-public figure so those people could hear me, not to gather a large following. It's more like I was just making myself into an available resource. I know that I'm not to everyone's taste, and I'm fine with that. The people who like what I have to say can read what I say, and the people who don't, don't have to.

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

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

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

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

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

So I will continue to swear when I'm angry. And when I'm happy. And when I fucking feel like it. And you will know that I am offering an honest, raw expression of my emotions. Because I have built a life where I can do that, and since so many people still don't have that luxury, I refuse to modulate my words and my tone on their behalf for the dainty sensitivities of the very people who won't let them do it for themselves. Anyone who is more upset at my use of language than the message itself is part of the problem.
joreth: (Purple Mobius)
*I am committed to limiting my actions and words which have the intent or goal of harming my partners, although I acknowledge that some decisions I may make for the benefit of myself or my relationships may result in hurt as a consequence, unintentional or not.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But your choices are to be alone for a while until you find your tribe who gets you and respects you, or to be alone even while in relationships because those people won't respect you or even know you. I decided long ago that my value is worth the respect of my partners and not a farthing less.
joreth: (Kitty Eyes)
A long time ago (in a personality far, far away), I used to hate physical affection. I couldn't stand it when my partners held my hand in public. I hated it when they put their arm around my shoulders. It really bugged me when they wanted to snuggle on the couch while watching movies. I even came to feel anxious about back rubs.

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

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

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

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

I hate gift exchanges.

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

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

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

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

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

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

I've been telling people for years that I speak 4 of the 5 Love Languages pretty fluently and naturally, but the Gift Giving language was just not something I can quite grasp. However, the other day, surrounded by examples to the contrary, it occurred to me that maybe that 5th Love Language wasn't an aberration after all; that maybe, like with the Physical Affection language, I just had some bad programming that healthy and loving relationships helped to debug.
joreth: (Nude Drawing)
http://www.theestablishment.co/2016/03/17/you-dont-have-to-love-your-body/

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My body just is. It has good points and bad points, and I'm allowed to decide what those good points and bad points are because it's my body and only my opinion of it matters. I'm pleased that my lovers are pleased with my body, but ultimately it's my opinion that matters because it's my body, not theirs. I'm not fishing for compliments when I either complain about my body or show it off. I'm just experiencing it.
joreth: (Misty in Box)

I talk a lot about how the language of abuse gets co-opted by abusers and how they create the narrative that they were the victim. I reference often the article by Shea Emma Fett and the quote where they say that being victimized by one's control is different from being victimized by another's resistance to one's control. I give a lot of sample examples, with identifying features modified or removed, but they're always simplified or summarized for the sake of analogy or making a point.

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

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

So, while I was trying to escape and while I felt that my cats were in danger of this person when I wasn't home and while I was trying to vacate without him knowing what stage of moving I was in, my then-boyfriend broke up with me when he insisted that I had agreed to allow him to mandate the speed and progression of any new relationships I had, and I insisted that I never made that agreement.

Also, of importance to note, is my position on Dividing Property in a breakup. I have a THING about separating our stuff when I break up with someone. It actually kinda falls into my OCD because of how compulsive I am about keeping track of whose stuff is whose so that we can separate our stuff. I *do not* keep other people's things. I can't stress this point enough. I fucking mark my books, music, and DVDs even when I live alone just in case I might one day live with someone and have our things get mixed up and I will want a way to identify whose things are whose.  I have one of those "diamond" pens that scratches into any surface so that I can mark my property, and I'm fucking poor with old, outdated shit that no one would steal unless they wanted to hurt me.  

I'm not exaggerating about how much this is A Thing for me. I made my fucking *fiance* mark his books separately so that when he merged our Stephen King collections into one massive library, I could still tell them apart and when he emotionally abused me for months before I escaped, I made damn sure that he got all his books back, even though keeping his books would have made my nearly complete collection more than complete (which was a goal of mine at the time). I'm not exaggerating about how much this is A Thing for me.

So, my ex decided that I couldn't be trusted to return his spare toiletries that he kept at my house for overnight stays or his extraneous DVD burner that he told me I could keep for as long as I wanted because he had no use for it. He sent this house-owner into my room to retrieve his things while I was out. Yeah, you know that face you're making right now?  That shocked "he did what?!" face?  That's how everyone looks when I tell this story.  But to this day, he does not see how this action is wrong.  Even though (as I found out later), all of his other partners including his wife (who never takes other people's side against him) told him that he went too far.

This violation into my personal space was the last straw for me in a series of him attempting to insert himself into my personal space (trying to control my other relationships & my emotions). I told him that I did not want him to contact me in any way without first giving me an apology for sending the house-owner into my room and assuming that I wouldn't return his shit. Nothing about our relationship or our breakup, just an apology for this one act. I felt (and still do) that he couldn't possibly begin to understand what went wrong in our relationship unless he could understand how this act was a violation and why it was a violation, and I wanted an apology that reflected this understanding. Without this understanding, I feel that there is nothing more to talk about because we are at an impasse.

He contacted me twice more over the next several months. One time was to express sympathy at the death of my cat, which I told him was not sufficient, I still expected an apology if he wanted to talk to me. So, for those keeping track, that's twice that I laid out the conditions under which I would consent to hear from him - an apology for sending someone I was trying to escape from into my personal space. The third time he contacted me was just to reach out. He felt that "life was too short" to remain angry with each other and we should start rebuilding our friendship.

He did say that if he had known how upset I would get at the intrusion of the guy I was trying to escape into my room, he wouldn't have "taken him up on his offer". Since I happen to know that the two of them were not independent friends and did not have a correspondence with each other prior to our breakup (unless he had kept this hidden from me), this means that one of them had to contact the other *for the purpose* of discussing our breakup and / or my vacating the house, so I call bullshit on that. But, notice that his concession was about how "upset" I was, not any sort of validation for being upset, not an understanding of *why* I was upset, just that he didn't want to deal with my rage.

I said:

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

 

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

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

I've said at least twice now not to contact me without that apology or I'd block your methods of contact and I'm not going to repeat myself again."

So he contacted me a third time, just to get in another defense of how he wasn't really "wrong" and how I'm the villain here:
"I will not consent to a conversation that starts out with restrictions being placed on what I can and can not say. It's wrong of you to make such demands and ridiculous to think that I would accept such terms. Along with your having deleted my last message unread, it's clear that you're less interested in achieving understanding and finding the truth than you are in defending the narrative that you've spun for yourself about the circumstances surrounding our breakup. That's not setting personal boundaries. That's trying to dominate the conversation by threatening to take your ball and go home."
You see that? "I will not consent to a conversation with you". "you're not interested in finding the truth". "That's not setting boundaries, that's threatening to take your ball and go home."

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

He considers himself a rational and a skeptic, as do I. The part about not being interested in "finding the truth" is a jab at that, because it assumes that he has some "truth" that I'm unwilling to acknowledge and I'm just being "emotional", compared to his so much more legitimate "reason" (and you SO don't want to get into the irony of that, considering the whole thing happened because he had an emotional reaction to me beginning a new relationship and I refused to modify my new relationship to suit his emotional state).

It's yet another defense of his position, which I said I didn't want to hear. Entitlement - he thinks he has a "right" to be heard. As I told him when I first issued my no-contact boundary, I do not believe that we can even begin to get to the "truth" of our relationship until he understands what was wrong about sending the house-owner into my space. That entitlement into my space and the assumption that I am not capable of making rational decisions or choices that are in my best interest (whether they "hurt" him or not) without his guidance or intrusion is the WHOLE POINT of the conflict in the first place, and an example of his sexist-based abuse that he inflicted on other partners of his who are less resistant to this form of control.

This is another point that the blogger Shea Emma Fett said in another piece about how misogyny informs certain types of abusive relationships. He had a pattern, that I had just discovered at that time, of not trusting his partners to make decisions about their lives and he needed to be a part of that decision-making process to ensure that they made decisions that he would approve of.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

joreth: (Purple Mobius)
* I am committed to accepting assistance from my partners when needed, and sometimes just when it would be nice.

As a tomboy, I have spent my life justifying my tomboy and independent ways by going over and above the call of duty, so to speak. In order to prove to those around me that I am capable, I have had to reject assistance because any acceptance of assistance was "proof" that I couldn't handle the independence or the subject, with the implied "like a man could" tacked on. In my history, men didn't need help, men didn't need comforting, men didn't need directions, men didn't need anything but themselves. Never mind the fact that it was blatantly untrue. Every man I knew couldn't have survived without their female partners performing the various acts that they performed that allowed the men the free time and emotional resources to focus on whatever it was that they did do. Everything that men did had to be "on his own", so anything that the women did to help was either rejected or erased. Her cooking dinner every night so that he didn't starve when he worked 12 hours a day wasn't considered "helping", it was just what she did.

In order to compete with boys and men, I had to be more than their equal. I had to be superior. Otherwise, any potential non-male trait was proof that I wasn't their equal, and, in fact, was representative of my entire gender for why none of us were their equals. So I did not like help. [livejournal.com profile] tacit once said that I was the most competitive person he knew. I didn't see it at the time. But I pitted myself against my male peers as a child and teen in athletics and grades because I had to prove that I was their equal by being better. To this day, I refrain from doing certain things that I don't think I will excel at because my competitive drive makes "losing" too uncomfortable.

But then I became poor. And I started to age. These two things combined are strikingly humbling. Because of how the economy hit my industry, I dropped below the poverty line further than I had ever been. But I had male partners who had more secure incomes. And I started having more trouble lifting and moving than I used to, as well as watching my coworkers age and, consequently, go through surgery after therapy after time-out because they were "men". By that, I mean that, as young men they did stupid macho things like trying to unload trucks singlehandedly. This didn't always result in immediate injury, but as they aged, their bodies broke down rapidly once they hit a physical peak. They got injured more easily, and injuries and near-injuries from their youth made them slower, stiffer, weaker. I saw men my own age and slightly older, looking and acting like "old men" before their time. I learned to ask for help because, as I became fond of saying, I've been in this business for 25 years and I intend to stay in it for another 25 years when my coworkers had to drop out after 5, 10, 15 years in the business because they just couldn't handle the physical demands anymore.

So I learned to ask for help at work. And now I'm learning to ask for help from my partners. Somehow, it hurts my pride more to ask for help from partners. Somewhere along the line, I developed a sense of obligation - that assistance from romantic partners carried with it a form of obligation that I didn't want to incur. Sometimes that obligation was sexual ("since I bought dinner, you should put out"), sometimes it was tit-for-tat ("after all I've done for you, this is how you repay me?"), sometimes it reinforced a gender role situation within the relationship ("I'm the man, it's my job to pay for you"). When a relationship ends, if the sense of obligation is real and not me imposing cultural baggage onto my partners, that's where I'll feel the obligation the strongest. So I have developed patterns designed to reduce relationship obligation. A breakup is also where I'll feel the loss of assistance that I've come to count on, so I tend to avoid relying on anyone because I'm afraid that the assistance will be pulled away from me in a year or two when we break up and then it'll hurt more to have to re-learn my independence than if I had just done without their assistance the whole time.

But I keep maintaining that my relationships are with equal partners. So in order for that to be true, I have to let my guard down, I have to let them in, and I have to be able to accept their assistance. Sometimes I need help and that's what partners are there for - to help and support in times of need. Sometimes it's my partners who need to help me because that's how they express their love and how they feel loved, and it has nothing to do with my abilities. My relationships are not all about me, they're about building something together. I need to remind myself that part of building something together often includes mutual support and that, if there is no obligation attached, being helped feels nice. So that's what this commitment is about.

www.theinnbetween.net/polycommitments.html
joreth: (Super Tech)
http://feministing.com/2016/02/01/on-reclaiming-and-revisiting-my-masculinity/

This is something I feel very keenly. I don't quite fit in anywhere. I'm Latina, so I don't belong with white people ("even a drop"), yet I was raised by my white dad in a white neighborhood and a white school so I don't really have any strong connection to my Mexican heritage, and I don't have the accent, and I don't "look" Mexican so I don't really belong in Hispanic cultures either.

I identify currently as "tomboy". As a kid, that was the label applied to me and I felt that it fit. I didn't want to be a boy, necessarily. As a child, I had none of the biological issues I have today being female, and I have no body dysphoria. I don't feel that I'm in the wrong body or the wrong skin. The housing fits fine. It's the definitions that don't fit. But, as a "tomboy", everything I did was excused or explained or accepted. She doesn't like dresses? Oh, she's a tomboy. She likes climbing trees? Oh, she's a tomboy. She doesn't like dolls? Oh, she's a tomboy.

As an adult discovering my sexuality, that's where I got confused. Girls are supposed to "outgrow" being a tomboy, so when they don't, it must mean that they're really "boys". Which means lesbian, of course. Once I hit puberty, if I still don't like dresses or dolls and I still like climbing trees, then I must also like girls, y'know, "in that way".

Except I don't. So, OK, queerness is getting a little more sophisticated since I was a kid, with more labels and more orientations and more gender expressions, so ... she doesn't like dresses or dolls or makeup, but she also doesn't like girls, she must be a guy trapped in a girl's body, i.e. trans.

And that kinda fits. It fits just well enough that I do occasionally identify as a "gay man in a woman's body". But it's also not quite right. Because I also don't fit any stereotype of gay man, other than loves to give head, and I don't really fit into gay male culture. Sometimes I'm flamboyant drag queen, but I'm not really that either because, although I do wear dresses as costumes and learned all my makeup techniques from drag tutorials, I'm really not "big" enough, showy enough. Sometimes I'm effeminate boi because of the dresses but low flamboyancy, but I'm not that either because I cuss like a sailor and wear combat boots and climb truss and I'm way too harsh to be "effeminate". So, sometimes I'm Normal Dude, except I also like dresses now and I definitely move in a soft, effeminate way and I'm quiet and unassuming when I'm not being loud and boisterous and obnoxious.

I made the observation a few years ago that, if we didn't have strict gender roles, would I even identify anywhere on the queer spectrum? Would I actually have any problems just identifying as "woman" if we had no assumptions for what "woman" means? My entire identity is based on cultural constructs. I'm not saying that everyone's identity is, but I really only consider my own gender when I'm faced with questions of gender identity. Otherwise, I have no idea what my gender is - I just know that it's not what other people assume it is.

So, I'm back to tomboy as my gender identity because that one doesn't have any associations with "wrong" genitals. It excuses all my "guy" traits, because I'm a tomboy, but when I break out of the butch stereotype, it still allows for girlie things because tomboys are still "girls".

But I've also grown really attached to the masculine of center identity that I discovered a few years ago. That also seems to fit really well because, like "tomboy", it still assumes "female biology", it doesn't require me to stick with a rigid "guy" code like "butch" can (basically viewed as a girl who has to live up to guy rules), but it accommodates all those "guy" things that make me who I am - fondness for power tools and getting dirty and being physical and cussing and being aggressive and confident etc.

Yes, I know that everything I'm talking about is other people's perceptions of me, and that my own gender identity should be whatever I want to make of it. But that's kinda the point - if other people didn't have perceptions of me based on either my biology or my appearance, then I won't be arsed to have a gender identity at all. *I* get that someone can be "butch" and still like the color pink, for example. It's other people's expectations of me as a person based on their perception of my gender identity that's causing all the problems for me and forcing me to analyze and introspect and consider and cogitate on what my gender identity is and what the labels mean.

And before anyone says "fuck labels, it doesn't matter what anyone thinks of you, just be you", I've already had that argument. Labels are important for a variety of reasons and I'm convinced that the people who say "we don't need no stinkin' labels" are people with an enormous amount of privilege in that area to not need them. The culture caters to ignoring, excusing, or overlooking whatever it is you're doing so that it doesn't challenge you on the labels you use and it doesn't force you to fit into whatever labels it applies to you from the outside.

Not all of us have that luxury. So I continue to look at labels, at what they mean to me and at what other people hear when I say the label, at how society treats people with that label, and at who else is attracted to that label for finding my communities of like-minded people.

Right now, "woman" is the label I use when I'm using my feminist lens because "woman" is the experience that the world imposes on me, and "tomboy" and "masculine of center" is what I use to describe my behaviour, my preferences, and my attire. I consider myself cis-gender because I don't have any dysphoria over biological sex that I was assigned, but I do not consider myself a "woman" outside of feminist ranting because I think that the external social definitions for "woman" do not fit me. I consider myself "straight" because of being cis-gender and being sexually attracted to exclusively a narrow selection of biologically male humans.

I have a lot of "I am X, except when I do Y" labels, which makes me feel like this article, that many spaces don't include me. Most of the time, I'm fine being the privileged ally - I don't need queer spaces to make room for me as the straight cis-woman, for example. But it does mean that there aren't really any places for the straight cis-woman who doesn't really think of herself as a "woman" and has to stare blankly at her more mainstream woman friends when they talk about "girl" stuff and I get confused about why on earth they would like that or do that or think like that and they wrinkle their noses at my dirty cargo pants when I sit backwards on a chair and talk about fucking some dude just because he's pretty as long as he doesn't open his mouth to say something that would ruin it for me.

I am X, except when I'm not. And there isn't a space for me.
joreth: (Super Tech)
Unlike, apparently, many men, I do not believe that men are children. I believe that men are rational, adult human beings capable of complex thought and logic. I believe that men have it within them the capacity to evaluate basic spatial dynamics by estimating the size of a door, the volume of space their body takes up, and to extrapolate from these calculations the likely outcomes of potential scenarios offered by a door and another human being approaching it, as well as factoring in more subtle nuances such as gender dynamics and positions of privilege to affect the outcome more positively. I also believe that men have the fore-brain skill of grasping abstract thought to understand that the door is just an illustration and a representation of the more important, underlying foundational value that is consideration for those around them and the effects that their actions and presence has on people in their sphere of influence.

I believe that men are able to follow a simple train of logic that leads one down a path of "If [me] = nice, then [X] action is required; but if [X] action is inconvenient then [me] performing [X] = not nice".

I do not believe that men require coddling to protect them from emotions (ours or their own) or to shield them from the consequences of their actions. I criticize men because I believe they are better than they are told they are and are therefore able to improve themselves when they do not live up to their potential. I believe they are *at least* as capable a human being as I am, and therefore they deserve to be treated better than spoiled, fragile children. They deserve to be treated with the dignity and respect that I demand for myself, which means that I expect them to behave to a minimum standard of decency and to be held accountable for their fuckups.

I believe that men have, at the very least, the amount of self control that my pet dog had, who was able to sit still with a piece of meat lying in front of him and not go after it just because I told him he couldn't. I believe that men are not less human than a pet, not less able to control themselves, not less able to conform to a set of social guidelines for decorous behaviour in public or in private. I further believe that, if I can see the humanity in men, then they have the ability to see the humanity in women and to understand why women are not the same thing as a piece of meat or a tempting car or a wallet full of cash.

Men do not get special cookies for being the bare minimum of a decent human being, and they do not get a pass for failing to be the bare minimum of a decent human being. If women have the mental facilities to constantly consider the comfort of those around them and to work to ensure everyone else's safety and happiness (as we are expected to be able to do, whether we succeed or not), then I think men are, at the *very least*, able to live up to the standards of women.

I also believe that men should be the ones to be irate at the implications that they are less well-behaved than an animal, less cognitively functional than a child, and less capable of logic, reason, mathematics, physics, emotional control, and housework than women.

And I can't believe that so many men don't see the irony that most men who are not irate at these implications also tend to think that women-associated traits are inferior while men-associated traits and interests are superior and yet they fail at both when compared to women.

‪#‎ThisIsWhyIAmAFeminist‬
joreth: (Purple Mobius)
* I am committed to including my loved ones on the higher ring of priorities in my life (partners / work / pets / family emergencies / etc.) and to not passing them over in favor of other events or people too often.

This commitment has three parts to it: defining "loved ones"; prioritizing partners; and defining "too often". Originally, I had the word "partners" in place of the phrase "loved ones". But I had issues with that. I have several sexual partners who are casual, low emotional intimacy, low effort, low entanglement, not many deliberate intentions, etc. It didn't feel right to me using a word that included some guy that I have sex with maybe once every 3 or 4 months but who I never see outside of booty calls, don't know that much about, and exert no effort to get to know very well (and who reciprocates the feelings). He's a person, so he deserves to be treated with dignity and ethical consideration, but made a priority? Part of the benefit of having a so-called "casual relationship" or fuckbuddy is precisely that we don't have to make each other a priority. Of course, some people have sexual relationships with people outside of big-R Relationships but who are nevertheless people they feel very deeply about (including me), which is why I didn't use the term Friends With Benefits here, because then I'd have to further differentiate between "friends" and "Friends".

The point is that there are classifications of sexual partners that exist in the world, and in which I engage on occasion, that include a mutually reciprocated lack of interest in deep emotional or logistical entanglements and priority (that don't need to be prescripted as such and that don't need to include an imbalance in power dynamic). I don't wish to erase those partners from my history or web of partners, but I also can't include them in this same commitment because part of the point of our arrangement together is that we don't prioritize each other, at least not on "the highest ring". Then there are friends and family who I do prioritize on the highest ring but who are not "partners" in a romantic, emotional, logistical, or sexual sense who would be left out. When I crowd-sourced the question of what kind of terminology could be used to describe someone to whom one is deeply emotionally attached and who is highly prioritized in life entanglement considerations, other than all the usual labels and semantics comments that were besides the point, "loved ones" was the only term that was suggested that really fit the point I was trying to make here. When I am in a loving relationship, where "love" is a verb whether I've said the loaded phrase "I love you" or not, part of "loving" them in this sense is in making them one of my top priorities. And that does not require specifying whether or not we have sex or what category label is used to define our relationship, which solved my dilemma of having certain partners who do not, actually, receive this commitment from me.

Second, this is a personal commitment in my life that I made a deliberate effort to change. I have always prioritized my work above anything else. I've always been poor. Some years I've been poorer than others. If I don't prioritize my work, I literally won't survive sometimes. But besides that, I'm also doing my dream job. Choosing this line of work has put me directly in the line of fire of sexism and entitlement. I have spent my entire life justifying my life choices, including my job, to people who think that women shouldn't do what I want to do or that their personal desires and fears should trump my own freedom to make choices in my life. I've spent my whole life arguing with people who insist that my job is too dangerous, or not a suitable environment for women, or that I should choose something financially safe like a nice secretarial job. I've spent my entire dating life arguing with men who think that their desire for my time or their concern for my safety should outweigh the fact that I love my job with a passion and my job is one of the things that makes me feel that life is worth living.

So I've reacted to this lifetime of experiences by prioritizing my job above the people in my life. About a decade ago, I decided that this decision prevented me from other sorts of experiences that also make life worth living. I made a decision to not let my valued relationships take a backseat to my job. These two things didn't trade places; my job isn't now taking a backseat to my relationships. Just like the previous commitment, I have to prioritize on a situational basis. But I did come to realize that consistently prioritizing my job over my partners, much like prioritizing one partner over another, would make me lose those relationships that I also valued. This is one of the other changes in my perspective that I asked [livejournal.com profile] tacit for help with as part of the goals of our budding relationship. So now I take into account my financial situation (to determine how detrimental turning down work would be), the state of my relationship, my own interest in the event, how important the event is to my partner(s), and my partners' general attitude towards my job when I decide how to prioritize any individual situation.

And it's not just about work either. I had a cat that was terminally ill for a couple of years, which caused me no end of stress and re-prioritizing my life. My cat was a dependent being who literally could not survive without my assistance. On top of that, she was a feeling being who had tied her emotional well-being (such as a cat has) to me. I took on that responsibility when I chose to adopt her. Plus, I had emotionally bonded to her just as strongly as she had bonded to me. My thoughts were constantly on her comfort and safety, and my concern for her distracted me to the point where I did not have enough mental resources to handle other responsibilities.

So I have a multitude of loved ones (and I include my job as a "loved one") that I have to allocate my time, attention, and other resources for, and this commitment is a reminder that the people who have trusted me with their vulnerability and intimacy are valuable enough to me that I should make space for them on the top tier of loved ones who get the most of my prioritization.

Finally, the review discussion about my list of commitments generated a lot of reaction to the phrase "too often". I deliberately left this phrase vague and I maintain that position after the discussion. I need to be able to remind myself that my relationships are a top priority without locking myself into some kind of prescripted schedule or definition for what "priority" means. All of my relationships are different types of relationships and each of my partners has different relationship needs. So I can't commit to a specific amount of time or specific actions that designate someone as "priority" because that amount of time or those actions could be too much or too little or not the right kind for any given person or any given moment within our relationship. After much discussion on this point, I am maintaining my phrasing of "too often" because I believe that this phrase can and should be defined individually between myself and each of my loved ones (partners, metamours, family, friends) in conversation with each of them, and it can also be somewhat fluidly defined in the moment based on what we each feel about our relationships with each other in the context of a lot of criteria, such as current needs, current life situations, current patterns, past trends, etc. I feel that leaving in a vague phrase like "too often" necessitates further conversation between me and my specific loved ones to define what that means in the context of our specific relationship, which reduces the likelihood of using this list of commitments prescriptively or contractually.

www.theinnbetween.net/polycommitments.html
joreth: (Super Tech)

This is going to be long, convoluted, and twisty. This is me trying to work out a concept that I have been unsuccessful at elucidating before, using terminology that is new to me that encompasses what I'm trying to get at.

This is the concept of emotional labor. I've been trying to explain for most of my life that women are expected to do all this bullshit work like remember family birthdays and send thank you cards and maintain the family's religious habits and do the dishes and even know the appropriate attire to wear to social functions to tell the husband and kids when they have to wear a suit and tie and when they can wear a polo shirt. I've been trying to explain for my entire life that it's not "no big deal" or just a few extra details or even that it's "what women are good at". Now, I have a term and research to back it up - emotional labor.

I'm told that "men" just don't "see" a dirty house and I know that's bullshit because my own father was the neat freak of our family. He once threw my homework away *on trash night* because I had left it out on the kitchen table so I wouldn't forget it, but paper doesn't belong on the table so he threw it out and it was picked up in the morning before I was awake, and my homework was just gone (and my teacher didn't buy my story). It's just that men don't *have* to see a dirty house because the women in their lives will get fed up sooner than they will and the mess will take care of itself, feeding the cycle that the longer they wait, the more likely they won't have to do anything about it. The men don't have to see the dirty house because they're told that, as men, they *won't* see the dirty house, and women are socialized *to* see the dirty house and to have it bother them. So the men wait and the women pick up after them, and the gender roles assert themselves invisibly.

I once refused to do the work anymore. I watched my housemates literally step over a pile of trash *in the living room* rather than throw it away. I had long ago put a trash bin in the living room so that no one even had to get up and walk into the ADJOINING kitchen (it was one big room, no wall or counter or bar or island to separate them) to throw anything away and they still couldn't manage it. They'd toss stuff from the couch, and if it missed the can, they'd leave it there. So I stopped picking it up.

I actually broke up with them and moved out of the house before anything got picked up. And I left the trash there on the floor when I left.

In this same household, the bills stopped getting paid. I got tired of nagging everyone to pay their share. The house went into foreclosure and I moved out before anyone started paying (they actually continued to live there until the house got new owners and they had no choice). They were seriously willing to let the bank foreclose on us before either paying their fucking share or working with me to find a way out of the financial mess we were in (including selling). They just. Stopped. Paying.

Fashion is similar, although with less dire consequences. I'm fully aware of the class issues and history regarding social dress codes, particularly anything "business class" or "higher", but *I'm* the one who pays the consequences if my *partners* don't dress appropriately regardless of the class struggle symbolized by those clothes, so I was schooled at an early age to know what the various dress codes were. Men are *expected* to not know fashion, so women are the ones who get the disapproval if "their men" show up dressed inappropriately. In fact, men are *shamed* if they know too much about fashion (see homophobia and misogyny here). Women whose partners do not dress appropriately are either shamed for not getting them to dress correctly (because it's obviously their fault for failing to dress them like children /sarcasm) or pitied for having chosen men who can't or won't dress themselves properly whereas men are rarely shamed or pitied for a woman who dresses "correctly" when they don't, although they might sometimes get a little shame for not dressing up to a woman's standards. The worst that men get is shame or pity for a woman dressing *above* the appropriate dress code, which means she's "high maintenance", but that's yet another rant. *It doesn't matter* that the dress code system is bullshit to begin with and it doesn't matter if the woman herself is a conscientious objector as I am (overlooking the fact that because of those very class issues, many women don't have the luxury of objecting to fashion standards) or if she actively enjoys fashion for its own sake outside of the class issues also as I do, there are still consequences for women whose male partners don't comply with fashion standards, above and beyond any consequences for each given individual not complying with fashion standards (and you really don't want to get me started on women's fashion standards).

Dates, attire, eating meals, shopping, bill paying, caring for guests, housecleaning - all shit that if I don't take care of it, it doesn't get done. So I just stopped living with people so that I don't have to be responsible for it. I have my own difficulty with all this stuff - my OCD makes doing dishes very difficult, for instance, and if I'm not doing dishes and they're not doing dishes, shit gets pretty nasty. Unless I'm baking, I use disposable, or better yet, cook-in-its-own-container stuff so that I'm not making extra waste and I still don't have to do dishes.

But, even now, when I complain about this, it doesn't sound like it's as big of a deal as it is. Like, it's annoying to always do the dishes, but not worth a panic attack or a breakup. But it only seems like it's not a big deal when it's isolated away from the concept of emotional labor.

It's kind of a strange revelation to learn that I would be much less averse to things like cohabitation and even marriage had I not been subject to so much emotional labor over my life. I wonder, even though I'd likely still be just as independent-minded about things like autonomy, would I even consider myself #solopoly if gender-based emotional labor wasn't a thing?

I used to want to date only partnered men because I got burned by so many cowboys. I wanted them to already have a partner so I knew they wouldn't want to dump me as soon as they got another partner. Not only do I now see the flaw in that logic, I'm also very suspicious of guys who cohabit with women, particularly if they married young. They tend to be the worst I've seen for not just expecting women to shoulder the emotional burden but of being totally unaware that they're doing it.

Like, asshole patriarchal men who are still single (probably because they're assholes about it) make it easy to spot and therefore avoid. They're pretty obvious that they want women to shoulder that burden. But liberal men who champion women's rights but who have never noticed how the rent gets paid on time because they went from mommy's house to a dorm paid by mommy and daddy to wifey's house who paid the rent, did the cooking, picked up the trash they step over, and didn't have to remember anyone's birthday because wifey will remind them when it's important - they're something I've learned the hard way to look out for.

They're the ones I get burned by these days, especially before I had this language of "emotional labor" to express this concept. Before, I might talk about each individual chore or responsibility and get "Of course I can cook my own meals [but won't notice that you gradually start taking over more of the cooking duties because I'll just sit here at the computer until you get hungry enough to cook for us and your empathy and hostess training forces you to cook for both of us instead of just getting food for you]" and "I just don't remember dates, that's just how I am, take it or leave it [and I don't recognize the extra burden put on you to "take it" because I think the matter is just a simple "accept your partner for who he is" equation, so by forcing this binary choice on you, I'll also add pressure on you to choose the "take it" option instead of the "leave it" option by resting unintentionally on patriarchal standards that require women to "stand by your man" and making you look like the shrew trying to "change me" or not be accepting enough if you don't - a particularly guilt-laden punishment in liberal circles who espouse acceptance and tolerance of people's differences]."

See, in liberal circles especially, we tend to embrace this idea of accepting people for who they are and not trying to "change" them. Taken to its extreme, this leads to people who actually have very toxic or damaging habits that no one is allowed to confront or address because we might not be "tolerant" or "accepting" enough. I once dated a guy who was extremely emotionally insecure (although I didn't realize how badly at the time). He felt personally rejected every time I turned my back on him while sleeping. He felt that I was metaphorically and deliberately "turning my back" on him. That the act of facing away from him was *about him*. Of course, it wasn't. I have a bad shoulder and lumbar problems. I can only sleep on one side, especially on his hard mattress on the floor. Sleeping on the bad shoulder seizes it up and sleeping on my back or stomach makes my lower back hurt. So I sleep exclusively curled up on my left side. I also don't like sleeping face-to-face with people. That breathing in my face just bothers me. I don't like it when my cat does it and I don't like it when my partners do it. On top of that, I have some trust issues. Turning my back to someone is a sign of either trust or lack of fear. I have to feel very confident about someone (or about myself) to allow them access to me in a vulnerable position. Added to *that* is the fact that, sexually, my backside is very sensitive and is a secondary erogenous zone. So, in my mind, facing away from my partner not only isn't a negative thing, it's a very, *very* positive thing.

So, this guy got his feelings hurt every time I went to sleep. But, instead of talking to me about it, he kept it to himself until a dozen little, correctable things added all up to one big conflict and he broke up with me over it. During the breakup conversation, he admitted that this was one of the reasons he wanted to breakup. When I expressed my surprise that he never mentioned it before, he said it was because he didn't believe in forcing anyone to change for someone else. My turning my back was "just who I am", apparently, and asking for any sort of accommodation, or even asking me to come up with compromises that I would be comfortable with, was intolerant and not accepting of me.  O.o

The BDSM community has a similar problem with "Your Kink Is Not My Kink And That's OK". In principle, it sounds like a good idea. It promotes tolerance and empathy and understanding. We don't have to be all alike and we can still get along. But in practice, it ends to work out as a defense for abuse. No one is allowed to say anything negative about another person's sexual proclivities, even if they're harmful and especially if the person in question is a community leader, because that wouldn't be "tolerant". So guys (in general) get away with never having to learn how to use a calendar or run the washing machine because "that's just who I am", and asking them to take on some of their own emotional labor in a hetero relationship would be "intolerant" and "unaccepting" of who they are as a person. When, the reality is that asking for this kind of change is actually *more* respectful of their agency than just mutely taking on the extra burden and not supporting them in taking control of their own life.

I was talking to one friend who found herself recovering from a relationship with an emotionally controlling partner. She's a strong, intelligent, capable, generally secure woman (like me) who nevertheless ended up being controlled and manipulated by someone in extremely subtle and clever ways. No one saw it coming, and no one even saw it happening, until it was too late. So, she asked me one day how she could ever have been talked into giving up so much of herself to this man. How could no one have seen the signs? Neither of us knew or used the phrase "emotional labor" at the time - this was years ago - but she wanted to know how she could have been talked into being responsible for his own emotional landscape. How did it ever get that far? How did none of us see that he made other people shoulder the burden for his emotional care?

This was not something I had thought about before, but sometimes revelations pop out of my mouth without me having consciously considered it, because I see patterns and I connect dots, as I talked about in a FB post that sparked this one. I responded that the reason it had gone so far before anyone recognized the warning signs is because she had been conditioned already to be the one to care for a man. We had both dated men before who had primed us, unintentionally, for exactly the sort of releasing of boundaries that this other man took advantage of. The guys in our past could not care for themselves. One in particular had done the parents-dorm-wife path himself and had never even questioned that life would be managed by the women in his life, mainly because he kept getting involved with women who took their own sense of identity from exactly that role. They *demanded* that role from him, and it suited him, so that's how it was. If someone didn't remind him to eat, he didn't eat. If he finally noticed that he was hungry and there was no food in the kitchen, he didn't correct it by grocery shopping, he bought McDonald's, setting himself up for the same thing to happen the next day because there still wasn't any food in the fridge. He didn't remember anniversaries or dates because he never had to - his female partners controlled his calendar for him and he just showed up when he was told. Although I notice that men in general are terrible at remembering dates like birthdays and anniversaries ... yet they have no problem managing a freelancing schedule that has them going to different cities on different days and different times or part-time jobs with schedules that change at the whim of a boss and not working a set M-F 9-5 job. Some men have secretaries to keep track of client meetings and conference calls and other office type scheduling, but a lot of men, especially freelancers, don't and those also seem to be adequate at managing a calendar. But as soon as they get a girlfriend, it's all "I'm sorry honey, I'm just not good at remembering anniversaries" and "here are some flowers to make up for me forgetting Valentine's Day" and "it's my mother's birthday already? Did you send her a card from us?" Anyway, this partner in question didn't pay attention to fashion requirements because he worked in the tech industry and Steve Jobs brought blue jeans into the office. He didn't even have to cut his own nails or hair because his wife insisted on doing it for him.

My friend had been primed to accept abuse because she, like me, had a long history with man-child partners and a society that says this is acceptable and expected. This past partner who sloughed off the emotional labor onto his female partners, he wasn't abusive. He was loving and considerate and compassionate. He valued the agency of his partners. He is not a bad guy, and he's not even a Nice Guy. He's genuinely a good person who would not *want* to be participating in this system if inequity if he were aware of it. But he *is* participating in this system because no one knew how to make him aware of it - that's how privilege works. The system benefited him so he didn't see that he was benefiting from anything. He dated or married women who embraced the system and considerately let women go who could or would not (rather than abusively making them embrace the system against their wishes). When I dated guys like that, because I didn't have the language to explain any of this, I simply restructured the relationship so that I didn't have to deal with it by not living with him and only seeing him in the capacity where I didn't mind temporarily being "in charge". But even I had simply learned to accept that "men" were just like this, and it was a patronizingly "cute" personality quirk that smart, capable women had to keep the men in their lives fed and clothed. So, with this training in hand, my friend was set up to be taken advantage of by someone who manipulated exactly that training.

You don't want to hurt me, do you? You don't want to leave me when I could hurt myself, do you? Remember your training that says you are responsible for my well-being. If you shirk your responsibility, you are an irresponsible, inconsiderate monster. It's your fault if I get hurt. It's your fault if my life falls apart. You are a compassionate, kind person. You must stay and do what I say, or else your compassion will drive you insane because of how much I am hurting. If you leave, you will not be a kind, compassionate person, and you don't want that, do you?
I'm fortunate in that I'm not particularly bothered by people thinking I'm a cold-hearted bitch. That's not true, I *can* be bothered by it, but if it's applied when I'm doing something I feel strongly that is for my own good and in support of my own agency, that overrules any concern about being considered a bitch. So the "you don't want to hurt me, do you?" form of abuse doesn't work on me. I just raise an eyebrow and point out that what I'm doing is not about hurting them, it's about supporting me and that any harm they do to themselves for failing to care for themselves is on them. Other people, women in particular, don't have this specific defense mechanism. It seems to be internal to me, not something I learned. It can be learned, but usually at great cost and many just don't have the teachers to show them how to learn it.

But I *am* particularly susceptible to ignoring or overlooking abusive tendencies under the "I must be tolerant and accepting" banner, as well as overlooking this whole thing of displacing emotional labor that isn't abusive, per se. I have controlling tendencies myself, and I have overcompensated for them by backing WAY off when someone doesn't change in the way that I think they ought to. So, when I fall in love with a man-child who hands off the burden of emotional labor to his female partners, I don't insist that he take up the slack in his relationships. I just let him pawn it off on his other partners while I back away far enough that he can't hand that burden off to me. I can't make sure they eat their vegetables or pay their rent if I don't live with them or see them often enough to judge their diet or get their bills in the mail, and they can't reasonably expect me to.

They also can't reasonably expect me to assuage their insecurities by controlling my behaviour with regards to other partners if they don't see themselves as "entwined" enough to justify doing so. A cohabiting fluid-bonded partner might feel justified in telling me what kind of sex I can have with someone else, but a long-distance partner might be more willing to deal with it by just wearing a condom with me when we have sex and out-of-sight-out-of-mind keeps him from facing that he'd otherwise be willing to infringe on my autonomy if given the chance. However, I have had some try to justify telling me that he deserved to have a vote in whether and when I took a new partner and which sex acts we were allowed to engage in and at what pace we began engaging in them, even though this partner did not live in the same city, hadn't had sex with me in months, and was currently embroiled in a lot of drama with one of his own partners who I warned would likely cause exactly this sort of trouble but didn't try to enforce a pre-dating veto power that he wanted to give me. He wanted to date her and I didn't see myself as having the right to control his decision about it, although I did give my opinion on it.

He was not content to just give his opinion on my new partner (that I could take or leave) and he wasn't even content to notify me of how my behaviour would affect his own boundaries with me to take into consideration when I made my dating decisions. He wanted voting rights because he had insecurities and was not willing to do the work to eradicate those insecurities. Instead, he fell back on some couple privilege as the pre-existing partner, and palmed off the emotional labor onto his partners, who were required to limit their behaviour until he "got comfortable", at which time *he* would magnanimously declare the behaviour ban lifted. But since it didn't address the underlying issue, he would have to require the same ban the next time, and the next time. Because these bans eventually did get lifted, he offered this as evidence that he was "working" on his issues and making "progress". But the procedure itself never changed - his partners had to limit their behaviour until *he* felt comfortable, and then *he* decided they could remove the limitation. Always, his partners had to carry the burden, not him. He never had to sit with the discomfort himself. Oh, but he would insist that he was uncomfortable! But don't let that fool you like it did me - feeling uncomfortable when your partner does something that you don't like isn't the same thing as feeling uncomfortable by facing *why* your partner's actions make you uncomfortable in the first place. That's a very different sort of discomfort, but easy to confuse.

So, back to the whole pattern recognition thing from the Facebook post that inspired this post (I complained that I can see social patterns that others can't see, and gave emotional labor as an example of one such set of patterns, the entire text of that example is now the beginning of this blog post). The concept of emotional labor as tied up in the feminist movement and patriarchal society and internalized sexism is a dot that I can now use to connect a bunch of other dots - why it's such a big deal to me when men rely on their female partners for domestic labor and upholding social standards, why I tend to back away and structure my relationships more "casually" or less entwined to avoid shouldering that burden, and even more extreme dots like emotional relationship abuse.

If you saw me blow up on Facebook recently about dress codes when I was trying to talk about how men don't know the categories and then some men jumped in to sidetrack the conversation about fashion being tied to classism, this is why. I was bruised and sore about carrying my male partners' emotional labor and feeling the social burden and the consequences for it, while men (those who can most afford to ignore the social burden or consequences for dress codes) were dismissing my complaints and instead choosing to talk about economic class struggles, which, frustratingly, are *part* of the reason why that particular emotional labor is such a heavy load for women, who - all else being equal - are almost always in the lower class than men.

Basically, I was drawing a connection, and I was failing at making myself understood, so I lost my temper as I am wont to do when I get frustrated, and as I am particularly likely to do when someone is "intellectually debating" a topic that affects me very intimately and personally. This idea of emotional labor makes seemingly isolated events like women doing domestic duties or being the sole emotional outlet for men (because men aren't allowed to have emotionally intimate male friends) apparent that they are related to each other. It also shows that these events have more weight than simply doing an extra chore or taking extra time. If all other things in life are exactly equal, having a woman spend an extra 30 minutes doing dishes after dinner doesn't sound like a huge deal, especially if you throw in that the man mows the lawn or something. But add the weight of cultural history and institutionalized misogyny and patriarchy, and those 30 minutes doing the dishes take up more than just the literal minutes of the day in the emotional landscape of the woman's life. Once you factor in that extra weight and see how all these separate activities are connected under the same umbrella, then we see the path light up leading to emotional abuse. It's not the only path, nor is it necessarily the guaranteed destination. But they're connected.

And now I have some language to describe and explain what I'm feeling and those patterns that I can see that no one else seems to see. It will take a few more novel-length blog posts, I'm sure, before I work out some quippy soundbites or before I streamline my ideas based on those take-aways that seem to work for readers most often.

More resources on what Emotional Labor is, how to recognize it, and what to do about it:

joreth: (Purple Mobius)
* I am committed to prioritizing situations, not partners, because all my partners are a priority.

I don't do hierarchy. I don't know how many times I have to say that to people before it starts to sink in. My partners are human beings with feelings and I have knowingly entered into a relationship where my actions affect them on a deep, intimate level. I cannot possibly prioritize one over another, it would be like prioritizing one parent over another or one child over another. I have to prioritize situations, and I have to consider those situations within the context of our entire relationship and our entire network. There are so many different types of situations and so many variables, that I couldn't possibly even begin to list out anything specific. Everything has to be decided on a case-by-case basis, taking into account everything else in my life.

For example, I might prioritize a live-in partner because we share a daily life so calling to let him know that I won't be home for dinner might be important so that he doesn't waste any effort making dinner for me. But if a long-distance partner comes for a visit, I might spend more time with the long-distance partner than with my local partner because I'll have plenty of time to catch up with the local partner later and the long-distance partner won't have that privilege. But then there are pre-established commitments, like holiday plans or tickets to an event that are already purchased. But then there are one-time-only events or emergencies. And then there are regularly-scheduled events that can afford to be skipped now and then precisely because they're regularly scheduled and something "special" or "important" or "meaningful" might need to take that time slot.

The important part is that every situation gets analyzed both individually and within context, and that every situation gets discussed with all relevant parties. Everyone gets an equal say. Not to each other, no. One of my partners does not get an equal say in what I do with one of my other partners. Everyone I'm in a relationship with is on equal footing to me, not to each other. No one outside of a relationship gets more say about what happens to that relationship than the people in it. That's why priority has to be assigned situationally. I have found that making everyone equal to their own partners in their own relationships yields much better results and more likelihood of everyone being willing to compromise, make sacrifice, and "take turns" with regards to priority because they tend to trust that their turn will come around sometime soon and that it all balances out in the long run. And that fosters far more security, I've found, in relationships than giving any individual top priority all the time, and certainly honors my first commitment far better too.

http://theinnbetween.net/polycommitments.html
joreth: (Misty in Box)
It's still jarring for me, years later, to see people on my various social media friends lists who maintain friendly contact with my abusive ex. I see comments directed at him even though I can't see "him" anymore since I blocked him, and I think, "WTF, how can you still be on friendly terms with him after what he did? How can you still promote what he says? How can you not see him for what he is?"

And then I think, "Oh, right, you can't tell for the same reason I couldn't tell when we were just friends - his abuse doesn't show up to people he doesn't have under his control and abusers are often quite charming and friendly in general. Charming is exactly what I thought he was too, right up until the abuse was revealed, several years into the relationship, which was a good decade after meeting him. You also can't tell because I can't talk about it publicly because publicly discussing an abuser harms *his victims*, not him**, so you just don't know."

I have to remind myself that it's not reasonable to judge people on the company they keep if they are unaware of the nature of that company, and that it's a completely expected and normal thing to be unaware of someone's darker nature because people are not one-dimensional cartoon villains so there's no reason for the world to see that side that they save only for their targets.

But it's still jarring when I see people who like me and yet who still maintain friendly ties with him. While I think I've healed from a lot of my experiences with him - he doesn't haunt my memories anymore, I can finally look back and see the good times without pain, and I really only talk about him now when I use him as an example in the same detached sort of way I use most of my past experiences to illustrate points that I'm making and not because he's still at the front of my mind - I wonder when that particular scar will fade and when seeing him referenced will stop being jarring and just be part of the landscape again.



**Plus, I don't want to actually *harm* him, I just want to protect other people from him, which he may feel as harmful as a side effect. I want him to not be abusive anymore, but that's not going to happen whether I talk about him or not, so my priority lies with protecting the victims and hoping that my more general warnings of what abuse looks like without singling him out will suffice to protect future potential victims.

But the reality there is probably not as well. I have a feeling that any future partners of his won't be big fans of mine and therefore won't hear the warnings. This whole culture that protects abusers really pisses me off because I am not the only person I know who is stuck in this position - knowing someone is abusive but not being able to warn people or talk about it publicly because it would hurt others and having to choose between the safety of people who are already vulnerable vs. revealing people who are harmful, and choosing to protect safety.
joreth: (Purple Mobius)


* I am committed to addressing issues early in order to prevent them from becoming too big to handle.

This is one of my earliest commitments. I've known from a very young age that problems and issues need to be addressed early, and that unaddressed problems merely grow in size until they become insurmountable even if the problem itself is quite small. But one of my weaknesses is that I have a tendency to want to avoid being an imposition. So I am not always clear that something is a problem that needs to be addressed.

I had a partner once, though, who really hammered this lesson home for me. He did not understand that, because of the way I process things internally, by the time I'm willing to mention it at all, it's big enough to be considered an "issue" and something that needs to be addressed. So I had to learn to be clear about these things. I had to learn how to say things like "this is something that kind of bothers me but isn't really a big deal, so if you did something about it, that would be great, but not imperative" and "this is a problem that doesn't bother me all that much right now but you need to prioritize solving this with me before it becomes a serious issue." He needed to know the difference between "I'm just stating something" and "I need some kind of action from you on this".

If I didn't explicitly tell him that I needed a response, then he merely acknowledged that he heard me and moved on. I took "acknowledgment" to mean more than simply "I hear you"; I took it to mean "I accept your request to do something about this". Even if I said "I'd like you to do X that you're not currently doing", he heard that only as a suggestion that he was free to take or leave, not that I was having a problem over which his non-compliance would eventually strain our relationship. So when nothing would get done, I'd only gently remind him in an effort not to become the "nagging girlfriend", which he would continue to merely acknowledge that I said something and still not do anything about it, and it would continue until I finally got pissed off at him and he sat there wondering where all that anger came from, since he never understood that he was supposed to do anything about what I was saying. So I eventually developed the skill of explaining how important to me a response was, what kind of response I was hoping for, and where on the timeline this request fell between annoyance I can live with and relationship implosion.

[livejournal.com profile] tacit, by the way, is super amazing at guessing when something is a Big Deal even before I recognize it myself that it is a Big Deal. He doesn't have a 100% track record, but he long ago recognized that the very act of stating something is an invitation to explore one's vulnerability, so he tends to take what I say very seriously. Which means that he has, on several occasions, prioritized something just because I happened to mention I would like something done even before I, myself, realized that doing this thing was incredibly important to my happiness and the health of our relationship. But we are both active communicators, and we both have a hard time understanding passive communicators, so if there's going to be a problem understanding a call to action, that's probably where it will be found. This is also a reminder to me to continue to improve my active communication skills.
joreth: (Purple Mobius)

* I am committed to protecting the safety of myself and my partners through informed consent and risk-benefit analysis of behaviour, prioritizing evidence-based reason above emotional justification.
This is deliberately vague. Most people like to put down in writing (i.e. stone) their safe-sex rules. I've written several times about my safer sex guidelines, from the classifications of sex categories based on STI risk to my preferences in when I decide to take those risks. But I have learned over the years that even prefacing all that with "guidelines" and "agreements" doesn't stop anyone from attempting to prescript behaviour, impose rules, or resist change. Sometimes shit happens. Sometimes Game Changers come along and change the game. Sometimes the risks are lower because of special circumstances. And, as I said at the beginning, this is not a contract between me and my partners. This is what I commit to myself. Which means that my agreements and arrangements may be different between myself and different partners.

I'm tired of trying to nail down every little detail for every possible hypothetical scenario. That's not realistic. This commitment is intended to cover all my partners current and future, which means it has to accommodate for different arrangements and different people. I've cut away all the extraneous details and just gotten to the point - the underlying goal for what all those rules and agreements and boundaries are supposed to be doing: I will protect my safety and my partners' safety by giving the information they need to give informed consent (thereby respecting their agency, autonomy, and personal sovereignty) based on their respective boundaries, we will use that information in an analysis designed to assess risk on a per-case basis, and I will not use sexual safety boundaries to mask emotional concerns or issues. If I am feeling concerned about a partner taking on a new partner, and my concern does not match the actual, evidence-based risk, then I intend to get to the root of the issue without using safer sex boundaries as an excuse or justification or a Motte-And-Bailey Doctrine.

I get it, really I do. I've been there myself. No one wants to look like they're cavalier about safer sex, so pulling out the "I'm worried about STIs so we need to have safe sex boundaries / rules / agreements" card is a great way to make someone toe the line. It's really easy to avoid looking deeper at an insecurity when that insecurity just gave us a perfectly reasonable distraction to focus on - sexual safety. I was once so bothered by a metamour's resistance to polyamory that I said I felt "unsafe" and instituted physical barriers and restrictions between myself and my partner. I now know that was the wrong way to handle it. I should have said that my emotional concerns are affecting my willingness to be physically intimate with him, and I shouldn't have hidden behind "safety". That would have been owning my shit. But I didn't, and I do not wish to make that mistake again. At the same time, though, I want both the freedom to pursue relationships as I see fit and to be the sort of person who feels a responsibility for how her actions affect her partners so that I will be considerate of the risks that I take with regards to how they impact others.

This commitment to myself seeks to find that balance between consideration for others and freedom for myself and honoring their freedom; between maintaining a rational, reason-based, evidence-based skeptical worldview and embracing opportunity, love, sex, relationships, being vulnerable, and other emotion-based actions that bring color and depth to life.
joreth: (Nude Drawing)
I've noticed a trend. Every couple of years, I seem to get this restless sort of feeling where I end up with a casual partner or two. Usually it coincides with a breakup, so I've been thinking that it's a rebound pattern of mine, but now I'm not so sure. I've always enjoyed casual flings, I just don't usually have the emotional resources for very many partners at once and long-term, deeply intwined relationships take up a lot of those resources all on their own. I'm actually quite fine with one, maybe even two long-term, intertwined, local partners tops (I've had up to 3 of those kinds of partners only when I mix long-distance in).  As I keep saying, being poly isn't about how many partners you currently have, but how you handle your partner's agency (previously stated as how you handle your partner getting other partners).  So I don't need a large number, just the freedom.  Plus, I know that I get insecure if my partners are into casual sex so I kinda feel like I shouldn't pursue a type of relationship that I would feel uncomfortable with my partners pursuing. So I end up either putting off getting new casual partners when I start seeing someone "seriously" or I let my existing casual partners fall to the wayside when I get a new boyfriend-type partner.

But, I think, instead of a rebound thing, it might be more like I get involved with guys who get really attached who have some buried mononormative assumptions or fears. Then, in a couple of years, when I start getting restless and more emotionall "available" for a casual sort of relationship, those more attachment-type partners of mine sense a change in the stability of our relationship that they've come to depend on. Like, whatever my configuration was when they started dating me, they assume it'll always be the same thing, even if they think they don't - or maybe they don't "assume" but they do get comfortable with it and feel uncomfortable when it changes. Both of my last "serious", long-term partners completely freaked out when I wanted to start dating someone new, even though they had both pursued other relationships in the interim after we started dating. It was like, now that we have a comfortable rhythm going, I feel confident and secure about this relationship, so I have the emotional resources now to divert to starting something new and they're going "hey, wait a minute, this isn't what I signed up for!  You billed yourself as a long-term poly, family-oriented partner, not as a swinger or someone who has side flings with people who aren't integrated into the collective network!"  Because it's true, my preference *is* for long-term, intimate partners who are committed to polyamory itself and who feel a part of my poly network and can develop close, independent relationships with their metamours, and I prefer those kinds of relationships to ones with partners who aren't interested in getting to know my other partners or my own metamours (who are family to me).  But having a preference doesn't necessarily mean that the less preferred option is an active dislike either.

I once had a partner who lived with me but I did the grocery shopping.  He told me that he "didn't care for" rootbeer.  I can't have caffeine, and since we were on a tight budget, I would rather spend our money on soda that we both liked because otherwise it was zero-sum.  So I stopped buying rootbeer, which I love.  Then I saw him drinking rootbeer at a party.  Feeling a bit betrayed, I cornered him and demanded to know why he was drinking rootbeer when he told me that he didn't like it.  He said that he never said "didn't like", he said "didn't care for".  To him, that meant that he had no active positive preference for it, but that he didn't have an active negative preference for it either and he would drink it if that's what was available and the other options were less desirable.  In his mind "to care for" implied an active liking, which he didn't have, but "don't care for" didn't imply an active disliking, which he also didn't have.

I think this exact communication error is what happens between me and many of my previous partners when I talk about my own relationship preferences.  I say that I prefer "boyfriends" and "family-oriented networks", and they hear "I ONLY like 'boyfriends' and 'family-oriented networks' and nothing else" and then when I get interested in something outside of my stated preference, they feel a sense of betrayal because their model of me was incorrect or incomplete and they feel that I misled them somehow when I feel that I was totally clear on the subject.  And for those who have unresolved insecurities or hidden biases rooted in monogamous assumptions of ownership or entitlement to one's partners, even if I haven't strayed outside of my stated preference but I have developed an interest in someone that doesn't mesh well with the group or that this partner doesn't like, it still feels like a betrayal because they have that incorrect model in their heads of who I am and what I want.

Even if I haven't started pursuing anyone in particular, I think my diverted attention catches their notice (probably on a level they aren't even aware of), and that's when, out of the blue, "insurmountable" problems arise that lead to a breakup (and a breakup can be initiated by either of us). So, suddenly I'm "single" right about the time I was starting to be interested in a fling anyway, and I just go out and find a rebound to play with until my next "boyfriend" comes along and I don't have the resources to maintain a casual, ongoing fling in addition to that more intensive relationship. And I think that I thought this was a rebound pattern, not perhaps contributing to my breakup pattern in the first place. Because things are going just fine with my current long-term partners, and there is a new possible relationship on the horizon that will probably be a more casual sort of arrangement only because of the distance but I sense the potential for something really "serious" if the logistics would allow it. So my relationships aren't on the verge of collapse and they're all taking up plenty of my time and attention and are emotionally fulfilling, but I'm starting to feel restless again and I'm starting to reconsider options that I dismissed previously because they weren't the more desirable big-R Relationship options even though I'm not "single".

In the past, I had worried that my rather predictable trend of a casual relationship with someone who is generally unsuitable for a poly arrangement but who was fine with accepting an open FWB or fuckbuddy type arrangement while they were "in between girlfriends" was an unhealthy rebound pattern that I ought to try to understand and fix.  These rebounds were a lot of fun in the beginning but not very emotionally satisfying for the long term, and I would start to fill unfulfilled and lonely after a while, which prompted me to become open again to more big-R type Relationships. Which then, of course, would take up my time and attention and I would let my casuals fade away.  But now I'm wondering if the unhealthy part wasn't the rebounds, so much, as the breakups or even relationships that superceded them?

Because most of my casual relationships ended amicably.  Even if one of us wanted to continue it when the other was ready to fade away, we still parted on good terms and maintained platonic friendships or acquaintanceships after the sex ended.  Many times, those casual sexual relationships got restarted a couple of years later when the cycle repeated, with a couple of them getting restarted several times over the years.  In my big-R Relationships, those only ended amicably when I was the one who initiated the breakup.  In those, I seemed to be able to recognize when it was time to move on and was able to extricate myself with enough compassion for my soon-to-be-ex that he wasn't put off at the thought of transitioning to a friendship with me, even if there were hurt feelings during the breakup conversation.

But the breakups where my partners did the initiating?  Those seemed to always be surrounded by hurt, trust-damaging accusations that I think indicate a fear of change or abandonment.  In those cases where I was developing a new relationship, the partners who broke up with me somehow managed to find fault with my character when they didn't see those supposed faults before, even though I have never shied away from showing my difficult side as early on in a relationship as possible.  So breakups happened with a lot of contention and deliberately caused pain because these weren't conversations about differing needs and expectations taking us on divergent paths but about suddenly, from out of nowhere, deciding that I am a horrible person in ways that they not only never had a problem with before, but in some cases actively celebrated in me before.  I spend a lot of time in breakup conversations asking "what part of that was a surprise to you?"  It may be true that I'm a horrible person, but these partners didn't seem to think so until a new potential partner came along to upset the routine.  Even when that new potential relationship had very similar beginnings to how the preexisting relationship began so it shouldn't have been a surprise when a new relationship started in that way.

In the cases where I didn't yet have a potential new partner to consider, my existing partners seemed to intuitively feel, without understanding why or being able to identfy any specific actions to point to, that I was freeing up some of my attention for something or someone additional and they would react to this observation by trying to grasp me tighter to keep me from "leaving", even if I had no intention of doing so.  This is when a partner would start asking for relationship limitations but I, because of my outward-directed attention, had little patience for entertaining.  In the beginning of a relationship, I might (rightly or wrongly) accept some agency-denying boundaries because I would be in the throws of NRC (or NRE) and also feeling a lot of compassion for someone who was new to poly or unsettled and insecure in a new relationship that hadn't yet found its stable ground.  But a couple of years in, and I might start to get tired of protecting them from their insecurities or fears and I would start to unshoulder some of that burden and just expect them to start carrying the weight of their own emotions.  So when they would try to tighten up the relationship boundaries, I was much less amenable to them because now I was directing my attention outward and on myself, instead of on them.

So I think this is where all the dysfunction is happening, not in the rebound or casual sex relationships but in the breakups themselves or perhaps in my partner selection or my method of dealing with partners' fears or biases which lead to breakups, which lead to me being "single and looking" for casual sex partners.  The dysfunction or unhealthiness of the pattern is different for different situations and different people, which is a whole other series of posts that I could go into with each individual case.  But the hypothesis that I'm currently entertaining is that my casual relationships that followed my breakups may not be, by itself, an unhealthy pattern.  And I think if I can learn to embrace the part of me that enjoys casual sex enough to insist on partners who can embrace that part of me too, rather than tolerate it or write it off as something I did in the past, then I think all the associated dysfunction can be addressed more effectively.  See, I *do* accept that I am a person who likes casual sex, but I keep compartmentalizing it in my head as something I only do when I'm "in between" big-R, local partners, which may result in me ignoring when I'm ready to accept a casual partner until after I've broken up with someone, which may lead to either resentment on my part or denying any changes a preexisting partner is noticing which could lead to conflicts that could lead to breakups.  I know that when I was only aware of monogamy as the sole option, my attraction to or interest in casual sex used to lead me to conclude that I must therefore already be "over" a partner and that the relationship needed to end if I was "moving on" to that other relationship.  So a faulty awareness of where the actual problem lies can harm relationships.  I need to restructure my own model of myself in my head as someone who likes casual sex irrespective of when I'm in a big-R Relationship.

Sure, I still don't have many resources for lots of partners, and I prefer to save those resources for the more fulfilling big-R Relationships, but a preference for one thing doesn't necessarily imply an active dislike for something else.  When my Relationships are stable and I feel confident and secure in them, those Relationships take less daily maintenance.  We have fewer Relationship Talks because we've worked out a lot of the wrinkles and now we just need the occasional check-in to make sure we're still both on the same path.  We may even see each other less often because NRC has ended we are confident enough in the relationship's existence that we can survive time apart without fear of that distance signifying the possible end of the relationship.  Or maybe we see each other more often because we've entwined our daily lives so we can afford to start spending more time apart because we're confident that the other will still be there when we return.

So, when the conditions are right, I may be open and emotionally available to divert some of my other resources to one of those less fulfilling but still fun casual relationships for a short time.  That's not necessarily an unhealthy rebound pattern.  It doesn't even have to be a "rebound" pattern at all, if I can just better arrange my Relationships to accommodate that this is a Thing for me, which will only happen if I rebuild my own internal model of myself to change it from "someone who occasionally choose unsuitable partners for casual sex after a breakup that might signify some kind of breakup damage to my self-esteem" to "someone who occasionally chooses casual sex partners who are suitable for casual sex but not more emotionally intimate or intertwined partnerships when she feels she isn't too encumbered by relationship maintanance from other relationships simply because they're fun and because all different kinds of relationships have value and someone being unsuitable for one type doesn't mean they're unsuitable for all types".
joreth: (Nude Drawing)

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/kasey-ferris/my-son-does-not-need-to-b_b_8338402.html



"In order to raise a generation of kind and respectful men we have to stop telling our boys they're inherently bad (but it's not their fault because hormones.) In order to create a culture of strong and competent women who can save themselves, we must first stop teaching girls that they need to be saved."

"While the role of overprotective father is not a new one, it is a tired concept that needs to just die, already. Aside from the assumption that my daughter ... is incapable of good judgement and protecting herself and her standards, this ridiculous concept imagines my sons likewise incapable of the same good judgement and standards.

'But I've been/known a teenage boy,' You say. 'I know how they think.'

Which is total baloney. Because here's the thing -- thoughts are not equal to actions. And rationalizing that young men have overwhelming urges that cloud their judgement and force them to make poor decisions regarding young women is nothing more than excusing bad behavior. "Boys will be boys" needs to STOP. "

"It's not 'funny' to threaten my son. It's not 'cute' to treat your daughter as if she has zero common sense. "

"realize and come to terms with the fact that teenage sexuality is not a 'boy thing'. Teenage sexuality is a teenage thing. Young men and young women alike are going to be curious, interested, and looking to learn more about sex. Your daughter is just as curious as my son, I can virtually guarantee it."

I started exploring partnered sexual activity when I was 12. I started having penetrative sex when I was 15. I actively pursued each of my partners and they were not "boyfriends" - they were casual sex partners. My first "boyfriends" were guys who pursued me, but the ones I went for were not intended to be big-R Relationships. And, not only that, but the only reason I "lost my virginity" was to see what all the fuss was about and I deliberately picked a guy who would be leaving soon so that there was no chance of an ongoing relationship.

Teenage sexuality is a teenage thing. I was curious and interested in sex and I remain so to this day. But I was also well educated and practical and responsible. Well, I was well educated and responsible about biology. I knew all about safer sex practices and how babies were made and how to avoid making babies. I knew it so well that my church youth group asked me to give a safer sex lecture to the youth because the parish thought that an older teen would be listened to better than some cranky old adult.

But I was not educated about consent, other than the obvious and practically strawmanny stranger-rape scenarios. I knew, full well, that I could say "no" and I should expect it to be honored and I knew that I *should* say "no" whenever I didn't want to do something. By 16 I even had some self-defense lessons (taught to all sophomores by our school priest, of all people, who was a black belt in some martial art or another, and was part of our P.E. curriculum).

What I didn't know was that men could be assaulted too, and that much of what was taught to us about male / female relations leads directly to male assault. I was taught that "boys will be boys" and that "all men think about sex every 6 seconds" and that teenage boys especially were out of control and only wanted sex. With those kinds of assumptions, it leads naturally to the conclusion that if I was offering sex, then any male should want it. With romantic comedies and other media examples of "if you want your love interest, just be persistent and they'll eventually see that you're The One", that leads naturally to the conclusion that if any guy *did* put up any kind of resistance to my advances, it was his "higher brain" functioning in charge, but he really wanted it, deep down inside, so all I had to do was get past his objections, tap into his primal urges, and he'd "consent".

In other words, I was the sort of guy I now mock on the internet who thinks that "no" just means "try harder". Only I thought it was OK because I was a girl, and it doesn't count when girls do it because boys and girls were "different".  I do have memories of being in high school and telling other boys that I thought it was OK to be virgins, so I did have somewhere in the back of my brain the inklings of "consent".  I was aware that people had different rates of sexuality.  But I also had the conflicting message that "boys were horndogs", and that's the message that won out every time I was interested in a guy who wasn't equally as interested in me.  It was somehow *different* when I did it, because I was a Good Person, or something.

There *were* plenty of guys who would have been interested in sex with me, and even in sex under the circumstances that I was interested in (i.e. casual sex), and some of them were even in my age group. My problem was that I did not fully understand consent or sexism or patriarchy (and all the things that covers, such as the pressure for guys to have sex whether they want to or not and the overlooking of situations that violate male consent) or even entitlement. I wanted That Guy, so I was going to Have Him.  And of course it was OK because I was the girl, and all guys want all girls anyway, they just have to be made aware of it.

The things that I now understand about consent and agency needed to be taught to 10-year old me so that when I turned 12 and found my first sexual partner, I could have started off on the correct foot with negotiating what type of relationship we were going to have. He thought sex had to take place inside of a Relationship, so he would ask me to be his "girlfriend" on Friday, we'd make out all weekend, then he'd break up with me on Sunday so that he wasn't saddled with me as a Girlfriend at school. Because I was attracted to him, I fell for this more times than I can remember. I got my heart broken over and over again when, the reality is that if casual sex had been an option, I probably would have taken it. I was interested in the sex part, not necessarily him so much.

We were friends before puberty hit. We used to run from one house to the other, playing each other's Nintendo games that we got for Christmas. We would race our scooters down the street. We played basketball together at the end of our cul de sac. We did our homework together.  But we weren't interested in each other *romantically*. If FWB had been an option, our childhood friendship might have remained intact during our early sexual explorations instead of getting destroyed by heartbreak as he kept offering me things he had no intention of producing and I built up expectations that were never met. I kept getting hurt, and he kept getting that annoying girl mooning over him. But if we had the option back then of *negotiating* a relationship that matched our actual desires instead of the cultural script (and my reputation wouldn't have been stained because of it), it might have been much more fulfilling and beneficial to both of us.

Later, after I'd had a couple of penetrative partners, I had another boyfriend who was still "a virgin". He was fascinated by my sexuality, but he was also a little afraid of it. His hormones and his buddies were telling him to be interested in sex, but he wasn't really ready for it. Unfortunately, both of us thought "boys are walking hormones", so I pressured him into sex. I got him into a compromising position so that he wasn't really aware or able to not consent because it just "happened". Oops! My bad! We stopped, because he wasn't sure about it, but I should have had the lessons that told me that it was wrong to arrange that situation in the first place. After he went home, he freaked out about it and called me (several days later, which left me freaking out about his non-contact) to break up with me because he said he wasn't ready to start having penetrative sex yet. If we had both known that it was OK for guys to not want sex, and that penetrative sex wasn't some sort of finish line with all other sexual acts lined up in a hierarchy behind it, he wouldn't have suffered the pain of being pressured into something he wasn't emotionally ready for and I wouldn't have suffered the crushing weight of rejection that, to an introverted, shy, bullied teenage girl was *devastating*.

Telling boys that "boys will be boys", to pursue at all costs, that "no means try harder", that all men are walking hormones, that a Real Man has penetrative sex with Women (but only the right kind of women), that boys who have sex are Studs while boys who don't are Virgins (and that's a horrible thing for a boy to be, but the only thing a girl should be) - telling them all that leads to a culture of rape, a culture where boys AND girls violate people's consent and disrespect their agency and where boys and girls have their consent violated and their agency disrespected. And a culture where we shame boys and girls for having their consent violated, but we shame them in different ways - ways which do nothing to actually prevent the violations from happening in the first place.

It's been a very long time since I was that person.  I can only speak about it now, with this kind of clarity, because I feel so far removed from that teenage girl, that I feel like I'm speaking about someone else.  To me now, it's obvious how I was wrong and I can't even imagine doing something like that today, so I can speak candidly about my mistakes.  But I shouldn't need to have the perspective of being a middle-aged sex-positive, alternative sexuality activist to see how I was wrong back then.  I should have been given that perspective as a child, which means that it's the adults' responsibility to stop perpetuating exactly the sorts of beliefs that lead to exactly the sorts of scenarios these "keep your hands off my daughter" posts are trying to prevent.  Telling boys to "keep your hands off my daughter" did nothing to actually keep my boys' hands off me and it also did nothing to protect boys *from* me.  And it certainly did not help me to be my best self as a teenage girl exploring her sexuality.

But it did make me incredibly resentful of anyone thinking they owned my body, and it did drive a wedge between me and my otherwise loving parents that created tension and distance between us as I struggled to take control over my body away from people who never really had any control of it to begin with but who had enough power and authority to assume control.  My parents were mostly good parents and I love them.  I remain close with them to this day and I cherish my relationships with them.  But my entire adolescence was a power struggle between us.  In spite of not understanding consent and agency as it applied to other people, I knew that my body belonged to me and that I was my own person from the very beginning.  My parents' attempts to control me were seen as intrusions and violations (as they were).  Their misplaced fear and belief that parents "own" their children, and in particular that they had any say in their children's sexuality, caused rifts between us, as well as between them and my sister (but in different ways).  We all managed to survive our teenage years, but things could have been so much better, with fewer scars that inhibit our relationships to this day, had they not had the erroneous belief that parents were the owners of their children, as opposed to guides and mentors of individual, autonomous people.  There are lots of people whose familial relationships did not survive the teenage years, and others who did mange to but only because the harmful programming was successfully passed down, perpetuating yet another generation of agency violations.

We need to stop this cycle, and it starts with teaching children young that they are autonomous individuals with complex, often conflicting desires and emotions but that they are capable of making decisions that will benefit them after weighing all the options, and it requires us *giving* them all the options to consider, including biologically accurate safer sex and respect for agency and consent, and then trusting them to make those decisions and living with the consequences.

joreth: (Purple Mobius)

* I am committed to taking care of myself so that I can be the best partner I can be.

I learned this one through "osmosis". I've always been a fan of letting other people learn my lessons for me. I don't need to burn my own hand just to learn that fire is hot. I became a fan of the Anita Blake series because I felt like Blake was all of my bad traits exaggerated and none of my good traits. So when I saw her get herself into blindingly obviously stupid situations that she could have easily avoided, I used her stupidity as a guide for What Not To Do. Similarly, when I saw my metamours bend so far over backwards to accommodate and enable their partners' dysfunctions, I saw that their lack of self-care directly led to the relationship's toxicity. When my metamours didn't take care of themselves, they were unable to provide the best source of support for their partners in need. When they didn't take care of themselves, they lost the ability to recognize unhealthy relationship patterns. When they didn't take care of themselves, they had no defenses for preventing others from harming them. It turns out that being a good partner, someone who has the emotional resources to care for and support their partners and who has the internal strength and fortitude to maintain good boundaries, requires being in a physically and emotionally healthy state - or as healthy a state as possible given any individual circumstances.

Taking care of myself should be a goal all on its own. But sometimes taking care of myself is a means to an end. Sometimes, some of us need to be in a good state for someone else's sake. My sister was on a downward trajectory involving drugs, alcohol, sex-too-young, and lack of education. But then she got pregnant. Suddenly, her own health became of paramount importance because she had someone else to care for. I'm not saying that my own health takes a backseat to how well I can serve someone else, but I am saying that my ability to be a good partner is related to how well I take care of myself, and these are a list of commitments intended to remind myself of how to be a good partner, so it's included because it's an integral part of being a good partner.
joreth: (Purple Mobius)
One of the things that makes me twitch every time I hear it is "different partners fulfill different needs". My partners are not need fulfillment machines. While it's true that I have certain emotional "needs" from my various relationships in order for those relationships to be maintained, it's not an obligation for my partners to meet them. That's my job. Plus, most of my relationships have overlapping "needs".

In my romantic relationships, I "need" to be listened to, I "need" to feel that I am considered, and I "need" for my partners to follow through with whatever things they say they are going to follow through on most of the time, like if they say they will attend a party with me, I expect them to actually attend the party with me barring some emergency. Without these "needs" getting met, I don't feel loved, and if I don't feel loved, then there's no point in being in that romantic relationship because, to me, a romantic relationship is about loving and being loved by someone. These kind of needs exist in all my romantic relationships - that's part of what sets them apart from non-romantic relationships.

But I hear way too often about how polyamory is how people get their "needs met". People basically build a Frankenpartner out of their various partners - I have a list of 100 needs, Bob meets 78 of them, which is a majority, so he's my primary, Steve meets 13 of them so he's my secondary, and Jim meets 9 of them so he's my fling on the side, and that way I get all my needs met. I set out to find people to meet those needs, and I have carefully screened all the applicants, and each one was hired for the role based on their ability to meet those needs. Should they ever cease meeting my needs to my satisfaction, they will be fired and I will replace them with someone who can do a better job.

Blech.

I have some general "needs" - to be heard, to be seen, to be considered, to be accommodated, to be appreciated. Sometimes I have a romantic and/or sexual attraction to people who can do those things, and if so, then I find out if they'd be interested in some kind of romantic relationship with me. From there, we work out the logistics.

And it's these *logistics* that I believe are more like what most people are referring to when they say "meet my needs". I liking having people to dance with. I like having people who share my kinks. I like having people who read the same kinds of books as me. I like watching movies with people. I like engaging in philosophical existential discussions about science and the meaning of life. I like having rock climbing and belaying buddies. I like cuddling. I like sex. I like eating meals with people. I like crafting and creating projects with people.

These aren't *needs* in the same way that the above needs are. Those needs are things that my relationships must have to flourish. These are things that, the more of them a person has, the more entangled and intertwined our lives have the potential to become. None of my partners really "needs" to ballroom dance with me, even though I'd be happier if at least one of my partners shared that passion. None of my partners need to rock climb with me, although I'd be happier if at least one of them did. And if only one of my partners shared that particular interest with me, I'd probably be just fine that none of the others did. Kink is a good example of this one; if I have at least one partner who shares my kinks, I'm usually just fine with the other partners who don't because then I'm getting to explore my kinks *somewhere*.  You could say that I got my "need" met by this one partner, so I'm good and the others are off the hook.

And looking at these sorts of things as "needs" is what, in my opinion, contributes to people seeing their partners as need fulfillment machines: You are my Boyfriend; the Boyfriend Role requires that we go to parties together; therefore you are obligated, expected, and responsible for taking me to parties.  I think it would be healthier to come at the idea from the opposite direction:  You like going to parties with me, therefore your role, for as long as we are both happy with the arrangement, is the Co-Party Attendee Partner.  Should either of us ever no longer be interested in attending parties together, we can reevaluate at that time what kind of role we will each have in each other's lives without the shared interest in parties.

I have not found a way to articulate an alternative to this problem - something that still indicates the importance that any given activity might have to any given relationship role, but that doesn't include the implicit obligation of "meets my needs" ... that removal of a partner's autonomy and turning them into something that serves my interests. Until today.

I'm still not sure if this will work out long-term enough to make it into a permanent part of my language, but today I used the term "niche" in place of "need". My partners each fit into their own relationship niche, which includes movies with Bob but co-crafting with Steve and food exploration with Jim. Even if Bob and Jim both include karaoke, they still have their own niches where Bob has co-crafting and karaoke while Jim has food exploration and karaoke. Even if two or more of my partners have *exactly the same* list of logistical criteria in common, they all still fit into their own niche as individuals. Bob fits into Bob's niche, Steve fits into Steve's niche, Jim fits into Jim's niche. But, really, the odds of any of them having exactly the same criteria with absolutely no deviation? So highly unlikely as to be not even worthwhile of consideration. Maybe Bob and Steve share exactly the same interests in common with me, but Bob lives 2 hours away and prefers texting to phone conversations while Steve lives locally and still has a landline, or something.

So I'm gonna try replacing "need" with "niche" whenever the context of "different partners meets different needs" comes up in conversation and see how that goes. Each of my partners fills different niches, not "meets different needs".  My intention is to remove "meets my needs" entirely from my vocabulary but still make my conversation understandable by people who are not necessarily up on all the latest poly lingo, in much the same way that I am attempting to describe my relationships without ever once using the term "primary", even as a bridge term with caveats and explanations.

So let's see how well "niche" ... well ... meets that need :-)
joreth: (Nude Drawing)
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.

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