joreth: (Kitty Eyes)
I'm hearing rumblings of people upset because Beyonce is playing or played at the CMAs this year. The excuse is that she's not a country artist so she doesn't belong at the CMAs. Other people have pointed out the hypocrisy here with other non-country artists being invited guests to previous CMAs so it's likely more about hidden racism or sexism, so I'm not going to reiterate that here (although, because of that, I think it's incredibly fitting that she sang with the Dixie Chicks, who had their own brush with sexism and intolerance rampant in the country music scene).

What I am going to do is get on my soapbox about the "purity" of music.

YOUR COUNTRY MUSIC IS NOT AND HAS NEVER BEEN "PURE COUNTRY".

Neither has your rock and roll, or any other genre of music, for that matter.

All music has evolved and blended and stolen and shared with other styles of music. That's what art does, as an expression of feelings by people who have experiences. No one lives in a bubble and we are all influenced by other people, but art itself *deliberately* influences other art and *deliberately* allows itself to be influenced.

When pressed, most people who complain about the "pop" in "country" seem to think that Hank Williams. and Johnny Cash are the epitome of "country", as if country music was invented in an isolation lab in the late 1950s and lived on an island until the 1970s, when it got "corrupted" by outside influences and money.

I got news for you - that's not how "country" started, nor is it what "country" music *is*. Even Johnny Cash listened to Nine Inch Nails and appreciated and respected the musical artistry of Trent Reznor. One of Johnny Cash's greatest songs was also one of his last songs and it was a cover of a Nine Inch Nails song. It's hard to think of two genres of contemporary musicians further apart than those two, but because they were consummate musicians, they understood the complex, intertwined relationship that all music genres have with each other.




People seem most offended at the idea of country music and rock music blending, but the two genres (including pop music - I know neither genres' fans are willing to admit any relation to "pop music", but more on that later) are inextricably linked, twisting and spinning and folding and mixing around with each other from day one.  "Country" music can be traced to its most heavily influential roots of Irish and other European folk music *strongly* blended with the cultural appropriation of jazz, which evolved out of a massive cultural appropriation of Negro music. Same with rock, btw.

"In the beginning", the music that eventually became known as "country" was a blend. They took some of the favorite musical instruments of poor white people and added the melodies, harmonies, and rhythms of poor black people. "Country" has never been "pure".  Later (but not much later), rock and roll came along, which took that poor white music mixed with poor black music and threw in a little urbanization by removing some of the regional "twang", in one sense "sanitizing" the music for popular consumption.

In other words, rock and roll was the first modern "pop" music, a white-washed, pseudo-innovative, stolen version of music originally being made by people "the masses" weren't "ready" to hear.

Don't get me wrong, I love rock and roll music. I'm merely describing it. Because I love it, I won't let myself close my eyes to its origins or its cultural impact. In spite of the controversy and the upper classes trying to ban and block the progress of rock music, it was still originally a toned-down, less creative, less musically *interesting*, more polished version of other people's "edgier" music intended for commercialization. Exactly what rock snobs complain about "pop" music.  And none of the modern sub-genres of rock, including disco, industrial, electronica, British Invasion, metal, etc. would exist if it hadn't been for that white-washed, sanitized "pop" music.

But back to country.

Country music, like rock music, isn't a single genre. I have two long-term YouTube projects on the back burner that I may or may never get around to: 1) is playing snippets of songs and having the listener attempt to guess if the song is technically classified as "country" or "rock", and if the listener doesn't already know the songs, I'm willing to bet that most people will find this challenging.  A lot of "identifying" music into their respective genres is actually identifying the singer's accent, which is in a sense, a form of racism - if there is a southern twang, it must be country, if there is an urban roughness it must be rock, and if there is a "black" voice it must be R&B or rap or "whatever black people sing" (depending on how blatant the racism of person doing the identifying is), but switch out singers and some of this music becomes identifiable as a different genre by many people, even with characteristic instruments;

and 2) is sharing sub-genres of "country" music (based on my own categorization, not necessarily any "official" categorization, mainly because I don't think one exists, although there may have been other "unofficial" attempts) and giving examples to illustrate the diversity of this genre that so many people think is a single monolithic genre or, at best, 3 sub-genres based on decade ('50s vs. '70s vs. today's "pop country" that somehow "doesn't count").

As a preview, just off the top of my head, some sub-gengres include: Southwestern country (with Native American and "old west" influences), zydeco country, bluegrass country, Caribbean country & its sister "beach" country, jump blues country, slide blues country, old-timey country, country rap, and country electronica, just to name what first popped into my head. I'm quite sure I can think of more distinct categories, as could some of you if any of you listen to country music.  If I played music from those categories for you, I guarantee that even non-country listeners could tell the difference.  But non-country listeners, by definition, don't listen to country and are likely not aware of all these different styles, even if they have actually been exposed to it at some point before.  And some country listeners are too busy trying to preserve the "purity" of whichever version they think is the One True Country to acknowledge the existence of the others or to dismiss them as a few fringe songs out there somewhere rather than a whole genre on their own.  But they exist and they have celebrity artists and cultures all their own.

So, Beyonce guest starred at the CMAs. OH NOES! What is country music coming to?!?! Well, I'll tell you. Country music is continuing on the path it has always traveled, by being an incredibly rich, diverse, and complex musical art form that is influenced by and borrows and steals from other cultures and other styles of music. Whether you *like* it or not is a different question and I'm not trying to make people *like* it, but "country" music is an amazingly colorful, intricate, heterogeneous art form, filled with hope and and anger and feminism and misogyny and racism and tolerance and anger and passion and love and deep sadness and great joy and silly fun and everything that makes up the human experience.

As we are not all the same person, so country music is not all the same sound. It is made up of the same conflicting, contradictory mishmash that we are as a species, comprised of the same capacity for transcendence and depravity, for simplicity and complexity, and influenced by the world around it, as we are.

I love taxonomy. I love categories and boxes and neat labels. But if being poly has taught me anything, it's that labels for X and Z may be necessary but that Y is something messy and in between, and *that's OK*.

So, welcome Beyonce, to the racist, sexist, yet beautiful world of country music. Where we are all different, and more the same for those differences.



The really ironic part is that, in the middle of the performance, they broke into a few bars of a Dixie Chicks classic song that literally complains about the "impurity" problem of country music:

They sound tired byt they don't sound Haggard (Merle Haggard)
They got money but they don't have Cash (Johnny Cash)

And for reference, the original song, which is quite Louisiana blues all on its own and lends itself very easily to a "country" version (if you don't count this as "country" to begin with).  Certainly the subject matter is a common country trope - lessons from daddy, guns, and women retaliating against domestic violence:
joreth: (Bad Joreth)

https://youtu.be/XBmJay_qdNc





"In his mind, he wasn't just stealing music, he was fighting for freedom!"

Coincidentally relevant to my last post (coincidentally in that it happened to cross my feed and my attention right after making my last post).

This is an interesting observation on exactly the points I was making - 3 in particular:

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

  2. That doesn't mean that there is no such thing as "right" and "wrong" just that it's more complicated and the paths to correct people need to reflect that complexity and that understanding; and

  3. We have to leave room in our communities for people to fuck up and to treat them with compassion and understanding if we want to have any hope at all in changing the culture around us to lead to fewer fuckups with lesser degrees of consequences.

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

So he starts out the divorce following the script he usually gives to his clients, which is to prioritize self-preservation on the assumption that the other person is his opponent. But she sits him down and points out that the person on the other side of the table is not one of his clients' "crazy ex-wives", but HIS wife. How does he want to handle this one?

He admits that he has no freaking idea. In all his years of being a divorce attorney, it has never once occurred to him that the person he is fighting is a human being with a shared history and complex emotions and that the person on his side of the table also has complex emotions about that other human being. In all his years as a divorce attorney, he has seen people at their worst, fighting for what they believe is their survival against an evil enemy but he has never thought that self-preservation might actually be counter-intuitive and cause exactly the sort of situation where self-preservation tactics are necessary.

So now he's facing his own wife across the table. Preemptively shutting down the accounts to prevent her from retaliatory spending didn't protect him from her vindictiveness, it made things worse. It hurt her and treated her like a criminal. It attacked her very sense of self as a decent person. It created self-doubt in both of them. It tarnished not just the memory of their marriage together, but even the love that they both still feel for each other behind all the pain.

That action actually changed the very nature of their relationship and their feelings towards each other and about themselves. That action was not the result of things changing, it was the catalyst.

But in their future, they won't remember it that way. They will see each other through this new lens, and that action will be representative of this new changed perception of each other, rather than the action *causing* the change. Because that's how our memories work.

What would our world look like today if the entire divorce industry had been built up from a societal foundation of compassion instead of brutal self-preservation? I don't mean that self-preservation was thrown out the window and that everyone just rolled over and let people take advantage of them. I think that self-preservation is a natural extension of compassion, it's just that it takes different roads to reach that destination, and the destination is a prettier landscape than what the other road leads to.

What would our world look like today if divorce attorneys had a background in psychology that believed compassion should form the foundation of every interaction? Would there be more attempts by attorneys to reason with each other and their clients? Would law firms have mottoes espousing compassion, ethics, and dignity? Would law schools teach, in addition to the law, how to see others as fully formed human beings and how to see multiple perspectives?

Would divorce offices have couches and personal end tables for writing instead of large, domineering conference room tables where people square off against each other? Would everyone sit down in these comfortable but not vulnerable seats, and would the attorneys lean in and say to the future ex, "I'm so sorry this is happening. This must be very difficult for you. Let's try to work together to make this as painless and equitable as possible. Would you like some tea? Can I make you more comfortable? How is the temperature in here for you?" and would they make every effort possible to instruct their own clients to reign in their tempers, to give just a little bit more than they're getting, and teach them how to see things from their soon-to-be-ex's perspective?

And if this was the *norm* for the divorce industry, not just individual practices existing here and there, what would the society that spawned this kind of industry look like?

We are all the heroes of our own story. Everything we do seems rational and justified from inside our heads, with the information that we have and the feelings that we have and the experiences that formed us and and the memories that we have created. If other people could only see from that specific perspective, they would also understand how rational and justified our positions are.

That doesn't mean that we are always *right*. Our memories are faulty. Our information is incomplete. Our brains are subject to logical fallacies and flawed premises. The world in which we are operating is the way it is, and within that way, sometimes things have to be done that do not reflect the way we would like to see the world become but the way the world is.  But from within that perspective, things look very different from outside that perspective. And, most of the time, with the situation being what it is, people are not unreasonable for making their choices from within that perspective.

When you're on the opposite side of the table from someone with a very different perspective, it can be difficult to remember that. This is not one of my strengths. I got the nickname Flame Warrior for a reason. I have a long history of burning people at the stake and razing forums to the ground. In each and every case, I felt justified in doing so. I have very good reasons for everything I've done. My compassion has always been reserved for the people on whose behalf I was doing the burning. It was from that very deep wellspring of compassion that I acted as I did, because it was held exclusively for the people whose side I was on, much like a divorce attorney going to the mat for a client. I put everything into the best defense for "my side" and fuck the other person for being on the opposite side in the first place. They were clearly wrong, that's why they were on the opposite side.

But what would the world look like if I was better at sitting down in one of those comfy chairs? I'm not naive. I identify far more with the Operative in Firefly than with most of the other characters (although I love the other characters more). He explained that he was there to do the hard, ugly work of creating his perfect world. When Mal snidely accused him of going to live in his perfect world after he's eliminated all the messiness, the operative said quite clearly that the perfect world was not for him. He was a monster. But a monster was what was needed to create the perfection for everyone else.

I don't believe I'm a monster, but I've never literally burned an entire colony of children and peaceful people just to hurt one man and get him to come out of hiding. My point is that there is no such thing as a perfect world and I don't believe that all conflicts can be solved in pleasant rooms with cushy chairs. Just look at any of our upper-tier "diplomatic talks" throughout history - they have plenty of cushy chairs to sit in and yet still they send other people out to die for abstract ideas like power and religion. Sometimes, we need a bulldog to defend us who will keep holding on until he wins.

But just what if? What if we were all taught how to see through different lenses? What if we all learned how to identify with those on the opposite side of a conflict with us? Without giving up a goal of putting more credence and weight to objective facts and metrics, what if we knew how to value other people's feelings and how we affected them? What would divorces look like then? What would political squabbles look like? What would social justice look like? What would our communities look like?

Every time I get into a conflict, if it's bad enough to require me to vent to my partners for some relief, [livejournal.com profile] tacit has to butt into my ranting with "well, from their perspective..." It's infuriating. Not just because it's interrupting my momentum for a good rant, but because he's always so fucking right. And I hate having to learn that someone else has reason for what they're doing. It's so much easier to be pissed off at them when they're so clearly wrong and irrational and mean. It's so much easier to work myself into a righteous rage when they're malicious and evil and hateful.

And it's so damn irritating to have to acknowledge their humanity even while the objective facts still bear out that my side is the more correct side. When I'm right, I should be right, goddamnit, and they are just fucking wrong. It's much less satisfying to be right-but...

[livejournal.com profile] tacit makes me aspire to be a better person. Which I suppose he ought to, seeing as how he co-wrote the book on how to be an ethical person. And I fail often, but I am ever striving to do better. Which is all anyone can really hope for, honestly ... just to keep doing better. To keep seeing the humanity and the nuance in other people, especially those who I find myself opposite of in a conflict.

It doesn't mean that there are no "right ways" or "wrong ways", and it doesn't mean that even when I can see the other side that I am necessarily "wrong". But it informs how I treat the other side as people. Which makes me a better person for my own sake and the sake of those I interact with, no matter who is "right" and who is "wrong". Because I am not talking about who is "right", I'm talking about how to be *better*. There can still be a "right" and a "wrong" side while the participants are practicing being their best selves. It just makes those sides more complex, richer, nuanced, and messier. And it also opens up the options for solutions because the sides are not black and white. There are more ways out of a conflict when it isn't an all-or-nothing brawl. Yes, even if only one side is seeing the situation in color and the other is still viewing it in monochrome, there are still more solutions available.

If I had taken my Breaking Up workshop as a teenager, what would my future had looked like? What kinds of mistakes would I have made differently? How many flame wars would I have engaged in, and what would their outcome have been? How many more minds could I have reached and more hearts could I have changed? Sure, some people need a bulldog to defend them still. But what could have been, had I started becoming a better person sooner and what could the world have been if we all had started becoming a better person sooner?



Cultural attitudes about seemingly small things can lead to massively different cultures because of their foundational nature, and some of them are simply objectively better than others even with their problems and flaws.

The idea of a collaborative divorce as an institution in the US is laughable. I can't even imagine it catching on as a thing, although I can imagine individual legal firms attempting to offer that kind of service. But divorce is *assumed* to be adversarial, therefore it is. Any individual who bucks that trend is considered an exception, even a sideshow freak on the extreme end!

And I think that's symptomatic of a generally adversarial outlook. All of our conflicts are seen as adversarial, not collaborative. We so often immediately jump to opposing sides rather than individuals with similar goals but differences in opinions on how to obtain those goals.
joreth: (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: (Misty in Box)
I have a question and I need for everyone interested in answering it to assume that I am asking in good faith, not trolling.

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

Let me expand a bit.  OK, a lot.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

12. You find it hard to make decisions.

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

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

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

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

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

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

So, this whole long exposition is to explain that I am looking for sources to help explain why, when a gaslighter feels these things, it's *not* a sign that they are a victim or being gaslighted by their actual victims.  When a person is gaslighted, they start to believe that they are an abusive monster who is doing terrible things to their abuser, but an abuser actually *is* doing all those things.  I could write a similar checklist of "how to know you're being abusive" and read it through the perspective of a gaslight victim and that victim could conceivably reach the conclusion that they are, indeed, an abusive monster because of the lens that each is viewing the world through.  I know there's a difference, I just don't know how to explain or illustrate that and I'm looking for sources to cite and other people's words to use as analogy or illustration or explanation.
joreth: (Super Tech)
I don't have any kind of TV signal at my house, other than what my rabbit ears can pick up (and trust me, with the weather in Florida, that's not much). I have a shit ton of DVDs, access to Netflix and Amazon, and other entertainment-viewing venues, but not much in the way of "live" programming. And I like that kind of programming. I really enjoy just leaving my TV turned on all day and set to one or two channels that play sitcoms or sci-fi or whatever, just to see what comes on. It's the same reason I still like listening to the radio, even though I hate commercials on both.

One of the TV stations that comes through (barely) is a classic TV station - showing nothing newer than the early '80s and some stuff quite a bit older. Late at night, they stick mainly with the '70s. So I've been watching a show I had seen before but wasn't a major portion of my viewing rotation because I was just a bit too young to be really interested in the plot back then - One Day at a Time​.

I really like sitcoms, but I'm kind of particular in my sitcom viewing. I like watching shows that are groundbreaking in some way and that are, by their very existence, social commentary. Whatever other flaws that show might have, it had an important message that shaped the society I grew up in.

This show is about a divorced mom trying to raise her two teenage daughters in a "liberated" society that she was never a part of. She grew up conservative and traditional Italian Catholic and married young. But her husband had an affair, so she divorced him - a radical enough notion at the time. To make matters even more shocking, she didn't go home to her parents to help her with the kids, she chose to get an apartment in New York and live alone with the kids - no man or family to protect her or help her.

That alone makes the show worth praising, to me. But every time I see an episode, I'm bowled over by the complexity of the situations and the nuance of the responses. It really was a terrific show. I'd like to sit down with the DVDs sometime and really do some thorough reviews on specific episodes, because there are some gems in there.

For instance, the episode I saw a couple of nights ago had the husband trying to back out of child support because he over-extended himself with his business and his new wife and was now facing financial trouble. This is a really easy situation to get black-and-white about - too fucking bad, it was your bad choices, you owe those kids their money because a single woman in the '70s with no college education couldn't get the kind of job to support the three of them without help, and it's your fault they're on their own in the first place.

To make matters worse, the father wasn't just facing financial hardship due to the economy or not making enough money from his company. He sold the kids' childhood home to buy a mansion with a pool and to hire a full-time maid to live in the lap of luxury. So it seems like a no-brainer that the dad is the bad guy and the solution is to sell the damn house, fire the maid, and live more frugally if he can't support his lifestyle.

Although these points are all made in the show, it doesn't stop there. In the course of the arguments over the child support, the mom figures out that the new wife doesn't even know about the financial hardship, and that the dad wants to quit child support because he wants to maintain his lifestyle so that his new wife never has to find out. The *reason*, he says, is because the new wife isn't "like [the mother]" and "can't handle it". She's accustomed to a life of luxury and wouldn't be able to cope with living a more meager existence.

The mom, here, has a perfectly justified opportunity to say "tough shit, that's part of what being married is all about". Instead, she stops her arguing, stunned that the new wife doesn't even know. She points out that the husband is being patronizing, and orders him to go home immediately and talk to the wife - to give her a chance to be an equal partner in their marriage and how to address the situation. Her sympathy in this moment, goes to the new wife, when the rest of society would have seen the new wife as a homewrecker and not deserving of sympathy.

Repeatedly, as the mom argues with the dad over the course of the series, she sticks up for the wife and insists that he treat her better than he ever treated the mom. She does not let him get away with being the same chauvinistic, overbearing, dismissive prick that he was to her.

And then the show goes one further. The daughters, when they find out all the details, turn to their father and say "Daddy, I know you want to support us, but you forget that we're supposed to support you too. That's what family is for. We'll work something out. Let us help you." Without compromising the kids' well-being or letting the father off the hook from his responsibilities, they insist on pulling together as a family, even though they're not a traditional family anymore. The support and respect isn't a one-way street.  In fact, it's an excellent example of support through accountability without becoming a doormat.

In the end, there are no Bad Guys, just people who make mistakes and have messy feelings, who learn from each other and help each other out. The family is changed to match the needs of the people in it, and even though there are growing pains about it, everyone is better off living in a non-traditional family structure which gives each of them opportunities to be their best selves. And they consistently live up to that, stumbling and tripping along the way, but always climbing upwards.

I wonder, since these are the kinds of influences I had growing up, what our society might look like if we still made such programming. And I wonder, since I wasn't the only person to watch and be influenced by shows like this, why I seem to be one of the only people to have absorbed these kinds of lessons.

I find it interesting that the vast majority of the lessons that influence how I do poly and that form the basis for my various activisms, come from mainstream, monogamous, heteronormative culture. I recommend re-visiting these old sitcoms, or visiting them for the first time if you missed them back in the day. Many of them are partially responsible for the adult I turned into, with lessons in empathy and consideration and intentional family and non-traditional choices.  Sometimes wisdom comes from unexpected places.
joreth: (Dobert Demons of Stupidity)
Hey Marvel films and other movie makers - the reason why your female-led action movies don't do well at the box office and the reason why women (who make up the majority of the gaming audience) don't much care for your movies and the reason why your attempts at giving your male protagonists emotional depth turn into SNL skits is because you're not Netflix original series writers.

Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed your fluffy romps with comic movies in the last bunch of years. But that's all they are - fluffy romps with little to no substance. They're trite and common. I'm not saying there's no room in the diversity of entertainment for trite. But if you want to increase your sales, then instead of "pandering" to your target audiences with naked hot chicks but no role of their own except to be rescued or fucked by the male protagonists, with the token female lab scientist or the token female ass-kicker, with dark and brooding action heroes torn up over the loss of their wife or child that shows their "sensitivity", start talking to the writers over at Netflix about how to show the humanity and complexity in a character that doesn't require lots of sex, lots of rape, lots of on-screen violence, or lots of dark, scowling white male faces contemplating the loss of loved ones.

And I'm not just talking about the action series either. Netflix is totally kicking ass at entertainment in general these days. Their series' present us with diversity in emotion, in response, in reaction. They don't rely on "something Bad happened, now the protagonist will sit, staring out at the moon or off in the distance while they prepare to make themselves into a bad-ass fighting machine for vengeance". They show anger. They show pain. They show walls. They show confusion. They show shame. They show remorse. They show internalized blame. They show characters bumbling around and making mistakes. They show lack of acceptance. They show redemption. But not all in the same character. Not even all in the same gender or race or orientation of character.

Sure, there are lots of things I could criticize about any given Netflix show - no media is perfect. But, just like the Bechtel test is best used in aggregate to show trends, looking at the trends of big box office movies in the last decade and the slew of Netflix originals coming out in the last couple of years, and it stands out in sharp contrast that Netflix has a handle on how to write interesting, complex, nuanced characters and plots whereas Hollywood is still leaning on tropes that should have been retired 30 or more years ago.
joreth: (Misty in Box)
"He immediately made a real effort to put himself in the shoes of others. It's just that he had trouble first taking off his own shoes. "

This is from an article that I'll be writing about later, but this sentence, out of context, is important. This is about empathy.

One of the biggest problems I encounter in other people is empathy - they are not able to put themselves in someone else's shoes. What happens, is that they imagine *themselves* in whatever situation we're talking about and conclude that they'd do things totally different *because they're themselves*. They have different feelings, different priorities, different experiences that all add up to different conclusions.

That doesn't help to see things from another perspective. When not-poor people give me financial advice, as I was saying in a previous post on FB about it, they give me advice from their own perspective - the one that says that there is enough money hanging around to open up that savings account or to count on coming in regularly enough to pay for health insurance or to buy those $75 boots that will last longer instead of the $10 boots for right now.

"Well, if *I* were in that position, I'd do..." No. It's not if *you* were in that position, it's if *you* were *them* in that position. They can't put themselves in the shoes of others because they can't take off their own shoes first. They keep putting *themselves* in someone else's situation.

And I'm *quite* certain that I do this too. After all, we're not talking about literally taking on and off shoes here. Removing our own expectations, perceptions, experiences, memories, and personalities isn't just difficult, it's often impossible. Sometimes, the best we can do is to just recognize that someone else is different, and their experience of the world will not match our own. Sometimes, all we can do is just *believe* them when they tell us how they are experiencing something, and feel compassion for them. We need to try to take our own shoes off in order to try their shoes on, and if we can't, then we just need to look at their shoes and say "yep, those are your shoes, and I hear what you're saying about them."

And that's empathy.
joreth: (Misty in Box)
http://www.oprah.com/omagazine/Bren-Brown-Rising-Strong-Excerpt

"Storytelling helps us all impose order on chaos—including emotional chaos. When we're in pain, we create a narrative to help us make sense of it. This story doesn't have to be based on any real information. One dismissive glance from a coworker can instantly turn into I knew she didn't like me."

Some of us do this all the time, don't we? It's implicit in the Passive Communication technique that some of us are taught, some of us do naturally, and women in general are expected to use (either we are told we should communicate that way, or we are assumed to communicate that way and our statements aren't taken at face value by people who hear them and assume there's some other intent).

"They can recognize their own confabulations and challenge them. The good news is that we can rewrite these stories. We just have to be brave enough to reckon with our deepest emotions. "

It was pointed out in the commentary from the post where I got this that we have to beware of putting too much emphasis on the consequences of storytelling, without addressing why we develop storytelling in the first place because we might end up giving too much shelter to manipulative behavior. I'm a huge fan of understanding the "why" of things.

Pointing out the consequences of storytelling is important because that's often how to get someone's attention and impress upon them why they need to change a behaviour. But it's also important to understand why someone is doing it in the first place. If the storytelling is a survival technique (you have to read into someone's words in order to anticipate their own passive communication so that you can modify your behaviour before the punishment happens, for instance), then altering the storytelling won't actually solve the underlying problem and, in fact, may make things worse.

I discovered that with the whole "girls don't respond to guys' OKC emails" thing - it turns out that girls get punished for responding even with good intentions if the response is not the one the guy feels entitled to. So I push for women to respond more often, but as long as women get socially punished for it, they're not going to listen to my advice. Society has to start punishing men for being entitled before women will feel brave enough to respond, or even to make first contact.

So the storytelling thing needs to be tempered with understanding the root causes. Yes, it's absolutely important to build a society in which people are less prone to storytelling and passive communication. But, as was pointed out, that assumes a baseline of good faith and direct communication on all people doing the communicating. So we also need to be aware of that baseline, which changes the course of action for what we should do when we learn to identify that we are, in fact, storytelling in this context.

But, y'know, examine your root causes for your emotional reactions. Barring manipulation, it'll make you a better communicator, a better partner, and a better person.
joreth: (Nude Drawing)
http://m.mic.com/articles/122962/pornhub-study-reveals-women-want-hardcore-porn

"OMG, women like hardcore porn!"

Uh, yeah, no shit. This author makes the same mistake that I see all too often - they compare stats showing that women like hardcore porn to so-called "feminine porn" that's "soft focus" with slower sex scenes.

The mistake is that there is any kind of porn out there that is "for women". By that, I mean that people think there is a *type* of porn that having a vagina makes you more likely to like (conflating vagina-having with "women", of course - the rest of my rant will keep the gender binary because that's what the people I'm criticizing are doing). There isn't.

What "porn for women" tries to do (at least, those that aren't just as misogynistic as mainstream porn) is have representation of the *woman's experience* instead of catering to the "male gaze".

Here's what this means: Porn that is written and performed with the assumption that men like certain things and they want to highlight those certain things is what is called "the male gaze". Obligatory #NotAllMen here. Yes, I know not all men like those things, that's part of the problem with this shit. Moving on. They are made with the ASSUMPTION of straight male interest and the performers are performing for the pleasure of those men whom they are assuming are watching.

"Porn for women" isn't about there being two categories of sex acts for which men like one category (usually involving getting messy) and women like the other (usually involving perfect hair). Both and other genders like a variety of sex acts. This type of porn is about writing and performing stories that a woman-centric audience can *relate* to, vs. performing acts that men supposedly find attractive. There may be some overlap.

For example, I love giving blow jobs. According to the common misconception of "porn for women", none of my porn should have any blow jobs in them because only men get something out of blow jobs, so showing that act on screen is for men only. And, yeah, in mainstream porn, I hate watching blowjob scenes. Those women don't look like they're enjoying it. It doesn't look authentic. They do things that might look "attractive" to someone who has a penis and knows what a blow job feels like, but they don't do the things about blow jobs that make them so much fun for me to give. Things like, taking a flaccid penis and rolling it around in my mouth, gently squishing it between my tongue and the roof of my mouth, and gradually feeling the texture change from soft to hard.

"Porn for women" would show a blowjob like that. Porn that people who don't understand what "porn for women" is make for women (that is, when a person who doesn't understand that phrase attempts to make porn for a female audience) wouldn't show a blowjob at all, and if it did, there would be a soft focus on the camera, diffusion filters on all the lights, high key lighting, pastel colors, no actual images of oral penetration on screen, perfect hair on the girl, and the guy tenderly whispering how much he loved her. Blegh.

So, yeah, of course some women like hardcore porn and of course some women aren't interested in the fuzzy romance-novels-on-screen type porn. Women are interested in a huge range of sexual activity. What makes porn "for women" or "for men" is not the specific sex acts depicted in them, but in how those sex acts are portrayed and what assumptions that the performers and writers are making when they make their choices for portraying them. Is the sex act performed so that someone with a penis can have the view of those things it is assumed he will want to look at? Or is the sex act performed so that even someone without a penis can feel that their experiences or desires are represented on the screen?

A hardcore, explicit gangbang can be portrayed either way. And women who like gangbangs are probably going to spend plenty of time looking up videos with gangbangs in them, but they will probably *enjoy* watching the ones in the latter category more. Nowhere, on our Woman Membership Card, does it say that we can't like gangbangs or that we're betraying the sisterhood if we do. We just want to see gangbangs (those of us who like them) that take into account whatever it is we like about gangbangs, not see gangbangs that are nothing but posturing for the straight males watching. And only people who don't think of women as some Other species with a totally unique category Sex Acts We Like To Perform are going to know how to direct and write and film those gangbangs the way we like to watch them.

Or they might film it right purely by accident. Either way, of course women like hardcore porn. Why do you think fucking 50 Shades was so popular? It was crap, but it was told from the perspective of a woman experiencing "kink", rather than from the perspective of the Domly dom male.  We just need better writers.  When women's experiences and women's stories are represented, women attend those media in droves (Mad Max, anyone?).  They're even willing to spend fortunes on absolute shit examples (not Mad Max).  If we could just get some decent writing & production value, you'd see a new social wave of the Every-Woman (the female equivilent of the Every-Man) embracing hardcore and explicit sexual media like the Pope suddenly endorsed it.

joreth: (Super Tech)
"Cheikh Mohammed, do your friends give you gifts?" I started in Arabic, breaking off a piece of village bread.

"Of course, it's a friendly thing to do." He adjusted his posture on the scratchy woven carpet.

"Now if I'm coming from America to give you gifts, am I your friend?" ...

"You asked me if my friends give me gifts," he said. "Make sure that YOU are my friend. Make certain you understand me, first. Learn my strengths, my heart, my efforts. Once we are established in brotherhood, then yes, send me a present, one that won't hurt me to open."
The above conversation was an excerpt from an article I just posted about voluntourism - the pattern of relatively wealthy white Americans swooping into areas we considered "underdeveloped" and doing things that assuage our white, wealthy guilt, but that don't help those areas in the long term. But I found this conversation was a much bigger symbol.

This is the essence behind the Platinum Rule. This is the meaning behind feminism and feminist critiques of so-called "compliments". This is complaint behind racism. This is struggle behind poverty here in the US with the nation's refusal to provide healthcare and screening welfare recipients for drugs and concern trolling the grocery carts of food stamp recipients. This is what everyone who is oppressed and who speaks out against it is trying to say.

It is not a "gift" when it is not given out of understanding for the other person. It is not a "gift" when the reason for giving it is to make the giver feel good but doesn't account for the effect on the recipient. It is not a "gift" when it doesn't reflect the recipient themselves - their humanity, their feelings, their personhood.

When feminists complain about compliments or opening doors, the comments inevitably get bogged down with "but it's NICE to open doors and tell someone that she's pretty!" This is the very epitome of what's wrong and what this excerpt is trying to say. It's not about the opening of a door, it's about what the gift of opening the door says about the person opening it and the relationship to the person it is being held open for. Opening a door for someone is nice, unless it isn't. And it takes a deeper, nuanced understanding of the person, the culture, the circumstances to know if that gift of "courtesy" is one that won't hurt me to open.
"We are proud of this; we are empowered by this. Now, give a village man a handout? You've just weakened him. You've increased his dependency; diminished his sense of self-esteem. One of the most widely-accepted notions is that Westerners are the solution to African problems. This requires portraying us as helpless and endlessly recirculating images only of abandonment and violence, or innocence and primitivism." ...

[Give a woman a pedestal? You've just weakened her. You've increased her dependency; diminished her sense of self-esteem. One of the most widely accepted notions is that men are the saviours and guardians of women. This requires portraying us as helpless and endlessly recirculating images only of weakness and femininity, or innocence and infantilism.]

"You see, Heather," he set his meat down to look closely at me, "We are not weak. We are not underdeveloped. If you believe we must be helped, look more closely. We are content in our hearts, affectionate to each other, and attentive to our souls. Perhaps the greater need is for us to be helping you."
joreth: (Misty in Box)
http://tacit.livejournal.com/611774.html

Psychologists often talk about a quirk of human psychology called the fundamental attribution error. It's a bug in our firmware; we, as human beings, are prone to explaining our own actions in terms of our circumstance, but the actions of other people in terms of their character. The standard go-to example of the fundamental attribution error I use is the traffic example: "That guy just cut me off because he's a reckless, inconsiderate asshole who doesn't know how to drive. I just cut that car off because the sun was in my eyes and there was so much glare on the windshield I didn't see it."

We do this All. The. Time. We do it without being aware we're doing it. We do it countless times per day, in ways large and small.

For the last several years, since I first heard of this error, I've started catching myself when I, for instance, call people assholes on the road. I still do it, but in my head I remind myself that I'm just letting off steam and that they feel just as justified as I do when I do it to other people. I think it's helping me (and is entirely appropriate) to feel my feelings as they are and to be validated in my reaction to situations while still considering my opponents as "people". I think it's important to be able to be angry at someone for doing an assholeish thing, and even to judge people for their actions, while still keeping the situation in context that they are a complete person who believes they are the hero of their own narrative just as I do.

"I would like, therefore, to propose a radical idea:

The world is made of lots of people. Some of those people are different from you, and have different ideas about what they want, what turns them on, what is and is not acceptable for them, and what they would like to do.

Some of those ideas are alien, maybe even incomprehensible, to you.

Accept that it is true. Start from the assumption that even if something sounds weird, distasteful, or even disgusting to you, it may not be so to others--and that fact alone does not prove those other folks have something wrong with them. If someone tells you they like something, and you have no compelling evidence that they're lying, believe them--even if you don't understand why.

I've been trying forever to get people to understand this, and I started by getting myself to understand it. I know lots of people (myself included) who think they have The Answer to other people's problems. I know, for instance, people who get really upset when other people make career choices that are not choices that they would choose for themselves. These are usually people who pride themselves on their "work ethic" because they have bought into the erroneous tale that people who work hard enough will be rewarded with an increase in the quality of life based on capitalistic standards.

So anyone who is poor must not be "working hard enough". Anyone who is poor who turns down a job, or who gets sick and goes home instead of working through their illness, or basically does anything that they, themselves, think they wouldn't do in the other person's situation, those people (by this logic) deserve the poverty they get.

I know, I've had that same perspective myself for most of my life. It gets *really* tiring to keep explaining that other people are DIFFERENT PEOPLE. They have different limitations, different perspectives, different preferences, different goals, different priorities, different feelings, different abilities ... and all these differences add up to making different choices that people should not necessarily be punished for.

People who have lots of sex do not "deserve" to get STDs, or to be beaten up, or to be thought of as some kind of "lesser quality" of person. People who do not want to work 80 hours a week doing manual labor in two or three different jobs and still not get any medical benefits do not "deserve" to remain poor or thought of as "lazy".

We do not all need to have the same house, the same jobs, the same clothing, the same kind or amount of sex, or the same goals out of life. And yes, as long as we live in a scarcity-model capitalistic society, sometimes that means that some of us pay more in dollars than others for that right. But if that means that people get to live the lives that makes them happy (which, btw, ultimately *does* contribute back into society), then I'm all for that.

"Equality" does not necessarily mean or have to mean equal dollar amounts. It means equal opportunity for "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness".
joreth: (Super Tech)
http://www.myfoxphilly.com/story/29539702/star-wars-action-figure-has-parents-furious

OK, we need to talk. Parents, your fear of female skin is way out of hand. I don't think that any of the adults in this article have ever even seen the movie (except for the 1 parent who said she did).

1) The "for children age 4+" means that it's physically SAFE for children age 4 or above. It means that children under age 4 might choke to death on the parts. That label has nothing to do with the MORALITY of children based on age, it's for the safety of the product and nothing more. It's YOUR job as a parent to decide what's appropriate for your children to view and participate in.

2) When kids ask you why something happens or something exists, it's YOUR FUCKING JOB as a parent to have those answers, or to find them. That's your sole purpose in that child's life besides providing the actual physical necessities for survival. You are responsible for raising them and arming them with information about the world around them. So when a kid asks why this doll has a chain around her neck, making the doll cease to exist so that you won't get that uncomfortable question is not an appropriate response.

3) The answer to that question is actually an incredibly important teaching moment in a child's life, especially a female child. So if you haven't seen the movie, I'll give you the answer:

Princess Leia is a Senator. That's right, she's a government official and a leader of her people. All by herself. She's a leader. Later, when her entire planet is blown up, she stops hiding her involvement in an activist organization that seeks to overthrow a tyrannical government and becomes a full-time leader in that activist organization.

While performing her various leadership duties running the universe and fighting for justice, she meets a man and falls in love. But she remains independent and she keeps her job. In fact, he gives up HIS job to support hers.

Eventually, that man gets captured and she takes it upon herself to rescue him.

During her rescue attempt, she gets captured herself by the same evil mob boss that has her love interest. He attempts to demean her by stripping her of her more modest and functional attire and putting her in objectifying garments as well as chaining her to his side.

In the ultimate act of feminism and female empowerment, Leia waits for an opportunity, then with no concern for her appearance, takes the very chains of her enslavement and kills her captor. Using her own oppressor's tools of oppression against him, she wins her own freedom.

Leia's "slave outfit" and broken chain is more than just scantily-clad hot chick. It's a symbol of both her oppression and her triumph. It represents her empowerment and her independence. She reclaims what is hers - her agency and autonomy - and she uses the very objects used to steal them from her in the first place.

That slave harness and that broken chain are tangible reminders that it doesn't matter what we wear or how we are oppressed, we can overcome. We can break our chains and we can become free. Although the movement for more practical attire of our female action figures is important, in this case, the "immodest" clothing is important for the plot and shows us that revealing attire doesn't *prevent* women from still being heroes. If anything, being able to perform heroic feats in revealing or impractical attire makes the actions even more heroic (a la "Ginger Rogers can do everything Fred Astaire can do but backwards and in high heels").

Slave Leia is the ultimate symbol of feminism and female empowerment, and explaining that to your daughters is an opportunity you are wasting, for which your daughters pay the price. Of all the Disney Princesses, she is the one we should be encouraging our children to emulate. Not in spite of the slave outfit, but especially because of the slave outfit.

And let's just say you forget or disagree with all the feminism stuff symbolized by this outfit - the answer to "what am I supposed to say when my kids ask me about this chain?" is to begin a conversation about the objectification and sexualization of women in our society. Either way, this is a very important toy and you're failing as a parent if you think the answer is to prevent your child from seeing it.

This action figure should be proudly displayed on every child's shelf, along with the lessons of tyranny, slavery, freedom, autonomy, empowerment, and female strength. You should be more concerned with the symbols of violence in the toy aisle than your child possibly seeing plastic lady skin or having to learn a lesson about female subjugation and freedom.
joreth: (Misty in Box)
This whole article is amazing and a must-read, and there are so many points that could be picked out and reflected upon. But I'm picking out one particular point, and it's not even one of the main points. I'm picking it out because I have a personal association with this particular point.
"So, even though I had meant to tell him what happened between me and Peter, I didn’t. When Nathan gets upset at me, I tend to recoil. He’s intimidating, though he would never physically hurt me. ... That was another Huge Mistake.

Nathan was totally fine with Peter and I becoming partners as well, but he said that he thought it would be best if we didn’t do anything sexual yet. That created a lump in my throat and a questioning in my mind. After much stewing, the next night I told him what happened, and he Flipped the Fuck Out. He punched the wall, told me I cheated on him, and that I had totally broken his trust. " ~ Advice Asker

"You are a woman who wanted something, and you went after it in a way you thought was within the bounds of your relationship. You found out later that your partner didn’t agree. You didn’t do anything to deserve the amount of humiliation and worry and fear you are feeling right now." ~ Advice Giver
I wish I had known about this years ago.  I have ridiculously high self-esteem.  I am supremely confident in myself and my ability both to handle romantic relationships and to leave them if they go bad.  This means that I've missed people's attempts to manipulate and emotionally abuse me in the past.  I just thought they were jerks.  It took seeing someone I love dearly get emotionally manipulated, and to eventually see how my own ignorance of the situation contributed to it, before I finally started to learn anything about emotional abuse.

I know what physical abuse is, and I've always done the "the second someone raises a hand to me, I'm outta here".  And I've held to that my entire life.  What I didn't know was that doing that kind of mental calculus, "the calculus called Would He Hit Me?", is a sign of emotional abuse.  I never *felt* emotionally abused by my partners getting jealous and punching things in their rage.  I knew, without a doubt, that they'd never hit me.  But I thought their jealousy was unreasonable (not the punching the wall - that was a totally safe outlet for anger, I thought), so I'd leave them for that reason alone.

I once had a partner.  Like the questioner above, who wrote into Captain Awkward with her story, I had a partner with a mismatch in poly relationship expectations.  Unlike that questioner, it wasn't because I told him my boundaries but he refused to tell me his, so I would bump into them on accident.  No, we talked about it.  And we still didn't see eye to eye.  But because we talked about it, I *thought* that we understood each other and it was only until I smacked head-first into his massive armored tank of insecurity and abuse that I learned otherwise.

I found myself in an incredibly unstable situation.  I was experiencing loss left and right.  The situation that led to the discovering-my-boyfriend-was-an-abusive-monster thing was only the beginning of my series of losses, and the whole series combined threw me into a deep depression that I hadn't experienced since I had been bullied as a kid.  I not only thought about suicide, but I started planning it.  This was the time that I needed my partner the most to be supportive and compassionate.  But this was the time that frightened him the most, so he lashed out.

I went after something that, at the time, I felt I needed to help cope with all my chaos and loss and pain.  And it did help.  It was honestly the right thing for me at the time and I don't regret it at all.  It directly led to another series of events that eventually contributed to my healing, and to pulling myself out of the bleakness that was consuming me.  It turned out to be absolutely necessary for me, although I couldn't have known that at the time - I thought it was something I should do, but I didn't realize how it would start a snowball effect that would ultimately lead to saving my life.  The details are not mine alone to share, even anonymously, but I will also say that the thing I "went after" is not actually the thing that I was accused of doing that lead to my partner "Flipp[ing] the Fuck Out".  But I did pursue another relationship, and its progress frightened my abusive ex.

Something that Captain Awkward doesn't mention in their response is a lesser known truism - if you make it unsafe for your partner to tell you the truth, they are likely to start hiding things from you.  My ex made it very unsafe for people to share difficult things with him.  Some things were difficult because they triggered his insecurity.  Some things were difficult because he felt strongly about them and argued tenaciously (a trait I share with him) so that his loved ones stopped giving their contrary opinions on those subjects because it simply wasn't worth the argument.  He made sharing difficult subjects with him a very scary thing.

In addition to that, he was largely unavailable at this time, both temporally and emotionally.  This was part of the chaos that had entered my life - a small part, but a contributing part.  He had begun working longer hours, long enough that he essentially was at work for all but one or two waking hours a day.  This pissed off his live-in partner, because she never got to see him anymore, and their tradition was for her to wait for him to come home so they could eat dinner together and this meant that she was now waiting until 9 or 10 at night before she could eat.  He was trying to manage a total of 4 romantic partners and two of them were emotionally turbulent, to give the understatement of the year.  We used to chat online throughout the day, but his work situation had recently put an end to that.  So I was allocated the 10-minute drive from his office to his house to talk to him on the phone in the evenings.  Except on those nights where one of his other partners was in the car with him because there was also car trouble in the group and some car sharing had become necessary.

So, here I was, in a relationship with someone who was giving me about 30 minutes of his time per week, knowing that I would only have his attention for 10 minutes at a stretch, which would have a pretty hard cut-off time otherwise his live-in partner would get pissed (and I'd have to deal with the knowledge (that he insinuated to me) that it was all my fault she was pissed because he was giving me more attention than her, whether that was true or not), most of that time would be taken up with his anguish over the troubles his other relationships were giving him, AND that, because of how he reacted to difficult news, telling him about my own emotional tailspin and the subsequent Incident would be a very Unsafe Conversation and definitely take more than 10 minutes, further ruining the night for his live-in partner who was waiting for him so she could finally eat her one big meal of the day.

All of this added up to the fact that he was unreachable to talk to immediately after the Incident (again, too busy at work, putting out relationship fires at home, just not available), and he was very "intimidating" to talk to when I did finally have his attention.  So I know that I handled my end of the conversation poorly several days after the fact when I could finally have that conversation with him.  I was accused of "cheating" on him when I A) didn't do what he said I had done and B) acted completely within my own ethical framework that I thought I had conveyed to him but I found out because of this that we had different relationship frameworks.  He immediately tried to impose restrictions on me.  He was very slick about it, though.  Unlike the abuser in this advice letter, he didn't do it punitively, exactly.  He tried to *retroactively* impose restrictions on me.  He wanted me to obey some restrictions that he claimed had *always been there* that I had now broken.  Those restrictions violated the agency of my other partner because they imposed limitations on his own behaviour and he was not present to negotiate for them, nor would he have accepted them had he been present. I felt (and still do) that I would never have agreed to such restrictions had I understood that's what *he* thought our relationship was operating under.  As they were not restrictions that *I* wanted either even self-imposed, that should have settled the matter.

But, instead, my ex told me that I could not just arbitrarily "change" the nature of our relationship without his permission.  Since the so-called "change" he was speaking of was regarding my own behaviour, yes, actually, I can.  He can choose to remain or not, but I am the sole arbitrator of my own behaviour and, as such, am the *only* one who has the ability to "change" it or not.

I do not believe he had ever encountered any romantic partner who faced that kind of challenge from him head on with "yes, I can make, re-make, and re-arrange the boundaries around my own behaviour without input from you" before.  Whenever I had seen him challenge one of his other partners in such a manner, without fail, they backtracked and apologized and, in many cases, grovelled for his forgiveness, and accepted all kinds of restrictions and limitations in order to "prove" their worthiness of remaining in a relationship with him.  He called it "accepting responsibility for fucking up".  I call it "falling victim to gaslighting", at least in these cases where I witnessed it and where I have details of the situations that I'm not sharing here.  I believe my refusal to bend on the issue of who can command my behaviour is what ultimately saved me.  As a blogger once said, "'I was victimized by acts of control' is not the same as 'I was victimized by the other person’s resistance to my control,'" and "These are my choices. You are not entitled to control over them, you are not victimized by them."

He felt "victimized" by my resistance to his attempt to control my behaviour.  He felt "betrayed" because I behaved in a manner that didn't affect him directly at all, was something that I needed to do for myself in a time of need, but was something that he found frightening because it was not under his control.  When I gave no quarter, the relationship ended swiftly, without build-up or warning.  Everyone was surprised by how quickly things escalated to a breakup.  And I can't be more thankful for that, because I saw what happens to his partners when the breakups are slow in coming, and when they try to negotiate and seek compromise in good faith with him.

There is no "in good faith" with an abuser.  I did not recognize him at the time as an abuser.  I do not feel abused by him because his attempts to control me were met by my stubborn refusal to give up my autonomy.  I am quite unyielding about that.  And when people feel "victimized by the other person's resistence to my control", that unyielding feels cold, hard, calculated, uncompassionate, uncaring, and other words that are supposed to be bad adjectives for a romantic partner.  But those are the adjectives that have rescued me from several abusive relationships.

And, strangely, those partners of mine who have not attempted to abuse me or who do not have abusive tendencies don't feel that those adjectives describe me in the slightest.  Funny, that.
joreth: (Misty in Box)
https://medium.com/@sheaemmafett/10-things-i-wish-i-d-known-about-gaslighting-22234cb5e407



"Gaslighting doesn’t have to be deliberate ... 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."


"I believe that gaslighting is happening culturally and interpersonally on an unprecedented scale, and that this is the result of a societal framework where we pretend everyone is equal while trying simultaneously to preserve inequality."


"The book The Gaslight Effect refers to a type of gaslighting called glamour gaslighting. This is where the gaslighter showers you with special attention, but never actually gives you what you need. They put you on a pedestal, but then they are not there, in fact they may get angry at you, when you need a shoulder to cry on."

This is one of the many reasons why I have a problem with so-called "goddess worship" or the belief that women should be worshiped as "queens" or that they are "better" than men. Women are put on pedestals, but only until they do something that shows how human they are, and then the anger comes out - "slut", "whore", "bitch", "crazy". You're only a "queen" until you step out of line, and then you're lower than dirt.

"In another type of gaslighting, the gaslighter is always transformed into the victim. Whenever you bring up a problem, you find yourself apologizing by the end of the conversation."


"Losing spots in your memory makes it very plausible when someone tells you that they cannot trust your memory. It makes it very plausible when they tell you that you are abusive. But, it is normal to lose your memory when you are being gaslighted. In fact, it is one of the signs that you should look for."

This is one of the biggest problems with abuse in skeptical people or skeptical communities. Because we know that memories are fallible and malleable, an abuser can use that information to justify his gaslighting by pointing out that his victim's memory can't be trusted. But, somehow his memory can be? Sure, having holes in one's memory is normal, but when someone uses that fact to dismiss what you're saying about how you *feel*, which is an internal, subjective process that they have no control over and no direct observation of, you should be wary.

It's particularly subtle and effective when something bothers you, but you don't talk about it right away, or if the thing that bothers you is a *pattern* that has developed over time. That makes it so much more plausible and easy for the abuser to quiz and harangue you about the details of *factual events* about which you might be fuzzy after some time has passed.  This way, they can focus the argument on the details of your memory instead of the bigger issue, which is that you feel hurt or angry or whatever emotion you're feeling that needs to be addressed.  Why bother addressing your pain if we can establish that whatever caused you pain didn't really happen the way you remember in the first place?

This is particularly effective because our emotions are *not* always "valid", in the sense that they are not always a reflection of reality.  They're always "valid" in the sense that you really do feel them.  But we can, and do, feel hurt, for instance, when no one actually hurt us.  This particular tactic is also useful for an abuser, and is quite a common justification for a lot of abusive and toxic relationship rules in poly relationships.  They justify punitive behaviour.  So it's very important that we learn to use our feelings as signposts that something is wrong, and then address what's wrong.  That way, we can't get sidetracked by an abuser attempting to gaslight us by interrogation and the discovery of totally natural holes in memory, and we also won't use our emotions as blunt objects with which to beat our partners over the head when we are feeling insecure to make them change behaviour that isn't really harming us but which may be harmful to *them* if we make them stop (i.e. impositions on autonomy issues).

"The problem was that I did not realize that sometimes empathy is not the right approach. Sometimes the right approach is to not engage and instead to make space. Make space for yourself and your gaslighter by setting boundaries. Make so much space for your abuser that they can no longer effect you."

This is exactly what I do when I block someone on social media, although I wouldn't call every altercation "abuse".  Sometimes empathy is not the right approach.  Usually, the reason why I've gotten into the argument in the first place is because I'm empathizing *with someone else* which makes my opponent out to be (or feel like) a "bad guy".  Although I *do* empathize with my opponent, my empathy for the other side is both stronger and more important because they are the ones getting hurt more.  When I block someone, empathizing with that person is no longer the right approach to take, and making so much space for them that they can no longer affect me is the necessary tool.

"It is ridiculous when someone tries to tell you who you are, what you feel, what you think, what you intended, or what you experienced. When it happens, you should be angry, puzzled, or maybe even concerned for them. You might stop, stunned, and ask “what would make you think that you could know what’s inside of me? Are you OK?"

I actually had a whole other post on this topic that I couldn't make because FB disabled my account, so I'll address it here instead.  I've been pondering over my most recent blocking of a friend who insisted on telling me what Im thinking.  Normally I just rage about it for a while and move on.  But today, my brain drew a connection, so I'm considering the validity of that connection and I don't have it all worked out yet, hence the dwelling.

I've been talking about abuse a lot lately, and I recently got into a discussion about how pretty much everyone exhibits some behaviours that could be described as abusive, simply because our culture accepts those behaviours as normal.  I've also been hinting at a series of blog posts I have in the making, explaining my own experience with abusive men and how the particular combination of traits that add up to my self-esteem seemed to have saved me from being abused by these abusive men.

And it occurred to me that there is a connection to these three things - blocking a friend, abusive behaviour being cultural, and being less susceptible to abuse than other people.  Gaslighting is where someone breaks down another person's sense of reality by insisting that the things that a victim knows are true really aren't true.  With factual claims, that's really hard to do, but with *perceptions*, it's surprisingly easy.  Very generally speaking, it's the dismissal of someone's experience until they no longer believe their own experience and instead look to the abuser to provide the framework for their reality.

So, for example, when a kid hurts themselves, telling them that they don't feel hurt or that "it isn't that bad" is a form of gaslighting.  If successful, eventually the kid learns to dismiss their own experience of pain and could lead to not treating something serious because they don't identify pain anymore.

Telling me what I think or feel in contradiction to what I've said I think or feel is a form of gaslighting.  Online, it most often takes the form of seeing someone's behaviour, and then projecting motivations onto that person to explain their behaviour.  People who tak welfare assistance are lazy.  People who are late think their time is more valuable than others.  Women are just crazy.

So, back to the part where I believe that I have a particular combination of traits that interferes with people's ability to emotionally abuse me, I think that part of the reason why I flip my lid and get so pissed off at people online is because I intuitively recognize this behaviour as abusive without having the cognitive, conscious understanding or language for this behaviour.  When I feel cornered, I lash out.  Telling me what I think or feel causes me to lash out as if I were being cornered.  This reaction seems to many to be a complete overreaction to what appears to be a simple exchange from a nobody on the internet.  But, to me, I react as though I've just seen someone deliberately push a baby into traffic.  So that's the connection my brain made - I think that people are participating in gaslighting all the fucking time and it's socially acceptable to do so.  Which means that it's really difficult to identify gaslighting when it's being done to you "for real", i.e. in some kind of intimate relationship like a partner or family member, because, to most people, that's just how discussions and arguments go.  We've probably even said those things ourselves.  When it happens to me, I get angry.  Maybe if we all got a little more "unreasonably angry" when this happened, our culture wouldn't treat it as "normal".

Adulting

Jul. 3rd, 2015 03:01 pm
joreth: (Super Tech)

http://www.autostraddle.com/you-need-help-starting-over-at-thirtysomething-295465/

"Also, remember that adulthood isn’t about having a relationship and a mortgage. It can mean lots of different things to different people but I think it’s mostly about taking control and responsibility for your life — no matter what that life looks like."

This is a very important message. I see a lot of jokes about "adulting" that have to do with being responsible about things our parents were, like eating sensible dinners and doing the laundry. I'm not complaining about those jokes - I like them and I like making them. But something that I've found can be harmful is in *believing* those jokes. My parents believe that adulthood looks a particular way. Their entire generation does (generally speaking). We were sold a bill of Adulthood sometime in the '50s and everyone's disappointment in the "next generation" is that they're not living up to that bill.

Being an "adult" doesn't mean you have to have a mortgage or spend 35 years working at the same office for the healthcare benefits. I am not a failure for deliberately choosing to continue to rent, nor am I a perpetual adolescent for doing so. I have my reasons for preferring to rent instead of buy, and I have chosen a life for which renting is the more sensible option. *Sensible*, reasonable, rational - I've made choices that have led to a life that doesn't look like a grownup's life. What makes it a grownup's life is that I made those choices.

My choices come with consequences, but my parents' choices had consequences too. My parents bought a house and held down responsible jobs, but they had shitty bosses by whom they spent their entire lives being emotionally torn down. My dad started his own business, because it's the American Dream to be a small business owner, but that didn't succeed and they ended up in financial difficulty. When the economy boomed during the dot com bubble, the value of their home and property skyrocketed. Some people think that's a good thing, but those people don't realize that the taxes also skyrocketed while their income didn't. Was it really a responsible decision to own property that they couldn't afford? I'm not saying that it wasn't, I'm saying that even responsible decisions come with consequences, so these other options that have different consequences are not necessarily irresponsible just because of those consequences. There are other variables that make something responsible or not.

What makes it a grownup's life is that I made those choices. What makes a life that looks exactly the same but is not a grownup's life is that people just out of their teen years aren't generally making these choices - they're thrust upon them. If they're in school and dependent upon their parents for money, their living situation is structured by their parents. I don't know of any parents who would have bought their 18-year old college student a home to live in while they attended school, but they're totally fine with paying the equivalent of a mortgage payment in dorm fees. Someone who is not "adulting" is just going along with what they know or with what comes their way.

Someone who is adulting has looked at the options and decided that they understand the consequences and this is the life they want. That can happen at any age.

joreth: (Purple Mobius)
http://freethoughtblogs.com/heinous/2015/04/23/baiting-poly-smugness/

Here's the thing.  When lots of monogamous people think they hear "arrogance", what they're actually hearing is a confidence and appreciation for a relationship style that is working which triggers their own personal insecurity about participating in a broken system, so they project "arrogance" onto the speaker.  Or they may, instead, be hearing a poly acceptance awareness effort, which is where someone deliberately speaks of their relationships in a confident manner to dispel common myths about coercion and inherent failure in the system, and where they mention polyamory within the context of combating monogamy-as-default, non-monogamy-erasure.  But, either way, it's confidence that they're hearing.

What I mean is not to suggest that *polyamory* is inherently better or more enlightened, but that some poly people really *do* get the art of relationships more or less "figured out", at least for themselves.  Polyamory offers more opportunity (not the only opportunity of course, but more chances than in some other relationship styles) to develop advanced relationship skills that some polys manage to take advantage of (and others continue to fail at miserably).  These skills allow the poly person to enjoy safe, successful, multi-person romantic relationships.

Then there are *some* monogamists who really haven't got the whole relationship thing figured out yet.  They're participating in a version of the system that is fundamentally broken.  They're engaging in sexism or wallowing in self-loathing or perpetuating destructive cycles or one of a number of different things that our society condones as acceptable romantic relating, so not only are they "doing it wrong", but they have the weight of cultural acceptance behind them, pressuring them to continue making those same mistakes.  As a poly person without a cultural script, I *have* to figure out some of these skills because I don't have any handy, ready-made script telling me how to compensate for being without them.

So when one of these monos meets one of the above polys, there is *no way* to respond to their revelation that they lack relationship skills that can't be perceived as "arrogant" if the mono wants to deflect the cognitive dissonance they're feeling at being forced to confront their bad habits or choices.  It's much the same way that someone who lacks, say, professional business or technical skills might blame all his problems on how his boss hates him or is brown-nosing or something every time things work out for the boss who has the professional game "figured out" but the employee doesn't quite have the knack yet and it's easier to think poorly of the boss than to reflect and adjust his own attitude.  This doesn't mean that all employees lack professional skills, nor that all bosses have them.  But *some* of those employees learn to build those skills while some complain about those who do.

When people say things to me like "I couldn't do that!", it says much more about the speaker than it does about me.  When they say things like "it's so much work just with one partner, I don't know how you deal with two!", that reveals a lot about the speaker's choices and relationship skills. I'm not going to apologize for those times when I make my relationships work well.  I've made plenty of mistakes and I've had plenty of relationships blow up in my face, just like anyone else.  But, over time, I've gotten better at relating (as is likely to happen with anything you get to practice often).  I've gotten better at communication and identifying red flags and at partner selection and at introspection.  And I had a head start at those things too, with my early experiences with similarly introspective and compassionate partners.  That's not arrogance, that's acceptance and confidence.  I'm aware of my flaws and areas where I need improvement, but I'm also aware of when I do something well.

If someone thinks that my multiple relationships are "so much work", that tells me that their own experiences of relationships include a lot of work.  I've found that if I make good partner selection and if I do some of the ground work like learning how to communicate and how to listen and how to empathize, then multiple partners are actually *less* work than a dyadic relationship between people who can't do that.  Personally, I've found that monogamy takes much more work for me than polyamory does, when I make good partner choices in polyamory.  But in monogamy, there is so much more that I have to maintain, ironically.  Polyamory between "grownups", for me, doesn't really require a whole lot of work, but learning the basic relationship skills like communication, honesty & transparency, knowing myself, advocating for my needs, building and maintaining healthy boundaries, etc., did take some work.  Which I've done (and continue to work on).

If someone thinks that they wouldn't want to put up with the shit they already put up with times two (by adding another partner), that tells me that they don't think highly of their partner.  I've had a high turnover rate of partners in my past mainly because I *don't* put up with a lot of shit in my relationships.  I only stay with people who don't disgust me, who don't piss me off more than they make me happy, who don't make my life difficult.  Sure, I've dated people who *do* do that stuff, and we broke up.  I don't want to put up with the shit that these complainers already put up with either.  The difference is that ... I don't and they do.  That's not arrogance.  That's knowing my own self-worth and having enough compassion for both me and my partners to let go of a relationship that is bad for the participants involved.  One could argue that *not* doing so is often a sign of low self-worth, rather than doing so being a sign of too much self-worth.

[livejournal.com profile] tacit has written excellent posts* on Dating Black Belts and other important relationship skills.  These have nothing to do with polyamory, in the sense that they are inherent to poly and not applicable to other relationship styles.  But they are connected to polyamory in the sense that one will find it incredibly difficult to manage multiple romantic relationships with grace and dignity and compassion for the other participants if one does not learn these skills, whereas other styles of relationships have more tools for compensation, including social safety nets that encourage the avoidance of these skills:
Benchmarks For Good Relationships: http://tacit.livejournal.com/388034.html
Principles For Good Relationships: http://tacit.livejournal.com/389373.html
Some Thoughts On Dating Black Belts: http://tacit.livejournal.com/372716.html
Some Thoughts On Assumptions In Relationships: http://tacit.livejournal.com/331121.html
Some Thoughts On Choosing Relationships: http://tacit.livejournal.com/325057.html
How To Have A Happy Relationship: http://tacit.livejournal.com/280915.html



* There is a post out there somewhere about how someone once said that poly and / or relationships are a lot of work, and [livejournal.com profile] tacit responded that *relationships* aren't a lot of work, the underlying skills on being a decent person are a lot of work, but once you have those skills worked out, the relationships sort of take care of themselves.  I can't find that post, but the memory of it is what sparked that final paragraph, and the search for that post led to the list of links above.  If I find that post, I'll add it to the list.
joreth: (Purple Mobius)

http://t.co/aEkAR5xrO6

To make an open marriage work, Franklin and Celeste knew they needed to make sure no one else ever came between them. That meant there had to be rules. No overnights, no falling in love, and either one of them could ask the other to end an outside relationship if it became too much to deal with. It worked for nearly two decades and their relentless focus on their own relationship let them turn a blind eye to the emotional wreckage they were leaving behind them.

The rules did not prepare them for Amber.
OTG OTG OTG OTG I can't fucking WAIT! I may possibly be even more excited about this one than about More Than Two​ (it's a close call, hard to tell).

This is the story of my partner in the years before I met him, and how he became the man that I met and fell in love with. I'm especially excited for this book because this is a rare opportunity for me to glimpse into who he was as a person before I knew him.

That's actually one of the things that "secondaries" and new partners have such anxiety over. When a new partner begins dating someone who has pre-existing relationships, one of the things that may trigger some anxiety or insecurity is all that history between the partner and their existing partners. That's something that the new partner will never be able to access, share, or compete with. That's a part of their relationship that is forever out of the new partner's grasp. That's incredibly intimidating.

This is true for everyone - all the history and time that makes up who your partner is before you met them is only available to you through conversations, reminiscing, maybe some pictures. So anyone who has access to those memories and those experiences can be the object of envy, intimidation, threat, or jealousy. This is why you see so many monogamous people acting weird about their partner's high school buddies or their mothers or whomever. They have access to a part of who the partner is that the new partner will never get to participate in.

Unfortunately, in poly relationships (and some monogamous ones, but it's particularly insidious in poly relationships because it's culturally enshrined), many pre-existing partners don't recognize the incredible wealth they have that the new partner doesn't. They don't realize just how much of an advantage they have over the new partner, and they can use their position of privilege and power in harmful ways as they try to protect that very thing that no new person can ever take away - the history and connection that has already been established.

By the time I met [livejournal.com profile] tacit​, this story was coming to a close. He's not a "finished project", of course, but all the work that needed to be done to create a man who wouldn't treat me like the above had been started. So I have never felt that kind of fear regarding the Amber of the book, and Celeste was no longer in the picture. But Game Changers like Amber are so disruptive, so volcanic, that I can't even imagine [livejournal.com profile] tacit as the character portrayed in this book. Of course, his outlook and his perspective has evolved even over the decade I've been with him, and he's gotten more nuanced and more sensitive and more granular about those very traits, about which Amber started the cascade. But the groundwork had been laid by the time I met him. I would never have dated the Franklin in this book. So I owe Amber a huge debt of gratitude for her experiences and her presence.

What all this means is that I do not know the Franklin in this book. I have some inkling of what this character is like because I've heard a handful of memories, as shared by [livejournal.com profile] tacit and Amber over the years, but I really have very little clue about just who this Franklin character is or what he will do in the book. However, this Franklin is ultimately responsible for creating the [livejournal.com profile] tacit that I know and love today. So I'm particularly excited to meet past-Franklin through this book. I believe that I will be surprised, upset, perhaps even a little mortified as I read it. But I also believe that this peek into a partner that most of us never have the opportunity to experience in such depth, will ultimately make me feel grateful for the experience.

More Than Two was greatly anticipated by me because I desperately feel the need for a instruction manual for polyamory. I feel a huge, crushing need for a resource to both explain what it is that I do and explain to others how to do it. More Than Two beautifully fulfilled that expectation.

But I anticipate Game Changer for much more personal reasons. For me, this isn't just a valuable resource for the poly community, exploring the history of the modern poly movement and a basic look at What Not To Do and how one person finally overcame What Not To Do. For me, this is also a relationship-builder. This is something that will bridge a connection between me and my partner. In this hugely public setting, this book is a deeply intimate experience for me. And I can't wait for it!

joreth: (Bad Computer!)
I think I might be zeroing in on why it pisses me off so much that people are defending 50 Shades.  This is still rough, but I think I'm getting closer to what's wrong with these defenses.  I've been spending a lot of time learning how to support abuse victims over the last couple of years.  Over and over, the message to victim supporters is "just listen, and accept".  Believe victims, listen to them, accept their story.  You don't have to "take sides" by accusing the abuser or doing anything active against the abuser.  You can even reserve some empathy and support for the alleged abuser.  The important part is that you make a safe space for the victim to heal and to feel.

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

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

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

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

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



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


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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"This was domestic abuse marketed as Valentine’s Day fun."
joreth: (Purple Mobius)

https://www.morethantwo.com/gamechanger.html

"The game changer is the relationship that comes along and turns everything upside down. It’s the relationship that changes the familiar landscape of life, rearranging the furniture in new and unexpected ways."

"“Yes, you will always be #1″ is true until it isn’t, and there is no rule that can change that. If someone comes along who your partner genuinely does love more than he loves you, whatever that means…well, his priorities are unlikely to remain with abiding by the agreements he’s made with you. Game-changing relationships change things; that’s what they do. They change priorities, and that means they change rules. Expecting an agreement to protect you from a game changer is about like expecting a river to obey a law against flooding."

One of the drawbacks to choosing a life off the relationship escalator - of deliberately choosing to be poly, to be "single", to be a "bachelor" (none of which are interchangeable terms) - is that having more partners than most means that I probably have had more breakups than most too.

But that's also one of the benefits. Not really a set of benefits that I'd like to have, mind you, but I did benefit greatly from going through as many breakups as I have. I've learned, the hard way, about the Game Changer. I've seen from both perspectives how Game Changers change the game. I've seen people who had every intention of following through with their rules and agreements encounter a Game Changer of some sort and the rules turned out to have no power at all in the face of it. I've seen what happens when you let go of the control and just let it go where it wants to go - I've seen relationships thrive with that kind of freedom and I've seen relationships die, either due to lack of nourishment from "letting it go" or due to the relationship "going" in places that couldn't sustain it.

I've experienced just about every kind of breakup imaginable, from the fade-away to the better-as-friends to the all-out-war to the cut-them-off-and-never-speak-to-them-again to even the death of a former partner. And what all this experience has taught me is that the future is uncertain, the best laid schemes of mice and men often go awry, rules only work until they don't, and no matter how bad it gets - if it doesn't kill me, I will survive it.*

I fear loss and change just like most people do. But I've learned that fearing loss and change doesn't matter to loss and change. Loss and change happen whether you deal with them or not. The best way to handle them is to accept that it'll happen, take a deep breath, and jump off that ledge anyway. With each successive breakup, I have learned a little more about how to handle Game Changers and my own fears of loss and change, and with each breakup I have gotten better at constructing my relationships to be flexible and accommodating of Game Changers. This, ultimately, actually builds relationships that are better able to withstand those Game Changers than any other method that attempts to prevent Game Changers from happening.



*That bullshit about whatever doesn't kill you makes you stronger is crap - sometimes if it doesn't kill you, it still maims you pretty damn good, leaving you worse off than you were before. But if I'm not dead, I'm still alive, and that's not nothin'.
joreth: (BDSM)
I've said this before and I'll continue saying it until this fucking book fades into obscurity:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And so is 50 Shades, but it's not being read that way. It's being billed as "erotica" and it's being defended as an open door for mainstreamers to learn about BDSM. I believe this is wrong, harmful, damaging, and frightening. I'm supporting the boycott solely because I do not wish to reward society for romanticizing abuse, not because I think this story should not exist. I've read the entire Flowers series more than once. If the author was making a fortune because society was holding up that series as the new How To Guide for family values, I'd boycott that series too.
joreth: (Super Tech)
I haven't done one of these Media Reflections in a while.  That's where I take some form of popular media like a TV show or song and use it as a springboard for some kind of commentary, usually social commentary.  I'm not necessarily talking about the medium itself, it's not like a review or a critique, but it's more of an illustration for some larger point.






I saw this video on Facebook.  A photographer used a high speed camera to take really, ultra slow-motion video and still photography of people's faces as they got stunned by a stun gun.  It's an entertaining video for a lot of reasons, but there was a comment that the photgrapher made in the behind-the-scenes video that I really wanted to comment on.

"what we found was the reactions from these people were completely different. Some of the guys looked like they were in pain, a lot of the girls looked like they were having a pleasurable experience..."

There's this thing that happens.  Guy hits on girl and makes her uncomfortable.  Girl tries to find polite way out of the situation.  Guy complains about mixed messages, then tries harder.  Girl rants on Facebook about douchebag guys at bars.  Guy accuses her of friendzoning him, playing games, threatens her with unhappy future dating Neanderthal while passing up on Nice Guys, and whines about how bitches only like jerks.

So something that I used to do (and it's still a position that I hold, I just have more to it now) is urge women to be more active communicators and to be clearer about rejection.  I always felt compassion for guys who were forced to navigate this maze of ambiguous signals.  I need clear signals myself.  I always say that we can't expect anyone to read our minds, and, to paraphse [livejournal.com profile] tacit  "you can't reasonably expect to get what you want if you don't ask for it."  I want to break down this passive communication thing that our culture seems to encourage, and I want women to embrace their sexuality and their power and be assertive about what they want and don't want.

But, here's the thing:  currently, when women *are* assertive about what they want and don't want, they are punished for it.  So, yeah, it really sucks to be given all these coded messages that you have to decipher, and yeah, it really sucks to find out that someone who seemed to be enjoying your company actually thinks you're a wanker and wishes the ground would just swallow her up so that she doesn't have to listen to you anymore.  But you know what sucks more?  Telling someone to leave you alone, even nicely, only to have him physically threaten you for not enjoying his company.

I come across as this badass bitch online because I can hold my own in an argument.  But the truth of the matter is that I'm actually pretty severely conflict averse.  I really hate conflict and I try to avoid it.  The thing is that I dislike wrong more than I dislike conflict, so if I see a wrong, the pull to correct it might be stronger than the pull to avoid the inevitable conflict.  But what people don't see from their screens is all the time and effort I spend not correcting wrongs on the internet.  That's much more obvious in person, such as at some convention or another when my friend Heidi and I were both in a group discussion about something that I can't even remember, and some idiot started spouting off "women are just thus and such, blah blah, evo-psych, biologically determined, natter natter, bullshit".  I sat quietly in my chair with my hand curled in a fist at my mouth, rolling my eyes and evaluating how much he had to spew before I was willing to interject.  She even took a picture of me because she was so amused to see me going ballistic in my own head but not speaking out.

How this is relevant is that I have found myself in several occasions recently to need to be "rescued".  At a nightclub just in one night, my male friends had to physically drag me away from guys twice who had penned me into a corner and were getting too aggressive with me.  I tried to find polite and non-confrontational ways out of the situation before I resorted to outright conflict, but my male friends jumped in before I had to resort to that.  And I really appreciated the rescue at the same time that I bitterly resented the social convention that allowed me to escape from a situation with a man that I didn't want to be in only by being claimed by another man because my own wishes to escape were not important enough to heed.  This was not the only incident in recent weeks.

Now, for the tie-in.  Women are socially punished for things like rejecting people, for being aggressive, for being too expressive (particularly if they are expressing negative emotions like pain or sadness), for not being expressive enough (especially if they are not expressing positive emotions like joy, and they are expected to do so at all times), or for being unpleasant in any way.  I don't really want to get into a debate about nature vs. nurture so I'm not speculating on the cause, but I think this video actually showed the effects of the consequences for this sort of thing.

"The guys looked like they were in pain, and a lot of the girls looked like they were having a pleasurable experience."

Everyone was feeling the exact same sensation, but, generally speaking, the men expressed discomfort while the women did not even though the sensation was decidedly uncomfortable.  Now, this isn't a perfect analogy.  The photographer also said:

"When you got hit with this taser, it was enough to make you scream, jump up out of your chair, give some great expression and emotion, but it wasn't painful enough to 1) give you any kind of permanent damage or scar, and 2) it wasn't painful enough that you didn't want to do it again. I was shocked by how many people wanted to get back in the chair and get tased a second or third time just cuz it was so fun and entertaining."

I'm quite familiar with BDSM, and, in fact, I'm specifically familiar with electrical play.  So I do understand how something can be both painful and pleasurable, or uncomfortable and still fun.  Plus, this was at a bar and the participants volunteered to get tased, so they knew it was coming.  There's a certain amount of self-selecting at play here, although the photographer did say that about 99% of people who came through the door signed the waver and got tased.  But even accounting for the fact that this wasn't a terribly strong shock and there was some social expectation of this being a fun party-sort of experience, both the men and the women still felt the same thing, and yet most of the men expressed the pain while the women mostly showed expressions of not-pain (surprise, enjoyment, etc.).  A lot of people did get back in the chair, but the photographer also says elsewhere in the video that a lot of people didn't.  The subjects moved so fast that he didn't always get the shot and he had to ask people if they would be willing to do it again, and he says that a lot of people flat-out refused to get shocked a second time.  So, it might not be bad, like on a scale of 1-10 where 10 is the worst pain you can imagine (terrible scale, by the way), but it's not exactly a feather-tickle either.

I suspect that the observation that the photographer made had something to do with the way that women are discouraged from being unpleasant and men aren't.  And, whether that's a real connection or not, I want to use this observation as an analogy to help reinforce a lesson that I've been trying to drive home lately:  Just because a woman isn't expressing her displeasure, it doesn't mean that she's not displeased.  We cannot rely on "no means no" alone.  We cannot expect that everything is a "yes" until you hear that "no".  You have to assume that everything is a "no" until you hear that yes.

Yes, it does mean that we're fighting another sort of social inertia - getting women to be more assertive and to be active communicators.  But I believe that the consequences for getting it wrong in this direction are far less dire than getting it wrong in the other direction.  It might mean that someone isn't getting laid because they were too cautions with their signals or reading signals.  I'm sorry, that sucks.  But that's far more livable than the alternative, which is someone getting pressured, coerced, or forced because she's too afraid to assert herself for whatever reason she may have for being afraid.  Perhaps if the men (assuming a hetero audience, since that's where this whole dynamic is most relevant) were willing to band together and refuse sex to women who won't own up to wanting it, the women will learn to be more assertive.

Of course, it might help the women learn to be more assertive if they weren't also punished for admitting they want it, but that's a whole other rant.  The bottom line here is that you can't always trust from a woman's social behaviour (and sometimes even private behaviour) that she is not bothered or upset about something.  I know lots of guys who have gotten "handsy" with me when I didn't want them to, and for a variety of reasons, I didn't have them arrested for assault.  Some of them have commented on the fact that I seem to be smiling and even laughing a bit while I'm physically slapping their hands away or evading them.  I have said, flat-out, that I'm uncomfortable and nervous and this is my reaction to feeling uncomfortable.  It's not like I was being threatened with harm, not like someone was trying to punch me.  It's an in-between state where I'm uncomfortable, not in imminent danger.  I have no good reaction for that situation, but the one that has developed is an awkward smile, lack of eye contact, and an edging away.  This is fairly common among women in my culture.  And even after explaining, explicitly, that I'm uncomfortable and the smile or laughter is a sign that I'm uncomfortable, usually these men kept doing what they were doing because the smile was, apparently, encouraging.

So, if you don't have some kind of pre-existing relationship with someone where you can feel confident in their non-verbal communication, you really can't rely on a woman's behaviour to indicate her level of discomfort with the situation.  You have to get confirmation and you have to keep checking in for clear consent.  I know, it's scary to think of all the women who seemed to enjoy your presence and wonder how many of them were actually uncomfortable.  It's daunting and intimidating and if you think of it too hard, it might even be enough to make one throw up his hands and give up on dating entirely.  But, really, the solution to this problem is 2-fold:  1) keep checking in and excuse yourself a bit early (take the old advice to "always leave them wanting more"); and 2) change the culture by publicly supporting and encouraging women to be more assertive while publicly discouraging things that punish them for exactly that, including talking to other men about how it's shooting themselves in the foot every time they gossip about who's being slutty or talk about their girlfriends or ex-girlfriends, or that goddamn revenge porn, or any number of other things that feminists everywhere have been complaining about forever.  #2 will take longer, but they're both equally important.  In fact, being seen doing #2 will help make the women in your life feel more safe about being honest with their feelings and reactions when you do #1.  If a woman feels safe expressing her discomfort around you, then you're less likely to get those confusing "mixed signals" from her, and you can be confident that her consent is an active consent.

joreth: (Purple Mobius)
http://www.thebookoflife.org/how-we-end-up-marrying-the-wrong-people/

This is an interesting perspective of partner selection. I'm not saying I agree with everything, and it's more cynical than I'd like (yes, I did say that), but it is interesting. I've found a lot of this to be true in mainstream society and I find most of these problems are solved within the poly community (at least, ideally) because we're doing something so different that we tend to talk about stuff that a lot of mainstream people don't. In fact, most of the complaints in this article are *reasons* why I began searching for something different in the first place, and how I came across the poly community.

"All of us are crazy in very particular ways. We’re distinctively neurotic, unbalanced and immature, but don’t know quite the details because no one ever encourages us too hard to find them out. An urgent, primary task of any lover is therefore to get a handle on the specific ways in which they are mad." - I spend a great deal of time doing introspection and discussion with people who know me well, so that I can identify exactly the ways in which I am mad. I've found this to be off-putting in mainstream society, but it's how I construct my dating profiles so that prospective partners can see it all upfront.

"We need to know the intimate functioning of the psyche of the person we’re planning to marry. We need to know their attitudes to, or stance on, authority, humiliation, introspection, sexual intimacy, projection, money, children, aging, fidelity and a hundred things besides. This knowledge won’t be available via a standard chat." - These are exactly the kinds of chats that I have with prospective and current partners, for exactly these reasons.

"We believe we seek happiness in love, but it’s not quite as simple. What at times it seems we actually seek is familiarity – which may well complicate any plans we might have for happiness." - I see this all the time in the poly community with the rules and prescription and "monogamy +1" stuff. They're not seeking happiness, they're seeking as much familiarity as possible in a relationship style that seems new and scary and different.

"One is never in a good frame of mind to choose a partner rationally when remaining single is unbearable. We have to be utterly at peace with the prospect of many years of solitude in order to have any chance of forming a good relationship. Or we’ll love no longer being single rather more than we love the partner who spared us being so." - as More Than Two says, if you can't leave the relationship, then you can't give consent. This is an abusive dynamic.

"We have for three hundred years been in collective reaction against thousands of years of very unhelpful interference based on prejudice, snobbery and lack of imagination." - our feelings must inform our reasons and our reason must take into account our feelings. They work together. It's possible to really and truly love someone and still not be good partners for each other.

"We imagine that marriage is a guarantor of the happiness we’re enjoying with someone. It will make permanent what might otherwise be fleeting. It will help us to bottle our joy," - I see this in all styles of relationship - poly, mono, etc. People are terrified of change and seek to legislate it away.

"Part of the reason we feel like getting married is to interrupt the all-consuming grip that love has over our psyches. We are exhausted by the melodramas and thrills that go nowhere. We are restless for other challenges. We hope that marriage can conclusively end love’s painful rule over our lives." - I'm at this point in my life myself. I don't even want to think about getting into another relationship. But I'm not holding onto my existing ones in order to avoid new ones; I'm content to be alone if that's what's better for me. Fortunately, I *do* happen to have good, healthy relationships at the moment. But as one partner is very LD and the other was LD for the last couple of years, I was *effectively* "alone" while in this mindset, and I would rather have stayed that way than tried to start another one. That's how I can feel confident that I am not keeping my current partners around just to avoid getting back into the dating scene.

So, interesting thoughts.

joreth: (Self-Portrait)

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Part B: How to turn me on -
Emotionally


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sexually: Flirting

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sexually: Sex

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Turn ons:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Turn offs:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

joreth: (Purple Mobius)
http://www.businessinsider.com/lasting-relationships-rely-on-2-traits-2014-11

"Throughout the day, partners would make requests for connection, what Gottman calls “bids.” For example, say that the husband is a bird enthusiast and notices a goldfinch fly across the yard. He might say to his wife, “Look at that beautiful bird outside!” He’s not just commenting on the bird here: he’s requesting a response from his wife — a sign of interest or support — hoping they’ll connect, however momentarily, over the bird. ...

People who turned toward their partners in the study responded by engaging the bidder, showing interest and support in the bid. Those who didn’t — those who turned away — would not respond or respond minimally and continue doing whatever they were doing, like watching TV or reading the paper. Sometimes they would respond with overt hostility, saying something like, “Stop interrupting me, I’m reading.”

These bidding interactions had profound effects on marital well-being."

This is especially true for introverts and passive communicators. By the time they get to the point of mentioning something, it's already an important thing. The mere act of saying something out loud takes emotional effort, so they don't waste that effort on unimportant things. When someone brings their partner's attention to something, it's a signal that they're trying to connect with them, even if that something is fleeting or ultimately unimportant in the concrete; but it's important in the abstract. This is something my extrovert ex-boyfriend learned the hard way when he thought I was just passing along random information that he could take or leave but I was sharing something important with him, so when no action resulted, I felt rejected. I'm not a passive communicator, so I was clear that I was sharing something; it was the *importance* that he didn't get, because he shares things that pop into his head all the time with no emotional attachment to that thought. It might even be a thought he disagrees with, but it popped in, so he shared it, because he's an extrovert. We both had to learn to interpret the other's communication skills through these filters in order to respond correctly.

"Contempt, they have found, is the number one factor that tears couples apart. People who are focused on criticizing their partners miss a whopping 50 percent of positive things their partners are doing and they see negativity when it’s not there."

This is something that Sterling & I mention in our How To Break Up workshop. Anger and disagreement in a relationship aren't indicators of trouble by themselves; that's all part of the normal range of human interaction. But CONTEMPT is a relationship killer. This is why I have a list of traits that a person can have that means that I can't date them even if I otherwise like them. If they have certain traits, then I know I will lose respect for them, and after loss of respect comes contempt, and that means the relationship is doomed from the start.

"Masters tend to think about kindness as a muscle. They know that they have to exercise it to keep it in shape. They know, in other words, that a good relationship requires sustained hard work."

People are not "good" or "bad". Kindness, courage, and love are all things we DO, not things that we are or that we have. They take regular practice. [livejournal.com profile] tacit & Eve talk about this in their book More Than Two and I talk about it in my 5 Love Languages workshop. "One way to practice kindness is by being generous about your partner’s intentions." - this is also something they mention in the book.

“It’s scanning the partner for what the partner is doing right or scanning him for what he’s doing wrong and criticizing versus respecting him and expressing appreciation.”

There's a Sex and the City episode where the main character starts out having a relationship with someone she once characterizes as "we're PERFECT!" and ends up having a breakup conversation that says "when did you stop being on my side?" There's a reason that dialog led to a breakup:

joreth: (Silent Bob Headbang)
A few years ago, I was op-ing some meeting rooms and the speaker wanted walk-in music, but it wasn't anticipated in the work order. So I pulled out my iPod and he picked out some songs and was thrilled that I could save him in this way.

So I built a "walk-in playlist". I'm a huge fan of building playlists. I have about a dozen or more that I use regularly. I have a Fucking Playlist, several playlists for different dance classes, a Happy Playlist, a Sleep Playlist, a Poly Party Playlist, and more. I can literally give a spontaneous dance lesson anywhere that we can hear the music on my iPod speakers because I carry it with me everywhere and many of my playlists are on it. My most commonly accessed playlist is my Work Playlist, which is similar to what most people might build for a workout playlist - all songs within a certain BPM range intended to keep my mood and energy up, to walk fast to (for pushing cases), etc. My playlist differs from most people's playlists, though, in that is has a ton of genres, they just have to be of the right beat.

So I took my Work Playlist, removed all the songs with cussing, all the pro-atheist songs, and most of the country except for a handful of really popular country songs (this guy was a rock fan but for some reason he really loved Save A Horse, Ride A Cowboy and played it probably 5 or 6 times throughout the day).

Recently, I was a graphics op for a luncheon where the client was so stingy with the cash that we didn't have any headset communication between the backstage techs and the Front of House techs, no video engineers, etc. They also didn't arrange for walk-in music, and as people were filing into the room, the client finally noticed how quiet and awkward it is to not have walk-in music. So, she started to freak out, so I offered up my old walk-in playlist. We already had the audio set for my graphics machines, so we didn't need to communicate with the FOH audio guys, I could just plug in and we'd have music

She had to call her boss to make sure it was OK, and he wanted to know what was on it. So I said "mostly classic rock and '80s music", because there was a panicked-rushed feel to this whole thing and that's all I could think of what was on it being put on the spot like that, and he OK'd the playlist. But the first 4 songs that came up were swing dance songs - a mix of rockabilly, actual '50s Rock N Roll, and Big Band Swing. Which was fine, but the point is that I realized how eclectic my mix really was, and that might not be to everyone's taste.

So I'm building more playlists! I now have a walk-in playlist with just rock music from the '50s through the '80s; a pop playlist with pop music from the 2000s only; a retro/vintage playlist with music from the '20s through the '40s, Sinatra-style jazz, and modern music that has the same feel; and I'm about to build a Glurge playlist. "Glurge" is a term I first heard on Snopes, which says "think of it as chicken soup with several cups of sugar mixed in". Basically, it's those sickeningly sweet inspirational messages that have no real substance or, on the far end of the spectrum, actually have a much darker meaning than the uplifting message they supposedly support but you can't really tell because of the generic inspirational tone.

This playlist is going to be filled with all the really fucking annoying vaguely rah-rah music that every damn convention plays - like Happy by Pharrel or Roar & Firework by Katy Perry or I've Got A Feeling by Black Eyed Peas. If playlists could make me money, I figure I'd be rich in no time for this playlist alone.

But the playlist that's making me happy at the moment is my retro/vintage playlist. It's filled with Cab Calloway and Postmodern Jukebox and Ella Fitzgerald. I'm delighted thinking that, maybe someday, perhaps in a couple of years, someone is going to desperately need walk-in music and I'll be all "I can save you! What kind of music do you want?" And they'll be all "I don't know, what do you have?" And I can say "I have these playlists" and I'll list them, and someone will say "you have old ragtime?! That's awesome! Play some of that!" And I'll hook up my iPod and we'll be rocking out backstage to Louis Armstrong and Sammy Davis Jr. and a Miley Cypres song that sounds like it's being played in a slat-wood saloon with an upright piano and a guy in a red and white striped shirt with red garters on his biceps and people walking into the room will be all "WTF is this?" at first, but they'll find their feet tapping along while they sit and wait for the show to start because it's hard not to get into ivory-tickling and a wailing horn and a smooth-as-honey voice pouring out the speakers, into the ears, and down the back of the throat.

I may have a slightly unhealthy obsession with playlists.

‪#‎Audiophile‬
joreth: (Super Tech)
"No, I don't go to that club anymore alone."

"Why? Did something happen?"

"I stopped going there alone after I kept getting assaulted."

"You got beat up?"

"No, I got groped and pinned against a table, I got assaulted. One time I got assaulted by two different guys in the same night."

[relieved] "Oh, I thought you meant you got attacked! I mean, it's still bad."

I DID get attacked. I was put in a position where I was afraid for my safety. Each time I've been assaulted in this particular location, I had to be "rescued" by a friend who was observing from across the room. On one of these rescue occasions, the guy assaulting me turned verbally angry and made as if to follow after us when my friend pulled me away. The assaulter's friend stopped him.

I just posted a link to a story of two women who were violently assaulted after rejecting catcallers - one who died and one who is in critical condition. What happened to me at the club, what happens to me frequently in public spaces, could very easily turn into one of those news stories. There's no way to tell, until it happens.

I was touched, deliberately, in places I should never be touched without consent (and don't split hairs about *all* touching should receive consent, I mean even guys who want to excuse small violations agree about these locations - at least, they do when it's their girlfriends who get touched there by someone who isn't them or daughters get touched there by pretty much anyone). I was physically trapped with a man pressing his entire body against mine and into a table so that I could not leave without pushing back. I was forcibly grabbed, held in an embrace, and guys attempted to kiss me while I was CLEARLY resisting.

These are assaults. These are violations. They are not less serious just because I didn't get a black eye out of it. I got worse than a black eye. I got the fear that it would happen again and a restriction put on my ability to attend public functions. They are assaults and they are just as likely to escalate to a murder as a drunk idiot shoving another drunk idiot at a bar. And they are *common*.

It may seem like these incidents are happening all of a sudden to me, but they've always happened. I just didn't bother writing about them because they were so common. This is just the price of being a female in public. I no longer believe that I shouldn't bother writing about them just because they're common. That's the only reason you may be hearing about these assaults more often from me lately. Too many of you still don't understand why it's wrong, or maybe you get that it's wrong but not why some of us react so strongly to it (hey, it's annoying, but it's not a big DEAL ladies, just relax!), and too many of you still think it's "flattering", or that you'd "love it if more women treated [you] that way" or that it's a rare occurrence, or that it's motivated by sexual attraction and there are things women can do to prevent it from happening.

Or even that it's perpetrated by some mythical minority of evil bush-leaping rapists instead of just an average guy who bought the social script that tells us all that women are here to be looked at, that men are the sexual aggressors, that a "no" means "try harder", that women are the "gatekeepers" of sex, that a woman is a prize that a man can win if he just has the right clothes / car / job / amount of money / haircut / physique like winning the princess at the end of the level, or that women do *anything* in order to attract men.

I wish that all men-who-are-attracted-to-women could exist for a while without sight (and without the memory of the appearance of any women they knew prior to losing their sight). They'd have to experience the world without being able to look upon women and therefore treat women according to how they feel about looking at them. They'd have to interact with women as humans, instead of as creatures there for their entertainment. They couldn't laugh at her fat ass, they couldn't whistle at her tight ass, they couldn't rate her job performance based on whether they'd like to fuck her or not.

And then all women-who-have-relationships-with-men could experience something that I had the rare opportunity to experience - what it's like to be respected and admired, yes even in a romantic sense, by someone who knows you only for who you are inside; someone who can't be ignoring what he doesn't like in order to get sex from the body he does like; someone who can't be merely tolerating an unpleasant appearance because of the inner person or out of obligation for preexisting commitments or even inertia of an ongoing relationship. To have been cherished, even briefly, by someone who had no choice but to see me as I am without any sort of distraction from the shell that I reside in was one of the most amazing opportunities I've ever had.

Any body image issues magically disappeared for that experience. What has returned now that I'm living once again among the sighted is so much less than those issues I see my friends suffering. To be able to see myself through the eyes of someone without eyes was a life-changing experience and I wish the epiphany on everyone, if it could be done without fetishizing a disability.
joreth: (Misty in Box)
http://feministing.com/2014/10/04/the-feministing-five-darius-clark-monroe/

"Darius Clark Monroe is transforming the ways media portrays incarcerated young black men, starting with his own story. At the age of 16, Darius committed armed robbery, which dramatically impacted his life as well as those around him. After serving five years in a maximum security prison, Darius has since earned a MFA from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts and launched his career in documentary film."

The link above is an interview with filmmaker and criminal Darius Clark Monroe, as he talks about his new autobiographical documentary on crime, poverty, and race.

"Poverty and working class poverty are relevant. A lot of times when we think about poverty we are thinking about people that don’t have a home, family, friends. There are people that do have those things but they are just surviving. People need understand that we live in a society of great disparity."

I'm not black, and most people in Florida can't see my Latina heritage, so I have some privilege in this area. But I am working class poverty, and possibly *because* I'm not black and appear white, most people can't see that I'm working class poor either. I am not the exception. Working class poverty is a huge problem, and it's most certainly not the Welfare Queen or the lazy drug addict sucking off the government's teat that some politicians have managed to convince everyone that this is what poverty is.

Even people who know me and who see how I live, even people who live close to my own level of poverty, seem to think that I'm somehow an exception - that I'm not like all those other people on food stamps or welfare or unemployment checks, that when *I* point out that my latest-generation iPod was a gift that I couldn't afford on my own, it's the truth but someone in the checkout line with foodstamps and an iPhone MUST be cheating the taxpayers. All my fancy costumes and dance outfits? Thrift stores, gifts, purchased over years and years of collecting bits and pieces that eventually make it into an outfit. But if you didn't know that, you might think I was financially comfortable with my dresses and shoes and costumes. They're a chance for me to escape into a fantasy where I can pretend that I'm not poor and not worried about survival every moment of my waking day.

My biggest concern with my weight is that I won't fit into my existing wardrobe and I'll have to buy more clothes that I can't afford.  I pay attention to my size because of poverty, not vanity.  I can't *afford* to gain weight.  I suppose that poverty helps in that regard because I don't always eat enough to gain weight anyway.  But sometimes I do have enough money for food and access to the kinds of rich foods that cause weight gain, and then I freak out because I can't fit into my clothes again and I have to spend money to replace clothes that are still perfectly servicable, they're just too small.  I don't get rid of my clothes until they literally can't be worn anymore.  I can't afford to.

I am not the exception. And let me tell you, life has gotten a lot harder since I stopped stealing my food. There was a time that the only reason I ate was because I was a very good thief. That was a very long time ago. Morals and ethics are expensive, it turns out, but I do my best to maintain them. I still understand the motivations that drives someone to crime. And I understand that the vast majority of these sorts of crimes can be prevented if we take care of those motivations, if we help people move past "just surviving".
joreth: (Super Tech)

http://yellowhammernews.com/faithandculture/alabamian-gets-schooled-mike-rowe-dirty-jobs/

“Don’t Follow Your Passion, But Always Bring it With You.”

I followed my passion and I'm glad I did.  I went into it with open eyes, knowing that I will probably be poor for the rest of my life, knowing that I'm very good at what I do, but not one of those rare superstars who amazes the world.

The difference is that I didn't *just* follow my passion.  I have a lot of passions.  I tried my hand at many of them until I found one that paid me something.  And when that job doesn't pay enough, I try other things.  I find either job types or individual companies to work for that offer me an outlet for my passions in some way.  A person who is passionate about creativity doesn't *have* to be a world famous painter.  There are lots of ways to bring creativity and art to your job, if that's what you want.  And there are lots of ways to experience your passions in your non-work hours, like I do with my dancing and my costuming.

The research on happiness and success in the workplace all shows that people who single-mindedly pursue only their passions are not the happiest or most successful people in the world.  The ones who feel the most satisfaction are the ones who found a way to be passionate or proud of the work that they do.  For some people, it's taking pride in doing an "honest day's work".  For some people it's working for a company whose vision they can take pride in and contributing to something greater than themselves.  For some people it's finding ways to apply their passions in unique or unconventional ways in their more conventional jobs.  For some people it's building a sense of security in a stable job with regular paychecks and health benefits that allows them their evenings free to pursue other endeavors.

I've always said that we spend too many of our waking hours at our jobs to work in jobs that we hate.  We should do whatever we can to spend our time doing something that we love, or at least can take pride in.  But I also agree with Mike Rowe here, that this something doesn't have to be your farfetched fantasy.  We may live in a country where "anyone can become President", but that doesn't mean that *anyone* can become President.  I will never be President of the US, even if I gave up everything to pursue that dream starting today.  I will never be an astronaut.  I will never be a world champion dancer.

But I wanted to work with my hands.  I wanted to work with technology.  I wanted the opportunity to be creative and artistic.  I wanted to work producing entertainment for other people, to help create environments and events where people could enjoy themselves.  And that's what I do.  That sort of job can be found in a wide range of places.  I did follow my passion, but with a practical, realistic sense of self and I bring my passion with me into whatever type of job I end up in.

joreth: (Super Tech)
http://everydayfeminism.com/2013/05/butch-with-a-side-of-misogyny

"“One of my least favorite things about butch/boi culture in NYC is how it sometimes devolves into paralleling misogyny I used to deal with from cis straight dudes” ...

I’m terrified and ashamed of the idea that the butch identity has any connotation with misogyny. ...

My agency was taken away from me, and it was just as terrifying when done by fellow queers as it was when it was men. ...

Parroting misogyny is not love. Objectifying her is not honoring her, treating her as a possession is not a demonstration of commitment, and using your identity as an excuse for shitty behavior is not acceptable – ever. ...

The thing is that we queers can perpetuate rape culture just as much as the next frat boy, and among too many butches, there seems to be an acceptance of this very kind of behavior. ...

Our masculinity doesn’t have to have a body count."


I'm straight and I'm fine with my female biology and presenting as female, so my perspective on this issue is as an outsider. My problems with gender are not that I think I have the wrong assignment, but that the definition for my gender is wrong. But I do see this sort of thing often, as someone on the fringes of this culture.

I'm more into androgyny, personally. I like the mixing and blending of genders. I delight in having a distinctly and recognizably feminine body that does things distinctly and recognizably un-feminine. When I wear men's clothes, I'm not trying to take on a masculine physique, I'm highlighting my female body by *using* men's clothes (when I think about it at all, that is - normally I wear men's clothing because it's more practical for my purposes).

I like challenging the dominant paradigms by looking feminine but then saying something usually associated with masculinity, such as cussing a lot or talking about math and science or being the sexually dominant one. Because of that, I end up hanging out "with the boys". Just 2 days ago, as a matter of fact, someone made a dirty joke and a guy who doesn't know me said "you said that right in front of her?!", to which the joke-teller said "But she's one of the guys!" I know why that's problematic, but I like that designation anyway.

I hang out with the guys, the masculine men, because my outer shell is feminine but the inside more closely matches descriptions of "masculine". I'm stubborn and argumentative and aggressive and I shout and hold my own. I hang out with the guys, but I also hang out with the butches because butches also hang out with the guys. Especially in my business. So I see the misogyny when both male and butch cultures think there aren't any "women" around to mind it. I'm included in their culture but I'm apart from it too, so I can only assume that what I see is the tip of the iceberg.

People who are part of groups who are historically and continually oppressed can not afford to take on the same trappings of the oppressing group. We have to be better than that. I know that *I* have to try harder. As "one of the guys", I've done my share and sometimes things still slip out of my mouth that make me cringe later. But we don't find equality by assimilating into the dominant oppressive class.

We find equality by dismantling the dominant oppressive class and replacing it with an inclusive class.
joreth: (Super Tech)
https://medium.com/substance/gay-latino-and-macho-c931e022ec47

Boy did this bring on unpleasant memories. I grew up in California, straddling the boundaries between suburbia and the barrio. My adopted mom is Mexican and my adopted dad is white, but my biological mother is white and my biological father is, well, we just say "Mexican" because my bio-mom only vaguely remembers that his family actually came from one of the indigenous tribes in Mexico but she can't remember which one. So I could be Aztec or Maya or Zapotec or Mixtec or Tepehuan or who knows.

Anyway, I grew up in a culture clash. I didn't look white enough for my blonde-haired, blue-eyed private school classmates, but I didn't look brown enough for my Spanish-speaking, gang-member peers in church either. My parents enforced gender roles, but it was from my mom's side that I got the exposure to Mexican gender roles and I had no brothers and a white father, so I kind of got introduced to Machismo through implication, not direct influence. But the guys I went to church with sure got that lesson in abundance. Let me tell you, my early dating years were a trial. I dated almost exclusively white men because I had such problems with the Chicanos attempting to enforce Machismo-based gender roles in our relationships. Although my comparatively fair skin (which was actually much darker than it is today because I was a competitive swimmer and in the sun a lot when I was a teen) mixed with the long dark hair traditionally prized in Mexican cultures and bold indigenous nose made me somewhat exotic yet familiar and attractive to exactly those same boys and men that I was trying to avoid because of their Machismo culture.

I went to a private school, but because it was a private school, it didn't have a school bus so I took the city bus home until I was old enough to get a car. The city bus went through the lowest-income (a.k.a. Hispanic) areas of town although I lived in an almost exclusively white middle-class neighborhood. I learned to change out of my school uniform before getting on the bus because my uniform was blue and this was the height of the Bloods and Crips wars which had reached such epic proportions as to have bled north into my hometown far away from East L.A. I couldn't be caught wearing blue either by a Blood gang member who would hurt me or by a Crip gang member who would hit on me.

On top of that, several years ago I learned some interesting things about my biological father. In addition to being Mexican, he was also a cross-dresser. My biological mother and his current girlfriend both insist that he's straight. He could be, or he could be bisexual, or he could be like the "straight" Rios in the article which really means a very good straight-acting gay man. I'm not sure and it's not really relevant. But the reason why I can only relate the suppositions of my bio-mom and his girlfriend is because he went into hiding to protect himself from his parents (my grandparents) from finding out about his cross-dressing.

Back in the '70s, my bio-mom discovered his interest in wearing women's clothes. She didn't break up with him over it, but she did tell him that she didn't want to see or know anything about it and that he was to keep it from her completely. Out of the people he loved the most at that time, this was the most mild response to his non-gender-conforming ways. His parents were the sort of abusive religious parents that Valesquez in the article had. My bio-father was so terrorized by his religious mother and his Machismo culture that, as soon as he could, he escaped his family and could only be reached by pager (at a time when smartphones were not available but cellphones were nevertheless readily available, circa 2005-ish), from which he would then return calls via payphone so that his parents couldn't discover his location or his actual phone to harass him. He did still have some contact with his parents, but I gather that was because he still had younger siblings that he didn't want to lose entirely.

The last thing I heard about him was from his girlfriend. I had found out his full name and tracked him down to his city of residence, so I sent an introduction letter to everyone with that name in that city, just hoping to let him know of my existence. One of those letters found the right man, because his girlfriend came across that letter one day and called me to tell me that I had found him. She wanted to respect his desire to remain unfound but also wanted to reassure me that I had reached him. In order to confirm that I had reached the right person, we talked a little about him and that's how I found out about his current circumstances.

She confirmed that his home life was unbearable and his parents were crazy religious nuts who terrorized him in a manner consistent with Machismo culture. She also confirmed that he did cross-dress, and she had issued the same sort of restriction as my bio-mom - that he keep all aspects of his lifestyle from her because it made her uncomfortable. But he wasn't just cross-dressing anymore either. He was working as either a bouncer or a bartender (I forget which, now) in a gay club that has a drag show. And, apparently, this job was a source of extreme joy and relief to him as well as a major source of cognitive dissonance because it clashed with his internalized Machismo. The girlfriend wasn't really sure what to do about all this. I suspect that bouncer/bartender and "straight" were still whitewashing his activities, but his girlfriend apparently needed to believe that these were the limits to his behaviour.

I don't have any particular personal feelings towards this man because he's a stranger to me. I never internalized the message that we have to love people we're related to. Since I was adopted, sharing DNA with someone wasn't the important connection point in my loving relationships. But I do feel a sense of pity for him, because of all the people in his life, the daughter he doesn't want to acknowledge is probably the one person he is related to either by blood or marriage, who would completely accept him for who he is and even actively celebrate his life choices. With me, he wouldn't have to be anyone other than who he is.

But like Rios in the article, because of the lengths he's going to hide his activities, I believe that even my acceptance of him wouldn't be welcome. I believe he is so indoctrinated in Machismo culture that he would probably be offended at my acceptance. Just like Rios who insists on raising his own sons in the Machismo culture, I think that the freedom that acceptance by me would afford him would be threatening to his own internalized homophobia and misogyny. He would probably be very opposed to my own gender nonconformism because, as a female, I consistently attack and break down my own role as a woman in society and that would, by extension, attack his own Machismo culture even as he chafes against it.

So this was kind of a hard article to read, especially the part about Rios and the internalization and perpetuation of Machismo culture by someone who is so directly harmed by it. People who haven't grown up in this culture, especially people who are naturally predisposed to fit the status quo, like to think that we're much further along in our social progress. I hear a lot of lamenting about the "sissyfication" of boys and emasculating men, and all I can think when I hear that is that they must not have ever stepped outside of their houses before because Machismo is alive and well, and even more macho than the pissant white-boy misogynists think they are. Chuck Norris, Clint Eastwood, and The Duke have nothing on the average Hispanic male raised in the Machismo culture.

And that's NOT something to brag about, that's something to be deeply troubled about.
joreth: (Super Tech)
http://www.buzzfeed.com/mattortile/hello-my-name-is-fabulous

So this has been floating around my Facebook feed in the last week. I'm re-posting it, not because I agree with every one of them or because I don't think the show has valid criticisms, but because some of the lines are actually really good advice.

The show has a lot of problems with it, I'll be the first to admit. I believe it's important to be able to admit the flaws of the media we like. We don't have to wait for the Perfect Media, we can like stuff with flaws. I just think we have to be able to admit and accept those flaws for what they are.

But I think this show is also undervalued by a lot of my progressive circles because of those very legitimate flaws. And I see most of the devaluing of the show from people who have never watched more than a couple of episodes.

The power of this show is that it highlighted a segment of the population that does not often get highlighted, let alone celebrated. This show celebrated the single, adult, independent woman. Yes, it showed them searching for love and relationships, but even single, adult, independent women often search for love and relationships. These are not mutually exclusive traits.

Over the seasons, as the characters age and continue to date as single women, the show addressed the concepts of aging, of female independence, of designer relationships, of the fairy tales, of social pressure and the expectations of womanhood, of class warfare, of alternative life choices, of dealing with death and mortality, of reconciling poor choices, of introspection, of introverts vs. extroverts, of communication, and of parenthood vs. non-parenthood and the validity of options.

I'm not saying that every episode was gold. I'm also not even saying that I agree with the conclusions they reach on any of those subjects. I'm saying that they introduced the topics to a mainstream audience when those topics had previously gone unstated or under-discussed. Much like The Golden Girls brought to every American living room the idea of seniors having sex and the challenges faced by single women as they age, this show eschews the standard formula of happily married but quirky heterosexual monogamous couple raising children in the suburbs.

It's not very realistic in that it does retain many of the other most-common sitcom (yes, I know it's not a sitcom) tropes of hip, attractive people living in one of the most expensive cities in the world and somehow managing to, not just survive, but thrive with enough expendable income to wear designer clothes and attend fabulous parties searching for love in all the wrong places and hilarity ensues. But it doesn't cover it in the young, early-twenty-something way as those sitcoms; it tells the story from the perspective of women who have "passed their prime", who have reached and passed the age at which they should have overcome their silly, young faux pas and found The One already and settled down into that married-with-children sitcom storyline. It tells the story of trying to find love while one's ability to have children becomes compromised and the effects of aging are just beginning to be seen and dealt with.

It tells the story from that in-between stage, where the women are no longer the hip, young people we can excuse from making the mistakes they make because they're young, and the older people who have already reached the stage where aging is a given and now they have to deal with that class. The process of coming to terms with aging, and of aging in our appearance-obsessed, monogamy-and-love-obsessed society is a process rarely examined.

As I do with any serial or episodic form of media in which there are good episodes and bad episodes, I like to take certain episodes that cover certain topics and examine that single topic on its own merit. I might have to provide some long-term context of the characters to explain why they react or behave the way they do, but the episode itself is being addressed as a stand-alone for the message. Even when the characters reach a conclusion that I disagree with, I find it to be a valuable teaching tool, discussion starter, and illustration of important or complex points.

I have a series of clips taken from a few different episodes that single out certain topics and points that I've uploaded to YouTube, and I post them occasionally when the comments threads are relevant. Maybe someday I'll get around to starting up that blog series on this show. It'll be in the Media Reflections tag here in my LiveJournal, if anyone is interested.
joreth: (Purple Mobius)
I posted this article with the following commentary in the Singleish and Solo Polyamory FB group, and I was asked permission to re-post my commentary.  So I'm archiving it here to prevent it from getting lost in the FB ether, and so that anyone wishing to re-post or refer to my commentary will have a link-back when they give me attribution:


This is a post by my metamour, that if you follow More Than Two, you've probably already seen. http://www.morethantwo.com/blog/2014/01/guest-post-on-zero-sum-family-and-consent/

When I started dating her partner, I spent a lot of effort on language to emphasize my solo nature. I had a dangerous job with unusual hours that I love and I was sick of men thinking it was "cute" at first but then trying to talk me out of it. I had never dated anyone who was poly-before-me at that point and I was fucking sick to death of cowboys. I had a long history of partners who sought to curb my autonomy.

So I used language deliberately to over-emphasize how solo I was, trying to nip that problem in the bud. But Shelly, at that point in her life, had invested most of her own self in the dream of "family". She and I had a lot of emails and a lot of discussion - tense, frustrated, tearful discussion - about family vs. solohood. She just could not understand my relationship with her partner. In her mind, it wasn't "serious" if it didn't match this family dream of hers.

She spent a lot of years struggling to understand my relationship with our partner. And I spent a lot of years struggling to reconcile my need for autonomy and independence with my desire for exactly the kind of family that she was offering, as well as to explain those seemingly conflicting needs and desires.

Then Shelly and I both dated another person. And she learned in one relationship what took me a lifetime of micro-aggressions to develop my autonomous stance. And I learned from that relationship a more nuanced definition of "family". This article is kind of a summation of some of our lessons on this topic (not that I had anything to do with the writing of it).

Shelly and I have both come towards the same destination from radically different starting points. Being autonomous has always been easier for me than for her, but finding that autonomy from within a family is her great lesson that I continue to need to work on.

I post this article because she addresses the need for autonomy within poly relationships from a unique perspective. She comes at it from a place of mental health and consent in a way that, although I'm sure others feel, I've not seen it verbalized in quite that way. Shelly looks at life in a very different way than anyone I've ever met. She adds nuance and flesh to already complex concepts, and she forces me to see myself from different points of view. So I want to share this article because it covers the dangers of hierarchical poly in a unique way, and the importance of autonomy, while in the comments she leaves room for the importance of family and compromise and commitment when oftentimes I see the pro-autonomy side stray too far into the "I am me, so fuck you" inconsiderate, un-compassionate (I know that's not a word, but it's what I mean) side.

Shelly makes me a better person, and if it weren't for polyamory, I'd never have met her; and if it weren't for our dating the same person (more than once), I'd never have gotten to know her on the level that I did. Shelly is the reason why I do poly. I mean, sure, it's great and all to have multiple partners. But equally, if not more important to me, is that poly relationships bring metamours into my life that I wouldn't have otherwise. There are lots of forms of non-monogamy out there, but polyamory and the emphasis on relationships over recreational sex as well as the importance of family - or at least of interconnected networks - polyamory brings the benefit of metamours. Metamours are half of the whole reason to do poly.

Not all my metamours have the same kind of relationship with me as I do with Shelly and not all of my metamours are like Shelly. That's not the point. But just as I subscribe to non-escalator relationships for romantic relationships and I require my romantic relationships to evolve into whatever form is best for *that* relationship because I find value in different types of relationships, I apply the same sort of freedom in evolving my metamour relationships.

My other metamours do not have the same sort of relationship with me as I do with Shelly. And that's the value of solo polyamory for me. If my metamour relationships were expected to ride their own version of a relationship escalator, then I wouldn't have the amazing relationships with each of them that I do have - as varied and unique as the people themselves. And I wouldn't have the amazing relationship with Shelly that I have, because our relationship never grew on the sort of metamour escalator that so many prescriptive, family-oriented relationships insist on - that even Shelly tried to insist on in the beginning. And as you can see from her writing, she is an amazing person, and my life would be less bright if I had to choose between an escalator metamour relationship with her that didn't fit right or nothing at all, if I could not find our own path to grow together. And we wouldn't have this gem of her writing to explain the importance of autonomy and independence as it pertains to consent and to mental health.
joreth: (Super Tech)

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/08/06/elizabeth-banks-genetics_n_5652544.html

One point that I particularly liked about this article is that, while it is pointing out the importance of genetics in our appearance, it also didn't dismiss the work that individuals put into their appearance.


As they point out in More Than Two, DNA is not a blueprint, with the final results all spelled out and you know exactly what you're going to get the way you would know if you looked at a large sheet of blue paper with the plans for a house. "DNA is more like a recipe: a set of instructions that tells cells step-by-step how to grow an organism." That recipe has a range of things that the final product can become.

To paraphrase a section in the movie My Best Friend's Wedding, the recipe for crème brûlée can never become Jell-O and Jell-O can never become crème brûlée (although it can approximate its flavor). It just doesn't have the right ingredients. But the ingredients to crème brûlée can be mixed together by a master chef and become the most amazing crème brûlée to have ever been fired under a torch, or it can get burnt or it can be pretty good or it can be mixed by a 2-year-old and come out a sloppy mess.

Our DNA gives us a range of things that our body can become. It's merely the list of ingredients. Chance, our environment, our conscious effort once we're born, all kinds of things can affect how we turn out. Some celebrities, because of the money they're paid, can hire the best trainers and devote much of their days to crafting the perfect crème brûlée. Other people may have all the same ingredients and also turn out a pretty damn good crème brûlée because they had the good fortune to be born into a culture that privileges people who start out with the ingredients to crème brûlée over people who start out with the ingredients to Jell-O, so they end up with the ability to maintain an exercise regimen and dietary plan to enhance the outcome of their crème brûlée.  And some people also start out with the ingredients for crème brûlée but they treat the recipe like that 2-year old or they have a 2-year old thrown at them and they end up a sloppy mess.

The point of all this is that I'm pleased to see an article that discusses the importance of genetics in the final appearance of these celebrity illusions while also not dismissing outright the work that some of them really do put into maintaining and achieving that look. What often happens when anyone points out a privilege of some sort is that those who have the privilege get all indignant and shout "I worked my ass off to get where I am!"

Yes, you did. You exercise every day, you expend a lot of mental energy to think about your diet, you studied 26 hours a day to get good grades in school in spite of not having money for electricity so you studied by candlelight, you pounded the pavement, you *worked*. Absolutely. But you also started out with the ingredients to crème brûlée. If you work your ass off, you will probably get a fucking awesome crème brûlée. But someone who doesn't have the same ingredients will never create crème brûlée. They might be able to create something else awesome.

But we're penalizing people for not having prize-winning crème brûlées. We're penalizing ourselves for not having crème brûlées. We're blaming each other for being given a recipe for Jell-O and not turning it into crème brûlée. And we need to stop. We need to acknowledge that the celebrities, even the ones who "work hard", are still starting out with a body that, as the article says, "are predisposed to take on a traditionally attractive physical form IN RESPONSE TO THEIR WORK" (emphasis mine).

We need to accept that some of us have one recipe, with a range of things that the final product can become and that will be affected by what we do with the ingredients once we get started, and yet other people have different recipes with different ranges of things that the final product can become. It is important that we work with those ingredients to craft as delicious a product as we can with what we're given. But there is room for crème brûlée and there is always room for Jell-O.

joreth: (Purple Mobius)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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



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

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

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

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

Gender Swap

Jul. 9th, 2014 01:09 pm
joreth: (Super Tech)
http://blogs.indiewire.com/womenandhollywood/bbc-works-around-the-gender-problem-of-reboots-by-turning-some-male-characters-female-20140707

"Go through the projects you're already working on and change a bunch of the characters' first names to women's names. With one stroke you've created some colorful, unstereotypical female characters that might turn out to be even more interesting now that they've had a gender switch."

When I was in high school, the director we hired to head up our baby theater program* decided to do Romeo & Juliet as a musical.  Since Shakespeare wrote in verse, he reasoned, the lines could be delivered through song.  He hired a brilliant composer to add music to select verses and it is, to this day, still the best version of Romeo & Juliet that I've ever seen.

Two other changes he made was to put everyone in modern dress but keep the lines in old English (this was before Leo's movie) although he kept the fencing swords in the fight scene instead of using guns (which I preferred).  He also made Mercutio a woman.

Let that sink in for a moment.  Romeo's best friend, who does his damnedest to keep Romeo & Juliet apart, was a woman.  That added a whole level of depth to Mercutio's motivation and character.  Suddenly, he wasn't just a flat snob, viciously defending his class, but now she was a woman with conflicting emotions about Romeo, motivated by class privilege and familial obligation and unrecognized jealousy and love.

That same director, the following year, directed Jesus Christ Superstar and had a female student play Judas.  He didn't particularly change anything about the costume or the presentation.  She had sort of an Axl Rose look to her, so it wasn't clear whether she was a woman playing Judas or an actor playing a female Judas.  And that androgyny brought all kinds of interesting nuance to the role, again with sexual tension and jealousy and love.  Because we were an all-girl school, it was common to have females play male roles, but we liberally accepted male auditions from any school and most of the main male roles were filled by males.  So when the director put a female in a main male character's role, he did so deliberately.

Most male roles are written as male by default, not because there is anything inherently male about their characters.  They are just character blanks that happen to be male.  That means that there is diversity and nuance and depth in male characters that are not present when a character has to be deliberately written as a female.  In order for someone to put a female character into a story, they have to deliberately write her as a female, which means that they often *write* her "as a female character", instead of "as a character".  This is why so many female characters are so flat and uninteresting - they're being written deliberately "female" with that writer's biases influencing what they think "female" means.

So change the characters' names to female names and they work just fine, because well-written characters are simply people experiencing the human experience.  I posted a link a while back suggesting that parents do this when they read to their children.  If you are the one doing the writing, I suggest waiting until you are essentially finished writing, assuming your characters are male by default, and *then* change the names, so that you don't unintentionally influence your characterization by renaming her too early in her development.

I used to be bothered by changing things like race and gender because it wasn't "canon".  But after seeing how well it worked in my high school play, I am much less strict about "canon" and more concerned with "does it change the plot or the character arc?"  If it significantly changes the plot or the direction where the character is supposed to grow by the end, then I'm opposed to it, generally speaking.  Sometimes those changes make things better, but more often than not, I start thinking "if you're gonna change the entire direction of the story, why not just write a whole new story instead of pretending that it's this pre-existing story that it's now totally not because of how you changed it?"  Wicked, Maleficent, Hansel & Gretal, etc., those change the stories but not in ways that I think ruin the originals or make them so different as to negate the whole purpose of writing about that story in the first place (whether the movies or plays are *good* or not is another question).  They change the *perspective*, which gives depth to the overall story, because we are all the heroes of our own stories and stories told from other perspectives will always be different from each other.  Now for reboots, I have mixed feelings on.  It depends on how they reboot it, again, whether or not I feel "this story is so different, what's the point of calling it by the same name?"

But because of the whole default issue, filling in white male characters with non-white, non-male actors (even if those "actors" are merely drawn/written in another version of a book) often doesn't change the plot or the character arc because most characters are not written *as* a story of the white male experience, but as a story of a human experience.  If there's nothing inherently male about that character, such as a story being told about what it's like to be a man, then switching gendered names or actors is a great way to enjoy some of our classics (or at least, nostalgic favorites) without the historical sexism leaking all over.  What would Pippin & Merry's story be if one of them was a female hobbit?  Iif both of them were?  What would the entire story be if Gandalf was a woman?

Hell, even some strictly gendered stories like romantic comedies that claim to be telling stories of "the male experience" or "the female experience" could probably do with a good gender swap to expose stereotypes and to address the experience of those who don't fit into narrow gender roles.  For most rom-coms, I tend to identify with the male role more often because it more closely resembles my own experiences (inasmuch as I experience the sorts of stupid things that happen in rom-coms).  In the movie My Best Friend's Wedding, I am TOTALLY the groom in that story, and my high school stalker is Julia Roberts.  I so wished for the personal growth that she experienced to be attained by my high school stalker, but he never did.

My favorite retort whenever I hear guys complaining about things that girls do that guys don't, is "I can tell that you have never tried dating men!"  That usually confuses people for a moment, so I can go on to explain that "y'all act very differently when your buddies aren't around and the girl you're with doesn't conform to gender expectations.  Everything you just complained about is something I've had to put up with in my relationships with guys - straight white men.  People tend to act less than they react, and guys who are just like you, as soon as they get into a relationship with a woman like me, who is more of a 'man' than you guys are, suddenly turns into that woman that you're complaining about because that's generally how insecure people or people who don't have a handle on their emotions react when they interact with either secure people or  with arrogant and emotionally distant people.  And let me tell you, guys who are brought up to ignore or suppress their emotions are very much "people who don't have a handle on their emotions".  Here's a thought ... how about people are nuanced and diverse and full of contradictions and the way that they see themselves is not how other people see them?"

*ahem*, I digress.  Write your stories.  Then change some character names to female names (or names of other cultures / ethnicities) without changing anything else about them.  I think some people will be surprised at how well the character still works and at how little work is involved to add more diversity to our entertainment.  If you don't write, then change the names of the stories you read, especially those you read to your children.

*My high school was so small that it didn't have a theater program, or even a building with a stage in it (our gym didn't have the obligatory stage to make it convertible for presentations).  The first play they ever put on wasn't even until my 8th grade year - the year before I started attending.  So the school, which was private so it had money, hired professional staff for all its performances, including the director and stagehands.  We didn't even have a theater teacher to take over as director.  The stagehands physically built a new stage for every play in our multi-purpose room (not the gym).
joreth: (Misty in Box)
One of my pet peeves is when people reject musical genres based on a superficial understanding of that genre. I'll give one of my own examples. I used to say that I didn't like rap because I didn't like music that disrespected women. To anyone who has ever bothered to actually listen to rap, that is clearly not a definitional element of the genre. It turns out that I don't like music that disrespects women, so that includes some rap, but also some rock and some country and some in other genres.

What I *actually* don't like about rap is that I prefer songs with a vocal melody line (preferably in my own mezzosoprano range), complex harmonies, and a richness to the instrument accompaniment whether through range of instrument selection or in how the instruments are played. *Those* are definitional elements that the genre of rap do not typically have, but using the phrase "I prefer music with..." still leaves room for exceptions within the rap category.

Rap music that has clever lyrics or that cover topics that I value like science, skepticism, feminism, diversity, etc. or that include some of those definitional elements underneath the rap vocal style can become favorite songs of mine. One of my current favorite bands is called Nuttin' But Stringz which is a hip hop duo that plays violin mixed with some rap & hip hop vocal stylings and a dance beat. And sometimes just silly songs that make me feel happy can sneak in under the exceptions, like Fresh Prince of Bel Aire and Parents Just Don't Understand.

Country music is my favorite genre these days, and even though I technically live in the south, I still hear a lot of shit talk about country music, mainly from people who do not understand the genre. The automatic default rejection of country is when people say they don't like songs about divorce and losing one's dog and pickup truck. Another is that they, like I said above, don't like songs that disrespect women. Country music is actually a genre that has more pro-feminist music than any other genre I know about other than specifically girl-power rock (or whatever it's called). Country has always supported strong female lyrics and powerful female singers. I'm working on a playlist over on YouTube that highlights some of the great feminist country music throughout the eras.

But another criticism I hear of country is how it's simple, it's bubble gum pop being cranked out by an industrial music machine with no depth or soul or even any talent in musicianship. Although there are definitely songs that hit the country pop charts that are fairly repetitive and rely on simple harmonies and melodies, I have to wonder if the people who say this have actually bothered to listen to country music before making this pronouncement.

Along the lines of my most recent post, the country genre is not an isolated box, free from influence of other genres. The artists are influenced by classical training, by great blues musicians, by poetry and literature, by hard rocking guitarists, by traditional Irish folk music, by Spanish flamenco, by the world-changing Rock And Roll of the '50s, and even by techno and electronica. And these influences can be heard and felt in current pop country music. Not every song, no. But just like rock is influenced by all these elements (Pat Benatar had classic operatic training, for instance, as have many metal musicians), country music has a wide range and, in fact, often overlaps rock in several places, enough so that there are debates as to whether particular groups or songs are rock or country. I once "won" a lighthearted argument over the Eagles by declaring them to be the rock that country is allowed to like.

When I was a teenager, I started listening to pop country. I used to listen to "classic" country as a kid, but then I got sucked into the popularity game and only listened to what was "cool" in order to try and worm my way up the schoolyard hierarchy. But in high school, I started just listening to what I liked. My sister listened to rap at the time. We hated each other's music with a passion. Then one day, driving her home from school, she put in a tape of Dixie Chicks. Shocked, I said "I thought you didn't like country music!" She said, and I quote, "I don't, but the Dixie Chicks aren't real country." I turned my eyes away from the road to face her and said "you do realize that they're actually a bluegrass band, right? It doesn't get more 'real country' than bluegrass."

I was a musician myself and had years of musical theory by that point, so I was finally starting to see the connections between music and I realized how very closely related so much of it really is. My sister had no patience for music lessons and gave up after only a semester of clarinet, never even getting to the music theory stages. Ironically, country music is now the only thing my sister and I really have in common, and we make a point to go line dancing together every time I'm in town.

Here is a song I just heard on an internet radio station called "Today's Country Hits". It's technically pop country, but I think people who think of pop country as exclusively Taylor Swift might not automatically recognize this as the same genre. I'm undecided on the lyrics at the moment, but it has a richness in the instrumental use, it changes time signatures (which some music snobs I've heard have pronounced that only classical and indie rock even know how to do and that 4/4 time is a sign of low-brow entertainment), it changes tempo, and there are obvious genre style changes within the song itself.

Liking something is a subjective experience, so I do not attempt to change people's mind about what they like. But humans are notorious storytellers, and we usually make decisions first and then rationally justify those decisions afterwards. First we decide that we don't like something, and then we decide why we don't like it. So most of the criticisms I hear about any genre of music entirely, I take exception to because they are clearly post hoc rationalizations for a subjective experience to a superficial exposure.

If you don't like it, then you don't like it. That's fine. But I have short patience for musical snobbery because there are tons of examples within whatever genre is being denigrated that do exactly what is being claimed that genre doesn't do (or that don't do what is being claimed does do). Taxonomy is fuzzy and sometimes there is no real reason why a particular song was included in a particular genre except for maybe that the artist is already classified as an artist in that genre, or that the artist has announced that his new album is a specific genre as a point to mention how they have jumped genres but we might not realize they've switched because it doesn't sound all that different from their last album (Bon Jovi, I'm looking at you here). Also, not every song has to have a deep, sociopolitical message or have the complexity of Tool to be enjoyable or even well-crafted.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jVf6ulpDdGo





*The title comes from the experiment where people with brain trauma are shown two different pictures to two different sides of their brains, then they select objects from a bag, one with each hand, and explain why they chose those objects.  The side of the brain that saw a picture of a chicken can explain pulling out a toy chicken because it has control over language.  But the side of the brain that saw a picture of a mountain can't explain why that hand chose a snow shovel, so the side with language control post hoc rationalizes the shovel within the context of the chicken.
joreth: (Kitty Eyes)
I agree with Felicia Day about how changing a character's appearance through casting is not about sticking to canon. In addition to all the other things she says about diversity and minority representation, for me, when I get upset about changing a character's appearance through casting or when it's OK with me has to do with when that character's appearance affects the character development.

Take Annie, for example. That was a story about an unwanted, forgotten child who struggled with adversity in the lowest class of person there was. In the era it was written in and for, being poor and red-headed was the lowest a person could be (because being a person of color was *not* actually a person, and the predominantly white audience could not relate in any way to a black protagonist; just look at the names given to Warbuck's ethnic servants). But today, who better would understand the trials of being in the lowest economic class, hated and distrusted based on appearance alone, with little-to-no options for improving one's station than a little black orphan girl? Changing Annie's appearance from a red-headed white girl to a black girl does not change her character. In fact, one could argue that it enhances exactly those character traits the character was written around without the embedded racism of the early 20th century.

But remember the debacle about princessifying Mierda from Brave? All they changed about her was her clothing, and that sent fans into an uprorar. Why? Because the whole fucking movie was ABOUT her resistance to being princessified. And she WON that battle. That's why we loved her and that's what her entire character was about. Changing her clothing is literally the same as changing her very personality and her whole story. But you could make her a different ethnicity and still tell the same tale.

Most white characters are written as white straight males out of default, not because there is anything inherently white, straight, or male about their characters. There was that article I passed around a while back that advocated to parents that, while reading your children their bedtime stories, try changing up the gender pronouns. It turns out that telling most stories with white male protagonists as female, especially those written for children, doesn't typically alter the story in any way. It's totally believable because the stories aren't usually written AROUND the experience of being a white straight male. They're just stories that white straight males have adventures in. And when that's the case, pretty much anyone can have those adventures.

But when a writer creates a minority character, that writer has to deliberately make an effort to point out that the character is a minority. They usually only do that when they have a reason to do it, such as the experience of being that minority is what results in the character as we eventually meet them. I'm going to overlook for the moment the fact that most minority characters are either poorly written, written flatly, or written to represent or convey a stereotype and just address the fact that they *are* written, but are written for a reason. So to cast that character with a white actor pretty much erases the entire reason for that character having been written as a minority in the first place. Very rarely are minority characters put in a story just because the author felt like describing someone who looked different without those looks being some kind of commentary or effect on who the character is.

I originally wrote "never" instead of "very rarely", but then I remembered modern vampire romance novels (sorry, but Anne Rice and Laurell K. Hamilton write romance novels. They just do. Disclosure: I like modern vampire stories and I read romance novels. I stand by my assertion that they are one and the same). I believe that the minority characters in those stories really could be replaced by white actors and it would not significantly change the characters in any way. I think that these authors threw in minority characters simply to give themselves more adjectives to describe a cast of several dozen that all have six-pack abs, piercing eyes, honey-voices, and long flowing hair. Eventually you run out of ways to describe bulging biceps unless you throw in ebony skin or perfectly symmetrical faces with full lips without adding almond-shaped eyes, but there's nothing fundamentally "ethnic" about these characters that isn't simply "exotic objectification". But I digress.

Does the arrogance and selfish entitlement of Captain Hammer still work if we make that character a black man? Or a woman? Or a disabled person? No, Captain Hammer works best as a white male precisely because of the arrogance and entitlement of the character. He is, in fact, a commentary on the perception of heroes and making him a minority would hurt that message. But there is nothing about the Human Torch that is inherently "white" that a black man couldn't also play.

There is, however, a problem with casting a skinny model as a character who is the very embodiment of physical activity, martial arts, and ass-kicking skills even though both the actor and the character are white women (although a woman of color could easily play her character too). The character represents strong, independent womenhood, while a conventionally attractive female with no muscle definition does not convey that same message. She conveys the importance of beauty over strength and unrealistic ideals of the female body, which directly conflicts with the character's traits. Wonder Woman is an Amazon written by a man who is actually a "misandrist" - he actually really and truly believes that women are the better gender. She does not work as a skinny, conventionally attractive, small woman. She is supposed to be bigger and stronger than men. That's her THING.

Tonto cast as a white actor? Tiger Lily cast as a white actor? Aside from the original racism inherent in writing those characters in the first place, those characters *are* their ethnicities. To cast white actors in those roles is to further the erasure of those ethnicities and to erase their entire motivation for being in the story in the place where they are. If we tried to tell the Color Purple with white actors, we would be erasing the whole reason for that story existing in the first place. If we were to tell The Secret Garden with an Indian protagonist, we would be erasing the whole reason for that story existing in the first place. The whole reason the characters have the adventures they do and the personalities they do is *because* they are wealthy white children in colonial India.

The point here is that my upset or lack thereof when it comes to casting an actor of different ethnicity or gender or orientation than the character has to do with how that character's appearance changes the character's development, traits, and skills, not whether something is canon or not. Did the author write that character's appearance that way for a reason? What does that appearance do for the character's development? Is there another way to accomplish that development? Is that the *best* way to accomplish that development? Does that development or does that appearance represent stereotyping, outdated cultural influences, bigotry, or prevent more complex dimensional characterization or does it instead enhance or explain the character or highlight/comment on the culture's stereotyping, outdated cultural influences, bigotry, or prevention of character advancement? In other words, is that character poorly written because of its appearance, or do the ethnic/gender/orientation limitations placed on the character actually serve a larger social commentary purpose?

I don't want to stick to canon for canon's sake. Sometimes authors make mistakes or write something less well than it could have been written. Doesn't mean I don't like it, just means it could be better. What purpose does this element serve? Do I like that purpose or can the spirit of the story survive with a different take? Can that purpose be served by a different element? Those are the questions that ought to be asked when casting choices are made and plot changes are made going from one medium to another.

Replacing minority characters with white actors is racism because of the larger social issue of diversity representation and because the minority part of the character usually is an important character trait. Occasionally casting white characters with minority actors is NOT racism (or "reverse racism") because there is almost never anything fundamentally "white" about a character that could not exist if a minority actor portrayed that character and because of the larger social issue of diversity representation.

Racism is what happens when someone of an already disadvantaged racial class is disadvantaged or discriminated against. By definition, it is not racism when an advantaged racial class has to share some of the privileges with disadvantaged racial classes, even when sometimes "sharing" means you get those privileges just a little bit less often. That's called putting on the big boy pants and not hogging the spotlight so that others get a turn too.
joreth: (Super Tech)
We all know the joke about listening to a country song backwards gets your dog, your wife, and your truck back, but country music has a long history of feminist values and a rich diversity of topics. I'm even building a whole YouTube playlist of feminist country songs.

I'm not saying you'll like it if you just don't like the sound, but country music isn't what most people think it is. Take this song for example...



http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kQ8xqyoZXCc



This is a song all about the no-win double standard of social expectations, self-acceptance, diversity, and being authentic.  There are more like it to be found in country music.  In fact, country music is one of the earliest genres to include hit songs that stand up for women's rights and alternative viewpoints, believe it or not.  I have a whole post brewing about that for later.
joreth: (BDSM)
Another blogger wrote a post called When Dance Gets Kinky with some examples of BDSM elements found in dance performances.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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







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


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




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

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


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I9okkG-8BOM
joreth: (Silent Bob Headbang)

"I might not be the same but that's not important
No freedom til we're equal
Damn right I support it"

Too often, disadvantaged groups use the strategy for acceptance and equality of closing ranks against everyone else and appealing to the majority with "we're not that different from you! We have this one thing different, but we're not like THOSE freaks over there!" We are pitted against each other in our scrabble for inclusion to the club, like Survivor contestants or pledges being hazed. Because it's in the interest of the ruling class to keep us bickering and squabbling amongst ourselves. It prevents us from banding together and finding our own power. It keeps the ruling classes in power above us while we content ourselves with victory over their table scraps. Separate But Equal is not equal, it's a grudging concession that they deign to relinquish, hoping it'll keep our eyes off the banquet on top of the table.

It's the same hate that's caused wars from religion
Gender to skin color, the complexion of your pigment
The same fight that led people to walk-outs and sit-ins
It's human rights for everybody, there is no difference

The exact same thing that made whatever class you're in a disadvantaged class, an oppressed class, a second class is what you are turning around and doing to someone else when you discriminate against another. But what if we all banded together? What if all minority groups linked arms, faced the majority squarely in the face and said "we are all one and when we add us all up together, you are no longer the majority"? Would we finally find equality? Would we finally know freedom?

I might not be the same, but that's not important. There is no freedom until we are all equal. Damn right I support it.



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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

http://collegeatthirty.blogspot.com/search/label/fifty%20shades%20of%20grey
http://jennytrout.blogspot.com/p/jen-reads-50-shades-of-grey.html
http://zephyrscribe.tumblr.com/tagged/50+Shades+of+Grey
http://theramblingcurl.blogspot.com/2013/02/need-more-evidence-that-50-shades-is.html
joreth: (Misty in Box)

Saw a sitcom the other day where a girl got jealous of her boyfriend hanging out with his ex. The guy showed no sexual or romantic interest in the ex-girlfriend, and even seemed to completely miss anything that could have been an innuendo from the ex (and it really was "could have been" - she seemed equally as oblivious to any innuendo and did not appear to be behaving in a predatory or inappropriate way).  He behaved, in my opinion, in a way that, if you cut her out of the scene, you wouldn't be able to tell the gender or the past relationship from his actions.

The girlfriend told him that she was uncomfortable (which, honestly, is a step up in the good relationship skills department for a sitcom), but he tried to assure her that she had nothing to fear.  She tried to make him understand by threatening to hang out with her own ex and he said he wouldn't mind if she did.  So she did.  She very deliberately chose a good looking ex and very deliberately chose a setting designed to increase the discomfort.  The only flaw in her plan, I think, was in choosing an ex that she actively despised, so if her boyfriend really had a reason to worry, this would not have been the guy to worry about.  She also proceeded to avoid her ex as much as possible, not doing anything flirtatious or to lead him on in any way.  She explicitly expressed her distaste to her ex and was honest about there being no interest there.  The ex, similarly, did not flirt with or hit on the girlfriend or behave in a way that would make her uncomfortable, other than the fact that he was a general sort of jackass and she just didn't like him.

The sitcom then showed the boyfriend getting along rather well with the ex-boyfriend, much to the girlfriend's annoyance.  It looked like her plan was going to backfire and that he really was secure and she really was in the wrong.  I would have loved to have seen a sitcom that took that track.  But, 'twas not to be.  In the end, he confessed to feeling uncomfortable around the ex, he was just being socially polite, but that he'd rather not have her spend time with the ex anymore - even though she loathed the ex and would stop seeing him the second her point was proved or she had lost the argument.  The couple ultimately both agreed that they shouldn't hang out with exes anymore so that neither would have to feel uncomfortable.


::facepalm::

What a lost opportunity!  What a great chance to highlight trust and security in a relationship!  What a perfect time to illustrate good communication skills, personal growth, and the amazing strength a relationship can have when those in it have unshakable trust in each other. Without even broaching the subject of open relationships or changing the plot at all!  Since we never actually witnessed the boyfriend behaving jealously, they could have altered that final conversation just a little so that he said "see honey?  I'm not worried about him being in your life because of how much I trust you and how much faith I put in our relationship," and she could have said "you're right, dear, I see how solid our relationship is and how much trust you put in me, and I will work to be worthy of your trust and to be as trusting of our relationship, to honor the love you have given me.  The love you have for me is so amazing and so strong, that I want to gift you with a love as equally amazing and strong, and I will strive to do just that."

One paragraph of dialog changed, only slightly, could have made such a huge change in the tone of the show, while leaving everything else exactly as the mindless-sitcom watching audience apparently would have wanted.  I'm willing to bet money that a sitcom that left in all the standard, silly hijinks that this episode included, and ended with a reinforcement of monogamous values, but that just happened to not reward jealousy, would have been well received - or at least gone unnoticed.  I'm willing to bet that there would not have been any outrage at a sitcom that ended with a monogamous couple not cheating, not opening up their relationship, and upholding their commitment to each other to be faithful in a relationship so strong that no outside influences could tear them apart, even though the sitcom also didn't encourage insecurity as a way to make that commitment to monogamy.

I'm reminded of the time when I was at a party with my high school sweetheart (in a monogamous relationship), and we both kind of separated to hang out with our respective friends at the party (physically went to different places, not had a romantic separation), and a girl who had a crush on him started following him around. My friends who witnessed it spent the whole night coming up to me to tell me about it. No one could believe that I was truly OK that he spent time with her.

The thing is, I absolutely trusted him. There was nothing she could do at all that could *make* him violate our relationship agreements without his participation, and I fully believed, with my whole heart, that he would not violate our relationship. She could stand there, stark naked, and say "take me now!", and he would just say "um, wow, uh, I gotta go." She could touch him and he would move away. There was NOTHING she could do. Even if she raped or molested him, it would, by definition, be without his consent, making her the bad guy, not him.  Oh, I have no doubt that she could have set up a situation where he might have actually gotten aroused, but I fully believe that he would never have DONE anything to violate our relationship agreement of monogamy - that he was fully capable of controlling his actions in spite of any feelings that might, ahem, arise, and that he is not an animal who, once turned on, must sate his lust no matter the consequences.  I was never under the illusion that he didn't find other women attractive.  I just believed he could have those feelings and not act on them, or that if he felt he had to act, he would break up with me first.

And if he DID do something to violate our relationship, that would have been HIS decision, not hers. If he really wanted to violate our relationship, keeping him away from *her* would not have stopped him. He would have found some other way.  Either I would be unsuccessful at keeping him away from her specifically, or he would find another girl whom I wasn't trying to keep away from him.  As a former cheater myself, I knew better than anyone that a person who wants to cheat will, no matter what they agree to or how hard their partner tries to stop them.  Perhaps ironically, being a former cheater in no way lessened my ability to trust my sweetheart, but does make me extremely hostile towards those who justify cheating now that I have relationships that are set up so that I don't feel that I have to cheat to get what I need out of relationships.  If I'm not getting what I need from a relationship, I adjust the relationship parameters so that I can get what I need (namely, freedom and independence).  But that's a whole other discussion.

My first fiance and I had a similar situation. He had an evening planned with his best friend, his "big sister" (a slightly older girl he thought of in a sister way) whom he hadn't seen since she went off to college. Most of the evening was in public with their mutual friends. 2 girls, one who wanted to hook up with me and one who wanted to hook up with him, started calling me at home to tell me just how chummy my fiance and his friend were being - the point was to sow dissension and distrust so that we would break up & be "free" for each of them to move in on us.

I was not bothered at all by anything they were saying. I already knew they were "chummy" and I trusted him. I finally had to go down to the restaurant where they all were just so that the girls would stop calling me. But I didn't confront him about his dubious behaviour, I told him that the girls were pestering me and that I trusted him to honor our relationship. I asked him to address their accusations, and I found his explanations to be completely reasonable. I had no problems with him hugging his "big sister", with her kissing him on the cheek, with them sitting next to each other in the booth, or with them poking and tickling each other. All of that were completely normal things for siblings to do and I was similarly affectionate with my platonic male friends.

As a monogamous teenager, I had nothing to fear. I was absolutely confident. At a time when most people are at their most insecure, most needy, and most lacking in relationship skills, I had nothing to fear. He would be faithful to me or he wouldn't. In either case, that was something between us, not me and her.

As someone who also has felt the twinge of insecurity that comes when another person of the appropriate gender enters the picture, it seemed to me as a hormonal teenager and it still seems to me now that if you can't trust your partners to behave themselves just because someone of the appropriate gender is nearby, then your relationship has bigger problems than an old friend or ex hanging around.

Believe me, I do completely understand feeling insecure that is triggered by the presence of another person.  I have, in the past, even asked partners to refrain from being romantically involved with particular people because I was afraid of how their presence would affect our relationship.  And you know what I found out?  That my original teenaged position was validated - either he would be with her or he wouldn't, no amount of me placing restrictions would change that, and that ultimately, the problems caused by his interest in another woman were really problems between he and I that restricting his behaviour would not have solved.  There comes a point at which you just have to let go and trust in your partner to make decisions that will not harm you, and to trust that, when he or she does (because no one is perfect), the two of you can find a resolution and overcome the hurt that was caused.  Because without that trust, your relationship is doomed (or dysfunctional, which one could technically call "doomed" but which could also last a very long time, even until death).

joreth: (Purple Mobius)
http://www.petting-zoo.org/2013/08/30/teamplay/

I can't tell you how many times I've tried to correct people on the "protect the existing relationship" that once you introduce someone(s) new, there is no longer any "existing" relationship - it's a whole new thing that has a whole new dynamic with (perhaps only slightly, perhaps massively) different needs and priorities.

New partners are not patches to be slapped onto an old pair of jeans - intended to add onto and improve, but not otherwise significantly change the original garment. They are a completely unique element unto themselves that changes the entire ensemble - sometimes in complimentary ways, sometimes in unflattering ways, sometimes merely altering the tone but sometimes changing the whole look and feel of the outfit.

Like my black slashed t-shirt that I made for a 7 Deadly Sins party one year, where I dressed as Wrath. With the leather pants and chain mail skirt and creepy fire eye contacts, I looked like Wrath. But paired with a black fedora and short flirty skirt and hi-top Converse, the black slashed t-shirt looked totally '80s hip hop dancer. Vastly different outfits because I swapped out other elements.

Then, for my Victorian ballgown, that's clearly a historical looking outfit. But I can take off the outer blouse and skirt, and just wear the corset and underskirt, and I get a Victorian-themed ballroom dancing outfit or add a mask and I got a kink-appropriate Masquerade outfit. Leave the whole thing put together and add some jewelry made of gears and I get a Steampunk Victorian outfit. Leave the fantail down and I get an extravagant gown that needs an assistant to move around or pin the fantail up and I get a much more practical gown that I can walk around in. Same outfit, different tones and feelings with different elements.

     

So stop trying to "protect the existing relationship" and start asking "exactly what kind of team is this anyway, and what will it be with me as part of it?"
joreth: (Super Tech)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

OKBingo!

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

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

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

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

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