joreth: (Purple Mobius)
www.polyishmoviereviews.com/show-notes/episode23-sametimenextyear

New episode! This time I review the classic play-turned-movie Same Time, Next Year with Alan Alda and Ellen Burstyn. Can a movie about cheating find a place on the Poly-ish Movie List?

If you subscribe to Poly-ish Movie Reviews on some kind of podcatcher or RSS feed, you probably already got this month's episode in your podcast feed. But the Show Notes & Transcripts page was posted late, so here's the new episode for this month!
joreth: (polyamory)
I came down, not "hard", exactly, but firm on someone asking some advice. At least, compared to some of my other responses, I don't think it was "hard". But I didn't shy away from the main point. I didn't ease him into it, I just didn't pick him up screaming and throw him into deep, choppy waters.

And he *listened*. I find that to be admirable and impressive and I think there is a lot of good potential for his future in unlearning all the shit that society has instilled in him.

I think the advice is good, so I'm gonna re-post a modified version of it here as a general post not aimed at a specific person but at a situation that I see play over and over again in the poly community.  I've left the gendered pronouns that applied to the OP, because I so often see this playing out with these pronouns and I often speak from my own experience, but the stories and the advice could be found with any mix of pronouns.

So, you're trying this poly thing out for the first time with your partner.  You love each other, so naturally you don't want to lose what you already have together, but you also want to explore something new.  So you discuss it a lot, and you make some agreements as to how to go about it that you think shows your commitment to and compassion for each other.

Then she comes to you and says that this agreement y'all had?  She wants to change the agreement.  Right now, because the thing you agreed not to do is about to happen.  Or maybe already happened.  Or maybe isn't about to happen right this instance, but it's now inevitable and it's *going* to happen and you can't stop it.

And you're afraid.  And hurt.  You agreed!  Now she wants to change the rules!  She can't just do that, can she?  Well, I'm going to tell you something that you're going to like even less than hearing that.  She's allowed to do change things.  What she does with herself and with other people who are not you is none of your business.  She can change the "rules" (whether you use that term or not) regarding what she does with herself whenever she wants to, and she's not "the bad guy" for doing so, even if you feel bad feels about it.

First of all, don't confuse "it's not your business, she's her own person and can do what she wants" with "don't have any emotional investment in your partner".  A lot of mono people and recently-mono people make that mistake.

When your partner goes to work, or hangs out with her friends, is it your "business" to negotiate ahead of time what she does or doesn't do at work?  I mean, you're sharing her with her job, right?  You're sharing her with her boss.  Shouldn't you get a say in what she does?  Of course not, that would be ridiculous.  You're not "sharing" her with her boss!  Even though, technically, she does spend more time with him, the majority of her waking hours, actually.  You don't get a say in it, you don't get to "negotiate" about it, and it's none of your business.  What she does on her boss's time is between her and her boss.  What she does with her best friend when they're out together is between her and her best friend.  How she spends her time with her mother is between her and her mother.

But as a loving partner, you might be *interested* in how her day at work goes.  You might want to hear all about it, or maybe what she does isn't of interest to you so you don't really want to hear all the details but you care how her job affects her.  Her happiness or lack of happiness at work matters to you, so you're "invested" in her well-being at work.  But it's not your "business" to know anything about her work, especially ahead of time when shit happens and things come up.

She doesn't have to report to you or notify you or tell you anything to soothe your own feelings.  But she might want to share with you because sharing who we are and what we do when we're apart with our partners is part of intimacy and connecting with each other.  And she ought to tell you things that could affect your own ability to consent to a relationship (or certain activities in that relationship) with her.  But that's about your relationship with her and how *she* affects *you*, not her relationship with other people.

No one is saying that you shouldn't be "invested" in her and even in her other relationships, but this "need" to know that you're expressing *is* a form of control, whether you see it or not.  It's scary to not know what's happening, and wanting to be kept in the loop isn't, by itself, a bad thing, but expecting to know, with the (probably subconscious) belief that by knowing you can then affect the outcome, is a drive to control.

If you think that she can't just announce it, and that a conversation or a dialog has to happen before rules or agreements can change, then you're likely believing that you can influence things.  Conversation *should* happen so that you can both explore your feelings together, but usually when the person in your position feels *affronted* at the idea that he isn't granted the "right" to this conversation and feels that an announcement is insufficient, if you dig down deep enough, it's based on the assumption that he can control or influence the outcome.

And often, I see people being affronted even when their partner *does* ask for a conversation first.  The very fact of "asking permission" is seen as offensive, because you "already agreed!"  You had an agreement!  Well, now she wants to renegotiate that agreement, and if that bothers you, then you have some issues with control right now.

Maybe you don't realize that's what you're doing, but right now you're not just expressing a desire to know because change is hard to deal with and you want time to adjust.  You're also expressing a desire to influence the potential situation, to influence *her* decision-making process.  That's control.  You might not understand that your underlying, sometimes hidden, assumptions are being expressed, but they are and that's why people in forums jump down your throat when you ask for advice on certain kinds of situations.

The problem is that only people who have made it through to the other side can see what the difference is between control vs. interest, or between "not your business" and "don't get invested".  Much like privilege, most of us can't see it when we're in it, but we can damn well see it when we're on the outside of it.

Because most of us, when we're on your side of the fence, can't tell what the difference is between "not your business" and "don't be invested", it probably sounds like I'm suggesting that you shouldn't *care*, because your side of the fence has all these different definitions of "caring" mixed up with each other.  I've written before about the story of a friend who voluntarily gave up polyamory on the basis that he couldn't deal with his partner "not caring" about what he did away from her.  He couldn't tell the difference between "not your business" and "don't be invested" either.

There are very subtle, but significant, things going on that make "none of your business" and "don't be invested" two very different things, but much like trying to point out to someone their own privilege, it can be very difficult to see what that difference is, until one day you just *do* see the difference.

Second of all, another common rookie mistake is that we often make it unsafe for our partners to be honest with us.  Without doing anything intentionally, and without even going so far as "abuse" or "control", when our partners are afraid of how we will react to something, our partners often skirt things because it doesn't feel safe to be totally up front and honest, and they do that *without intending* to be dishonest.

There is a reluctance to admit to themselves what they're really feeling, which becomes a hesitation to admit to us.  They try to "ease us in" to situations, they downplay this thing or gloss over that thing.  Because they don't feel completely safe in really examining themselves out of fear of how the revelations will affect us.  This happens to newbies all. the. time.  It's basically the transitional step - if you come from a mono world, you have certain habits and assumptions and expectations built in and getting past them into trusting oneself and one's partner is extremely difficult.

The example of someone who is upset that his partner originally agreed not to have sex with her new partner on a date but then calls to ask permission to change that rule while on that date is a *classic* example and the forums are filled with posts asking for advice on what to do now.  He obviously had a problem with her having sex with her partner.  She obviously picked up on that, whether he said anything explicitly or not.  If he really didn't have any problem with it, even being surprised by a change in plans wouldn't have elicited the all-to-common plea for validation that the poly forums would see the next day, as he plaintively asks "that was wrong of her to change our agreement, right?"

She didn't feel completely safe advocating for her own interest in sex with her partner or in advocating on behalf of her partner's interests, so she hedged and cushioned and tried to ease him into it, until sex was right there, in her face, and she couldn't hide from the possibility anymore without being blatantly dishonest.  She had to wait until the cognitive dissonance from the reality of potential sex was greater than her fear of hurting you before she could admit to herself, and then to you, that sex was an option.

This means that *you* have your own share of the responsibility here in setting up the situation you now find yourself in where agreements are changed or broken and you feel "betrayed" because her emotions and desires didn't conveniently followed the path that y'all somehow thought it was possible to map out ahead of time.

She needs to feel that her actions with another aren't going to hurt you, because she cares about you and doesn't *want* to hurt you, and she needs to see that enough times to really trust that it's true, before she'll learn how to let go of this habit of hiding her wants from herself, of downplaying herself, of diminishing herself, of making herself smaller for your comfort. She likely has a *lot* of programming from a multitude of sources over her life instructing her to make herself smaller for the comfort of others, particularly if your partner is female, femme, or socialized as a woman and has male or masculine or socialized-as-men romantic partners.

I've been there.  Yes, me, the Internet Flame Warrior, Le Online Bitch, who demands my agency and takes no prisoners in these battles for autonomy and respect.  I know the complicated, swirling morass of unnamed and unrecognized feelings, the justifications, the compassion tinged with darker fears, that murky soup inside the head that makes me believe, if only on the surface, that no, I really am not as interested in this guy, no, I really don't want sex this soon, no, I'm totally happy not dating anyone else for a while, so please, honey, take your time and get used to things first.

I know how to shrink myself so slowly that even I won't notice it until the box I'm trying to fit in bursts from the pressure.  I know how to put myself on the back burner, how to dismiss myself so that someone else feels better.

I also know that it's a false sense of security.  I know that this usually just makes things worse in the long run because my partner starts to get used to this unobtrusive, inconspicuous little package, so when the box suddenly explodes and sends shards and debris everywhere, he feels like a bomb has gone off.  Either way he's going to feel uncomfortable with me taking up my full size.  I know this.

And yet, I know what it's like to do this anyway, even knowing it.  Because I'm trained to do this.  Everything in my culture and upbringing says that this is the proper way to behave.  To be a "compassionate" person, a "nice" person, a "caring" person, you have to "compromise".  You have to "move at the pace of the slowest person".  You have to "give and take" and right now you have to "give" first.

She feels that she has to be smaller than she is.  She has made herself so small that even she can't see who she really is and what she wants, and she did that because she's afraid of how you will feel if she doesn't.  It doesn't even have to be a fear of punishment or retribution or abuse.  She could feel afraid because she genuinely doesn't want to hurt you because she loves you. 

But she feels that way because she believes that being herself and wanting what she wants *will hurt you*.

You have to set the tone, and you have to do the work before she will feel safe.  That may take some time and she will probably stumble over her own bad habits for a while before she learns to trust you and to trust herself.

But it starts with you.
joreth: (BDSM)

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

joreth: (Dobert Demons of Stupidity)

Hey filmmakers! I know this is a complicated, nuanced concept that takes years of study in advanced academic institutions, but I'm going to spoil the ending for you now:

It is not only possible, but likely, that two people of complimentary genders can be thrown together in a situation and not want to have sex with each other.
I know, I've seen this happen. Like every single mixed-gender office ever. They don't all pair up, even if they're not already married. Even if they genuinely like each other as people. And sometimes, even if they are actually attracted to each other.

Now, some of y'all script writers appear to have advanced doctorates in Non-Trope Writing, because I've seen a couple movies lately where you didn't do this. And I appreciate you. But the rest of y'all need to get your shit together and get some schoolin' because the obligatory romantic subplot that serves to support the male character's story arc is boring, trite, lazy writing, overdone, and way out of proportion to reality. It's like watching a movie set in Harlem around the turn of the last century and seeing only 1 black face (of someone who happens to be in power during Jim Crow and yet not a main character). Like, do you even history bro?

The population is more than 50% "woman" - there needs to be more than 1 female character in a cast of dozens. When you add up all the various ethnicities together, white men are a minority - there needs to be more than 1 or 2 black dudes and possibly that 1 hot Latina in a cast of dozens. And I know that this one will be some seriously high level thesis work for you, but all those women and non-white people have their own stories going on that have nothing to do with supporting some white dude's personal growth, which even white dudes in the audience can relate to if you tell the story well (and if they don't just refuse to relate to on principle).

And when you look at all the times that people don't hook up with each other just because their genitals are complimentary, there needs to be more than 3 movies in the last 10 years that feature a mixed-gender cast that doesn't have the token woman character having sex with the lead male character or any sexual tension leading up to will-they/won't-they subplots.

Because it's totally possible to put an attractive woman and an attractive man* in a room together and have them not want to bone each other.




*I'm not even going to address the problem with body diversity or gendered double standards of age and/or "attractiveness" here - I'm mad enough already.

joreth: (Super Tech)

The more I learn about Moana, the more I like it.

I'm about to say a few things that I just learned about the film and the backstory that I like, which aren't *too* spoilery, but if you're really spoiler averse, you might want to not read the rest of the post.  It's mostly about the background behind the movie and not so much about movie plot points.

First of all, I just learned that the production team recruited "experts from across the South Pacific to form an Oceanic Story Trust, who consulted on the film's cultural accuracy and sensitivity as the story evolved through nine versions." Seriously, more movies need to do something like this.

Next, I learned that one of those early versions had Moana as the only girl in a family of sons and her character arc was gender-based. Now, I'm usually all in for a good examination of how gender roles are expressed and inhibit characters, but something I've been really into lately is just having characters be fully fleshed characters that get into situations and who might happen to be not straight white males. MRA defenses of mostly white straight male protagonists include the justification that the story isn't *about* being a white male, so girls and POC should have no problem getting into the story because it could apply to "anyone". 1) Totally not true on pretty much every level of that assertion; 2) if they really could apply to "anyone", then it shouldn't matter if the character *is* "anyone", including non-male, non-straight, or non-white; and 3) yeah, having "white male" be the default setting where making a character not "white male" is a deliberate choice IS PART OF THE PROBLEM.

Ahem.

So, I really liked the fact that the story of Moana is not about her being "a girl". She wasn't prohibited from her dreams by her father "because she's a girl", she wasn't being forced into her traditional role "because she's a girl", and her story wasn't about either overcoming her gender or teaching anyone else to overcome gender roles. Her story was just an adventure story. That happened to happen to "a girl". The story could have been anyone. And I absolutely loved that she didn't have to "be a girl" and yet, she was one.

Next, I learned that the scene with Moana, Maui, and the ... well, I'll just say the "pirates" ... was a *deliberate homage to Mad Max: Fury Road*! Take that you fucking MRAs! Even Disney sees the financial incentive and storytelling value of Furiosa. Even "chick flicks" are fucking badass feminist action movies now. Because, here's a newsflash (and to blatantly steal from some other post I don't have the link to), women actually like action movies but particularly when the main character isn't a sexualized woman. Just tell our stories and we'll come see them. It's not that we don't like action films, it's that it's fucking lazy storytelling when the only women in the film are there to fulfill the (perceived) male audience members' wet dreams and we're *bored* and uninterested in lazy storytelling like that. The action isn't actiony enough to make up for the fact that your few women are cardboard flat and BORING.

There are legitimate criticisms about the film with respect to cultural sensitivity, and I was concerned about that happening when I first heard of it coming out and again when I saw it, but not being familiar with the communities of the people in the South Pacific (other than to know that there is no great controversy or ownership battle over who gets to use the term "poly" online and I refuse to White Knight them by making it into A Thing on their behalf), I was not able to anticipate or later to pick out what those criticisms might be.

So, as someone who is not disinfranchised by whatever gaffs the movie makes, the more I see, read, listen, and think about this movie, the more I want to include it in my top Disney favorites alongside Brave (my #1 favorite for the tomboy struggle), Maleficent (#3 for the lack of romantic love driving force and the nuanced look at a villain without ignoring her flaws) and Frozen (#4 for the lack of a husband and romance plot).

If I didn't list your favorite Disney princess movie, chances are it's because I either didn't like it or because I haven't seen it, so you don't have to ask me "have you seen...?" to find out why it's not listed.

joreth: (Swing Dance)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

joreth: (Purple Mobius)

Just like the word "polyamory" itself, there is a person who coined the term "solo poly" who is living* and yet most of the community debates the definition. We seem to like taking words and terms that exist for a purpose and changing them to suit our own preferences.  Then we argue over what the words mean and get upset when people misunderstand our non-standard, unconventional, or unique use of the word.

When the term first came out, I had been an outspoken writer and activist in the poly community for many years. I came into the poly community as a single, bi-curious, woman-presenting person. I wasn't trying to "open up" some existing monogamous relationship. Which means that I was immediately beset upon by the unicorn hunters - poly sharks circling the waters after fresh meat. It's enough to put anyone off their feed, to mix my metaphors.

But I'm stubborn. And I'm very secure in who I am and what I want. And I'm also absolutely adamant about what I believe I am entitled to. Some of the things I believe I am entitled to are controlling my agency, being treated as an individual human being, being an equal partner in my relationships, and designing my relationships to suit the preferences of the people in them rather than forcing people to fit into a predetermined relationship mold. Apparently, I'm asking a lot. But I didn't flee the poly community after being treated like something to be consumed. I stuck around to fight back so that I could change the community into something that was more hostile towards those sharks and more welcoming towards swimmers like me, the people who, I had been led to believe, started the community in the first place.

Around 2012, the phrase "solo poly" started getting used, notably by one blogger in particular who is credited with coining the phrase. I became aware of her when we started interacting on Twitter because we seemed to share similar relationship preferences and a similar frustration with the broader poly community being resistant to and dismissive of our visions of respect for autonomy, agency, and living alone. I do not take any credit whatsoever in the coining of that phrase, but I was there in the beginning when it was coined and I had been publicly espousing what turned out to be its definition for more than a decade before its coining.

There were a few other terms floating around at the time and we were trying them all on to see what fit. While trying on several terms, I started the first ever solo poly group, and I put it on Facebook. I invited several phrase coiners to run the group with me, as we seemed to share the same visions and frustrations. Eventually the other terms dropped out of favor and we stuck with "solo poly".

But in my time defending this new phrase, I have discovered that lots of people use the term differently, including those of us who started the whole movement in the first place. As usual, this has caused some confusion. Today, I have come up with a breakdown of the three or four most common variations on the phrase that I think will help to bridge communication gaps when we all start throwing around this term and everyone starts arguing about what it can and can't include.

Before I get to that breakdown, though, there is one misconception that needs to be cleared up. The one thing that solo poly does *not* mean is "unpartnered". Solo polys *can* be without any romantic partners (for however they want to define "romantic partner") but that is most definitely not what the term *means*. Solo polys can and do have partners of all sorts, including deeply intimate, emotional, committed partners. We already had a word for people who don't have any partners - single. The term "solo poly" is intended to address a specific way that they "do" their relationships, not to indicate that they don't have any.

  1. The most commonly cited explanation for "solo poly", in my observation, is the desire to live alone and be off the "relationship escalator". The "relationship escalator" is that culturally defined path that people in romantic relationships are supposed to take, with certain steps progressing in a particular order, all culminating in a particular relationship conclusion. In my culture, we start programming people from a very young age, notably with the children's rhyme "first comes love, then comes marriage, then comes baby in the baby carriage!" There can be some variance in the steps, but in general, the "relationship escalator" involves two people always moving towards a destination that ends with life together, a marriage certificate, kids, a house, entangled finances, and a blending of the self into the relationship unit.

    This can even play out in a microcosm of individual relationships, where even sex acts are ranked on an increasing scale of importance, to be done in a particular order in a particular time and imbued with meaning or significance related to its place on the escalator.  But with respect to this element, the culmination of the relationship, it's symbol of "success", involves the intermingling of lives.

    Many solo polys prefer to structure their lives, logistically, in alternate ways, with living alone or "independently" with housemates being a top priority. Many solo polys expend a lot of energy keeping their lives logistically, practically, disentangled from other people, regardless of the emotional connection they share with others.

  2. The next most commonly cited description that I, personally, see is the elevation of the self as "primary". This is more abstract and involves prioritizing the self over others, usually in terms of self-care and emotional labor. People who use this description will often refer to themselves as their own "primary" and everyone else comes "secondary" to the self. This does not preclude any depth to an emotional connection between the solo poly and others. This is all about priority - who comes first in a conflict of competing priorities (which is usually the alternate definition of "hierarchy" that so often leads us into circular argument over whether hierarchy can be "ethical" or not, where people confuse "priority" for "power" and attach ranking terms to priorities instead of centers of power). No matter how much one cares about another, sometimes priorities conflict and that's just the way of things - just ask anyone with two or more kids who have extra-curricular activities or who have had accidents at the same time. Prioritizing one's own self as "primary" sets the baseline precedent for how to resolve those conflicts.

    In practice, many solo polys are fairly adept at what I call "interdependence" - the balancing of priorities so that each person in a relationship can feel secure that their emotional needs will be cared for and that their partners and romantic networks can provide a safety net for them to fall back on when needed. Yet many tend to emphasize the importance of putting the self first in conversation about priorities, so it often sounds like they stray into "selfish" territory (which I have defined in some long-ago blog post as being different from self-interested, where "selfish" is about prioritizing the self to the detriment of anyone else and is inherently a negative trait).

    In my opinion and experience, I think some of this emphasis comes as a reaction to abuse. One of the red flags of abuse is in the loss of individual identity and subsuming one's identity into the relationship - in making the relationship itself more important than the people in the relationship. Lots and lots and lots of people see the melding of individuals into a single unit as "romantic" and don't see the danger inherent in losing one's identity separate from the relationship. Because of that, lots of people engage in fundamentally abusive practices without even realizing it (which is where the whole power issue of hierarchy comes in), and in polyamory, the people who feel the pressure and consequent explosion first and most often tend to be people who are not entangled in escalator-like relationships.

    In other words, even though losing one's identity into a relationship in an abusive situation hurts everyone, the most visible collateral damage in these situations tends to be the "secondary" brought into an existing dyadic relationship. These "secondaries" are treated as disposable, as crutches to shore up damaged couples, as sex toys, as nannies, as need-fulfillment machines. Even when they aren't supposed to be "secondaries" and are instead supposed to be equal "thirds" to existing dyads, their purpose tends to remain the same - a person is "hired" to fulfill a role for a couple and when it all goes to hell, that third person often ends up with the most visible scars.

    So I believe that many solo polys are gun-shy, so to speak, of getting sucked back into these kinds of toxic relationships or have seen the explosions on the poly battlefield and want to avoid being yet another statistic themselves. I might fall into that camp. Many may also be unable to articulate the difference between priority and power, and fearing a power imbalance, they emphasize their priority for themselves.  I think a lot of solo polys, even though they are quite capable of building interdependent relationships and may even be practiced at it in their existing relationships, I think a lot of solo polys tend to emphasize their self as "primary" to try and explain the concepts of autonomy and independence to an audience that often sees *any* separation or individuality as a threat to their control over the outcome of the relationship.

    I am not at all, in any way, suggesting that solo polys do not feel the way they claim to feel about being their own primaries. I'm suggesting to people who think that these claims mean that solo polys are callous and selfish and unable to care deeply about other people or even work together to form mutually beneficial partnerships that those people misunderstand the importance of the concepts, possibly because of a lack of understanding of that power imbalance and of how deep the threads of abuse go into our collective understandings of relationships where "abuse" and "romantic" become interchangeable.

  3. Closely related to the "self as the primary" but some may view as distinct, is the prioritization of the concepts of "autonomy", "agency", and "independence". This can also be related to abuse. First and foremost, abuse is about control. The way one controls another is by removing their agency - their ability to operate as an autonomous individual. Many solo polys cite "agency" as their motivation, or their priority. Much of what I said in the previous element can be applied here, especially the parts about reacting to abuse, where some solo polys are aware of and concerned about abuse and emphasize the language of "agency" in their descriptions such that people who don't understand the importance can misinterpret solo polys as being "selfish", "afraid of commitment", or unwilling / unable to work together in interdependent partnerships.

    Sometimes the people who are most sensitive to a loss of agency or autonomy are part of oppressed categories and understand the loss of agency from a cultural oppression perspective. Many solo polys are drawn to the label because of their closely held beliefs in the importance of autonomy and they seek to build relationships that honor and respect autonomy and agency above everything else, where all the other elements of relationships, such as support and intimacy, exist to serve and protect the partners' respective agency. Some solo polys believe that intimacy and connection can't exist without recognizing and acknowledging agency, because it is only by relating to an autonomous individual can we truly build intimate connections in the first place. Not recognizing the essential agency of our partners is considered a roadblock to intimacy because the participants are not really in relationships with each other, but are in relationships with models of people that exist in one's imagination that are *based* on real people.

    There are also a lot of motivations for people who value independence. I'm not going to go into a deep dive over the how and why of this. Some people were raised to be independent. Some people were harmed by being too dependent and learned independence as a survival skill. Some people had bad experiences with codependent partners in the past. Some people are just that way and who knows why? And probably there are even more reasons.

    Our culture tends to give us conflicting messages. On the one hand, we're supposed to "pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps" and be a "self-made man" and not take "handouts". On the other hand, romantic relationships are culturally designed to erode that sense of independence. There is also a gender power influence here, where men who have housewives raising the kids and managing the home are still considered "self-made" who become "successful" with "nobody's help" but women who have partners are considered to need help. If she works and he stays home with the kids, he is "helping out with the kids" so that she can pursue her career. But if he works and she stays home, she's not "helping out", she's doing her job and he still built his career "on his own" because it's the charity or handouts or assistance of others that "count" as "help".

    The gender differential and power dynamic in relationships is a big enough topic that some people can actually build entire careers out of studying it so I'm going to stop here before I go off on a rant about it. Back to independence, we are taught to be "independent" but that doesn't apply in relationships. In relationships, we are taught to entangle ourselves with other people. It's even written into the law in some places, such as shared property laws where, even if you maintain separate joint checking accounts, legally speaking each spouse is entitled to half of the other's money. Some people, for a variety of reasons, prefer to retain their independence even within romantic relationships, regardless of how much they care about their partner.

  4. The fourth element is about introversion and privacy. Many people who gravitate towards solo poly are introverts. First of all, "introversion" has nothing at all to do with social skills, shyness, or misanthropy. Introversion and extroversion are jungian psychological theories that describe how people feel "energized", or engaged, active, and happy. Introversion and extroversion are also not binary states; they are on spectrums. Everyone has some of both, so I don't want to hear any of this "I'm an ambivert" or "those tests never guess me right because I do both" bullshit in my comments. Everyone does both to some degree and boxing you into a single category is not the purpose of the system. But personality type systems and the public's collective misunderstanding of them is a rant for another time.

    Back to the point - introversion is where people feel that they lose "energy" by interacting with some people and they need to "recharge" by being alone. Extroversion is the opposite - people feel that they lose "energy" by being alone and need social contact with others to feel better. Many introverts enjoy social activity, some of us enjoy it a great deal. It's just that we feel tired after the event and it takes some time being alone to start to feel better. Introversion can be a difficult state to adequately care for when someone lives with other people, so polys who are strong introverts often enjoy living alone to care for their introversion. No matter how much an introvert loves someone else, and no matter what they feel or believe about entangling finances or other relationship escalator steps, an introvert still needs a way to get "alone time". So they may be open to such entangled arrangements, but only if they can configure them in the right way. The difficulty of finding such a balance when one is also poly can lead to people identifying as "solo poly".

    And then there is privacy. Again, like independence above, there are a wide variety of reasons why people value privacy, ranging from healthy to unhealthy, from "nature" to "nurture" (i.e. being inherent in the personality vs. a reaction to past experiences), and which slide around on the intensity scale. It is much more difficult to maintain one's privacy from within a relationship that is riding the escalator. When people cohabit, especially if they don't have a room of their own, when they share finances, when they share email and online accounts, when they entangle their lives with other people, it becomes extremely difficult to have privacy. This isn't about keeping secrets (and I'm not going to entertain comments about what "counts" as a "secret"). Every mother I know has made jokes about not knowing what it's like to pee without an audience for the first 5 years of a child's life (longer if one has multiple kids within 5 years of age). Some people value privacy more than they value entanglement and these people are often attracted to the label "solo poly".

These four elements - living alone, the self as the primary, autonomy / agency / independence, and introversion / privacy, are not mutually exclusive. Most solo polys I know desire a mix of the four elements. But I would say that each solo poly person has their own blend of these four elements, with certain elements being more important than others. And that is what, I think, causes a lot of confusion.  Someone asks "what is solo poly?" and someone with a blend that prioritizes element #1 gives their answer, but then someone who really feels and believes that element #3 describes them but doesn't much care about #1 thinks that they are not solo poly because their blend is different and they're not aware of all these different elements.

My personal stance on this, the position I have always held since I started fighting with hierarchical polys almost 20 years ago that led to me collaborating with those bloggers who started coining all these poly sub-group terms, my opinion is that the first element - the logistics of living alone - is not necessary but is extremely difficult to maintain the others without it. I am of the "autonomy and agency" flavor of solo poly. I believe that maintaining one's individuality and independence, and respecting the autonomy and agency of each person, and prioritizing the autonomy and agency of each individual above the relationship are of the utmost importance and how we reduce abusive structures in relationships.

I have always held that the idea of autonomy is what makes one "solo poly", even before we had the terms to use. I have also always held that maintaining one's autonomy is possible even in relationships that look "primary-like", but that couple privilege is a subtle, insidious thing that takes conscious and deliberate effort to undermine so that people in "primary-like" relationships or escalator relationships would have to intentionally structure their relationships to make space for autonomy.

I tend to see the autonomy / agency element of solo poly as being integral to the definition and the other elements as being either expressions of that element or supportive of that element but not necessarily requirements of solo polyamory.

So when you're talking to solo polys or if you're wondering if you "qualify" as solo poly, keep these elements in mind. Maybe three of them really hit you personally but you couldn't give a shit about living alone, or perhaps you're disabled and need to live with caregivers. You could still be solo poly. Or perhaps you really need to maintain your own money "just in case" and you're opposed to legal marriage because screw the government getting up in your business but you still want to build deeply connected, intimate relationships. You could still be solo poly. Or maybe everything about this sounds awesome except that you want to do it in a commune with two dozen other people who all live in their own huts but on the same property walking distance from each other or in the same apartment complex and you socialize with everyone all the time in the common spaces like the kitchen because you're extroverted. You could still be solo poly.

If you're legally married, live with only one partner, share finances, and co-parent, I think there is still room for you under the label if you hold the other values, but I do think you will be challenged more often because I think it's more difficult to see one's internal values of autonomy and agency when one's life is structured to more closely resemble a system of dependence. If you only date together, have veto power or approval power, access to each other's emails and phone or text conversations (especially if no one outside of your dyad has the same access to these things of yours), have a hierarchy, or otherwise have difficulty separating out where you end and your partner begins, I think I would question your commitment to values of autonomy, independence, privacy, etc.

In my opinion, as long as you value yourself, your partners, *and your metamours* as independent agents and you arrange your relationships to support  and encourage that, the rest of it all is more like flavor, or color, shading your own version of solo polyamory to reflect your uniqueness and individuality. Others may disagree, but as one of the earliest pioneers of this style of polyamory regardless of what it's called, this is what I was fighting for from the beginning. Treat people like independent, individual human beings who are more important than the relationship, discourage couple privilege, and separate out the culturally appointed markers of "romantic relationships" from the emotional connection or value that each relationship has for the participants.




This is a work in progress, which is why it's so long. I hope to refine it to a more digestible description in the future.

*Morning Glory Zell is responsible for coining the phrase "polyamory", being the first person to use the phrase "poly-amorous" in print and all other publicly available derivations of the term came later. She died in 2014 but was alive and available to clarify her intent with coining the phrase for the time period in which the definition was being debated and determined. Her intentions were often ignored when people wanted to use the term differently or dismissed under the excuse that another person was the "real" coiner of the phrase even though it was used 2 years later, simply because that other person had the first internet reach. "Who said it first" is an argument for another time.

joreth: (Kitty Eyes)
I watched a movie the other night that I was surprised to find that I actually liked. It's a Netflix movie called Spectral that, I'll be honest, I was expecting to suck.

The description reads "We can't see them. Bullets don't stop them. The Army is no match for them. Time to try something totally different."  The title screen graphics looked ... well, it made me assume that the movie would be a typical anti-science, heavy on the action, light on the plot, sci-fi flick.  But [livejournal.com profile] tacit seemed interested in the description and saw it had 4 stars, so we watched it.

I was pleasantly surprised.  I ended up liking all the characters.  I thought even the minor side characters had complex back stories and depth to their character that, even if we didn't get a lot of exposition about them, was clearly demonstrated in the dialog and in their portrayal of the characters.  There really wasn't anyone who was a standard trope caricature.

In these sorts of movies, one can usually expect to find the following characters: The gruff old military leader who is either a total dickhead or a lovable but cranky career soldier; the token demolitions expert who is also "crazy"; the scientist who is either the evil guy because science or the wuss who complains all the time and gets in the way of the real business of kicking ass; the chick who is either a badass tomboy "chill girl" with no real personality or the girlie girl outside girl who is thrown in by circumstance and constantly needs rescuing usually involving strategically destroyed flimsy clothing but will likely be somebody's love interest; and the lead character who is physically fit, intelligent, has exactly all the right skills in every circumstance to lead his team to victory, gets the girl, and saves the day with either the smarts to outwit the dumb jarheads who are making things worse with their shoot-em-up mentality or the fists to beat up the wacky super-genius whose intellect is destroying the world.

None of those characters were in this movie.

The lead was a conventionally attractive, physically fit, and yet super smart white male, it's true. This wasn't a flawless movie. He was a scientist who invented a new type of goggles for DAARPA that gave our soldiers some kind of benefit in urban combat because it could see more on the light spectrum than the human eye can. Because of that, they were also picking up something unknown that the soldiers couldn't see naturally. So they send for him to explain what his invention is seeing (justifying his presence in a combat situation by declaring the data from the goggles to be too sensitive to just send back to him to analyze).

There was a lone woman in the movie, but she wasn't the token badass chick and she also wasn't the completely ineffectual girlie girl in the wrong place at the wrong time. She was one of the lead's obstacles, but her opposition to him was reasonable given her background and position (which is so often left out of movies - we're given opposing characters who seem to oppose for no reason other than to be obstinate and give our hero someone to argue with). She was also not a love interest.

Our military guys were angry at the non-military guy coming into their sacred space, but they were given reasonable motive for feeling that way. It wasn't just "grunt, grunt, we big army boys, you pansy ass, leave now!"

Our combat team leader was gruff and tough but also smart with tactical knowledge and good team-building, mediating, and interpersonal conflict resolution skills, as a successful team leader ought to be. Our team was made up of just a bunch of guys, not the Token Bomb Guy, the Token POC, the Token Sharpshooter, the Token I Made A Mistake Joining Guy, the Token Joined Too Young Guy, the Token Irish/German Jolly Drinker/Fighter Guy, and the Token Small But Wiry Communications Officer.

What really sold me on the movie was the commitment to science, critical thinking, and reason. Our hero consistently maintained a pro-science attitude, not a pseudo-science attitude. Everyone wanted an immediate answer to the problem and everyone had an agenda to get confirmation of a specific answer that they wanted from him, but he kept insisting that science (and solutions) required data and it was foolish to go off half-cocked on speculation and bias.

The movie had 2 major flaws. When they finally did the big reveal, everything they said was actually scientifically accurate as far as we understand the concept right now. Except for one thing, which I won't spoil. But it was the very premise from which all the other things happened. The Big Bad Thing is made of This and exists like This and does These Things - that's all true. But it only happens in a particular circumstance that was not present here.

The author of The Martian has been lauded for his adherence to scientific accuracy in his book, and again with the movie based on it. He crowdsourced the book to make sure it was as close to realistic as possible. But he had one major plot hole - because of Martian gravity, storms wouldn't happen like they did in his book, but without that storm, we wouldn't have a story. In an interview, he explained that he knew of this flaw, but that all sci-fi stories had one Gimme - one major plot device that was excused for the sake of the story because the story can't happen without it. As long as the story was internally consistent, that one thing, if handled well, could be forgiven and even overlooked with the suspension of disbelief. He made storms that don't exist on Mars because he needed a way to isolate his character on the planet. But everything he did afterwards conformed to physics as we know it.

So, this plot point - that The Thing only happens in This Circumstance in real life but doesn't have that limitation in the movie - I'm willing to write that off as a Gimme because they otherwise described it correctly and the movie remained internally consistent.

The other plot point is that the writers seemed to have spent all their time researching their major conflict and didn't spend any time understanding the difference between a machine that "reads" light (i.e. a spectrograph) and a machine that *produces* light. These are VERY different things and, generally speaking, you are not very likely to be able to convert one machine into the other.

This movie did have one typical thing that often annoys me - the manufacturing montage. Building things takes time. It's not very common to be able to outfit a squadron with all new weapons from within a combat zone using found items overnight. Not impossible because it depends on the weapons and the found items. Just ... unlikely. I mean, making a bunch of Molotov Cocktails can be done in a single night, for example. But Tony Stark inventing and building Iron Man by himself in a cave in the Middle East in a couple of days? Yeah, yeah, I know that they explained that away by having him be captured by a well-funded terrorist who magically provided all the materials necessary. Still. Welding and soldering complex mechanics takes time and skill, even assuming you're lucky enough to have the right kind of welder in your found items (which, to be fair, the movie did account for by giving an explanation for why they had the gear that they ended up with).

I'm not saying it's not possible. I'm saying that I've built shit. I've even built shit that I personally designed that never existed before because it came out of my head and I had to use unusual materials because the thing never existed before so the parts for it didn't either. I'm saying that prototyping takes time and untested mechanics rarely work right on the first try. As [livejournal.com profile] tacit put it, movies make manufacturing look easier than it is. Not impossible, but it's harder than the movies make it look.

There was also one moment in the movie that broke me out of it; one phrase that made me roll my eyes and groan ... "there are some things that science can't answer." While this is *technically* true, this is almost always applied in movies to things that we can, in fact, answer. Often, it's applied to things that we *have the answer for right now*, but sometimes it's for things that are currently unknown but that doesn't mean that they're unknowable.

So, my conclusion is that, in spite of these criticisms, I felt that the movie was engaging and internally consistent (which is my version of "plausible" for movies - maybe it couldn't really happen, but given the pretend movie conditions it likely could), and I found the characters to have depth and understandable motivations and most of them to be likable. I would recommend this movie if you like sci-fi action.

However, as we learned with the next movie we watched, you shouldn't necessarily trust Netflix's star rating system. The next 4-star movie we watched was COMPLETE AND UTTER SHITE ON EVERY CONCEIVABLE LEVEL.
joreth: (Purple Mobius)
* I am committed to prioritizing the happiness of the individuals over the longevity of the group if / when those two values are in conflict.
This is a new commitment. I have always advocated for a family-style of polyamory. The ex I mentioned in a previous post, who prioritized his own desires above my feelings or our relationship, I remember having conversations with him where he was offended and horrified at the idea of "censorship". I remember him demanding of me "so you think it's appropriate to censor me?!" And I remember my answer was "no, I think you should want to self-censor, that this is something you would choose because our relationship is worth making that choice for." The hard part for me is that I still feel this way. I still feel a strong desire for partners who are willing to weigh their options, and who value our relationship so highly that sometimes the other option is not worth the cost, that sometimes the health of our relationship and my comfort or preferences are too valuable to trade for the other option. I still feel this way even though I always have, even as a child, believed that staying together out of obligation (i.e. "for the children") was one of the worst things you could do for a relationship.

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

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

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

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

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

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

My stores include:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

www.myregistry.com/public/JorethsClothingWishlist
www.myregistry.com/public/JorethsMiscWishlist
www.myregistry.com/public/JorethsGiftCardsList
joreth: (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: (Purple Mobius)
* I am committed to choosing the Path of Greatest Courage by always being honest with myself and my partners while simultaneously allowing compassion to dictate the delivery of my honesty.

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

The summary is this: "Courage is making decisions that take you closer to what you want, or to the person you want to be, even when you're scared." Courage is a virtue and life rewards those who move in the direction of greater courage. Honesty, in most situations but particularly in romantic relationships, is usually the best method for displaying courage as well as for building intimacy in relationships. But honesty without compassion is often nothing more than cruelty. Framing the discussion as honesty vs. "little white lies" is a distraction. The real discussion is between compassion vs. cruelty because both honesty and lying can be either. Honesty can be tempered by compassion, which serves the goal usually offered by those supporting the "little white lie" side ("I don't want to hurt her, so I'll just tell her a nice little white lie that will make her feel better") without sidestepping the path of greatest courage. I'm setting my bar high to strive for the path of greatest courage, which requires me to be honest in my relationships, but without using my commitment to honesty as a blunt object with which to beat my partners over the head. I am setting a goal for myself that I can and will be both honest and kind in my romantic relationships to the best of my ability.
joreth: (Super Tech)
I did a thing!

Some of the videos I have directed are now up online!  One of my favorites is this intermission music performance by Shelley Segal: https://vimeo.com/183400692:


This is kind of a big deal to me, but the explanation for why is kinda long so I will explain why its kind of a big deal next.  If you just want to see some of my work as a Technical Director / Camera Switcher, visit http://video.skeptrack.org/ and check out the sessions from 2014-2016.  I can't remember for sure which videos are the ones I directed in 2014 and 2015 because the producer was letting everyone try their hand at it so we could provide relief for each other and when I wasn't switching, I was running camera, but I did the majority of them.   I know for sure that I did the Meyers-Briggs panel in 2014.  For 2016, I directed all of them except LeighAnn Lord's comedy show "Unsupervised" and "More About The Skeptics Guide to the Universe", so if you want to see examples of some of my work, there it is.

I used to work for a TV studio in California, but when I moved to Florida, I couldn't find any work in broadcast.  So I went back to my roots and worked for live events.  The companies that I could find work for were mostly labor companies who didn't offer any high level technical positions.  By the time I worked my way up in the ranks to finally catch the attention of some production companies who *do* have operator positions, I had been away from the switcher for so long that I no longer felt comfortable selling myself as a "TD" or "Camera Switcher".  Plus, since I worked in a studio, and it as so long ago, I didn't know the specific brands or models of equipment that was being used in live events (even though they all do the same job, they just have their own way of doing it).

But, since DragonCon started out as a volunteer position, no one really cared if I screwed up, so the guy who owned and donated all the equipment for the show sat me down in his chair and asked me to show him what I could do.  So I did.  And he has insisted that I return every year since.

The entire crew is volunteer and, other than myself and the owner of the equipment, no one has any actual pro A/V experience (although one of our camera operators is at least a professional photographer) and no one is really obligated to be there so we don't always have a full crew to run all the equipment.  Therefore, we try to make things as simple as possible, which includes arranging things so that we can get away with no camera operators at all if we have to.  In fact, one person can run the lights, video switching, graphics, lower thirds, and audio if absolutely necessary, but probably not very well unless it's only one or two speakers and nothing goes wrong.  I usually leave the lights (on and off - one look) and leave the audio to others and I switch between 4 cameras and the presenter's slideshow, operate the lower thirds, speaker timer, record decks, and the remote control Q&A audience microphone all myself.

So that is my situation when I get behind the console.

This year, we had a special treat that brought me back to my broadcast roots.  My first actual paid gig was to run a handheld camera for a live band that we had in the studio.  I have been in love with that position ever since.  This year at DC, A musician was asked to perform in the intermissions between sessions, so I got to dust off my rusty old music video skills and try switching for a live musical performance!

The catch with this is that, because it was in the break between sessions, I had no, repeat that *no* camera operators at all.

Our setup is one stationary camera set to a whole stage wide shot from behind me at Front Of House, 2 cameras on tripods at approximately 45 degree angles to the stage, and one remote contol camera mounted to the ground-supported truss structure on the stage.  The RC camera is supposed to be aimed at the Question & Answer microphone out in the audience, so we can record the audience members asking the various presenters questions.  But, since I was responsible for operating the RC camera as well as switching, I started playing around with it and discovered that its range allowed me to spin around and capture some interesting angles on the stage as well.

When I found out that the musician would be playing, I hopped down from behind my console, ran to each of the two cameras to pre-set them in what I hoped would be decent shots to capture whatever action the musicians did on stage (no rehearsal, mind you), ran back to my console, spun the RC camera around, and started switching between the three (the wide shot camera didn't have a good shot because of where the musicans chose to play on the stage so I just never used it for the musical interludes).

So, that's why there aren't all that many different shots - I didn't have any camera operators to move the cameras and the RC camera had a limited range of motion from its stationary position attached to the truss.  But it did have about 3 or so decent shots from that position, and I used its auto-focus deliberately to get the sort of soft focus pulls that I might have done by hand when I run a hand-held camera on stage.

Given my limitations with lack of crew and camera movement, and my lack of practice switching (seeing as how this is the only show every year that gives me the chance), I'm quite pleased with how the musical interludes turned out.  Check them out, and remember that the Skeptrack website will continue to add more videos as the producer finishes editing them.

BTW, if you need some A/V gear or engineering done in Atlanta, I highly recommend contacting Abrupt Media.
joreth: (Misty in Box)
(If you are seeing white text on a black background and the reverse is more comfortable, you can read the Google doc that I used for my final draft here: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1jDo84msoBu74TQIW2OM4MLiILCoDIiQyzNllinU_FVg/edit?usp=sharing. The wording is identical.)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And maybe we might both have escaped without breaking first.



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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

joreth: (Misty in Box)
The reason why people can hold such harsh views on other wrongdoers is because they can't imagine themselves in that position and needing understanding or leniency or seeing the nuance or contextual complexity of a situation.  This is the very definition of privilege. You can't see how something can possibly affect you so you're willing to excuse poor treatment of others by rationalizing that they "deserve" it.

You are not above reproach. You are not infallible. You can one day find yourself at the receiving end of a justice system that you helped to create that will not take into account your special circumstances.

The reason why we have "innocent until proven guilty" as our standard (and why it doesn't always apply to social settings) is because our forefathers knew that even a just system would necessarily be flawed because people are the creators, and so it was therefore more acceptable to err on the side of leniency where some criminals might go free than on the side of harshness where innocent people might be punished. Our current system, even *with* that aphorism supposedly guiding it, has swung too far to the wrong side.  And then there's the middle ground where one's innocence or guilt is not in question, but they are nevertheless fully nuanced humans because no one is a cardboard cutout, comic book, black-hat villain.

You cannot see yourself ever being in one of these unfortunate positions because you have convinced yourself that you are a Good Person, and Good People do not do Bad Things. Those people did Bad Things, therefore they are Bad People. You are the problem. You are the reason why people do Bad Things and why people continue to do Bad Things. Everyone thinks that they are morally and ethically right in what they do, because everyone thinks that they are Good People. That kind of thinking is what blinds people to the fact that they fucked up and did something bad. That kind of thinking is what prevents people from learning empathy or from taking responsibility and holding themselves accountable for their actions.

The knowledge that there is no understanding, no forgiveness, no second chances, no contextual exemptions or explanations, no space to repent and do better, is what drives people who do Bad Things underground and what drives them to continue doing them. Why should anyone feel bad about their mistakes? Why should anyone stop making their mistakes? Why should they ask for help in ceasing their mistakes if there is no room for them, if there is no safe space for them to change? They are lost souls. They are cast-outs. They are doomed. So why bother to fix anything? Their situation is your doing.

And you may one day find yourself on the receiving end of your "justice" precisely because you cannot conceive of being in that position so you will be unable to predict or prevent the thoughts that lead to the actions that carry you to that position.

YOU ARE PART OF THE PROBLEM.



Further Comments:

There is a very big difference between drawing strong boundaries around ourselves and how we relate to, interact with, or feel about someone who has done Bad Things personally, and giving the government the power to make irrevocable punishments and decisions over people who do Bad Things. While we absolutely need a system of justice to deal with people who do Bad Things and while we absolutely can draw whatever personal boundaries we want regarding other people, setting the same consequences for both personal feelings and the government penal system is very dangerous.

That led to witch burnings and lynchings and a for-profit prison system that punishes black pot smokers because of *personal* feelings towards those kinds of behaviours. The reason for leniency in the penal system is because, at any moment, we could find ourselves on the receiving end of an unjust system with an enormous amount of power. All it takes is either the system being controlled by people who have different value systems from ours, or one of those complicated, nuanced situations popping up where we are able to rationalize how "it's different when I do it".

Look at the no-tolerance laws for drugs and weapons on school campuses! People who can't see themselves in that situation or who think of themselves as Good People don't see how it was inevitable that the law would eventually start penalizing children for their asthma medication or bringing in their homemade clocks to show their teachers. Part of that is because of the Good Person fallacy that they're committing and part of that is because they are part of a privileged demographic who is not likely to be unfairly targeted by ridiculous interpretations of those rules.

We all do shit that other people think is unforgivable or heinous. Most of the time, we feel justified in having done those things, which is why we did them. Those no-tolerance attitudes can be applied back on us. Other times, we might have genuinely learned from our mistakes and grown as people. Had the penalty for our crimes been death, we would not have become the productive members of society that we are now, with people who love us and accomplishments and acts of redemption. Had the penalty been death and we just never got caught, we would be unlikely to have sought help to find accountability or even changed our outlook to one in which we now admit our wrongdoing, because to do so would have meant our death.

Had the penalties been other atrocities like rape or castration or assault, even though we might have lived through it, those things would have damaged us which decreases the chances that we could have found redemption, accepted accountability, or learned empathy or regret. Those penalties would likely have exacerbated the problem. Those penalties would likely have made us worse or more broken people instead of given us a chance to get better.
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: (Misty Sleeping)
A- always center the impacted
L- listen & learn from those who live in the oppression
L- leverage your privilege
Y- yield the floor

To all the people who are shocked and surprised that a tragedy like last night's shooting could occur "in our city", first I want to say that I recognize that your feelings are real and that you are hurting. But now I want to tell you that your shock and surprise is what we mean by privilege.

People get all bent out of shape whenever the P-word comes up, and they think that we mean you are guilty of some transgression and should feel bad or ashamed of having a few benefits, or that we are ignoring your very real hardships in life. That's not what it means.

Privilege means that you have gone this far in life without ever considering that your life or the lives of your neighbors are in danger because of who they love (or fuck). You have gone this far in your life without feeling that fear of your life or your loved ones just for stepping out the front door or existing in spaces set aside just for you.

I don't know why you're so surprised that this happened in "your city". Your queer friends, family, and neighbors have been telling you that their lives are not safe. It was said about bathrooms but you complained about "bigger problems". It was said about gay marriage but you complained about "religious freedom". It has been said in a myriad of different ways. But your privilege is that you don't have to listen, or that you can forget for a while. Their reality is that they can't afford to forget that there are people in this world who do not believe they have a right to live.

There is nothing wrong with you for being surprised, or feeling pain on behalf of the queer community right now. Just remember this tragedy the next time someone talks about privilege, and remember how you were caught unawares, your little bubble of safety pierced, after others have been shouting from the rooftops that they are not safe.

They cannot afford to ever forget that they are not safe. You can. That is privilege. The goal is to find a way to extend your privileges to those who don't have them. The goal is to make the world safe enough that they, too, can forget for a while that bad things can happen even in their own cities.



I'm getting very tired of having this same conversation:

Them: I'm just so shocked that something like that could happen in MY town! We're so tolerant and accepting here with Disney and all!

Me: Those of us in the community aren't surprised at all. We've been saying that lives are in danger forever but no one is listening to us.

Them: What do you mean?! I've never seen any violence towards gays here!

Me: That's the definition of privilege. Next time someone complains about bathrooms or makes gay jokes, remember this day and that we tried to tell you so. Maybe next time you'll remember and you'll say something for us. Maybe next time you'll believe us.



"Straight folks who have overtaken gay clubs with your bachelorette parties and unicorn-finding expeditions, I hope you are donating money and blood and standing in solidarity today." - Julia Burke

Also, don't tell me how helpful you have been if you're straight. Tell other straight people. I'm not handing out cookies for being the bare minimum of decent human beings.



This is why so many of us were not surprised.

We breed hate, and then don't understand how extremists and killers can walk among us. We create them and give them places to hide.

I am not Orlando.

In Orlando, it was a felony to have gay sex until 1971 and a misdemeanor until 2003. The law, while unenforceable, is still on the books.

In Orlando, it was not legal for gay couples to adopt children until last year.

In Orlando, it is legal to pay someone to kidnap your child and torture them until they stop identifying as LGBT.

In Orlando, the people who have been outed when they were shot in a gay night club can, when they get out of the hospital, be legally fired.

If they get out of the hospital at all, since Orlando affirms doctors' "right" to refuse to treat them at all.

In Orlando, a hate crime against me doesn't count.

I am not Orlando. Orlando was not the target. Orlando was the shooter. Orlando is what 49 people like me could not survive. ‪#‎IamPulse
‬ ~ Johann Koehle





No, straight white people, now is not in fact the time to tell me you worry about my/your gay friends' safety. If you haven't been worrying about our safety all along then don't come over here clutching your pearls right now. Some shitnozzle with an assault rifle did not just magically invent homophobic violence last night in Orlando.

If it's just now dawning on you that my life isn't safe because I'm queer? Congratulations, your shock and consternation are part of what straight cis privilege looks like.

I'd like to invite you, while you are thinking about this, to also think about the fact that this violence was not just anti-gay violence. It was racist violence, it was transphobic violence, and it was misogynist violence. No one magically invented those things last night either.

I know it's not comfortable but I'm asking you to just sit with all of this and not turn to me or any other queer person, or any person of color, or any trans person, for comfort or assurance that "we'll take care of ourselves" and "be safe" right now. We've been taking care of ourselves and keeping ourselves as safe as we can for a long long time and that's why we're still here at all.

I'm asking you to think about what YOU will do to help us take care of ourselves and keep us safe.
~ Hanne Blank




Important links I have shared in relation to the Orlando Pulse Shooting:
joreth: (Bad Computer!)
PSA: Turn your fucking phones sideways when taking video! There's a reason why, when we moved away from a mostly square screen for moving pictures, we moved towards a landscape orientation (there are several, but this is one of them).  For still photos, a portrait orientation (that's the tall, skinny frame shape) works fine with the appropriate composition because it's a static image. But for dynamic images like video, because things move horizontally more often than vertically, you need that extra space on the sides for things to move into.

When you record stuff vertically, there's a lot of moving side to side to get all the action in the frame. It's dizzying and annoying. You end up missing parts of the action because it moves off-camera quicker than you can follow it. You cut off more than you show. Yes, people are vertical and taller than they are wide, but the orientation isn't for the shape of the subject, it's for the MOTION of the subject.

Your videos look like shit. They're shaky and blurry and annoying. Please, take it from a professional camera operator - someone who people pay a lot of money to make pretty moving pictures - turn your phones to the side when you take a video. I guarantee that your videos will automatically look a hundred times better for doing this one thing alone, even if you never learn another thing about framing or composition or any movie tricks at all.
joreth: (Purple Mobius)
In my effort to eliminate the use of the word "hierarchy" from my discussions about hierarchy, to prevent the usual derailments of people confusing empowerment with priority, I think I'll try on the word "authority" for size.

"I don't do hierarchical" = "I don't do authoritative where one of my partners has more authority over another of my partners."

"Hierarchy is bad, m'kay?" = "Authoritative is bad, m'kay? It disempowers / disenfranchises / disrespects autonomy & agency."

"Why do you need a hierarchy to maintain your priorities?" = "Why do you need to assign authority of one over another to maintain *your* priorities?"

I need to make a page somewhere that I can find and reference for all the alternative terms that I am trying to use. I replaced primary/secondary with core/satellite. And I made a post like this a while ago but fuck if I can remember when or what terms I used to search for it!

Oh! I think it was replacing "needs" with "niche", as in instead of "he meets my needs", "he is in this niche". I've also used the word "permission", as in, "permission-based relationships". It strikes me as bizarre how many people don't mind the infantilizing implications associated with needing "permission" from a partner. But I think that's a cultural thing - we're so indoctrinated with the idea of giving up our autonomy to a relationship or a partner that all manner of disempowering, and frankly abusive, traits in a relationship are seen as acceptable.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



OCD & Anxiety Disorders: Crash Course Phsychology #29:





Debunking The Myths About OCD (TED-ed):





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





A video about OCD:





Preview Of The Touching Tree by James Callner:





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


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






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

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

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

More about OCPD at Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Obsessive%E2%80%93compulsive_personality_disorder and more about OCD at Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Obsessive%E2%80%93compulsive_disorder
joreth: (Purple Mobius)
And, if those two workshops weren't enough, in just 2 weeks from now I will be on a panel with Billy Holder and Tikva Wolf of Kimchi Cuddles and others to talk about poly in the media!
If you have any interest at all in polyamory in either news media or popular media & entertainment, you seriously don't want to miss this panel! Saturday afternoon at Atlanta Poly Weekend 2016, come out and see us!

PLUS!!! Sterling Bates will be back once again at APW to discuss how to use personality type systems to improve your relationship communication! This workshop fills up every time he gives it, and he also improves it every time as new research brings even more helpful ways of understanding ourselves and our partners and metamours. I've never missed one of his personality workshops and I learn something new every time.
He will be presenting FIRST THING on Saturday morning! Again, make sure you get your weekend or Saturday passes and check in EARLY so that you don't miss out!

Visit www.AtlantaPolyWeekend.com for the full schedule of all the awesome presentations and workshops next weekend!
joreth: (Super Tech)
Also in 2 weeks, I will be giving a presentation on how to give a presentation at Atlanta Poly Weekend 2016! Present Like A Boss - this class is for everyone - experienced presenters and never-before-presented newbies! I will teach the different kinds of presentation styles that you can choose from (there's no One Right Way!) and how to choose one, how to build confidence and professionalism, and even the most effective use of your PowerPoint slideshow! There will be a handout. You can use the tips and tricks of the absolute best public speakers to add professionalism and polish to any public speaking endeavor, from business team meetings to poly conferences to TED talks. You might not want to be Tony Robbins, but you can learn a few things from his success no matter what level of public speaking you do.

I will also be teaching little-known tricks that almost no one ever thinks about that will make your presentation look the most professional you can look. How? Because I work in the public speaking industry for a living - yes, it's an industry - and I know all the backstage secrets from how Steve Jobs got to be so awesome at what he does to PowerPoint expertise to the reasons that technology does the things that *it* does and how to exploit it to your advantage.

If you have never presented before, or are new to presenting, and are interested in joining the ranks of poly or alt-sex/relationship educators, this class will help you start right out with a polished stage presence to get your message across to your audience. If you are an experienced presenter, you *will* learn at least one thing about public speaking that you did not know before that can help you step up your own presentations.

Polyamory and other alt-sex / alt-relationship things are getting more and more attention, so we are needing more and more people in the communities to be able to explain and explore these ideas, both within the communities and without. Conferences are expanding and there are requests for a wider variety of topics to discuss and a wider range of speakers to represent the population. People outside the communities are learning about us and asking for more representatives to explain what we do. More and more of us are finding ourselves in positions of authority or educator on these subjects and we can benefit our communities better by giving more effective presentations, lectures, and workshops.

This workshop is on Saturday morning, so get your weekend or Saturday passes and check in early to make sure you don't miss it!
joreth: (Swing Dance)
In just 2 short weeks, Sterling and I will be bringing back our Lead & Follow Communication workshop to Atlanta Poly Weekend! It's the first workshop on the schedule, so you have to get there early!

In this workshop, we will teach you exercises to practice at home with your partners that will improve your ability to:

1) be aware of the physical and emotional space that you take up and how that affects those around you;
2) be conscious and considerate of your actions with your partner and how they affect people outside of the two of you;
3) how to better navigate metamour relations and juggling the emotional considerations of multiple partners while still allowing time to focus on one person at a time (i.e. it's not all everyone together all the time or compartmentalize everyone always);
4) how to get better attuned to recognizing nonverbal communication and expressions
5) how to get more comfortable asking for consent;
6) how to get more comfortable giving clear, verbal, affirmative consent;
7) how to become more comfortable giving clear, verbal rejection to your partner and to potential partners kindly;
8) how to hear a rejection and learn how to not take it personally or to accept it and move on more easily.

These are techniques learned over time in the dance community, but we will be teaching them to you without any dance experience required. In fact, we will not be teaching any dancing at all so you do not need to be good at dancing or even interested in dancing to attend! But we will be having fun with music and movement, so if dancing *is* your thing, whether experienced or not, you will have a good time! If you *are* an experienced partner dancer and are already familiar with leading & following, you may still enjoy learning how we put these skills together with relationship communication.

You do not need to come with a partner for this workshop. You can learn these skills on your own and apply them to your relationships later. You will also receive a handout to help you remember and practice the exercises at home so you can teach your partners on your own time.

I hope to see everyone there!
joreth: (Nude Drawing)
http://www.theestablishment.co/2016/03/17/you-dont-have-to-love-your-body/

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My body just is. It has good points and bad points, and I'm allowed to decide what those good points and bad points are because it's my body and only my opinion of it matters. I'm pleased that my lovers are pleased with my body, but ultimately it's my opinion that matters because it's my body, not theirs. I'm not fishing for compliments when I either complain about my body or show it off. I'm just experiencing it.
joreth: (BDSM)
I don't have time for a full book review, but if you liked 50 Shades of Grey, then read The Training of Eileen series. If you hated 50 Shades because of its abuse romanticism but like female sub fantasy porn, read The Training of Eileen series by William Vitelli (on Amazon and Symtoys). It's literally the 50 Shades plot (rich man takes naive young woman to wife & trains her as his sex slave) without the, y'know, abuse. There are *so many* books with this exact same plot and no abuse that exist, this is just one that I happened to come across that I enjoyed reading.

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I was at a conference recently and one of the evening entertainments was an electroswing (swing jazz + electronica music) event that I didn't know about when I packed for the event. So I didn't have appropriate attire, including shoes.

I did, however, have The DanceSocks with me, which I threw in my suitcase as an afterthought. I packed both pair, my smooth floor socks and my carpet socks. And I'm so glad I did!

The room that the event was in did not have a dance floor set up, so it was just ballroom carpet. I threw my carpet socks on over my Converse sneakers and I was able to swing dance as if I had a new pair of sueded shoes on a smooth wood floor.

For $5 a pair, I highly recommend everyone get some who even kinda thinks they might want to start learning how to partner dance someday. They fit in most purses and in my thigh cargo pockets (which I was wearing the day of the event). They come in multiple colors and fit over almost any size shoe (my partner, Ben, got the pair I gave to him to fit over his hiking boot-type shoes & fairly large male feet).

They're good for any style of dancing, including partner dancing, hip hop, zumba, and many styles of aerobic workouts, where you might want to twist, pivot turn, or slide when your rubber soled shoes might grab the ground and prevent you from doing those things easily. But they don't make your shoes so slippery that it's like walking on ice. I walk normally in mine.
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)
www.roadandtrack.com/car-culture/a28027/when-i-stopped-cutting-my-hair-i-learned-how-men-treat-women-on-american-roads/

I was at Gasparilla one year (an official excuse for the city of Tampa to get roaring drunk in pirate garb), watching the parade. I was up against the barricades, as close to the parade as you could get without actually being in it. Some dude was, well, apparently he was attempting to slam dance next to me. I have no idea why - there wasn't any music appropriate for that and no one else was interested in joining in.

So he was throwing himself around the crowd in that mosh pit way, getting a larger and larger circle as people tried to avoid him. But not me. I had a fucking awesome place to see the parade and it was my first Gasparilla goddammit, I was gonna hold my ground.

So he slammed into me one more time and I pushed him back. He stopped, puffed up his tiny chest, and started cussing at me. So I turned to face him and started cussing back. So he said something to the effect of "you better stop saying 'fuck off', bitch, or I'm gonna hit your boyfriend". The "boyfriend" in question was a tall, gangly, computer nerd I had been dating who was standing behind me and desperately trying to hide behind my much shorter frame.

So I looked the dude in the eye and said, slowly, clearly, and loudly, "Fuck. Off."

I could hear my boyfriend whispering to just let it go, we'll move somewhere else and tugging on my sleeve, but I didn't break eye contact. The dude repeated himself "go on, say it one more time, and I'm gonna fucking hit your boyfriend."

"Fuck. Off."

"Bitch keep saying it, I dare you.

"Fuck. Off."

And on it continued. Notice how he never did actually take a swing at my boyfriend, nor did he address the guy in any way. He focused his entire attention on me, trying to intimidate me. But I don't intimidate, mainly because adrenaline makes me stupid sometimes.

Eventually, he got tired of repeating himself and not seeing the reaction he wanted, so he turned away and melted into the crowd, throwing gendered slurs over his shoulder the whole time. I watched the crowd close up around him, all eager for a front row spot to see the rest of the parade that he had been hogging, and I went back to the parade.

My boyfriend was all kinds of freaked out and worried aloud at what might have happened had the dude made good on his threat because he'd never been in a fight in his life and had no interest to see what it was like.

I said, "don't worry, sweetie, he'd have to go through me first."

I'd like to say this is the only time something like this has happened, but it's not. I have several such encounters of guys completely losing their shit at me, either to back down when a guy came to my defense or to exclusively direct their shit at me instead of the men around me, any of whom could have been the culprit for whatever Angry Dude was mad about.

I've also been fortunate enough to have several guys with me when these sorts of things happen who, when Angry Dude said something about "control your woman" or "you gonna stand up for her or what?", respond "nah, dude, she's scarier than me, you're much worse off dealing with her," who then sit back and, by their confidence in me, show the dude he's in the wrong. That often diffuses situations better than my guys jumping in the fray.

Now, if any of them ever *actually* took a swing at me and I had guy friends (or any friends, for that matter) nearby, I'd very much appreciate some physical assistance. But usually just their presence scares off Angry Dude as it does in this article, or if he's too amped up to back down, their amusement and willingness to let me fly off the handle confuses Angry Dude and makes him wonder what kind of mess he's gotten himself into and he'll wander off shouting slurs rather than escalate to violence.
joreth: (Dobert Demons of Stupidity)
http://freethoughtblogs.com/godlessness/2016/01/31/lets-talk-about-the-other-atheist-movement/

"But why do atheists even need a name? If they just don't believe, why do they need communities and conventions? What is there even to talk about if you don't believe?"

My lack of a belief in god is just that, a missing belief. That, by itself, is not really anything worth talking about. I don't have a belief in leprechauns either, and I have nothing really to say about them or things I lack belief in.

But when I look at our world, and I assume there is no deity behind it, I have to question the motivations behind everything - from little daily decisions to big, society-moving decisions. If I don't have a god telling me to give alms to the poor, what should I do about poverty? Why should I do it? What motivates me if I don't have a god telling me what to do?

That's what we talk about when we get together. What is the meaning of life, what is our purpose here on this planet, what should we do if we assume that we will have no reward or punishment awaiting us at death? There are many answers people without god can arrive at, because there are a lot of other philosophies and ideologies that inform positive action, where simply lack of belief is absent any positive action.

So *this* is my atheism. This is where my lack of belief ultimately leads to. Dawkins is primarily responsible for me getting into movement atheism. His outspokenness, his unapologetic attitude for his lack of belief, his horror at travesties caused in the name of religion - these things all spoke to me and all motivated me to look at my lack of belief and decide that, *if* there really was no god, what did that mean for the things I do and don't do in my life and what does that mean for the actions of those around me. What does not having a god mean for the kind of person that I want to be? And all those questions lead me, ultimately, away from Dawkins, the man who brought me into movement atheism in the first place.

This is my atheism. This is the movement that I want to be a part of.
joreth: (Purple Mobius)
#‎UnicornHunters‬ talk about adding a new girlfriend to their relationship like they're adding on a new room to their house. The house is already built, already has the foundation, the electrical, the plumbing, the layout already designed. All they get is this new room, but the house essentially stays the same up to the doorway where the new room has been added.

The reality is that building a triad is more like building a new house from scratch, or perhaps even simply buying a new one. A married couple decides that their current house isn't meeting their relationship needs anymore - they want something a little bigger, a little different, a little less conventional.

Their old house has a kitchen, a bathroom, a living room, and two bedrooms. It's nice, but they'd like something more. The new house also has a kitchen and a living room, but it has 2 bathrooms and 3 bedrooms and a smaller room billed as an "office". There are lots of similarities between the old house and the new house - lots of the rooms serve the same function, both are made of a wood frame with drywall and plaster and siding and roof tiles and double-pane windows and both have electrical wiring and plumbing. But it's still a totally different house in addition to just having more rooms to accommodate the growing family.

The house is in a different neighborhood, so you have to drive around a bit to learn where the grocery store is and the nearby restaurants and the best path now to get to work and the movie theater. The neighbors, while still human beings, are different people and you have to get to know them and develop new connections that might look different than the ones you had with the old neighbors. You might be a little more inconvenienced in this new house because you have to drive past a school during school hours and traffic backs up making you late for work if you don't start leaving earlier.

It's an adjustment, moving into a new house. Ultimately, it might be the best decision you ever made, and your life will get better for it in the long run. But in the beginning, you might have to make some adjustments, like finding new paths and doing some internal remodeling or redecorating when your old house was already furnished exactly the way you liked it. Or, it might be a mistake and you might find yourself moving again in just a short time.

But if you really wanted the exact same house, only with one more room, I'd recommend you don't make that new room out of a human being. Take up a hobby or a pet. But a person is going to be disruptive. A person is going to change things far more than adding a door at the end of the hall where there used to be a wall - something that makes your house look mostly exactly the same and that you can only tell the difference if you go into that space, but that you can ignore if you just close the door.

Don't think of it as "adding a new girlfriend to our relationship" like she's a rumpus room tacked onto the back end of the house. Think of it more like getting a whole new house that, while it has many similar elements, is still a totally different building that will contain your family.

And wait to build that house until everyone who is going to live in it is present to offer their preferences for what they want in a house that they're going to live in too. Maybe you and the new person all agree that they should live in a separate mother-in-law suite in the backyard, rather than being attached to the main house, but they should still be there to help design that mother-in-law suite themselves, since they're the ones who have to live in it. But if they really are going to be part of the main house, then they really ought to have an equal say in what color the walls are and what kind of layout they want, not just to move into a house that already exists and doesn't reflect their own personality or preferences.

Remember, people are not accessories to your existing marriage, nor are they extra rooms you tack on to your existing house. They are the architects of their own lives, and if you want them to share your life with you, then they need to be collaborators.

‪#‎UnicornHunting‬ ‪#‎polyamory‬ ‪#‎poly‬ ‪#‎polyamorous‬ ‪#‎OpenRelationships‬
joreth: (Purple Mobius)
"But it's not FAIR that I have to give up X / not do X / he gets to do X!"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Hey, guys, can we please stop this "bad things happen in 3" and "death comes in 3"? Just in my Facebook headlines alone, I count 7 famous celebrity deaths recently, and that's without looking any up and relying on Facebook's non-random algorithms that deliberately show me things that are linked together and/or from the same smallish circle of people in my friends list who I interact with most often and therefore my feed has a TON of headlines in common and a bunch of headlines that I'm sure I missed because they're not in the same class as the rock musicians that my friends list apparently all listens to.

Confirmation bias is a logical fallacy that means basically we will find whatever we're looking for. If you think bad things happen in threes, you can take any arbitrary date range and retrofit 3 bad things to make that "true".

There's also the Texas Sharpshooter Fallacy, which is to look at a collection of data points like they are bullet holes on the side of a barn, and then metaphorically draw a circle around them after the fact to say "look, bullseye!"

Other fallacies, cognitive biases, etc. that this falls under or is related to include:

  • Selection Bias

  • Gambler's Fallacy

  • Hot Hand Fallacy

  • Clustering Illusion

  • Apophenia

I recommend looking each one of these up, and then falling down the rabbit hole in whatever way catches your attention from there.
joreth: (Silent Bob Headbang)

http://www.the1585.com/dorksawaken.html

Important to read, but with spoilers mainly about the main villain. Although, this article is really more about nerd culture and entitlement, and how those two are linked together than about details of the film. It merely uses character analysis to explore those concepts. I usually copy passages from the articles I'm sharing that especially highlight the point I want people to take away from the article, but I'm finding that hard to do without including passages with spoilers.

So I'll pad this part of my explanation and include them below the cut, and a little out of order because there is a quote further down that isn't really spoilery. At least, I hope by this time it isn't a spoiler, since the potential spoilery detail is in the trailers.

Quotes that highlight the point I want people to take away from this article. )
joreth: (Misty in Box)
This is a thing in my circles (or, it was in the circles I frequented with my abusive ex, so I'm trying to make it a thing in my current circles as well). I called it "being peopled out". Anyone can excuse themselves from a social interaction guilt-free by simply saying they were "peopled out" and either choose to leave entirely or just go somewhere nearby to be left alone for a while.

When I host social interactions at my home, the common areas are for socializing and the rest of the house is generally accepted to be off-limits as per normal party etiquette, but my bedroom (as I'm too poor to have all that many other rooms) was declared a Peopled Out Zone, where introverts can escape for a bit. If other introverts are already in there, it is known that this room is for introversion and there is no obligation to socialize with anyone there, since they're all there to recharge.  I don't think I've ever had more than one introvert at a time in my room, but another party I was at had 3 of us ignoring each other in the Introvert Room.  Cats can move about at will and are usually welcome to socialize, though.

When I have partners over, being "alone together" is a major part of them coming over. Either of us can announce a desire to be undisturbed or to get work done or whatever and the other will go about their own business for the duration. When my local partner comes over, he stays for a few days at a time and then goes home for a few days. That's too long at my house to constantly be "entertaining" him, which might otherwise be acceptable as a host for a guest of a couple of hours. He often asks for time to play on his phone and I often have shit I need to get done around the house that is just unrealistic to wait on for several days until he goes home again. He also spends about an hour or more at a time sitting alone on my porch vaping. I don't like vaping and, again, I have my own introvert needs or stuff to get done. We pop our heads into the other's space to share a thought now and then, but we essentially leave the other alone during that time.  Without that ability, I couldn't have him stay over for several days and I'd have to see him less often than I currently do, which might actually hamper the relationship.

This is also a dialect of the Quality Time Love Language. Some people call it Co-Gaming, where people share physical proximity to each other but don't interact much with each other (in the case of the term, because they're playing video games on their respective consoles). For some of us, this is an important part of bonding with others. It allows us to let down our guards, stop being "on stage" and stop playing "hostess" and "guest", and to just *be* in front of another person, doing something mundane or going about our daily lives.  For some people like me, that's an incredibly vulnerable time, and it's one pathway to intimacy because we have let someone see us without the social mask on.

Here's a good video clip from the TV show Sex And The City that covers introversion and "alone time".  It's currently under a copyright dispute so I can't embed it directly, you'll have to click the link: www.youtube.com/watch?v=0FNBLi_6De0

I advocate for everyone to introduce being Peopled Out, or Introvert Time or whatever you want to call it to your social circles.  I think this benefits both introverts and extroverts.  If extroverts want to socialize more, they can get more introverts to come over and socialize if the environment is accommodating of introversion needs.  So, throw a party and say 6 introverts show up.  The odds that all 6 of them will get Peopled Out at exactly the same time for exactly the same duration are pretty slim, so between the other extroverts at the party and the introverts not currently Peopled Out, the extrovert host should have plenty to socialize with.  And, since the introverts know there is a Peopled Out room available, more introverts will be willing to show up, thereby increasing the number of people at the party in total, thereby increasing the number of people available for an extrovert to socialize with.  Or, for those who don't have a home large enough for a whole separate room, a Peopled Out Corner, perhaps next to the bookshelf, or a Time Out Bean Bag or something, where someone can go and no one will address them while they're in that spot.

And then there's the more private, non-party circumstances like in the comic.  If an introvert feels safe saying "Peopled Out, can't talk now, talk later?" because they know that the other person will understand, give them some space, and not take it as a personal rejection or freak out at the lack of reply, then the introvert will be more likely to actually respond with that explanation rather than either playing the avoidance game or overcommitting and then having a meltdown that the other person won't understand why the introvert is melting down over "nothing".

Sometimes, the other person (either introvert or extrovert) won't understand what the radio silence is all about and can fill in the silence with their own projections or suppositions.  This means that they'll try to contact the introvert, the introvert won't respond because they're Peopled Out, and the other person can freak out wondering why - was it something they did?  Does the introvert not love them anymore?  Did they get into a horrible accident?  WHERE ARE THEY?!

Introversion / extroversion language, and the language of various personality type systems like MBTI or Love Languages, help to establish that whatever is going on with the person in question is something internal to them and not a reflection on the other person.  This tends to make it easier to hear about someone's personal boundaries and limitations because it more clearly illustrates that it's not about us, it's about themselves.  But, in order for the person in question (the introvert, in this case) to explain what's happening, they have to feel *safe* explaining what's happening.  We can start by including things like Peopled Out Time as a given in our social circles and also giving them language to use to help explain their internal workings. And, like in the SATC video, sometimes just knowing that it's safe to ask for time alone can reduce the need for or duration of time alone, giving the other person the socializing that they wanted in the first place.

So my suggestion is to find a phrase that people in your social circle can understand to mean "I need some time with no interaction from you that is not a statement in any way on you as a person but on my own internal brain chemistry regarding how I process social interaction" and start using it to create Introvert Time or Peopled Out Spaces or Sensory Overload Chill Out Time for people who just need to be alone for a while.
joreth: (Bad Computer!)

Hey, people, we need to have a little chat. I'm glad that the poly community is talking more openly about abuse and all, but could we stop throwing around diagnoses like we have any right or ability to do so?

Stop accusing people of being narcissistic or sociopathic or whatever just because you read that article that one time and the person whom you've never met but got into an online argument with said something you didn't like. Or even that person who you dated who turned into an asshole. He's probably not a sociopath, and if he is, you're not qualified to determine if he is.

Unless you have an actual degree in clinical psychology AND you are this particular person's psychological diagnostician (in which case, you REALLY shouldn't be publicizing diagnoses because it violates patient confidentiality) OR they actually disclosed to you a diagnoses (in which case, unless they're public about it, you're still violating someone's privacy and even assholes have a right to medical privacy), you don't know if they have any particular disorder or what it might be.

Be pissed off at someone if you think they wronged you. Talk about your own experiences at their hands if you think it's relevant. Just stop flinging around these terms. You look like monkeys flinging shit.

They are important labels and we devalue them by using them carelessly and casually. We actually end up hurting our efforts to address abuse in our communities by liberally applying specific terms with specific meanings in medical or psychological contexts to people who just irritate us or say stuff that makes us mad because people become too inured to seeing those terms and it eventually turns into either a witch hunt or a dismissal of people with mental disorders who *could* be productive members of society with the right kinds of help.

I'm glad that we've started sharing things like "5 Warning Signs You're In An Abusive Relationship" and "8 Toxic Relationship Behaviours", and even those articles detailing the criteria for narcissism and borderline personality disorder and all the rest.  I really do want people to be more aware and more educated and more sophisticated in their relationship evaluations.  But y'know how easy it is for people to put in their symptoms into WebMD, get a list of possible diagnoses from likely to plausible to WTF no one has had this in generations in this country?  And then people start freaking out that they have fucking brain tumors when they're just dehydrated and have a headache?  Mental diagnoses are like that too.  But it gets worse because we start applying these internet checklists to the people we know.  And the information we absorb about "is your coworker a sociopath?" changes our behaviour with respect to how we treat these other people and how we interpret their actions.

This is not fair, not medically accurate, not intellectually honest or rigorous, and it's actually making things worse.  Apparently, half of all my social communities have Narcissistic Personality Disorder and the other half have Borderline Personality Disorder, and about a third are completely sociopathic, and everyone is an abusive bully - depending on who you're talking to.  People are already starting to tune out, and this is extremely dangerous for people who are *actually* trapped in relationships with people who are harming them.  Psychological terms need to be used with care, in their proper time and place.  The actual victims of abusive relationships need as much support as we can give them, which means that we shouldn't be devaluing the language they need to talk about and process their abuse by accusing everyone of everything just because we don't like someone or someone was mean to us.

Because, here's a newsflash - it's totally possible to be mean to someone without them being clinically psychotic.  Just so you know.

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: (Purple Mobius)
Hey media! I know you're never gonna see this, but I have something to say to you anyway. You know how you're having so much trouble finding "triads" and "poly couples" to interview? THAT'S BECAUSE POLYAMORY DOESN'T WORK THAT WAY.

I mean, yes, there are triads in polyamory, and yes there are people who are partnered and could be called a "couple". But you're looking for people who fit a very specific relationship structure who are also attractive enough for your audience and willing to be public about their very personal romantic lives and who have everyone they're connected to be willing to be public about being connected to them. That's a tall order.

Mainly, polyamory isn't something that "couples" do, or even something that "triads" do, it's something that people do. Most of the people in poly relationships look like a lot of different sorts of configurations. Regardless of what people think they want out of poly relationships, the reality is that you either find yourself in amorphous, fluid, or unexpected configurations because that's just who you ended up falling in love with, your you find yourself still searching for that Third 20 or 30 years later and always blaming your failed relationship attempts on the selfishness of the unicorns you're hunting instead of recognizing that the forced structure you're imposing isn't meeting the real-world needs of the participants.

So if you, as a member of the media, want to have any luck at all in finding respondents, don't be the even-more-clueless version (I didn't even know that was possible) of the Unicorn Hunters. Open up your search to include a variety of possibilities. This means that you may not get that sensationalized photo of three people in bed together because the relationship is actually an asterisk or a "polycule" network with several long distance partners and a couple of partners who don't like each other so they won't pose for group photos and maybe one or two who refuse to participate because they're not out. We're not all playing house together and trying to build a commune or pretending to be "just like monos only with 3".

Most of us, those who have successful relationships anyway, have relationships that look different from Escalator Relationships (first comes love, then comes marriage, then comes a mortgage and 3 babies and a poodle because the hubby has allergies) and don't make for convenient, easily wrapped up story packages. Yes, even those of us who started out as a monogamous couple who "opened up" don't often look like the threesome version of Escalator Relationships (also known as polygamy). You may have to interview us separately. You may have to only interview one of us because everyone else is too busy or not out. You may have to include 5 or 6 people because portraying only 3 of us as a "triad" is to leave out people who are integral to our lives and we don't want to exclude them for the sake of your convenient number 3.

And I didn't even begin to touch on the issues of gender expressions or orientations or even socioeconomic class. We are not all pretty, skinny, white, urban professional, 30-something, straight cis men and bi cis women either.

For an excellent, even more media-appropriate open letter on this same subject, check out So You Want To Interview Polyamorous People? by [livejournal.com profile] emanix and linked to on the Polyamory Media Association website.
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: (Purple Mobius)
One of the things that makes me twitch every time I hear it is "different partners fulfill different needs". My partners are not need fulfillment machines. While it's true that I have certain emotional "needs" from my various relationships in order for those relationships to be maintained, it's not an obligation for my partners to meet them. That's my job. Plus, most of my relationships have overlapping "needs".

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

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

Blech.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So let's see how well "niche" ... well ... meets that need :-)
joreth: (Super Tech)
http://bettermyths.com/chivalry-isnt-dead-you-just-dont-know-what-the-fuck-it-is/

OTG FUCKING THIS!!!! Stop lamenting the demise of chivalry, YOU HAVE NO GODDAMN IDEA WHAT IT IS!

"The truth is, chivalry has basically fuck all to do with women, and everything to do with horses. ... See, the word “chivalry” comes from the French word “chevalier,” which comes from “cheval,” which means “horse.” Chivalry is literally just “rules for if you have a horse.” ... Chivalry was – and still is – basically a way of saying, “okay, I have an optimized death machine between my legs, maybe I should look out for people who don’t have one of these.”"

"Real chivalry is about noticing when you have a horse and somebody else doesn’t. It’s about being careful not to trample people just because you can."

"There are no prizes for being chivalrous, other than the prize of being a decent god damn human. ... They didn’t need to invent a complex code of ethics to justify getting shit for free, because they already had all the shit. What do you get for the man who has everything? How about some fucking morals."

"The main problem with chivalry, though, is that it can very easily cross over into paternalism, and nobody likes to be treated like a child."

"At this point, you may be thinking “hey, this is bullshit, these are just basic guidelines for not being an asshole!” and congratulations, you’re right. That’s all chivalry is: basic guidelines for how not to be a sack of shit."

And I have a newsflash for you - if you insist that "chivalry" has anything to do with men treating women a particular way, especially if you feel entitled to being angry or disappointed when any woman doesn't like being treated that way, then you are, in fact, a sack of shit and violating the moral codes of actual "chivalry".
joreth: (Purple Mobius)
http://www.babble.com/relationships/this-is-what-divorce-looks-like/

This is why I'm so adamant that poly lessons are very rarely ever *poly* lessons, and they're more like lessons for healthy relationships in general. This is why I can seem pushy about polyamory - I'm not out to "convert monos" because, frankly, I'd rather not have your monogamy baggage clouding up my dating pool. But I *am* out to improve the existing relationships of those around me, and it is my opinion that those lessons are most commonly found in poly circles.

Those lessons include advanced communication skills, but more importantly, consciously designing your relationships to meet the needs of the individuals, rather than trying to shoehorn people into a single relationship mold.

This is also the very foundation of why I am solo poly. Solo poly does NOT mean "unpartnered". It's not "being single" (although solo polys *can* be unpartnered, they're just not synonyms for each other). Solo poly means, to me, that I am an individual person, not half of a whole or a third of a triad or whatever. It means that all my partners get all of me as a whole and complete person, and each relationship is constructed based on that concept. Which further means that none of my relationships will look like the standard Escalator model, because that model hinges on the submerging of the individual into the group (or couple, in this case). It requires making the relationship more important than the individuals in it.

So I *might* someday have a relationship that superficially resembles an Escalator Relationship with some traditional markers of "couplehood", but the foundation of my relationships will always include the axiom "the people in the relationship are more important than the relationship". This leads, inevitably, to less traditionally structured relationships in order to meet the unique needs of the individuals in them. Like in the case of these and other parents who have figured out that they make excellent coparents but not spouses.

Build the relationships to meet the needs of the people in them. A marriage certificate is not necessary to create a healthy, fulfilling relationship, even one with a life-long emotional bond and children.

"Meshing your life with someone else’s is no small feat and the concept of marriage isn’t as simple as: Hey! We get along really well. We should live together forever! There are a million subtle nuances within every relationship that cause it to work or not to work, many of them only understood by the two people who experienced the relationship. I get along with my ex. I love my ex. That doesn’t mean we belong together." ~ Ditching The Escalator: Marriage does not have to be the only option; aka "it's possible to really and truly love someone and still not make a good partner for them" via [livejournal.com profile] tacit.

"Yeah, it’ll be weird, initially, watching my ex-husband with someone new, but I’d far rather adjust to that than maintain a very formal, even icy, existence with the father of my children and the woman with whom they’ll spend a large portion of their lives. ... I want to work with, not against, a woman who could potentially be the main female figure to my children when they’re not with me." ~ Metamour Relations 101

"Everyone is so caught up in defining family in this way or that way ... instead of just looking around at those people who are a part of our lives on a daily basis who love us and whom we love and being happy that so many people are present. The more the merrier. We are all family." ~ Consciously Designing Relationships

"The decision to end a marriage is not about quitting; it is about letting go of one relationship in exchange for another." ~ Polys Don't Breakup They Transition / aka our Breakup Workshop
joreth: (Dobert Demons of Stupidity)
T: Hey, so, you may not know this, but some of us are being bullied, harassed, and even killed, just because our harassers are confused by our genitals. It's even legal. It's called the Trans Panic Defense, and it basically says that someone can get freaked out by what our genitals are and how they don't match with his expectation of what people with those genitals are supposed to look like, and while freaked out, he can kill us and it's totally a justifiable homocide because we freaked him out.

C: OMG, that's terrible!

T: Yeah. But we've learned from research and from the experiences of the gay rights movement that simple exposure and normalization can help. People are afraid of things that they don't understand, and when they live in fear, they react with violence. So all we have to do is expose them to the concept of people like me and others with gender identities that don't match their expectations, and normalize them to the idea that we exist and we're human, and over time, people lose their fear. With their fear gone, they don't react with violence. When the society around them finds their fear to be the aberration instead of our existence, then even if they do still harbor some discomfort, they learn that they can't act on their fears or discomfort because the culture around them disapproves of it. So even if they still dislike us, we're safer from the possibility of violence because they'd rather not risk losing society's approval of them.

C: Huh, well, that's good.

T: So, we're asking those of you who aren't totally freaked out by us to help normalize us and help expose people to the concept of us. If you could start by not assuming the gender of people you meet, that'd be a big help. You can ask people what pronouns they want you to use for them, or you can just state your own as if it's a normal thing to state. You can also start using gender neutral pronouns and labels whenever there is one to substitute, like the singular "they" or "spouse" and "partner" instead of "wife" or "boyfriend", even when the people in question have a gender identity that matches what they were assigned at birth. This does 2 things: 1) It makes trans and genderfluid people feel welcomed and accepted in society when we hear it. We may be a small percentage of the population, but we're still a part of the population and we'd like to feel included in it. But more importantly, 2) it reinforces the idea that cisgender people are not the only ones out there, even if they happen to be a majority, by reminding them in casual ways that the rest of us exist. That's the normalization part.

C: Whoa now, back the boat up! You want me to *change* my speaking habits? Let's not get carried away here! I thought you were asking for *equality*, not special privileges!

T: It's not a special privilege. I'm just asking you to be a little more considerate in your use of language. It's literally the least amount of effort you can do for us. Just change a couple of words here and there.

C: But what about *my* feelings? What about how hard this will be *for me*? This is a lot of effort! I'd have to actually *think* about what I'm saying before I say it! You have all this talk about compassion and consideration for other people, but you're not really considering how hard this will be for me!

T: People are literally dying here. All we're asking is that you switch out a couple of words. You've done that before. You don't use the same slang that you used in the '80s. You're comparing changing a *habit* to people losing their fucking lives!

C: No need to get angry! It's really hard for me to take you seriously when you're bullying me like that. It sucks that the occasional person gets killed every now and then, but this is *my life* we're talking about! I'd have to *change*! I just don't think I can make it through a day of interacting with people without assuming their gender or using gender pronouns and titles. It goes against all of the English language! It's awkward and uncomfortable. No, that's too much to ask. People might get weirded out *by me*!

T: O.o

T: Having people who feel uncomfortable around you because you're doing something they're not used to kinda sucks, doesn't it?

C: Yes! Now you're getting it! So, sorry about all the murder-death-kills and all, but it's just not fair to ask me to put myself on the line for you. I have too much to lose! My friends would look at me funny, and that would ruin my life!

T: Have you ever been diagnosed with Irony Impairment?

C: Oh great, now you're going to go on a tear about whatchamacallit - ableism now, aren't you? Geez, just let up on the social justice warrior shit for a moment, will you? Can't you just relax and enjoy life for what it is? If you learn to just let go of things, you'll be a lot happier. Maybe stop reading all those social justice articles on the web and stick to cat videos, like I do. See how happy I am?

T: #FacePalm
joreth: (Super Tech)
http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2015/09/21/the-dad-who-wrote-a-check-using-common-core-math-doesnt-know-what-hes-talking-about/

To me, this furor over common core sounds an awful lot like anti-intellectualism that's been running our nation into the ground: "I don't understand this! Therefore you're stupid!"

"Instead of trying to figure out what his child was learning, Herrmann did what so many parents do these days: He complained about something he doesn’t understand.

I’ll be honest with you: I didn’t know what “ten-frame” cards were and I wasn’t sure what he was trying to write in his check. Then I spent a couple of minutes doing the research he couldn’t be bothered to do himself."

"what math teachers have realized is that kids who relied on memorization, algorithms, and calculators had a really hard time understanding math as they got older."

"The problem with the method people like Herrmann learned is that it didn’t work when the math got harder. Strong math students find ways around that, but many students just give up on math altogether."

There's an interesting thing about this "new" math that I was never taught and how I do math. I've said before in my previous posts on the subject that I could do algebra in my head and not show my work, and the more I read about this common core stuff, the more I go "oh hey! That's what I do!" I wasn't taught how to do it, but that's how my brain works naturally. So I was considered "good at math".

Kids were grouped into two categories when I was a kid - "good at math" and "not good at math". I was a math tutor, and I helped those "not good at math" kids to be better. I never believed people weren't good at math, I just saw kids who thought in different ways and the system wasn't reaching them. I was taught by that same system, and that same system wasn't reaching me either, but I saw the ways around it.

I've told this story before. My high school classes gave us a syllabus at the beginning of the semester. On it was the entire homework schedule, so I knew what I would be assigned for the entire semester on day 1. In math class on Mondays, I would do the entire week's worth of homework right there in class rather than listen to my teachers. Then I'd have no math homework all week and I'd have the rest of the week to read a book for that 55 minute period. Since I wasn't listening to the teacher, I was teaching myself algebra (and later calculus) out of the book. I didn't show my work, but I grasped the concepts intuitively. I knew how to manipulate numbers. It turns out that I was basically doing some of these common core techniques in my head.

Here's the interesting part. One of my favorite books as a child was Clan of the Cave Bear. In the book, and in the movie, the main character is part of our current line of human who gets orphaned and adopted by a Neanderthal tribe. They (in the book) have trouble with advanced concepts because of the shape of their brains. Counting, specifically, is very difficult for them. Only the most advanced of their holy men can count past a handful and just barely at that. But Ayla is human, and we excel at math - that's why we survived without claws and fangs and fur, because we are engineers who change the environment to suit us instead of the other way around.

So her holy man is her adopted father and, on a lark, he starts explaining some of their most sacred (and secret) counting methods. He's not supposed to, but he figures she won't get it so it won't matter. He gives her a pile of rocks and teaches her to count them by placing one rock near each finger, so that each rock is represented by a digit. That's about where he usually loses his neanderthal bretheren. But Ayla thinks abstractly. So she grabs the entire pile of rocks, breaks them up into smaller piles of 5, places her hand over each pile, and then raises both hands, fingers extended, twice to indicate 20.

This blows the holy man's mind! No one has ever counted that high before! He's the smartest of the smart and he can only just barely grasp what Ayla has done. She took a large group and broke it up into chunks to make it easier to categorize. She was able to quickly count to 20 because she counted 4 piles of 5.

This is common core.

I had no idea. But I read this book in kindergarten and I watched the movie every time it came on TV. This is how I do math. I haven't had a math class in 17 years and I don't use anything higher than geometry in my daily life, so I feel like my math skills have slipped a lot. I feel that loss. But the more I look into this common core stuff, the more I feel that, had I been taught this as a kid, there's no telling how far I could have gone. I could have gone into engineering or physics. Instead, I got swept up in the "I'll never use algebra or calculus in daily life, and I need to save my college credit hours for things that will help me in my career" - the kind of anti-intellectualism that led directly to a nation that thinks the appropriate criteria on which to judge the leader of our nation is whether or not we can "drink a beer" with him.

"Because, to people like him, ignorance is hilarious. He’d rather see his son learn math the old-fashioned way, putting him in danger of struggling in his math career as he gets older, instead of course-correcting early in his education when everything is still fresh.

To answer the obvious rebuttal, yes, a lot of adults are able to get through the day just fine even though they were never very good at math. But why wouldn’t they want their children to aim higher, understand things better, and think more critically?"

"I’m telling you this new way is so much better for students, but we need parents willing to get on board with it instead of complaining because it looks weird.

At the very least, it sends the wrong message to really impressionable kids."
joreth: (Dobert Demons of Stupidity)
With the whole Kentucky gay marriage license debacle currently unfolding (remember, she is an elected official at the county level who is currently violating a court order to perform the job duties she swore an oath to perform on behalf of the citizens who elected her), I want to remind everyone of the importance of voting at the local level, not just the presidential elections every 4 years.

Don't like any of the candidates? Don't see any difference between the two parties? Don't think anyone "deserves" your vote? This shit starts at home. This starts with school board elections. This starts with county clerk elections. This starts with local government.

The school board educates (or fails to educate) our children - our future voters. That local politician moves up to state politician who moves up to federal politician. Our mayors and city superintendents and police chiefs enact or fail to enact policies that affect us.

I qualify for Medicaid under the new Affordable Healthcare Act because the federal government expanded its scope. But our 'wonderful' governor refused the federal expansion mandate, so I STILL have no health insurance. At least the federal government acknowledged that it wasn't my non-compliance so at least I'm not being fined for it.

Pay attention to your local elections. They make a difference, and YOU make a difference.
joreth: (Swing Dance)

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




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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

joreth: (Silent Bob Headbang)
I'm getting closer to perfecting my pudding-frosting recipe. I'm not a big fan of buttercream icing. It's OK, and I'll eat it, but I usually have to scrape most of it off and have just a touch of frosting on top for flavor because it's just *too* sweet and *too* overwhelming to taste anything else. So I've been mucking around with whipped cream-based frostings, pudding-based frostings, marshmallow-based frostings, whatever I could find that wasn't some variation of powdered sugar. To me, the powdered sugar frostings are best on sugar cookies, but even if fluffy and frothy, it's just too sweet for cupcakes and cakes.

The difficulty with the other frosting bases is in texture. While many of the other frostings taste great, they don't quite have that fluffy, spreadable texture that makes buttercream such a good frosting. It needs to be somewhere between Cool Whip and peanut butter. Puddings tend to be too ... puddingy. Not quite thick enough to form a nice, fluffy layer. It doesn't dribble down, but you can't build it up like a stiff buttercream either. The marshmallows tend to be hard to spread because of how sticky they are. The whipped creams are almost *too* fluffy, and not quite thick or substantial enough to carry enough of the flavor.

This time I tried one package of vanilla pudding, 1 cup of heavy whipping cream (instead of the usual milk), 1/4 cup of Baily's Irish Cream, and a carton of whipped cream.  Delicious! It's still just a touch too light, but the substitution of the heavy cream for the milk and the significant decrease in the amount of liquid both gave the pudding more weight and spreadability. Prior to adding the whipped cream, it was very similar to peanut butter, but I thought that was too dense for spreading on delicately soft cupcakes. The whipped cream lightened it up considerably and still allowed it to be thick and hold its shape.  And it turned out to be even better after the cupcakes had sat in the fridge for a couple of days (leftover cupcakes).  That frosting became almost the consistency of canned frosting.

The basic ratio that I'm going for is this - pudding calls for 2 cups of milk, so I take half that for milk or cream and make up the other half with whipped cream, even though 1 carton of whipped cream is more than 1 cup because the whipped cream is less dense than the liquid milk.  How much of the flavoring that I'm going to add depends on the strength of it.  A flavor oil only needs a few drops so the milk / cream amount doesn't need to be adjusted.  But something like alcohol is more diluted - less flavor per liquid volume and the alcohol is *really* liquidy.  So sometimes I might reduce the milk / cream by about a quarter cup or more and replace it with the the same amount of alcohol or other flavoring like juice.

I'll try experimenting with different flavors of pudding and different flavor oils to see if that helps make it taste more substantial.
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.

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