Jul. 1st, 2009

joreth: (polyamory)
Anyone who reads [info]summer_jackel's journal knows that gay sex is ALL thoughout the animal kingdom.

But in case anyone has had their eyes shut and their fingers in their ears, here's an article about it (all emphasis mine) (Thanks to Phil Plait's, the Bad Astronomer, tweet for the link!):

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/06/090616122106.htm

"Same-sex behavior is a nearly universal phenomenon in the animal kingdom, common across species, from worms to frogs to birds, concludes a new review of existing research."

"It's clear that same-sex sexual behavior extends far beyond the well-known examples that dominate both the scientific and popular literature: for example, bonobos, dolphins, penguins and fruit flies," .

"For example, male fruit flies may court other males because they are lacking a gene that enables them to discriminate between the sexes," Bailey said. "But that is very different from male bottlenose dolphins, who engage in same-sex interactions to facilitate group bonding, or female Laysan Albatross that can remain pair-bonded for life and cooperatively rear young."

"Same-sex behaviors—courtship, mounting or parenting—are traits that may have been shaped by natural selection, a basic mechanism of evolution that occurs over successive generations," Bailey said. "But our review of studies also suggests that these same-sex behaviors might act as selective forces in and of themselves."

"But like any other behavior that doesn't lead directly to reproduction—such as aggression or altruism—same-sex behavior can have evolutionary consequences that are just now beginning to be considered,"

" We are pursuing work on the Laysan Albatross, in which females form same-sex pairs and rear young together. Same-sex behavior in this species may not be aberrant, but instead can arise as an alternative reproductive strategy."
joreth: (polyamory)
Dan Savage is very hit or miss for me, but today's exerpt from the Detroit Metro Times is all about plural partnerships. And I heartily approve!  The only thing I take exception to is the comments about being a "selfish bitch".  People, the word "selfish" includes the phrase "to the detriment of others".  Taking care of yourself, standing up for yourself, getting your needs met, is NOT selfish when done with compassion, by definition.  

It's misuse of words like these that fog up our communication.  Some people remember that selfish is a bad thing.  But a lot of people think being selfish is simply doing for oneself.  I actually got in an argument with my high school sweetie way back when over whether or not altruism was selfish, because, ultimately, altruistic behaviour "felt good" and was therefore "selfish".  No, it's not.  You are not selfish for communicating your needs to your partner if you do so with care, consideration, and compassion.  You are smart.  You are selfish when you want extramarital sex and your spouse won't agree, so you do it anyway.  That is "to the detriment of others".

But, other than that sematic point, I'm mostly pleased with the column today.

http://www.metrotimes.com/culture/story.asp?id=14115

Q: I'm a 25-year-old straight female. I've been dating my boyfriend for only a few months, but we fell in love fast. He is a caring person, and I want to make this last. However, he doesn't turn me on. It has nothing to do with looks — he's gorgeous — but rather with the fact that I am submissive and like things rough (rape fantasies, being tied up, etc.). He is GGG and tries, but he is just too timid. The last guy I dated used to toss me around like a rag doll, and I miss being dominated.

I talked to my wonderful GGG boyfriend, and he agreed right away to have a threesome with my previous guy. I haven't talked to the previous guy yet, but I'm sure he'd be into it. This threesome would allow my ex to do something really kinky, which I know he would love, and I would get the abuse I need and my boyfriend would get a "lesson" in the art of sub-dom sex. But…

1) Am I being a selfish bitch?

2) Is it a bad sign that he's not satisfying me sexually at three months?

3) Thank you! —Needs Some Abuse
A: OK, NSA, here are your answers. 1) You have needs, and you're articulating them clearly and thoughtfully; you're being considerate and deliberate. And, yeah, you're also being a selfish bitch.

Good for you.

You have a right to be a little selfish — we all have a right to be a little selfish — when it comes to sex. You have needs and you want them met and you want your gorgeous boyfriend to meet them. Why? Because you're a selfish bitch, no question, but that's not the only reason. You also want him to meet your needs — ably, skillfully — because you want to stay with him, NSA. Showing him how to meet your needs — even if that requires bringing in the kinky ex for a tutorial — is one way to make that happen. The current boyfriend agreed to the threesome idea quickly because he can see that. Take yes for an answer, NSA!

2) Some couples click right away, and some couples take some time to find their groove. My boyfriend doesn't allow me to write about our sex life in any detail — privacy is his kink — but he will allow me to say this: The sex we're having at 15 years is a lot better than the sex we were having at 15 weeks. So don't despair that your boyfriend isn't totally satisfying you at three months. We got there (within a year), NSA, and you can too (with some effort).

3) No, NSA, thank you. It's not often that a letter from a straight reader forces me to go lie down in a dark room for half the day with a warm washcloth over my eyes. The threesome you describe is beyond hot; you'd be a fool not to go for it, and I'd be drummed out of the Brotherhood of Amalgamated Male Sex Advice Columnists Who Are Men (Local 609) if I didn't urge you to go for it. This threesome will help your current boyfriend up his game, thereby saving this relationship, or it will provide you with memories that you'll cherish for the rest of your life. (And by "cherish for the rest of your life," I mean "masturbate about for decades to come.") Either way, you win. Go for it, NSA, and please send a full report after it's all over.

Q: I'm dating a woman who happens to be another chap's wife. He knows. In fact, he sometimes joins in. The problem is that he had cancer some years back. It's in remission, but his immune system was hit hard. How his body would deal with various sexually transmitted infections is in question. Would a "treatable" strain of syphilis mess him up?

I love my lady friend — but since I'm dating around, we've started looking up info on the Internet about "safe sex" and have found a lot of contradictory info. You can get hepatitis B from kissing? HPV can sneak around condoms? Gonorrhea is starting to become antibiotic resistant? All this is making her feel like I might unintentionally expose her other beloved to something nasty.

My question: Does "100-percent safe sex" even exist? Is there any way to protect my lover's husband? —Daunted By Threesome Reality

A: There's no such thing as "100-percent safe sex," just as there's no such thing as "100-percent safe chicken salad," DBTR. (Sorry — just saw Food, Inc.) There is only safer sex: Use condoms when appropriate, have more sex with fewer partners, get regular STI screenings. That said, DBTR, hepatitis B is almost never transmitted by kissing, and there's a 100-percent effective vaccine for it. And while HPV can sneak around condoms, there's a highly effective HPV vaccine too. And there are effective treatment options for those drug-resistant strains of gonorrhea you're reading up on. As for your lady's man's immune system …

"If his cancer has been in remission for years, his immune system would be considered completely healthy," says Dr. Barak Gaster, my medical consultant at the University of Washington. "Even when an immune system is decimated by heavy chemo, it's amazingly able to reconstitute itself."

But the only way to ensure that you're not introducing an STI into your triad — one you're not already carrying — is to commit, for the time being, to sex with only these two people.

Q: A new euphemism: When someone cheats on a spouse, that should be known as "hiking the Appalachian Trail" in honor of South Carolina governor Mark Sanford.

But I have to say that this Adultery Confessional Theater is getting tired. Can our culture start to deflate the drama on extramarital affairs a little? Bill Clinton, Eliot Spitzer, Larry Craig, Jon and Kate, John Ensign, Mark Sanford: Yes, it sucks if kids are involved and it often leads to divorce. But I wonder if setting the panic bar a bit lower wouldn't save more marriages. Maybe we should embrace the fact that few of us will remain monogamous over the long life of a marriage and remove sex from the pressured center of domestic life. —Anne In NJ

A: My reaction when the Sanford scandal broke could be summed up in six words: Dying* is easy; monogamy is hard.

I'm with you, AINJ, and I have hammered away at those points for years: At the bottom of all these sex scandals is our unnatural fixation on monogamy. Human beings aren't wired to be sexually monogamous, and the shock we're required to feign with each new revelation of infidelity on the part of an elected official would be comical if the costs weren't so great. Elevating monogamy over all else destroys countless marriages, families and careers.

Which is not to say that people shouldn't honor their commitments or that there aren't folks out there capable of remaining monogamous over the five-decade course of a marriage or that the hypocrisy of assholes like Sanford — who called on President Clinton to resign during Monicagate — isn't worthy of censure. But think of all the people who've cheated and gotten caught. Now think about all the people who've cheated and gotten away with it. Our idealized notions about sex — within marriage and without — are at war with who and what we are. Sex is powerful; relationships are fragile. Why on earth do we insist on pitting them against each other?

* Physically, politically.
joreth: (Nude Drawing)
http://www.ppaction.org/campaign/hcrsen0709ppol?rk=ZdM1NC7qWcNME

Right now, the Republican leadership on the Senate Finance Committee is considering health care reform language that will take away access to women's comprehensive reproductive health services. It is unbelievable that, at a time when our leaders should be focused on expanding health care coverage, they are talking about taking benefits away from women.

The Republican leadership on the Senate Finance Committee is demanding a provision that will result in a drastic change to the benefits that many of us have now; and, of course, the hundreds of thousands of women who are not covered now will still be left out in the cold.

Please, contact the Senate Finance Committee right now to let them know we won't stand for it by completing the form at the link.

Semantics

Jul. 1st, 2009 04:00 pm
joreth: (Bad Computer!)
So I'm having a Twitter debate over the use of the word "selfish". One of my pet peeves is people who take a word, change the definition, then insist they're using it correctly because they reassigned it.

I recognize that English is a "living language", but when a word is in current use with an accepted definition, changing the definition just because you want to when other words exist to explain what you're trying to say causes confusion.

nympsam seeks to "reclaim" the word "selfish" to mean doing anything that's good for yourself. However, the definition in the dictionaries all clearly state that selfish is "to the detriment of others" or "without regard to others". I think it's pretty clear that this word is distinct from self-interest or other words designed to indicate simply "doing for oneself". Just by coincidence, Dan Savage does the same thing in the article I posted about earlier today.

The problem with "reclaiming" this word, is that it no longer separates between altruism and atrocities. It has been argued by many people that "altruism" is inherently selfish because, ultimately, you're getting something out of doing a good deed. While it is true that a person "gets something out of" the altruistic act, the fact is that an altruistic act is specifically WITH regard for others, therefore is the exact opposite of "selfish".

There are people who are, indeed, selfish. These are people who cheat on their spouses because they feel entitled to sexual relations WITHOUT REGARD to the promise they made to someone and WITHOUT REGARD to how that person feels about their actions or how their actions affect that other person. These are people who are at the far end of the Free Agent side of the spectrum, who behave as though they are single WITHOUT REGARD to their partners. These are the people who say "look, I told you I was poly, so you shouldn't have a problem with me having unprotected sex with 500 people this year and not telling you about it". These are people who lie, cheat, steal, and otherwise harm others because they value the pleasure they get out of the act above the harm it causes other people.

Telling your partner your needs in a relationship does not fall under this category. It could be labeled "self-interest", but the very act of doing so "respectfully" negates the use of the word "selfish".

The polyamory mantra "communicate communicate communicate" requires good communication skills. Taking an existing word and changing the definition does not foster good communication. It muddies the water even further. The word "selfish" has a range to it as it is, and the edges of the spectrum of behaviour that could be considered "selfish" are fuzzy at best. Changing the definition of the word to include behaviours that were previously antonyms of the word makes the word inherently meaningless.

There are many times when inventing new words is necessary. The word "polyamory" is a great example. There are even times when "reclaiming" a word is important. A social movement to remove the stigma from a label of a group of people to try and fight for social equality and civil rights is an example. But just picking a word and saying "eh, nope, I don't like what this means, so I say it means the exact opposite even though there are other words that mean what I'm trying to say" is not a good example of when one should affect a language change.

It would be like me saying that I wanted to reclaim the word "steal" to mean "taking something" and leaving out the part about "without permission". So, every time I go to the store, I will "respectfully steal" bread.  Socially, people can be heard to say "I'm going to steal one of your french fries, ok?" when what they really mean is that they are asking permission to have a french fry, or they are taking a french fry from someone that they have good reason to believe will give permission. So, much like the word "selfish", the term "steal" is broadened incorrectly in social slang.  

The problem here is that "stealing" is against the law, because it has a very specific definition, incorrect common usage aside. I can be punished for stealing. If "stealing" no longer includes "without permission", then we have effectively rendered the term meaningless because now there is nothing to separate taking a french fry from grand theft auto. Those are two very different concepts that should have different words.

The word "selfish" also has a very specific definition, in spite of the fact that is is often used incorrectly. Within polyamory, we encourage communication, and advanced communication skills make for better poly relationships. Changing the definition of an already-existing word to mean the opposite of what it actually means does NOT foster good communication.

However, nympsam even specifically says "I dont believe that going by dictionary and societal definitions are reason enough to not reclaim a word for good."  So even if social slang lined up with the dictionary definition, her position is that it is still valid to use a word in the context of the opposite of its meaning.

Technically, she has the *ability* to use words incorrectly, and she even has the *right* to use words incorrectly (it's not against the law, because if it were, the Traditional Marriage people would all be serving life-sentences), but that doesn't mean she's *right*.  It's still an incorrect usage of the word and insisting on doing so makes communication more difficult.

Even if nympsam does manage to change the use of the word within the poly community, the majority of English-speakers will still be using the word differently and it does not help us at all to be using mainstream words with poly-specific definitions. That is the antithesis of "good communication".

In a relationship style that espouses "communication communication communication", we should be striving for the most clear, most efficient use of language. And saying that "red" means "yellow" because I want it to is not the most clear or most efficient use of language and will not help me to communicate my thoughts.

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