joreth: (Silent Bob Headbang)

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

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

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

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

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

joreth: (Super Tech)
*sigh* Having a profile on a dating site STILL does not obligate a woman to give you the time of day. There are lots of reasons why she may have a profile and still not want to meet you, talk to you, or even be open to dating anyone at the moment.

1) Being single and having a full and exciting life that may leave little time for dating does not mean she can't still be open to the idea if someone exceptional comes along, so she may be busy with life right now, but she's still allowed to look even though it may look like she doesn't have "enough" time, according to your definition of "enough". The "right" person will fit into her busy schedule because of shared interests and mutual compromise and she is under no obligation to sit around playing the lonely spinster while she waits for you to magically arrive and add excitement to her life. YOU have to be exciting enough for her to justify making space for you in her life. Her complex life is what makes her exciting enough for you, that's why you contacted her.

2) It may be an old profile from when she was looking and she's holding onto it. It's not your business to decide when it's appropriate to let go of a profile.

3) She may be looking for different things, like friends or activity partners, and not a romantic partner, or she may even be looking just for sex and her busy life isn't an issue for a once-in-a-while booty call.

4) Lots of women (and other people too) prefer to take their time and get to know people online for a while before giving out contact info, real names, or meeting in person. Sometimes it's safer. Sometimes she's an introvert who relates better in text. Sometimes, a busy schedule and a request to send emails first is a test to see how pushy the guy is, and if he pushes too soon for a RL meetup, she'll know to drop him because either he's an entitled asshole who doesn't respect boundaries or they just want different kinds of relationships.

5) She goes through busy and not-so-busy stages and it's not worth her time to take down the profile and put it back up every time her life changes, especially if she put a lot of effort into her profile or she will lose her username by deleting it. Besides, if someone exceptional came along, she may be willing to go out of her way to change life to accommodate.

6) It could be you. Just because a woman is available, it doesn't mean that she's available TO YOU, and maybe her "busy schedule" is a hurdle she isn't willing to overcome because you don't do it for her.

This is written from the perspective of a man complaining about a woman's profile only because this is the direction of the complaints that I see most often, not because it never happens with any other combination of genders.

Look, I've written plenty advising women to please respond to the men who contact them even if it's a rejection because I want to reward the courage it takes to approach someone and because I think it sucks that we have this double standard where men have to put in all the effort and women get inundated with crappy first-contact letters.  Both sides suck.  When I'm talking *to* women, I want to encourage that they do their share of the contributing to change society.

But when women are complaining about the bad experiences they're having online, DON'T MAKE THIS ALL ABOUT TEH MENZ.  That is not the time to tell women that they should ignore their own discomfort in order to make men feel better.  That is not the time to bring up how much it sucks to be a man as if it were a competition of which gender has it worse online (trust me, it's not the male gender as a whole, even if I agree that some parts of their experience suck).  That is the time to LISTEN to the women and to do whatever is in your power to help change things.  Because I guarantee that if women as a whole felt safe online and safe to be sexual beings, the double standard that makes it hard for men in online dating would go away as a result.

If we want women to do the approaching, the first-contact outreach, to respond to first-contact letters, and to be clear about their intentions, we have to make it safe for them to do so.  If someone doesn't feel safe in expressing themselves, they will avoid doing it or they will do it in passive-aggressive or indirect ways that may seem confusing or contradictory.  
joreth: (Kitty Eyes)
"I've never been there, but I once met someone who talked about it and I didn't like that person, so I'll just assume that he's representative of the entire experience there and say that it'll probably suck."

When it's not a subject with objective data that can illustrate, contradict, and/or remove our own logical fallacies and cognitive biases regarding experiences, I'm going to take a pretty dim view of any review that includes "I didn't experience it myself", especially when combined with "because I don't like a person who likes it".

Now, if the objection is "the entire content is this subject I don't like" or "the target audience is people I don't relate to", it's probably a safe assumption to make that you're less likely to like it yourself.  But...

"I don't want to go to an adult store because only losers go there" and

"I don't want to go to Kentucky because my cousin is a redneck and he lives there so it's filled with rednecks" and

"I don't want to read Shakespeare because elitist snobs read Shakespeare" and

"I don't want to listen to country music because I once heard the joke about listening to it backwards gets your dog, your wife, and your truck back so it must all be filled with stupid lyrics" and

"I don't want to go to the ballet because I once saw a picture of a guy in tights so I assume there's nothing there but men in tights" and

"I don't want to go see your dance performance because I know a guy who pops gum and likes the theater so the audience will probably have people there who pop gum and I can't stand that" and

"I don't want to try Indian food because I was once in an Indian person's house and it smelled funny"

are all examples (from real life, I might add) of people being prejudiced, close-minded, and in some cases just stupid.  Telling others not to try the experience without having done it yourself (again, with experiences that are enjoyed or disliked subjectively, not that make truth claims and have objective data to verify those claims) only lets those around you *see* you acting prejudiced, close-minded, and in some cases just stupid.  And since I know no one thinks of themselves as prejudiced, close-minded, or stupid, I know that none of you will want to APPEAR that way even by accident, right?  So don't do that shit.

This is not to be confused with reading several reviews about an experience from people/organizations that have a stable pattern of having similar opinions as your own and reporting "I heard/read that This Person didn't like it for these reasons".  I want to be very clear that I am complaining about a specific thing - criticizing an experienced based on association with another person that you don't like, not for the content of that experience, which can be verified even second-hand, and assuming content of an experience based solely on the presence of another person that you don't like without verifying that content is, in fact, the content.

I have a habit of liking movies that get poor critic reviews, so I might decide to go see a movie just because all the critics said it sucked.  If my close feminist friends all say a particular movie was sexist and offensive, I might give it a miss.  But if one of my coworkers, who happens to be sexist, likes a particular movie, I won't assume that the movie is sexist just because he likes it unless he actually SAYS something about the content.  Him just liking it is not enough for me to assume anything about the content.  I need some other data point, like WHY he liked it or the demographics of the entire audience who liked it, to give me a clue as to whether or not I might like it.

And even then, I often surprise myself by discovering things I used to swear I hated and would never like.  Hummus, for example.  Absolutely hated it until about a year ago.  Tomatoes are another thing.  I've hated the texture so much that my mom had to puree them in pasta sauce before I'd even look at it.  Now I love them both.  I also used to really love the Chronicles of Narnia, even though I was an atheist child.  But back then, I lived in a liberal bubble where my atheism wasn't the target of oppression.  Now that I'm more aware of oppression, I can't help but feel turned off by the obvious religious apologetics in the series.  My tastes change over time, and the more I deliberately test my assumptions about my opinions, the more aware I become of who I am and I am better to more accurately predict what I might like or dislike and in what direction I might change.

And the more I find to like where I previously assumed I wouldn't like.  The universe is a vast and wondrous place, far more interesting than any individual can really comprehend.  And there is far too little time to discover all its wonder, so I don't want to waste time avoiding things that might turn out to be amazing just because some other jackass also happens to like it.

“Your true self can be known only by systematic experimentation, and controlled only by being known.” Francis Bacon
joreth: (Nude Drawing)
To avoid using toys during sex on the assumption that "relying" on them means you have failed to satisfy your partner or that you're a poor lover is like refusing to use spices in your cooking on the grounds that spices make you a failure as a gourmet chef who can't make an appetizing meal without the "crutch" of flavor.

Using toys during sex takes skill and creativity and openness and vulnerability and opens up the definition of "sex" to such a wide vista that you may one day come to wonder at what you used to consider "sex".

Sex is so much more than putting tab A into slot B. Maybe some people are content, even happy with plain mashed potatoes and creamed corn. I like bland food myself. But my world opened up when I discovered Chinese food and Indian food and Ethiopian food and Cuban food, all known for their varied and colorful spice palates. I didn't give up mashed potatoes when I discovered spice. I just enjoy so much more than mashed potatoes now, and I found new appreciation of mashed potatoes now that I can contrast them with mashed sweet potatoes and curry potatoes and Potatoes O'Brian.

I never quite developed a taste for Vietnamese food, or German food, and I still can't stand seafood. And that's ok, there's no rule that says once you start trying new foods, you must try and like them all. But after having sampled so many different styles of food, I feel that my cuisine before was bereft, and that I am a better person for having tried new things, as well as knowing myself as a person for having experimented and accepted some while rejecting others.

I am not a failed cook for utilizing spices in my cooking. Sure, it takes skill to make appetizing dishes using the same taste-muted ingredients. But it takes different skill, full of subtlety and nuance, to make appealing dishes with a variety of spices.

And a partner who embraces toys and props and settings in his play is someone who has embraced his creative side, and his analytic side, and his introspective side. And it is *those* elements that make someone a good lover.

"Your true self can be known only by systematic experimentation, and controlled only by being known." ~Francis Bacon
joreth: (Misty in Box)

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

joreth: (::headdesk::)
In which I ramble nearly incoherently about entitlement and agency and autonomy and other buzzwords )
So, in case it hasn't occurred to you yet, the tl;dr version is this: communities and groups of like-minded people are not a convenient location in which we have rounded up a bevy of people for your attention or perusal. Even those groups for which the purpose *is* whatever you're looking for (i.e. a dating site), the group members are not there for you specifically. Do not treat such groups and communities as your personal pool to fish from, stocked with said fish for your pleasure. Being part of a "singles" group, or a submissive group, or a childfree group, or a poly group, or a kink group, or a whatever group, does not mean that the group exists for you to use as a collection site like a temp employment agency. Being part of one of those groups does not mean that the members are there for you. Even being sexually available does not mean that they are sexually available to you.

And for fuck's sake, stop posting personals ads on the internet unless you're specifically signed up for a personals ads service! Just have a fucking conversation with people, and through those conversations, you will eventually find people who are compatible enough with you to consider the sort of relationship you're looking for (or even a whole new kind of relationship you hadn't considered before, but you'd never have known that you'd be open to it if you hadn't just fucking talked to people first).
joreth: (Self-Portrait)

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

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

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

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

My position is to muscle through the fear of the negative reaction and tell the truth anyway (assuming the Path of Greater Courage, of course). But it's not easy, and I understand the *impulse* to avoid the negative reaction. I'm positive I've failed in being courageous myself here and there, so even if I disagree with taking the easy road, I do understand the motivation to.
joreth: (Super Tech)
Someone told me recently that I seem really happy and wanted to know what my secret was.  How do I work in the stressful environment I work in, how do I deal with the people I deal with, how do I live in the world we live in, and still be happy?  I have 2 "secrets" to being happy.  They may or may not work for anyone else, but this is what I do:

1) I follow my passions.  I am dirt fucking poor.  I live below the poverty line and require government assistance on a quasi-regular basis.  I'm one month away from total disaster at all times.  I've been stuck here in this state when I really would rather live elsewhere for a decade past the point I had originally planned to leave because I can't afford to move.  Why?  I have skills in several job categories and could make a decent living.  I used to do a job that paid me $25K a year entry salary, with health benefits, 15 years ago and could be quite comfortable if I had stayed there with various promotions and raises over the years.  I could move up in my current job into management or equipment/personnel coordination, with either a salaried position or lots and lots of hours at a good hourly rate.  I'm poor because I love my job.  It's my passion.  I don't work in the other industries because I'm not passionate about them.  I don't move up into management in my current job because I like, as I usually put it, playing with my toys and getting dirty.  I'm merely a technician.

Don't get me wrong, even my lowly technician gig pays me very very well, per hour or day and plenty of people make good livings doing what I do.  But I also don't work as often as I should.  Sometimes it's because I take time off for my other passions, like relationships or hobbies or vacations.  Sometimes it's because I suck at the work-politics game and I don't know how to schmooze the right people to move up the corporate ladder.  Sometimes it's because my job is more about who you know than what you know.  And sometimes it's because I failed to keep up with changing technology and have trouble finding mentors to bring me up to speed so I can't always compete in the job market.

But the point is that I love my job so much, I'm willing to live in below-poverty conditions to keep doing it.  I do what I have to in order to survive, including taking other kinds of work.  But it doesn't make me happy.  When I'm gigging, I'm happy.  When I'm costuming, I'm happy.  When I'm dancing, I'm happy.  When I'm photographing, I'm happy.  When I'm creating, I'm happy, and that's what all my passions have in common - creating something. When I take the time to indulge in my passions, no, to pursue my passions with a ferocious intensity, I am generally happy with life itself.

2) I find outlets for those things that make me unhappy.  Like ranting on the internet.  Most people who know me primarily online think I must be profoundly unhappy because all they see are my angry posts.  But I make those posts in order to get the thoughts out of my head, where, if I didn't get them out, they'd just run around in circles all day, every day.  They're like music earworms, sorta.  Some people have to listen to that very song in order to get it unstuck from their heads.  I have to rant about whatever is pissing me off in order to let it go and get on with my day getting back to the business of being happy.

People who know me in real life first, who then find my online profiles, feel a little jarred at the difference.  I don't seem like "me" to them.  But if you were to ask most of my coworkers who have either not seen my online profiles or who don't read much of Facebook or Twitter or LJ even if they have a profile there, if you were to ask them to describe me, "happy" is a common descriptor.  A boss once quipped something to the effect of not recognizing me without my smile, or if I'd lost my smile, something must seriously be wrong.  I don't remember the exact line, but the occasion stuck out in my memory because I had just lost my place to live because I was "always angry" online, even though I'd never had a harsh word IRL with that person and, in fact, had been told when we first met that he had a crush on me because he so loved how often I laughed around him.  So when that boss remarked on how being unsmiling was a rare event, it struck a chord with me.

I have periods of depression.  I get overwhelmed by stuff and I start to withdraw into myself.  I stop reaching out to my friends and loved ones, I stop going out, I start to cry more easily, and I can start to say and do things that, to someone who doesn't know what's going on, may seem out of character because I stop being able to express myself clearly.  Being a generally happy person doesn't mean never feeling any other negative emotion.

But, in general, I think I'm happy.  I love life and I think it's worth living.  I feel that death is the enemy and I can't even comprehend the idea that there might come a day when I'll be tired of life and voluntarily want to end it, even when I think of living for hundreds or thousands of years.  I joke easily and I laugh often.  Even when I'm in the depths of a depressive episode or feeling particularly down, I know, with every fiber of my being, that it'll pass and I'll be happy again.  Sometimes I even willingly indulge in periods of sadness, knowing that it's just part of the range of human emotion and expressing it can be part of getting through it.  I never need to be told after a breakup, for instance, that things will get better and I'll find someone new.  I know that, and I don't stay sad for very long.  I pretty quickly bounce back to being happy.  Even when Misty, my cat, died, I was able to be at work the next day, laughing and joking as usual with my coworkers.  I'm very much still in mourning for my cat, and I still cry at the drop of a hat when I think of her.  But the joking around at work the day after her death was not a mask I had to wear in order to get through my day.  I was genuinely happy to be working and to be with my coworkers.  And I'm creating a memorial for her, which goes along with my first point about creating making me happy.  Sadness doesn't overwhelm me and life goes on, dragging me along with it.

And I think that's essentially why I'm generally happy.  I follow my passions and I allow myself to express the negative emotions so that I can get through them and get on with the business of being happy.  I remember trying to suppress my negative emotions for a while.  I had a very troubled adolescence and, for a time, the only thing I wanted was to stop hurting.  But, even in that first depressive episode, suicide or self-harm was never a serious consideration (although I did consider them).  I shut off the negative emotions so that I wouldn't hurt.  But then, one day, I realized that I wasn't feeling any of the positive emotions either.  Well, that's not entirely true.  I still felt all my emotions, but they were all very, very muted.  I didn't feel strongly about anything.  I spent many years trying to turn back on the positive emotions without turning on the negative ones, and I failed every time.

Eventually I embraced the idea of feeling because I wanted to feel happy again.  Feeling sad on occasion was just part of the price to pay in order to feel happy.  I don't like the idea of an emotional roller coaster.  I know some people that swing from extreme to extreme, and I've heard of those who are basically emotion junkies.  And I'm not talking about any of that.  I just feel happy in a general sort of way, with moments of elation and joy, and, fortunately rare, moments of sadness.  Every couple of years I go through a depressive stage, but then I pull back out of it again.  To me, depression is not a "normal" state to be in.  Like my moments of sadness, it's something I have to occasionally go through, but those moments are like islands dotting a mostly placid but occasionally excitingly active, sea of happiness.  I'm not sure I could answer definitively about whether the chicken or the egg came first here, but I believe following my passions and allowing myself the opportunity to express and feel my sadness or anger in a controlled manner, are what cause me to be happy in life.  It could be that I have a "happy nature" and that's what gives me passions in the first place, or makes me seek out these outlets for my anger or sadness to expunge them.  But when I'm feeling down, if I can somehow find the motivation to get out and dance, or take my camera somewhere new, or get inspired by a new costume design, then my depression or anger or sadness usually lifts.  So I *think* the causal relationship goes the other way and it's that my happiness is caused by the things I do.

At any rate, I've found it to be a self-perpetuating cycle.  The more I dance, the happier I get.  The happier I am, the more I want to dance.  Same with work, same with costuming, same with photography, same with picking up some new skill or hobby even if that particular one turns out to be a phase that I drop later and never get back to.  Work is where I feel most like "me", where the most number of facets of my personality get to shine at once.  Dancing and my other hobbies are opportunities to focus on a single facet at a time; to really give each facet some undivided attention and undiluted expression.  Sometimes, that hobby is pure emotional expression, like dancing.  I was told not too long ago that he was sorry for staring, but even though he was surrounded by dancers, many in much less clothing than I, he couldn't help watching me dance.  I hadn't ever been told that before.  I've been told that people enjoy dancing with me, or they are impressed when I do a structured dance that they don't know, like swing or Bollywood, but not that my dancing was so sexy and beautiful that he couldn't help but stare.  And he wasn't hitting on me.  When he mistook my enthusiasm for dancing with him as a more personal interest, he was quick to back up and tell me that he was in a monogamous relationship.  He just genuinely felt drawn to me when I danced and was willing to tell me.  I know I'm only a mediocre or intermediate dancer, and that's OK.  I dance for myself, for the sheer joy of feeling my body move.  I dance as though my body was an instrument to join in the song.

And I think that's what people see when they say they like to watch me dance, because my technical skills are, well, they're above average but not particularly exceptional.  Because that's what I see when I feel compelled to watch someone do what they love.  I once watched an artist while he sketched me.  There was something in his expression, something I can't define, that changed everything about him.  When he concentrated on turning the visual signals he received from looking at a subject to a physical representation on paper, he was pursuing his passion.  And it showed on his face, and it made him compelling.  I think I almost fell in love just a little with him right there because of that expression.

My high school sweetheart is a performer.  He is never better than when he is performing.  He is always amazing.  His passion for his art is one of the reasons I fell in love with him in high school and one of the reasons I continue to love him to this day, even though we are no longer romantic and not even the slightest bit romantically compatible.  Back before I realized my stalker was, in fact, a stalker with Nice Guy Syndrome, back when he was just my best friend, I would sit at his feet or hours and watch him play music.  His preferred instrument at that time was guitar, but he could play anything except piano (for some reason, he couldn't put the two hands of a song together on a piano).  He put his soul into his music.  I loved another guitarist too.  He was blind, and he interpreted the world primarily through touch and sound.  Which meant that his playing was exceptional because it was the very essence of how he experienced life.  Not coincidentally, I met him at the same time that I met my high school sweetheart.  In fact, my first introduction to them was the guitarist playing accompaniment to the performer singing.  Two such passionate boys expressing themselves through their passion - it's no wonder I could never really choose between them, and it was only circumstance that kept my relationships with them separated by a decade. [ profile] tacit is passionate about life itself, and consequently is one of the 3 or 4 happiest people I have ever known.  My Darling Boy also has many passions and is one of those people whose very presence in a room make it seem brighter, as though the sun through the window just came out from behind a cloud at the moment he walked in.  He's passionate about flying (he's a chopper pilot) and rigging and music and, like [ profile] tacit, about life itself.

I surround myself with passionate men - men who are intensely, maybe in some cases obsessively, interested in something that makes them happy to experience.  I find this trait to be more compelling in a person than any other trait.  It might not be sufficient, on its own, to sustain a meaningful relationship with that person, but being passionate about something is a necessary element to being able to love them, for me.  That's the best thing that anyone can do to attract a romantic partner, or even friends, y'know - be passionate about something.  People who do interesting things are interesting people, and others are attracted to interesting people.  It doesn't work if you just try to do something with the goal of attracting a mate.  You have to actually feel passionate about that thing, and your passion will make you attractive - far more attractive than any nice clothing or nice car or slick pick-up line will make you, and it'll last longer than a superficial sheen's attractiveness too.

So, if you're still searching for the meaning of life and how to be happy or make your life look the way you want it to look when it doesn't, that's what I suggest you try.  It may not work for you.  Unlike those self-help books like "7 Tips Of Successful People" or whatever that try to boil life down into a series of steps guaranteed to make you rich, good looking, and happy, I'm not saying that my method will work for everyone.  But if you don't know where to even start looking, I think these two things are good to try.  Find something to feel passionate about and pursue it, and find an outlet and allow yourself to express the negative emotions every so often.  I'm not saying to revel in sadness or self-pity or anger.  I'm saying that repression of negative emotion may result in a difficulty or inability to also experience those strong positive emotions that are necessary for passion and happiness.

You may need to learn how to feel sadness or fear or anger, and consequently how to manage and get through it, before you can feel passionate about something else.  A lot of people try to manage their bad feelings by orchestrating their lives largely to avoid feeling bad feelings.  Then, when something inevitable comes along to make them feel bad, they lack the familiarity to recognize the early warning signs and the tools to manage it productively.  This can spiral, I think, into a never-ending cycle of always feeling bad and not knowing how to feel happy anymore.

[ profile] tacit says that life rewards the path of greater courage.  I think that's essentially what I'm trying to do with my two happiness tips.  I'm certainly not claiming to never fail or fall off the path.  But I think it takes courage to feel bad and to get my hands right up in those bad feelings like mixing bread dough and really examine those feelings and deal with them.  And I think it takes courage to leap head-first into an endeavor, which is what I feel that "passion" is - feeling so strongly about something that I just leap into it, giving myself over to the creative process and rolling around in the joy of creating.  Passion, even though it's a positive emotion, can be scary.  It can put us in a place of vulnerability.  It can leave us open to criticism, condemnation, mocking, and separation.  You have to really put yourself into whatever you're passionate about, and a negative reaction about what you're doing can feel like the most intimate, fatal, of attacks.  But being passionate about something, at least for me, means that I can't help but to leap into it.

So I think my reward for pursuing my passions and for exploring and expressing the negative emotions is that I feel that I am generally happy with life.  I am rarely without romantic or sexual partners, except by choice, I often have a handful of people I can count on to be there for me when I need someone, and I enjoy life even when others might look at my situation and think it looks hard or uncomfortable.  My life, overall - the big picture - looks mostly like it does because of deliberate choices I made to make it look this way.  I'm not "lucky" to have multiple partners, or to have any specific partner.  I have these relationships because I arranged my life in such a way as to make these relationships possible.  I'm not "lucky" to be working my dream job.  I made choices that allowed me to pursue my dream job, and those choices have had some consequences and drawbacks that are part of it.  You can zoom in on any part of my life or history and find low spots or difficult spots or places where I didn't make the best choice in hindsight.  But when I pull back and look at my life as a whole, I'm generally happy with it, and the places on the timeline where I'm the most happiest are the places where I expressed my two tips the best.  I don't think that's a coincidence.
joreth: (Super Tech)
"I acknowledge that my white privilege has meant that I’ve been given hella opportunities, and am now in a privileged position to be able to sit here and write these ideas. But part of dealing with privilege is working actively to dismantle it. If I didn’t use my strange combination of oppression and privilege to openly question, critique, and start conversations, I’d just be playing into the system that benefits from Native subjugation and white privilege–and that would be something to be concerned about." -

Replace the word "Native" in the last sentence with any subjegated, oppressed, or discriminated group, and the word "white" with any majority or otherwise privileged group, and this is exactly my position on activism and why I'm "out" as all the minority groups that make me who I am and why I open myself up to criticism and discrimination by claiming those labels and being public about them and talking about them in spite of my natural tendency towards privacy.

Privilege and oppression are rarely binary states. There's a whole field of study on intersectionality, but when trying to introduce or explain the concept of privilege to someone who has it or doesn't get it, we usually reduce it to people who have it and people who don't, for simplicity even though the reality is that almost everyone has some of each. But I can use my privilege to support and assist those of less privilege, including myself. My white-ness and educated status can help my poly, atheist, and female status while my poly, atheist, female, and Latina statuses can all inform the direction my privilege should take in helping.

We are not a nation of Privileged People at the top of a mountain and Oppressed People all at the bottom, with every Privileged Person having an equal panoramic view and every Oppressed Person being buried under the same size rocks that come crashing down, dislodged from the uncaring feet of the Privileged at the top. We are people, in various places along the mountainside, some with easier paths than others, some higher up than others, and all with the opportunity to reach down a helping hand to those below or on rockier paths, while at the same time accepting those helping hands from above or suffering on our own paths while those above refuse to look down and assist, maybe even kicking a few boulders onto our path for good measure.

So, where my path is secure, strong, stable, I'll reach out my hand or lower a rope to help those who need it. Where my path is rocky, tenuous, slippery, I'll call out for a safety line from those above or for someone below to catch me if I fall. Even if they're technically below me, their path might, at this point in time, be more stable than mine, and we can help each other.

Privilege does not make you a bad person, nor does it mean that you never suffer. It means you are part of a group that has been given SYSTEMIC assistance in making life easier, even if you, personally, didn't get a hand on that rope.  Maybe no one lowered down a rope to your path when it got rocky, but someone built the path there for you in the first place, for instance. It also means that you have a stable part of the path that you can use to help someone else up. It also means, in my opinion, that you have a responsibility to use that stable part of the path to help someone else up. As someone who also has rocky portions of the path, that ought to make you more sympathetic to the people below who need your help, not less.
joreth: (Bad Computer!)

Seriously, people, you have GOT to let people get out of discussions (i.e. arguments) when they become too emotional to be productive. Even better, let them get out before they become too emotional if either of you can see the warning signs. If they're not the type to recognize that they've lost too much control to be effective, then you may have to request that they take a break for them.

There's this weird fetishization of "communication". I put that in quotes because, in this context, it's not used in the sense that I usually use that word. To me, communication is an exchange of ideas, or, if not an exchange in two directions, at least the ideas flow in one direction and are actually received. To me, communication does not include one person talking to oneself, two people shouting at each other and not listening or "hearing" each other, or anyone shouting at what amounts to a brick wall. Nor does it include someone spouting gibberish or obscenities with no real content (as I have been known to do).

No, to me, communicating means that the ideas shared are actually shared, implying that there is someone on the receiving end actually getting the signal. So when it is no longer possible to share those ideas - when someone is no longer either transmitting clearly or receiving clearly and/or there is no attempt to discuss or debate in good faith, then there is no more communication happening. Insisting that the two sides remain locked in combat with each other past that point is not advocating communication.

I'm all for communication. Hell, I give workshops and private unofficial "counseling" sessions exploring alternate ways of communicating to improve relationships. But I do not agree with this "communicating" that means "talking at each other regardless of how each participant feels during the discussion and insisting that the talking continue indefinitely while accusing any attempt to end the talking as being censorship, silencing tactics, or blocking communication". Bonus points if you can accuse the person trying to end the talking of being a hypocrite for claiming to advocate communication but not wanting to talk about this *right now*, for insisting that the other person "teach" you why what you did was so wrong *right now*, or for using their own emotional state as a weapon against them, discrediting them and their position simply for their inability to keep their cool.

I get it, it's frustrating to be trying to express yourself and have the other person just end the discussion, without letting you get in the last word or to "be heard". But keeping that other person there is not the way to accomplish that goal. However, neither is ending a discussion at this point "censorship", "silencing", or a position against communication. In many cases, ending a discussion before it becomes contentious and tabling it for better circumstances is one method for salvaging the communication.

Often, when a person has reached the point that they are no longer able to communicate effectively (hang on here, I'm going to get complex), they have reached the point that they are no longer able to communicate effectively. Whoa, mind blown, right? This means that they may not be able to explain why they're so angry, or to patiently and calmly explain that they need some time apart to compose themselves and come back to the discussion later. They are angry, upset, hurt, emotional. So their request for time off may similarly be angry, upset, hurt, or emotional. At this point, stopping whatever is hurting them is the primary objective. It is not reasonable to expect them to be compassionate, respectful, articulate, or willing to teach you all about their emotional responses in a tone that panders to your own issues.

If someone needs to stop, just fucking stop. Recognize that they are upset and let it the-fuck go. Sometime later, you can ask them to explain what happened and how you can work with them to avoid a repeat performance. Sometime later you can explain that their reaction to stress is hurtful to you and you want to find a compromise between their need for space and your desire not to be hurt by their need for space. Sometime later you can address if this seems to be a pattern and what that means.

Get your head out of your ass and let go of your own inflated sense of self-importance and look at what's happening. Supposedly, you're the rational one here, right? I mean, you're not the one throwing the temper tantrum and storming off in a huff, so that must mean you're the rational one, yes? Someone is hurting and someone is acting out in their pain. And if you're not actually causing it, you're at least in the position to be perceived as having caused it, or contributed to it. So take a fucking step back and let the other person breathe. Give them the space necessary to calm down and come back around in a more rational frame of mind. Perpetuating the cycle will not achieve communication, no matter how much longer you manage to bully them into continuing the talking (or shouting).

Some things that can increase the odds of reaching this non-productive state are:

  • Starting the argument late at night or keeping someone up past their natural (or necessary) bedtime to talk about distressing subjects.

  • Starting the discussion or argument before they have to leave for another obligation, such as work, where they have to either choose to be late or end the discussion before you're ready to end it (and whatever consequences you might apply for doing so).

  • Starting the discussion when hungry or not breaking for food when they become hungry.

  • Starting or continuing the argument/discussion in front of other people where they might become embarrassed on top of whatever other emotional reaction they have to the topic, or where they might not feel free to express their thoughts as necessary.

  • Having the argument in a place where they feel trapped, like a moving vehicle or at work where they can't leave or out someplace where you are sharing transportation and they can't easily leave.

  • Threatening them with dire consequences if they don't want to have the argument/discussion at the time of your choosing, such as breaking up, destroying property, withholding favors, restricting access to other people, pets, or things, etc.

  • Using a medium to communicate that they feel discomfort using or they have difficulty expressing themselves clearly using, like insisting on email when they express themselves better verbally.

I'm sure there are more, but I see these play out over and over again. In fact, I have personally been subjected to each of these on more than one occasion, even after I have clearly expressed my opinions on the subject. I once had someone start an intense discussion with me after I explicitly said I didn't want to talk about it because I had to go to bed soon and I had to wake up early, looking "fresh" and rested. I had a partner who repeatedly picked fights with me at work no matter how often I told him to leave the personal shit for home and I actually had to request to be scheduled on different gigs even after we broke up. My second fiance would molest me while I was sleeping and then threaten to break my possessions if I got pissed at him and tried to go sleep on the couch (wish I had known he would do this before I agreed to marry him!). My mother once kept pushing me on the subject of my Catholic Confirmation ceremony when I was in the car and I couldn't escape her screaming at me when I finally told her I was atheist so I couldn't go through the ceremony and would she please drop the subject?  I once had a partner insist on having a very difficult conversation through email after I had made it clear on several occasions that I felt more comfortable expressing myself verbally because I felt that we both misunderstood intent when we communicated with each other through text.

I could go on but the point is that these are terrible things to do to someone. I've never read the book Emotional Blackmail, but I'd be willing to bet money that at least some of these tactics are mentioned in it somewhere, or in some book about emotional abuse. Keeping people from sleeping & eating properly while bombarding them with a particular message is a standard "brainwashing"* technique even.  The reason why I have such an explosive temper is because I'm sick of people doing these things to me and I'm sick of then being blamed for the demise of the discussion when they've done it and I'm really sick of not even being allowed to do what is necessary to get back under control, so people can then continue to blame me for not "communicating".

I recognize that I have lost control and I'm taking responsibility for that by altering my circumstances such that I can regain control and become productive again. So let me do that and don't belittle me for it. Let me gain some perspective and some composure. Let anyone who who has lost control gain some perspective and some composure, especially if they clearly communicate that they need it (even if you don't like the tone they use when they express their desire). If they don't know themselves well enough to request it on their own, then you suggest to them that a break might be necessary. You might actually gain their respect and speed along their composure if you can acknowledge their efforts to get back on track, rather than faulting them for not subjecting themselves to your power trip.

*I put "brainwashing" in quotes because I'm aware of some of the controversy on the effectiveness of brainwashing & brainwashing reversal and I don't want to get into a debate about it.  The point is that this is a technique people use when they are deliberately trying to indoctrinate someone against their will or to subvert their better judgement.  Using these techniques during a discussion or argument where each person is supposed to retain their own agency is inconsiderate at best, unethical and cruel at worst.

joreth: (Purple Mobius)
There's this thing that people who are exploring polyamory for the first time as part of a couple do, and I don't see it happen when people attempt to try polyamory as a single person.  It doesn't matter if the "couple" is dating together, dating individually, unicorn hunting or not, or how long the relationship has existed prior to the poly exploration.  And there's this thing that a lot of poly "veterans" keep trying to do, but a lot of poly veterans learned the hard way that it's not the most successful strategy so they don't do it anymore.  The thing they do is set out trying to find additional partners "without risking or disrupting the pre-existing relationship".

Every time, these new explorations are attempted while simultaneously attempting to keep the pre-existing relationship exactly the same, only, y'know, with more people.  I get it, I mean, they love each other, otherwise they'd break up and start dating someone new.  Kind of the whole point of polyamory is that you get to start dating someone new without losing anyone old.

Single people, however, don't try to find a partner with the assumption that their life will look exactly the same after they get a new partner as it did before.  We seem to instinctively understand that, no matter what relationship type - poly or mono - dating someone new means things will be a little different.  Compromises will have to be made based on who the new person ends up being, some plans get put on the back burner, some priorities get reshuffled, some things get given up and some new things get adopted.

Sometimes we can predict which of our things will be affected, like a guy who assumes that he'll have less time for Monday Night Football once he gets a girlfriend who doesn't like it, and other things we can't predict like waking up one day and realizing that we haven't actually touched our scuba equipment in months because our new partner doesn't dive and we'd rather spend time with them.  Every once in a while, we decide that our pre-dating proclamation to never ever leave the city we're in because we love it so much, ever, no matter what, doesn't feel as strong in the face of our soulmate announcing their intention to move back to their home country.  Some people who thought they'd never even consider dating someone with a kid from a previous relationship find themselves being a step-parent because their True Love just happened to come with a kid.  Life ends up looking different than it did before dating, and we all just kind of know that.

But couples seem to think that they can preserve and protect their relationship from experiencing any kind of change or disruption if they just find the "right partner" or if they make a bunch of rules dictating the speed and direction the new relationships are allowed to take, to make the change happen slow enough that it's essentially unnoticeable   There's a fundamental flaw that makes this strategy inherently less likely to succeed.  Only [ profile] tacit said it better than I could - I'd ramble on for pages, so I'll let him say it:

There is one fly in the ointment: If you introduce someone new into your life, you DO risk disruption.

A lot of otherwise decent people do many very evil things in the name of protecting their existing relationships from disruption. But disruption is a fact of life. You can't introduce someone new into your life without risking disruption, and that's okay.

Almost everything you do in your life risks disruption to your relationships. Taking a new job. Losing a job. (Couples counselors say that financial stress is more likely to ruin a relationship than any other single factor, including cheating.) Deciding to have a baby. Moving to another city. An illness or injury. Problems in the family of origin. A death in the family. New hobbies. Hell, every time you walk outside your door or step into a car, you're risking serious injury or death, and that'll disrupt a relationship real quick!

We don't live in fear of disruption when we're offered a new job or decide to have a child. We accept that these things will change our lives, and move on. Ethical polyamory is the same thing: you accept that changes in your romantic life may affect your relationship, you resolve to act with integrity and honesty to cherish your partners to the best of your ability, you trust that your partners will do the same thing, and you move on.

There will be disruption.  You can't avoid that.  Your pre-existing relationship will change.  The only thing that trying to prevent change will do is hurt the new person, and quite likely hurt the pre-existing relationship that you were seeking to protect in the first place.  Have you ever tried to put ice into a glass of water without affecting the water level?  It can't be done.  The presence of the new ice affects the existing water.  And if it's the middle of winter and you have hypothermia, adding ice is probably going to be a stupid idea.  But if it's the middle of summer, and it's hot, and you're sweating, and you take that ice water onto the porch where there's a bit of a breeze, to sip while reading a good book on the porch swing, well, adding that ice makes the water a whole lot better.

It's not a terrific analogy.  As I said, I'll ramble on for pages, even after
[ profile] tacit already said all there needed to be said on the subject.  There will be change and you can't avoid it.  But you might be turning your pre-existing relationship into something better, if you just let the change happen instead of trying to prevent it.
joreth: (Super Tech)

Read and add your signature, if you want to. It’s easy and fun, and shorter than an iTunes TOS update!

I pledge not to fetishize civility over justice. I recognize that the very notion of “civility” is defined in large part by those in whose benefit the status quo is maintained. I further recognize that the structure of “civility” at least in part has been created with the express purpose of bolstering chronic injustices. As Malvina Reynolds sang, “it isn’t nice to block the doorways, it isn’t nice to go to jail; there are nicer ways to do it, but the nice ways always fail.”

I pledge to remember that civility and compassion are not the same thing. Executive Order 9066, for example, was an emphatically civil document. There was not a mean-spirited or insulting word in the entire document, with the exception of the phrase “alien enemies.” In fact, it specified that a group of people would be provided with food, housing, and transportation. And yet it was one of the most unkind, uncompassionate acts of the US Government in the 20th Century. Civility is a very effective camouflage for hatred.

I pledge to remember that a fetishized civility is a field mark of insulation from suffering. The cries of the wounded on a battleground may be very unpleasant and uncivil indeed. I pledge to nod sympathetically and help bind those wounds rather than chide the wounded for bleeding so indecorously.

I pledge to keep a sense of perspective. Tossing basic civil rights under the bus in order to maintain a jury-rigged superficial peace in a single-issue movement is a bad bargain.

Rather than worry overmuch about civility, I pledge to be as kind as possible. And sometimes the kindest possible contribution to a discussion with someone acting in bad faith and harmfully is to tell them to go fuck themselves sideways.
joreth: (strong)
Dear Law Enforcement Personnel,

I grew up in the era of exciting cop TV dramas and Good Guy vs. Bad Guy movies.  I watched Hunter and Die Hard and a number of other movies and shows where the cops were always decent, hard-working, noble, honest people trying to save the streets, trying to serve and protect.  Maybe they were a little more flexible with the rules than they should have been, but their motivation was always to defend the people and protect their community from harm.  I have family and friends who work for the police departments and the military police.  I have always operated under the assumption that the police are there for my protection and that the bad seeds are not representative of the organization as a whole.

As I've become an adult, I've learned to see more nuance, more shades of grey, in the concept of law enforcement, and I'd like to think that I'm not as naive as I was as a child.  But I still maintained the position that people wearing a badge or a uniform should be respected as a default and given the chance to prove that they are Bad Guys before I make judgements on that assumption.

I've had friends and peers my entire life whose automatic reaction to a uniform is to snarl and say "pig!", regardless of what the cop is doing, whether they know that cop or not or even whether they have actually had any first-hand negative experiences with cops (or good ones, for that matter) or not.  I've had many white, middle-class friends, with every opportunity in the world, nevertheless develop the attitude that cops are The Man sent to keep the People down, often for no better reason than it's a buzzkill to be arrested for DUI or making too much noise at a party and disturbing the neighbors.

And I have always defended the cops, telling my peers to wait until he does something objectionable before they object; that our society would be much worse off without the service they offer even with the horrible stories of cops raping women that they pull over late at night and racial profiling and harassment and beating people just because "looking suspicious" is defined as "having brown skin".  I've been far harsher on TSA and private security doing law-enforcement jobs.

Law enforcement personnel, I have always stood up for you.  I have always held to the ideals that you are supposed to be enforcing: to protect, to defend, and that we are all innocent until proven guilty.  But too many members of your group are making it more and more difficult to stand by you and defend your service to our communities.  

You can argue all you want about "bad apples" or it being a small minority or it's not your fault, it's the people in command making you do these things.  But the fact of the matter is that these "bad apples", no matter how many of them there are, are committing atrocities in our communities and using the very same authority that gives you the honor and responsibility that comes with those ideals that make you, hypothetical law enforcement personnel reading this, a Good Guy.  If they are "bad apples" or just some minority, well ... it's your job to protect us from Bad Guys and, according to this theory, they are a minority.  This is what you do.  And you are utterly failing.

But I suspect that the reason why your overwhelming numbers of Good Guys haven't gotten rid of the few Bad Apples yet is because this is not a minority problem, that this is a Very Big Problem.  As law enforcement personnel, I hold you honor-bound to do something about this.  Your inaction is part of the problem.  Your unwillingness to clean house first before cleaning the streets makes you complicit in their bad deeds.  Your silence is undermining your duty to protect and serve.

I still believe in the ideals that make up the foundation of your service, but a foundation is worth less than an empty lot when the building on top is rotted through to the frame.  If the problem is, indeed, a few "bad apples", then clean out your house, fumigate it, slap on a new coat of paint, whatever, but you need to fix it up because, frankly, it's starting to look bad and bring down the rest of the neighborhood.  But if the problem goes deeper than some dirty carpets and and faded wallpaper, you need to do some serious renovation.  Hopefully, this problem can be caught before the entire house needs to be bulldozed into that empty lot and started over.  At least an empty lot still has potential.  A house in disrepair is, at best, an eyesore and something to be embarrassed about.  At worst, it's a danger to the community around it.  And your house has passed "eyesore" long ago.

So dear law enforcement personnel:  clean up your shit so that I can continue to defend you as being, not just a necessary evil, but something to take pride in - an organization that supports its communities, and is supported by its communities; an organization made up of honor and duty.  And please do so before I, and people like me, come to resent you for all the time and energy we put into defending you and trusting in you and we start to believe that we wasted our time and loyalty.  I want to go back to having faith in my law enforcement personnel and I want to believe that all the time I stood up for you wasn't in vain.  I'm having a crisis of faith and only you can restore it.

Please restore my faith in the goodness and nobility of the profession of Protectors of the People and Defenders of Justice.  I know there will always be those who get into law enforcement for the wrong reasons and who abuse their authority.  But you don't have to give them a place to hide or make it so easy for them to get away with things.  In fact, you should be making it twice as difficult to get away with it and the punishments twice as bad.  

If your Brotherhood of the Badge bands together when one of your own is harmed or targeted, you should have even more investment when the one doing the harm or targeting is also one of your own.  You should consider that a betrayal on top of the offensive committed.  The law enforcement personnel who abuses his authority has betrayed the trust of the public, the duty and honor given to him by his badge, and your brotherhood.  These are the last people you should be protecting.  Anyone with honor, with a sense of duty and responsibility for his position, should be in front of the line to protect the rest of his brothers (and sisters) from the fallout caused by one who would destroy the house from the inside.

Because that's what all these abuses are doing, you know.  All these racial profiling programs, all these beatings and macings of peaceful protesters, all these attacks by SWAT for minor and/or non-violent offenders, all of it are the works of saboteurs  destroying the house from the inside.  They are destroying the public trust and your image of noble, duty-bound, honorable peace-keepers.  It's a sad, sad day when the general public starts wanting to take their chances with the thugs and criminals rather than keep a corrupt police system in power.  

And it is getting increasingly more difficult to side against them and to defend the need for a law enforcement system.  I am no longer seeing the luxurious middle-class youthful rage against The Man from people who have never had to live in a crime-ridden world.  More and more, I am seeing the very legitimate fear of the uniform and the badge that is supposed to inspire fear only in those who do wrong, and security and trust in those who do right.  I am seeing a more and more legitimate fear of harassment, of violent response to non-violent actions, of racism, of power-hungry authority abuse, of what seems like the desire to hurt and the willingness to follow unethical orders.

I once thought of law enforcement as a noble profession, of Good Guys vs. Bad Guys, of the few and the proud standing in defense of the people.  If you still see yourself in that light, then do something to earn it that perception back from the people you serve.  Stand up for the citizens of this nation and our fair treatment with due process.  Expose the corruption and oust the troublemakers.  Protect your community and honor the ideals that are behind your badge.  Win back our trust and faith in you.  Because I really want to go back to defending your reputation with a clear conscience.

A Concerned Citizen
joreth: (anger)
Bullying is a largely invisible phenomenon.  Oh, sure, most people know it happens, but it's usually viewed as isolated cases, or just something that everyone has to go through, kind of like a rite of passage.  But it's not relegated to a few "you stink, give me your lunch money" on the playground.  It's a deep, cultural, systemic problem.  It affects every area of our culture and ignoring the "minor" stuff only gives the real, harmful bullies a place to bully with impunity.  It's the reason why feminism is still alive and necessary.  It's why women are still minorities in many professions in spite of the fact that they are just as capable in those professions (when given the proper experience & support) as men are.  It's why women are so absent* from the gaming & geek communities.  It's why we're in the 21st century and still even debating whether or not gay people should be allowed to marry.  It's why eating disorders are still distressingly common.  It's why religious thugs can get away with raping boys & girls in their care.  I could go on and on, but the bottom line is that we have these problems because we allowed them to exist.

The latest strategy of feminists is to get people to speak up about the abuse they see online & not let it go unpunished.  Women are asking men to speak up, not for their protection, but in their defense & support.  When the elevator debacle happened with Rebecca Watson, pretty much every single sex-positive, "equalist" (i.e. feminist, whether we knew it or not) guy I knew was just shocked by the torrential downpour of shit that Rebecca got just for daring to say "this kind of behaviour makes women uncomfortable.  Guys, don't do that".  Because, for the most part, "guys" don't see it.

I've had my Online Skeezballs tag forever.  I originally started posting the worst of the emails I receive online because people just didn't know.  If I complained about someone being an asshole, the response was unanimously "just block him", "just ignore him, he'll go away", and "stop worrying about it, this is some faceless stranger on the internet that you'll never meet. It isn't that big of a deal unless you let it get to you".

And yeah, an isolated incident may just be "not a big deal" and something I should not hold onto, just let go of, just ignore the bully and he'll go away.  But these aren't isolated incidents.  These are symptoms of a much larger problem - that we live in a society that excuses and ignores this kind of behaviour; in which women are afraid to wear the wrong thing or go to the wrong places or do the wrong things because if they do, then they will have brought their rape upon themselves; that gives bullies positions of power and refuses to take it away when they abuse it.

When I tell one of my horror stories, I often get "seriously? Someone did/said that?" and "you must be exaggerating/misunderstanding" and "well *I* never see anything like that".  So I post this shit so that you can see.  When people wonder why I'm "always so angry", I post why.  Imagine growing up your whole live and being bombarded with messages like that.  Imagine never having a place that is safe from these kinds of attacks.  Imagine being told from birth that you are in danger, that the danger is your own fault for being born and for making "wrong" choices, and that there is nothing anyone can do about it, you just have to suck it up and take it and eventually the bully will get bored and go away.

So I post so that people can see.  This is a PROBLEM, people.  And I encourage others to post.  And I encourage people to respond.  We need to make our society hostile towards bullies of all stripes, from the "eww, you stink!" grade school kids to the rapists and thugs who harm, maim, and kill and get away with it.

I'm not particularly strong, I'm not gifted with any sort of real fighting skills, I don't have any political leverage or friends in high places, and I don't have any money to contribute to campaigns.  So I do what I can.  I post.  I raise awareness.  And I argue and persuade.  

My call to action is to ask everyone to start posting their bullying experiences in whatever manner is safe to do so.  You don't have to engage if you don't feel safe, you can post under a pseudonym,  you can create an account just for that, separate from your regular profiles, whatever.  Post about the shit you get and let others know.  Post about it, talk about it, make sure that everyone knows that this happens all the time to a lot of different people.  Publicly shame people for poor behaviour.  

The next step is for those who have the luxury and safety to do so, confront those bullies and bullying behaviour when you can.  If you're a guy & you see or hear a guy making a sexist joke or making some girl uncomfortable, let him know that you don't approve, that he does not have the support of the guys around him (hint: condescention & derision works better than the white-knight "I am here to SAVE THE DAMSEL!" approach - tell the other guy that he's a loser rather than saying "the lady isn't interested", or better yet, say this stuff).  If you're online & you see someone getting verbally attacked, jump in and defend them.  Re-post the posts you see about this stuff so that the people around you can no longer hide their heads in the sand and say "it's no big deal" or "well *I've* never seen anything like that happen!"

Here's my latest online skeezball encounter.  I will continue to update the post as more tweets are made.  I originally made a tweet complaining about poly people going to poly events, and then saying "I was hoping to meet someone, but everyone there was already partnered".  I don't want to debate this tweet here, this is part of a larger issue that the 140 character limitation of Twitter necessarily truncates & requires incomplete, generalized, and/or soundbitey statements and is not the point of what happened next.

So I made that tweet and @isayshizzz responded "sounds like you've never heard of polyfi"

So I said "sounds like you've never heard of Twitter, where things have to be summarized in 140 characters"

So they said "I hear you're fat, old, ugly and hide behind the internet"

To which I said "wow, you're an ass"

And they said "not as much as you, claiming to be an ally for poly people but you do more harm"

At which point, I blocked them.  But then others came to my defense (much more politely than even I was here), and here is what @isayshizzz to that: "are u all fucking the old hag or what? This is why she's a cunt, she gets others to be cunty for her. Eat my asshole"

Now, if you go to their twitter feed, every single response having to do with me has been deleted, which is why I'm actually missing a bunch of them, including insinuations that this person, whom I've never met, "knows" me and thinks my "behaviour" (but not my tweets) is "harmful" to the poly community.  So I've started retweeting their tweets when I see them, now that I know they will conveniently delete them after they've had a chance to piss off whomever they're attacking.

This is what the crux of the Rebecca Watson problem was - someone makes a suggestion, maybe politely worded, maybe not, that people be a little nicer, a little more considerate, pay attention to other people, or pay attention to their own issues/actions/thoughts/whatever, and someone else responds with "OMG YOU FUCKING CUNT!"  

This is the problem.  The silencing of social justice, the implicit permission to respond to demands for social justice with violent hatred and anger, and the general acceptance of such from those around them.  If you're not doing anything at all, then you're part of the problem.  Ignoring it, pretending it doesn't exist, thinking or saying that it's not a big deal, all that is what gives these people the freedom to behave this way.  And that license for bullying is a fertile ground for creating & hiding abusers, rapists, people who commit hate crimes, racists who tie black men to their trucks & drag them on the ground until they die, homophobes & transphobes who kick the shit out of gays & trans people, and even those lone nutjobs who shoot up gyms and movie theaters.

Silence is the enabler.  Break the silence.

*When I say "absent from these communities", I don't mean they are literally not there.  I mean they are underrepresented, either because their active numbers are actually low or because they are overlooked or because, in the case of online communities, many are just hiding behind male or gender neutral pseudonyms in an effort to avoid the shit they get when the bullies find out that they're there.
joreth: (feminism)
So I had a conversation with a friend a little while ago.  He's one of the Good Guys.  He doesn't need to be explained why a woman can say "guys, that made me uncomfortable ... don't do that" and the response to send her death & rape threats is a bad thing, why it wasn't her that "started it", how it was the MRAs (Men's Rights Activists - different from people who actually believe in equal rights for everyone, including men - those are feminists) who actually blew things out of proportion & escalated the event from a footnote in a video to a community-dividing schism.

But here's where the problem is (and it's not with him, he's just a symptom).  See, he and I had lost touch for a few years because he moved for work and has recently moved back.  So he missed my whole "feminist conversion".  So we've been talking a lot about feminist issues since we got back in touch, and how I feel resentful at being dragged into the fray and why I finally now identify as a feminist.  He wanted to know why I bother to identify as a feminist now if I didn't want to in the first place.  I explained that I always was a feminst, if you just looked at the definition, or maybe made a checklist, and compared it to my actual thoughts, opinions, and feelings.

The problem was that I was misinformed about what feminism meant and how bad the problem still was.

This is exactly what my problem was.  I fell for the Straw Feminist bullshit.  I'm a Latina female who has always been some religious minority (not always the same minority, though).  My life should have been filled with struggle and hardship.  It wasn't.  Now, don't get me wrong, I had bad shit in my life.  But when it came to obvious gender issues, my biggest problem growing up was that my parents once admitted that insisting on a curfew even after age 18 was because I was their daughter, and if they had a son, he would have had different rules.  Although they never did have a son, so that was never tested.  My next biggest problem was that my dad wouldn't let me use his power tools.  So I bought my own and now my set is more awesome than his.

I grew up with fairly conservative parents, but in a liberal bubble.  In spite of being lower-middle class, I still went to one of the best private schools in the state, where they taught us age-appropriate, evidence-based sex ed, self-defense, and to excel in sports, academics, and politics.  I was awarded jobs easily based on my skills and experiences.  I was praised for being smart, even by the boys.  I was encouraged to play sports (just not football or wrestling) and I was told to put marriage and children on hold until I completed college and started a career, and THEN I was expected to keep my career after marriage & kids, the way my mother did.

In my liberal bubble, just as in the Straw Feminist tropes in media that the video talks about, I lived in a world where feminism was no longer needed.  Those brave women and their male allies had done their job.  We had achieved equality and, in some cases, we had gone just a little bit too far and now it was time to back off the throttle a bit and even correct some of the "overcorrections" we had made.

I did not need to identify as a feminist because I was an egalitarian.  I believed in equalty for all based on merit, skill, and interest.  I still do.  So I may have always been a feminist, but it was not one of my identity lables.  I am a lot of things, but not all of those things are important to my identity and my sense of self, so not all of those things make it to my list of identity labels.  I was born in the US, can only barely speak a few words of Spanish, and went to a predominantly white private school.  I tell people that I'm Latina when it is relevant to do so, but I don't identify as a Latina.  It is not part of my identity makeup, it's just a fact about me that happens to be true.  The "feminist" label was like that for me too - even if I hadn't misunderstood what it really meant, in my liberal bubble, the gender war had been won, so it was not important enough to my identity to attach the label "feminist".

But then I joined the skeptics and atheists communities.  And THEY made me a feminist.  Because I saw that we had not won the gender wars.  We were not "equal".  The place where I should have been the most safe, protected by reason and evidence, is the place where I was most threatened.  Oh, we have absolutely made progress!  We have wrested certain rights that have given women unprecedented power in our society.

But we're not done yet.

And this is what brings me to the story with my friend.  He is like me.  He strongly believes in equality for all, and if I present him with any sort of hypothetical situation, even if he thinks that we have currently solved that problem, he firmly, and without prodding, comes down on the side of feminism without knowing it's a feminist principle.  But because of this whole Straw Feminism problem, we had a conversation a while ago that went like this:

I was showing him some of my favorite geeky music videos (Felicia Day anyone?) and he asked "so, since you obviously like all this geeky and gamer shit, maybe I can ask you ... where are all the gamer girls?"  I said "what do you mean?  There are TONS of gamer girls!  Go to any gaming con & there are gamer girls all over the place!"  He said that when he actually plays his online multi-player games, the women are in the minority.  I told him that developer statistics of their user bases actually suggests that it's pretty close to 50/50.  He said he'd never seen that split.

I said "that's because the women are using male gaming names & not using their mics to avoid getting shit on by guys during the game."  He said none of the people he ever gamed with ever gave women a hard time.  So I sent him to Anita Sarkeesian's Wikipedia page, where he learned all about the rape threats & death threats and misogyny in gaming culture.

He had never seen it.  Probably because many of the women on his games were using guy names, so the one or two misogynists who were also on his game couldn't abuse them, and all the guys he chooses to socialize with are similar Good Guys like himself.  So I started telling him stories.  Stories of what women go through online.  Stories of men who Get It who have tried to post their own analogies so that the men who don't Get It could understand.  The schism in the skeptics communities.  I told him how we're finally seeing some response from game developers to begin talks about how to solve the problem instead of a couple of twenty-something male programmers who had a good idea & started their own company from it saying "well, he didn't abuse the TOS when he called you a fucking cunt & threatening to rape your skull is just game trash talk that doesn't mean anything".

When I reminded him that, just because he had never heard of it, that didn't mean it wasn't happening, but whether anybody knows of any given person's previous rape or assult experiences was directly proportional to how close those two people, he knew that.  I mean, I didn't have to explain it to him, he got it.  He totally grasped the fact that he didn't know how many of the women he knew had any sort of sexual assualt in their history.  And yet, because he was largely unaware of how many women he knew had some sort of sexual assault, he was largely unaware of how big the problem is.

So that's what I'm doing now.  This is why I have always posted my Online Skeezballs tag.  This is why I have always gone off on assholes on the internet.  This is why I rant about Couple's Privilege in the poly community.  People do not know.  People don't know how often this shit happens.  People do not know how much this hurts.  People do not know that what they or others are doing HURTS PEOPLE.  Every time I tell one of my whacked-out stories, someone, often a like-minded close friend, says "seriously?  That really happened?" or "do people really do that?"  Yes.  I am far too literal to resort to hyperbole very often, and when I do, it's pretty fucking obvious, like saying "a gazillion".  I also write this shit down right away because I'm terrified of misremembering or forgeting something and I cross-check with others to make sure my memories are as accurate as memories can be.  This shit happens and this shit hurts.  And people don't know.

And the reason they don't know is because we have been told, for generations, that nobody cares.  If we talk about anything from the status quo that bothers us, no one will do anything about it, except maybe try to make it our own fault.  At best, we'll be ignored.  At worst, we'll be attacked even more for speaking out.  Somehow, we'll be made to be the bad guy in all this.  So we just don't talk about it.  The first rule of Rape Culture is that we don't talk about Rape Culture.

When I first brought up the idea of Only Yes Means Yes, the single biggest criticism I got was that women never give a straight answer, so if guys waited around for a clear and unambiguous yes, then they'd never get laid.  Now, let's ignore the glaring fallacies and falsehoods in that statement and just assume, for the moment, that it's literally true - that women do not give straight answers. Women do not say yes, and women do not say no.

Did it ever occur to these guys why women don't give straight answers?  I'll break the Women's Code and explain why, just like I have always done for my guy friends when they get confounded by the mysterious species that is Women.  The reason why those women who don't give straight answers, don't give straight answers is because they are punished when they do.  A woman who says yes is a slut, but a women who says no is raped.

Of course not every single women who says no is raped every single time she says no.  But people do not take rejection gracefully, and it tends to make those of us who are smaller, or who have no fighting skills, or who have been told our entire lives that the responsibility for avoiding rape is our own, it tends to make us a little gun shy about rejecting people.  And if our personality is naturally to be quiet, shy, unassuming, or particularly sensitive to disapproval or hurting someone else's feelings, it's going to make us even more afraid to reject someone.  Most people do not give flat-out nos, not just women.  It is considered rude in our society to do so.  We do the "I'd love to, but..." and give some excuse that says that we are unable to, not that we don't want to.  But when it comes to women rejecting amorous advances, it isn't just the threat of being percieved as "rude".  It's the threat of bodily harm that often makes us afraid to say no.

Before you click on that last link, let me give you a trigger warning.  It's about a woman who had two children with an abusive man.  And when she turned down his marriage proposal, he killed her and both the children.  AFTER she reported him to the police.  AFTER she got a restraining order against him.  He killed her and the children.  For a rejection.

I've posted some of my own scary encounters.  There was the time a drunk guy hit on me and my two friends at a casino lounge and ignored every single rejection we gave him until all three of us pulled out our knives.  Then there was the guy who tried to "help" me put Fix-A-Flat in my car tire & also did not back off until I flashed my switchblade.  There's the uncountable number of dates I've been on, including just "hanging out with friends" where a "no" only got me Octopus Arms.

So when women are told, repeatedly, that our disinterest, our discomfort, even our fear, is irrelevant and unimportant, the only thing we have left to do is leave.  Or hide.

So if you want more women in your community, if you are a straight guy who wants to find a nice girl to date who shares some of your interests like gaming, or atheism, or rock climbing, or whatever, and you're looking around wondering where all the girls are, it is YOUR FAULT you can't find them.  If you are not actively contributing to the hostile environment (and if you're reading my journal, I'm going to assume that you're not, because those guys hate reading the kinds of stuff I write about), then you're probably not helping it either.  

And it's not because you're a bad guy.  It's probably because you didn't know.  Which is not your fault, but any time you have ever told a woman "oh, he's just an asshole, ignore him and he'll go away" or "I worry about you being safe, so here is a list of things that you should do to keep yourself safe" or even just didn't say anything when another guy made a derogatory comment (probably because it was kind of funny or probably because it wasn't funny but it was a joke and therefore not worth getting into a sexism argument over), then you contributed to the problem.  I know, you don't want to hear that you're part of the problem.  I certainly don't like hearing that I was part of the problem, and to this day I try to rationalize why, when *I* did it, I wasn't contributing to the problem ... when *I* did it, I had a Very Good Reason for it, and it didn't count when I did it.  You probably meant well.  Your motivation was probably because you thought you were actually helping and you wanted to help because you care.  I know, I get it.  But that's not actually how to help.

The first step is to call this shit out when you see it or hear it.  Tell guys that the joke wasn't funny, even if it kinda was, or that even though it was funny, it was still wrong.  Tell guys to stop insulting each other by using female or feminine insults (seriously, it shouldn't be an insult to "throw like a girl").  Point out that phrases like "that's so gay" and other gay jokes & insults is actually harmful to both men and women because of how it places feminine attributes as something that is negative and should be avoided.  When a woman complains about something bad that happened to her, don't tell her how to fix it.  Tell her that you're listening.  Tell her that you're here for her.  Ask her what she would like to do about it and if there is something you can do to help.  Offer to be her support if she wants to make any sort of official complaints and share with her resources where she will not be made a victim a second time for daring to complain.

And the second step is to start saying this shit unprompted.  Don't wait for someone to be an asshole in public before confronting him.  Start blogging or making Facebook posts about events you read or people you know.  An excellent tactic is to link to stories and other people's blog posts that are condemning some sexist action or assault, especially if you can get it trending on Tumblr or Reddit.  Don't link to assholes, crazies, and other fuckups - link to the people complaining about them.  That way, Google picks up the complaints and puts them at the top of searches and the assholes trying to defend themselves get buried under the fold or on second & third search pages.  You don't even have to write a blog post or confront one of these jerks yourself, just help make the problem more visible.  If you're at a party where it's socially acceptable to get a little political or talk about serious news items, bring this shit up and make it clear which side you're on.  "Dude, I read this HORRIBLE story the other day!  Can you believe this fucktard did this thing to this woman?!"

This is not about perteckting the wimmenfolk.  This is about showing your support and fighting for what is right.  I dated a 2nd degree blackbelt karate instructor.  If he were to get into an altercation while we were out together, he would have been totally capable of taking care of things himself.  He was bigger than me, stronger than me, and knew how to fight, which I didn't.  But I still would have helped.  I would have called 911 while he was too busy kicking the other guy's ass.  I would have kept the other guy's girlfriend from jumping in.  I would have cleared stuff out of his way if it looked like he might back up and trip.  Whatever, I would have helped, not because he "needed" my help, but because it would have been the right thing to do.  He and I were a team, we were on the same side, and I supported him.

That's what we need from everyone else, and I'm not just looking at the men here.  We really do need the guys to start speaking up, because the people who most need to hear these messages just don't give a shit about the women who are saying it.  If a guy hates women, it doesn't matter how loud us women are, he doesn't care and he won't listen.  That's what makes him a Bad Guy in the first place.

But women, if it is at all safe for you to do so, we also have to speak up.  I know that there are penalties for speaking up, I know that so often no one will do anything about it anyway so why bother?  Think of my friend above.  The Good Guy.  He's on our side, but he, like I, was just unaware.  It is not your fault that anything bad happens to you and you don't speak up.  But it could do some long-term good if you do.  Most women do not want to be "that bitch", they don't want to be the party downer, they don't want others thinking that all they do is complain about politics or feminism - they don't want to be that Straw Feminist.  BELIEVE me, I get it.

But I promise, if we all band together, the more of us who speak up, the easier it will be for us to speak up.  Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow.  But it will get better if we all pitch in to the best of our ability.
joreth: (polyamory)

I read an interesting article in Psychology Today. I'll be honest, I have dropped PT from my mental list of Websites Of Quality Articles. They are just another online blog site with dozens of bloggers of varying quality and expertise. They are certainly not a peer-reviewed scientific journal, but increasingly they aren't even an interesting source of pop-psychology to provide food for thought - just a source of rage about how some people are able to obtain advanced degrees and be allowed to have a public forum for their views.

But occasionally I run across an article or op-ed that I like. This was one of them. It talks about respect. "Respect" is thrown around a lot in the poly community in a very particular way. I most often see it used as a defense of The Rules* by primary couples wishing to protect their relationship. The reason why The Rules are necessary, they might say, is because they need to ensure that the incoming partner respects their relationship, their primacy. This is, IME, the reason most often given when a couple does not want to admit to being insecure.

No, they might say, the Rules are not because I don't trust my partner! I trust him implicitly! It's other people that I don't trust! We have a rock-solid relationship! We are best friends! I know that he would never do anything to hurt me! So I am not dictating his behaviour, I am laying out the rules for her behaviour! We don't want anyone to come in and not respect our primary relationship and/or not respect me as his primary partner. So we need Rules to make sure she is respectful.

So let's talk about respect.

[ profile] tacit has said, in many places, but in his most recent post on rules:

Many folks who claim primacy in a primary/secondary relationship often say they need rules because otherwise they don't feel "respected" by secondary partners, yet it's difficult to be respectful when one feels hemmed in, encircled by walls, and knowing that one's relationship is always under review.
In his previous post on rules, he says
"Respect" is a slippery, tricky word. It's kind of like "freedom"--everyone thinks they know what it means, but when the rubber meets the road, few folks actually agree on a definition.

To me, respect has to be mutual. If Alice is demanding respect from Bob's new sweetie Cindy, that can only come if Alice in turn respects the notion that Cindy is a grown adult with her own needs and desires, and she, too, deserves a shot at having a voice in the relationship. Imposing rules by fiat on other people and then demanding respect from those people is all the rage (I hear) among leaders of North Korea, but can feel a bit yucky when we're talking romantic relationships. ...

At worst, it sets up a relationship with a certain amount of tension and conflict baked in. If you see your partner's other partner as a source of stress, if you set up rules to govern that other person's behavior, then already you've started out on a basis of conflict ... there's an irreconcilable difference there. Someone's desire is going to get trumped, and you're playing the "respect" card to try to make sure it's not yours.

So this article had some interesting things to say about respect. And no, it is not a poly article, it's about relationships in general. In fact, it spends about as much time, if not more, talking about respecting one's children as it does respecting one's spouse. As I say so often, this is not a poly issue, this is a people issue. But I want to bring it around to poly specifically, as I see it played out in this Primary vs. Secondary deathmatch battle at Thunderdome, where the primary couple puts themselves in opposition to the incoming secondary partner and justifies the structure under the heading of "respect".

The author, Peter Gray, separates out love from respect. He acknowledges that some people make respect an integral part of their definition of love (like I do), but he sticks to his point that they are independent elements. Although I do not believe one can "love" someone if they do not respect them, I agree that "love" and "respect" are not interchangeable and can be discussed separately. One can have respect without love, for instance, even if one insists that love must include respect. I can have bacon without it being in a bacon-lettuce-tomato sandwich, but I can't have a BLT without bacon, by definition - then it's just an LT sandwich.

Gray says that, if you accept the premise that love can exist without respect and vice versa, then bliss is what happens when you combine the two. But if he had to choose between them, he'd take respect over love.

It is useful, I think, to compare and contrast parent-child relationships with husband-wife relationships. In both of these, respect is absolutely essential for the relationship to work. Love without respect is dangerous; it can crush the other person, sometimes literally. To respect is to understand that the other person is not you, not an extension of you, not a reflection of you, not your toy, not your pet, not your product. In a relationship of respect, your task is to understand the other person as a unique individual and learn how to mesh your needs with his or hers and help that person achieve what he or she wants to achieve. Your task is not to control the other person or try to change him or her in a direction that you desire but he or she does not. I think this applies as much to parent-child relationships as to husband-wife relationships.

If we apply this to the primary/secondary/metamour scenario, it sounds like this: To respect your partner is to understand that the other person is not you, not an extension of you, not a reflection of you, not your toy, not your pet, not your product. To respect your metamour/secondary is to understand that the other person is not a reflection of you, not your toy, not your pet, not your product. In a relationship of respect, your task is to understand that your metamour/secondary is a unique individual and learn how to mesh your needs with his or hers and help your metamour/secondary to acheive what he or she wants to achieve. Your task is not to control your metamour/secondary or try to change him or her in a direction that you desire but he or she does not. In a relationship of respect, your task is to understand that your partner is a unique individual and to help your partner achieve what he or she wants to achieve. Your task is not to control your partner or try to change him or her in a direction that you desire but he or she does not.

This is the antithesis of everything that The Rules stand for in poly relationships. The Rules, as I am referring to them here, are about protecting from change and prohibiting growth of one person in a direction not necessarily desired by another person. The Rules are designed to make partners into an extension of each other and reflection of each other and to make secondaries into toys, pets, or products.

This is the exact opposite of that "respect" that these sorts of couples are demanding. When those couples that I am talking about refer to "respect", they mean it in the way that we all "respect" the law - by that I mean that we all follow a set of rules that someone else imposed on us without our input whether we agree with it or not because there are consequences to breaking the law, and we surriptitiously break the law when we think we can get away with it (seriously, if anyone out there thinks that you never break any law, like speeding or oral sex, either you are lying to yourself or you've never actually read every single law that affects your jurisdiction - some are inherently contradictory and some don't even apply anymore but were never stricken from the books). We are generally taught to obey authority for the good of society. But really, how much of that is "respect" and how much of that is a sense of obligation coupled with a fear of consequences? That may be an acceptable way to run a large society, but that doesn't sound like any way to run a relationship that claims to be "loving".

I don't "respect" authority and law. I recognize that authority & law have power over me and I recognize that a system of law and authority is beneficial for society (the individual points of authority & law are debatable, though). I accept this power structure, mostly, in order to get along with society, basically as a social contract - I don't hurt, maim, kill, or steal from you if you won't do it to me. That's not respect, that's an uneasy truce amongst people who don't know each other and don't have much motivation to care about each other.

But I also follow many laws simply by coincidence because I care and respect my fellow human beings. I don't need a law to tell me not to hurt or kill or steal from other people (as a matter of fact, there was a time when the law against stealing didn't do shit to prevent me from it). What makes me really not hurt or kill or steal from other people is a sense of compassion, a belief that we all deserve to live with dignity, an immense feeling of empathy, a passionate philosophy of personal soverignty ... in short, respect.

As [ profile] tacit also says, if your partner truly loves and cherishes you, a rule is unneccessary, but if a partner does not truly love and cherish you, a rule won't make him. Just like with our secular laws, if someone really doesn't feel that sense of compassion and empathy towards the one they are hurting, a law doesn't tend to stop them from doing it. Never has a criminal seriously said (Facebook meme pics aside) "Man, I'm totally gonna kill you! What do you mean it's illegal? Oh, well, then, nevermind, sorry, forget I said anything." People who want to kill find ways to do it. Some of them become criminals who ignore the law, some of them become soldiers and cops who have the law behind them, and some of them become legal executioners who are specifically ordered to do it. If a partner wants to do something that will hurt you, he will whether there is a "rule" in place or not. If a partner honestly does not want to hurt you, he will do his best not to whether there is a rule in place or not.

The same goes for metamours. If respect is what you want, passing rules won't make anyone respect the relationship or the primary position. What makes a person respect that is all those other things I talked about above - compassion, empathy, consideration, acceptance, understanding. Those things are not demanded nor legislated. They are earned. And the best way to earn them from other people is to first give them to those other people.

Love is not all you need, nor all your wife or husband needs, and certainly not all your children need. We all need respect, especially from those who are closest and most intimately connected with us.

*The Rules are defined for this post as a set of restrictions or guidelines dictating the behaviour of other people, such as "you will not have intercourse with anyone other than me without a condom" and "no overnight stays".  Reciprocation and agreement to said rules are irrelevant to the definition of "dicating the behaviour of others".

This is contrasted from Boundaries, which are a source of information about one person that another person can use to inform his or her decisions, such as "I do not feel safe having sex with anyone who does not use condoms with all of his partners" so that anyone that "I" am dating can still choose to use condoms or not knowing how his decision will affect "I" and/or his relationship with "I".  

Many people use the word "rule" when they actually mean "boundary" and many people *think* they are talking about boundaries when they are actually imposing rules.

joreth: (polyamory)
I just finished listening to Poly Weekly's recent episode on advice for opening up a couple. I particularly enjoyed it because it was advice aimed at a couple from the point of view of the potential new "third" coming into the relationship. There are lots of advice floating around there telling couples how to open their relationship, like talking to each other and establishing The Rules before doing anything. But there is not much being said from this perspective.

Actually, there are quite a few sources telling couples what it feels like from the prospective Third, including me. But these sources consistently get shut down as couples defend their methods of "protecting [their] relationship". Now, it seems to me that if a group of people (and for these purposes, we'll include 2 people under the heading "group") want to attract another person or group of people, it would be in their best interest to actually heed the advice of said incoming person or group.

We see this in the skeptics and atheist communities too. And we see it in the larger poly community, not just first-time couples looking for unicorns. We have groups here of predominently white, educated, middle- & upper-class men (and women in the poly community) looking for more diversity. But instead of reaching out to the classes of people they wish to attract and asking them what they want from a community, what would convince them to try us out, and how we can improve their experiences with us, my communities of atheists, skeptics, and polys, continue to close ranks with locked arms, telling these other classes that they just need to deal with the communities as-is because that's how we like it, and then putting our own heads together to brainstorm ideas without input from the ones these ideas will most impact.

Back to the poly couples, they do the same thing. These two people (and sometimes it's a poly group about to open up for more) put their heads together and start discussing rules and regulations and future stuff without any input at all from the one person these rules will impact the most. And they defend it by saying that they don't want anyone who doesn't like these rules anyway and it's no different from pre-weeding out potential candidates based on other conflicting things like "I don't date guys who beat up kittens".

And then the poly couples and the atheist & skeptic organizers sit around and whine and moan about how hard it is to find people to join them and how mean everyone is being towards them and their policies.

[ profile] tacit and I have also faced this phenonemon before, where we suggest that certain methods have better success rates than others (as well as being more humane and considerate and compassionate), and couples who can't find their unicorns belligerently defend the need for rules by calling them "training wheels" - things you do when you don't yet have compassion and empathy and consideration and relationship and communication skills in order to start being poly first and learn the "advanced" techniques as you go. And yes, I have been accused by people for being "enlightened" and "advanced" - this is not me tooting my own horn, these are the things other people have said about me and the reasons people give for not following my advice.  Frankly, I started out as poly with these same skills and have improved over time, so I have a hard time thinking of them as "advanced" or "enlightened" - as far as I'm concerned, being considerate towards those in your chosen family and thinking about what I bring to the table instead of how he will adequately fulfill my own needs are basic skills, not advanced.  But I digress.

It seems to me that if one wishes to be successful at something, and that something is attracting new people, one ought to be following the advice given by the people one wishes to attract and those who are successful at attracting them, not telling those one wishes to attract how wrong their advice is for how to attract them.  I'm pretty sure that I know better than anyone else what will attract me to that person or group, so if you want me in your group, you ought to listen to what I say will get me there.

So I liked this episode, and although I still don't agree with every single little itty bitty thing [ profile] cunningminx said, I very much appreciated having someone with as big of a voice as she has saying these things in no uncertain terms and without bending over backwards to accommodate and pander to the couples, who already have an unequal distribution of power in the community, living in a heteronormative, couple-centric society to begin with.
joreth: (Default)

This started as simply posting a link to an article on Facebook and turned into a rant:

What's So Bad About A Boy Who Wants To Wear A Dress?

“No, I don’t want to be a girl,” he said, as he checked himself out in his bedroom mirror and posed, Cosmo-style. “I just want to wear girl stuff.”

“Why do you want to be a boy and not a girl?” I asked.

He looked at me as if I were daft. “Because I want to be who I am!”


"My son showed me this is part of core identity, not something people just put on or take off. And it’s not their job to make sure we’re all comfortable.”

My father is a cross-dresser. He is also straight (maybe bi, I dunno, none of his former female partners are aware of any male partners, at any rate). But he is also so ashamed of it and fearful of anyone finding out that he will not even admit to being my father and refuses to let me contact him.  He has cut off communication with his crazy religious-nut parents (both my mother & the investigator who located him (both Christian) labeled them as crazy religious-nuts) and the only way they can reach him is by pager, which he then uses to return the call from a payphone and not his phone.  

I only know about his cross-dressing because he apparently used to do it even back in high school, and my mother eventually confessed to catching him at it.  Then, when I sent out a first-contact letter to everyone with his name in his town's phonebook, his current girlfriend found it stashed away in a desk drawer and choose to respond, where she confirmed that the man I had described was her boyfriend and so was probably my father, that he had never told anyone about having a daughter, and about his crazy religious parents, and about his cross-dressing (which distressed the girlfriend & she didn't know how to deal with it).

It's ironic, since I'm his one relative who would embrace him without regard to his dress preferences. I would neither reject him for it nor put him on a pedestal as some sort of "hero" that he doesn't want to be for wearing women's clothing.  Yet I'm the last relative he wants any contact with, and that includes his crazy religious-nut parents who, according to my mother, screamed at him & called him all sorts of ugly names over the mere suspicion that their son might not have been "normal".

As far as I'm concerned, his attire preferences are merely a part of him, and they are always "right" as long as it is what he wants to wear.

Also, I can totally relate. Some people think I am a male when they don't see my physical appearance. Many of my male friends have made comments (some positive, some complaints) about women only to say "oh, but Joreth doesn't count!". And some get confused when I say I identify as "male" because I don't *look* male and even when I wear male clothing, I'm not trying to "pass" - I look like a girl in guy's clothes, and my feminine appearance can often blind people to my "masculine" way of being (thoughts, interests, etc.).

So I really appreciated hearing this perspective - of boys who want to be boys but just wear girl clothes or play with girl toys. I am female-bodied and I intend to stay that way. I am also androphillic in that I am attracted to males. The only reason why I don't identify as female is because of all the other crap that goes along with being "a girl". That stuff doesn't fit. But if I could be "a girl" and still like jeans and guns and trucks and still hate pastels and makeup and doing my hair, then I wouldn't be having this genderqueer identity.

"But girls CAN do all those things!" you say? No, actually, we can't. At least, we can't to the same extent that we can wear frilly dresses and have our nails done and like babies and baking.  We might not get burned at the stake for being a witch anymore, but we still have to defend our right to be tomboys. The fact that we have a nickname for it "tomboy" shows it, and the fact that the nickname uses the word "boy" in it furthers my point.  And we especially have to defend our right to like both jeans AND frilly dresses.

The fact that women can wear suits but it has to be tailored to be "feminine", that there are tons of books & articles teaching women how to be strong without "losing" their "femininity", and the fact that, when I say I identify as a guy, people point out my ballroom dancing & costuming as contradictory evidence all says that we as a society are still not comfortable with a gender spectrum, with blurring the lines, or with people who step outside of the very narrow gender-dichotomy boxes (which, of course, are not objectively defined anyway - my strict-gender-role parents have a very different definition of what makes a girl than some macho guys I've dated, for example).

"Pink boys", as this article calls them, have it worse, of course, because there are often larger penalties for a boy in a dress than a girl in pants - the women's movement has made some progress, after all. But feminists have not won the sexism wars yet, and the fact that pink boys have it worse is only one more symptom of sexism - that, as the article pointed out, boys being "girls" is going towards the "lesser gender".

Sexism & misogyny hurts everyone. I will identify as a "girl" when being a "girl" doesn't require me to behave in any particular way, like any particular thing, dislike any particular thing, think a particular way, feel a particular way, or be treated a particular way (please don't get me started on chivalry or treating women as "queens").

Or, here's a thought ... how about I just identify as a person and we all treat each other with the same amount of dignity and respect and then tailor the specifics to the individual, not to his or her genitalia or clothing style?
joreth: (polyamory)

Honey, can we talk? So, we've been talking about this for a while, but I think we're ready. I think we ought to do it. Our relationship has never been stronger, we're both in really good places right now with work and with each other. Life is perfect, so right now is the best time, I think, to bring in someone new to our family.

Let's have a baby.

I think it'll be great! We're totally ready to take this next step in our relationship. But, because our relationship is so perfect, I don't want the kind of baby that will threaten our existing relationship, so let's talk about the rules. We need to have some rules to make sure that nothing between you and I changes when the baby comes along.

First of all, we have to have a girl baby. I don't want to have to compete with a son for being "the guy" around the house, and you're a woman so you'll have lots in common with a girl baby so you'll naturally get along perfectly. You already know how to handle girls because you are one - you have all the same equipment and you understand women, so having a girl baby makes more sense. I'm a guy, so naturally I understand how to handle girls too, but I don't have any experience with dudes, so I'll be a better father to a girl baby.

Second, we have to do exactly the same things with the baby. I don't want our new daughter to end up loving one of us more than the other, so let's agree to never be alone with the baby and to do all the same things with her. If one of us plays soccer with her before the big soccer game, then the other has to play for the same amount of time the next day. If you help her with her math homework for 2 hours, then I get to help her with her math homework for 2 hours.

Now, honey, I know math isn't your favorite thing to do, but she's going to need help with her math homework, and if I'm the only one helping her, then that leaves you out. And I don't want you to feel left out. Besides, then you might do something with her without me and I'll feel left out. No, it's just better if we only do things with her together, that way no one will feel left out. Of course, we'll also only do the things that you and I like to do. Since she'll be our daughter, she'll just want to do all those things anyway - we wouldn't have a daughter that wanted different things, so that'll be that.

Since a trio is inherently more stable than any other configuration, let's agree to just one daughter that we both share equally. There will not be any accidental pregnancies because we've agreed not to have any.  We don't need to discuss what happens if you unintentionally get pregnant because we just agreed that it won't happen.  

I think I ought to have veto power over your pregnancies too. You can have the same, of course. I know men can't get pregnant, but I'm still giving you the veto power, so it's still totally equal. Also veto power after the kid is born - if one of us doesn't like her, out she goes and we try again. I'm willing to give you veto power because I love you that much, and I trust you not to use the veto power except in extreme circumstances, and protecting our relationship is more important than protecting the parental relationship with the new kid - after all, you and I were here first, way before any kid came along.

We'll work out a schedule for the baby - who gets to change her and who gets to feed her and when. We'll stick to that schedule no matter what because the important thing here is that our relationship with each other doesn't change significantly. The baby will have only the extra-curricular activities we tell her to have, and we'll choose them based on what works best for you and me, not her preferences, because I don't want this new baby to upset our lives too much.

After the baby comes, I still expect sex as often with you as we have it now. I want you to be there for me like you always have been, just as I will be there for you. I still want us to have the time and energy to dedicate to each other that we currently do. Just because the baby will be all new and shiny and she'll want lots of our attention in the beginning, we have to take care not to let that new relationship interfere with our existing relationship. So we have to promise, before any baby comes along, that none of that will change when we finally do have a baby. OK? You won't stop having sex with me, we'll still have date nights, and we won't give each other only the boring, day-to-day parts of ourselves. Promise me now that we'll both still keep the magic in our relationship just the way it is now and that we won't let any baby interfere with that.

What we have right now is so wonderful, we should share it with another person. A baby will be so lucky to grow up in our lives! We have good jobs and we take fun vacations and we have great friends and a lot of knowledge to pass on, any baby would be fortunate to have us as parents! She'll go on all the same vacations that we like to go on, she'll eat all the awesome food that we eat, she'll play all the same sports that we like to play, she'll take after me in math but after you in music, and she'll just love our lives as much as we do! And as long as we plan everything out in advance, make all kinds of rules for every contingency, everything should work out totally smoothly. It'll be awesome!

joreth: (Super Tech)
There are a lot of misconceptions about what that phrase means. Mostly, it gets confused with "immortality" in the fictional, supernatural sense. Radical life extension, often shortened to "immortality", is medically preventing aging and making death optional. This does not mean "immortal" in the comic book sense. It means extending life. And, by definition, life can be ended. Biological organisms can die. So in a world where we have cured aging, we can still get hit by a bus.

There are many objections to the idea of radical life extension, but there are 2 I see most often, and they tend to be raised in conjunction with each other. I'm not sure why. But the objections are that we will eventually get bored or run out of things to do, and that we will live alone, forever cursed to watch our loved ones age and die while we remain.

These objections aren't actually related, as far as I can tell, other than those who make them tend to make them both and they come up most often.

So, the first one, that we will get bored or run out of things to do or interest us. I think this profoundly underestimates the complexity of the universe. I could take the time to master each and every profession in existence. That alone would take more time than I can even conceive of, and that only counts the professions currently in operation, not all the ancient jobs that are no longer necessary or the jobs that will develop as society and technology develops. Then there are all the hobbies. Then there are all the books I haven't read yet. There is so much to see and do RIGHT NOW, that I think it's a severe limitation of a person's imagination to think that we would *run out* of things to do and learn and experience.

For some reason, people want to take current conditions and project them onto the future.

In the second case, this actually has a 2-part answer. First, what part of my very finite existence now makes you think I don't already have to watch my loved ones die around me while I live on? I'm beginning to lose track of the number of friends and family members I've seen buried, and I'm not even middle aged. I lost my first close friend when I was 12 years old, and that's not even counting the old, distant relatives that I "knew" by virtue of having once been introduced to someone I was told I was related to. This was a close, personal loss, someone who was a peer and a confidante. I'd lost family and other peers even before then. Being mortal doesn't make me immune to losing loved ones over and over again. It hurts, deeply. But I heal, and I develop more relationships, some of whom I will also lose, but some of whom will lose me first.

And the other part of the answer is that I'm not talking about some kind of supernatural curse or comic book superpower. I'm not talking about being indestructable and alone. I'm not talking about being Hancock. When I, and people like me, talk about "immortality" or radical life extension, I'm talking about a medical procedure that would prevent aging, and as a side effect, eliminate those forms of death that result from the process of aging. Because it would be a medical procedure based in science and technology, and not some magical wish or curse, it would be applicable to more people than just me. And because I'm way down on the economic scale, by the time it was made available to *me*, specifically, it would be made available to pretty much everyone, at least everyone in the US.

I'm nobody special. If there ever comes a day when a medical procedure to radically extend lifespan is made available to me, it won't be made to me alone. I'm not part of the elite rich who could afford some super procedure that only 5 people in the world could afford. I'm not a man behind the curtain, pulling strings and covering up wonderous new treatments for my own, selfish gain. While I understand that I am important to a handful of individuals, in the grand scheme of things, I'm nobody. This sort of treatment will not be available to me unless it's available to everybody.

Which means that I won't be watching my loved ones age and die around me because they will be living indefinitely along with me. In fact, the more likely outcome is that I'll have to go through more breakups because of my multi-hundred-year lifespan as I and my loved ones eventually grow in different directions and become no longer compatible with each other after a few centuries. Which brings me back to the first part of this answer - I'm already doing that. I have breakups, I hurt, I heal, I meet new people and build new relationships.

Maybe, it's possible, that one day I will decided that I don't want to live through another breakup, or another death of a loved one. I have a hard time imagining such a day, but when I was a kid, I would have had a hard time imagining the person I am today too. I mean, the idea that I would be intentionally unmarried, child-free by choice, and have several loving boyfriends who approved of polyamory and liked each other, and whose wives and partners I liked? Preposterous! So, it is entirely possible that after a millenia or so, I might just grow weary of existence. Which brings us back to the original premise - that death should be optional.

Remember, we're not talking about a fairy tale curse here. An organic body can be killed, and a mechanized body can be shut down. The idea that some opponents have of a solitary body sitting alone on a rocky asteroid in the vaccuum of space as the universe around him is destroyed and all life anywhere is gone, forever contemplating his existence and never being allowed to end it even when existence itself is ended, is, to me, about as far-fetched, and fantasy-based, as religion, or Santa Claus, or leprechauns.

Along with the technology to halt aging, and the passage of time, will come other technological advances that I couldn't even guess at. That's what the singularity is, after all - a horizon that we can't see past. With all those changes coming, there is no reason to assume that I will make it through exactly as I am now, with my current body and my current thought-pattern. The very act of eliminating aging will change who I am, how I think, and how I see the world. There is some philosophy that who we are is dependent upon our meat bodies and brains, and that trying to upload ourselves to a non-meat medium isn't even possible because it requires the meat to be "us". I'm not sure where I stand on that issue, specifically, since I don't understand enough about the brain to make that kind of speculation. But the point is that future-me will not be present-me and, by definition, I cannot predict past that horizon anything about how the world will look or what I will think of it. So I, therefore, cannot project any current status onto that future self, such as the idea that I want to live at all costs. I may change my mind someday and want to die. Or I may live long enough that the questions of life and death are something so completely foreign to my current meat-brain and short lifespan, that the questions themselves won't resemble anything I can currently comprehend, let alone the answers.

But I want the opportunity to ask them. If we really were to cure aging, giving us effectively unending lifespans, our society and our way of looking at things will be so different from the viewpoints we have now with our current circumstances, that it is absurd to pose such hypotheticals as "we'll run out of things to do & get bored" or "we'll have to watch our loved ones age and die around us". These are statements wrapped up in a profoundly limited imagination.
joreth: (polyamory)
One of the many reasons why I love [ profile] tacit so much is his ability to really *see* his girlfriends. I have never once felt threatened or worried or concerned about him loving someone besides me because I knew, down to his very core, I was unique and special and that no one could ever replace me. I would always be his "favorite" because we were all his "favorite".

I know he loves me with all of his heart, because he doesn't know how to love any other way. I know he loves all of his loves with all of his heart, and not only does that not diminish, dilute, or take away from the love that he feels for me, but it's part of what makes his love for me so strong, so special, and so utterly incapable of being "taken" from me by some other woman.

After being loved by someone like [ profile] tacit, it's impossible to settle for anything less. My other loves have a high bar set for them. Fortunately, for me, they meet the bar, or they wouldn't last long in my life.

Of Puppies And Favorites:
joreth: (being wise),0,1665761.story

A couple of interesting points here, mostly good-to-know news, with a little bit of bad news.

First, oral HPV seems to be spread through oral sex, not kissing or casual contact.  That's good news and good-to-know news.

Second, 7% of teenagers already have oral HPV.  That's bad-ish news (bad because it's more than 0% but "ish" because it's "only" 7%).

Third, among those 7%, only a very small percentage of them will develop oral cancer and, according to another article recently, apparently HPV-caused oral cancers has a higher treatment success rate than cancers caused by other means (like smoking).  That's good news.

Fourth, HPV-caused cancers is on the rise with 70% of all new cases of oral cancer being caused by HPV, surpassing tobacco as the primary cause of oral cancers.  But don't freak out - 80% of the population has or has had or will have HPV at some point in their lives, and the vast majority of them will never develop any cancer.  However, this study shows that 1 in 10 boys (yes, BOYS) currently have an infection that *could* lead to cancer.  This is not a female problem, it's a people problem - get vaccinated.

Fifth, apparently, the more oral sex you've had, the greater your risk of developing throat cancer.  That's actually not new news - we already know that the more exposure you have to the virus, the greater your risk of developing cancer.  That's why they FDA won't OK the vaccine for people over 30 - the older you are, the more sex you've probably had, the more exposure you've had to the virus, the less likely the vaccine is to work because it doesn't do shit if you already have the strain it protects against.

But since no one actually knows which strains they have or have had, it's still beneficial to get the vaccine if you're over 30 and have the money for it.  If you don't have that strain, the vaccine still works.  It's just that, being over 30 means you've had more chances to have caught one of those strains, since they're the most common ones.  That's all it means by "less effective" and why it's not FDA approved.  But it's not banned either, so find a doctor to give you the vaccine off-label.  It's legal and safe, just expensive since your insurance probably won't cover it.

Doctors recommend using protection even during oral sex.  It's not "safer" than PIV sex (penis-in-vagina), you just can't get pregnant from it.  Problem is that most people don't talk about using protection for oral sex.  "It's something people are not comfortable talking about, but it is protective ... If you are going to be intimate with someone, there are some adult conversations you need to have."
joreth: (sex)

I saw this video today posted on Facebook and I really liked it, so I wanted to share it. But I also had something to say about it and my comment ended up being longer and more rambly than a FB comment should be (IMO), so I decided to make my own post about it.

In the video, Alyssa posits that the reason why people shame others for sex is because they're afraid that, if we give those people permission to do those things they like, then those people will try to do those things with us, and if we don't like those things that's a scary thought.

I don't disagree with her. I just think she was ... incomplete.

I think that at least one reason, if not a main reason, why people shame others for sex is less about fear of those others, and more about fear of ourselves.

I think that a lot of people believe that the way to control scary things is by boxing them up and putting them away in the attic, never to see the light of day (I know a lot of rationalists who think this is the way to deal with emotions). I think that a lot of people believe that, by exploring something scary, they may find the scariest thing of all, and that is that there is no end; that once you start down that road, not only can you never go back, but you can't ever stop either; that you necessarily must keep exploring and exploring and exploring until you HAVE TO explore previously-thought hard limits like bestiality and child molestation and rape and murder because, once you throw out the rules preventing you from doing things, what's to stop you from doing anything?

Except that people in general don't typically refrain from doing things because they are told not to. They typically refrain from doing things because they have an internal sense that they shouldn't do them. This is a very complex sense, though, which can be (and is) influenced by the culture around us, and not everyone has the exact same sense of right and wrong. In a lot of ways, we really do need some kind of external set of guidelines telling us how to get along with each other.

But in a lot of ways, that set of guidelines is born out of our collective internal sense in the first place.

Although sex does create and encourage a lot of the same chemical reactions in our brains as drugs do, contrary to pop-psych, sex is not the same as addictive drugs. People can, and do, stop wherever they want to. But the ones who are the most successful at stopping where they choose to stop are the ones who allow themselves to explore and who live by Francis Bacon's statement (whether they know of it or not) that "your true self can be known only by systematic experimentation, and controlled only by being known."

The more we know of ourselves, the better control we have over ourselves, and we can only know ourselves by experimentation and self-exploration. Ironically, those of us who explore the most fearlessly are the ones who tend to exhibit better control, while the ones who are most desperate for control are the ones who lack it because they don't tend to explore themselves.

People who know themselves, and therefore have control of themselves, don't get caught with "luggage boys" after enacting legislation against gay rights. People who know themselves, and therefore have control of themselves, don't get put under arrest for the very law they created against gay sex with strangers in public restrooms. People who know themselves, and therefore have control of themselves, don't tend to get caught using tax dollars to pay for prostitutes out of the same funds that put them in office on an anti-prostitution ticket.  People who know themselves, and therefore have control of themselves, can consciously and deliberately arrange their lives to enjoy those desires they have in a manner that includes "safe, sane, and consensual".

So I think Alyssa here didn't address all, or even the most prominent reasons for shaming others. I think one of those reasons is that people fear themselves. She makes the distinction between shame (something that people to do you by telling you that you're a bad person) and guilt (something that you do to yourself by feeling bad for a harmful act). I think that a lot of people feel the need to shame others because they feel guilty themselves - they feel afraid of the unknown and/or guilty for things they've done or want to do because other people have shamed them.

I think shame is a self-perpetuating cycle. We shame others because we have internalized the shame that other people have made us and others to feel. If we grow up in a society that says gay sex is bad, then we jump on that bandwagon and shame people for gay sex to avoid being shamed, thereby promoting that message to the next person who has to also jump on the bandwagon and shame people for gay sex, because to not do so would be to draw shame upon them.

And I think the reason why a lot of people shame others is because they are afraid of themselves, and of what they do not know about themselves. When someone tells me that they wouldn't explore some avenue of kink because "how would you ever stop?", that frightens me. That tells me that they don't have any internal sense that lets them see the difference between spanking a lover because he likes it and murdering someone. That tells me that they don't have any internal sense to show them the line between enjoying a sensation and self-harm. And since many of these people are the ones most vocal and most adamant about instilling external rules to help us all behave, this frightens me to no end because these people with no control are in charge.

I am not afraid of myself or my desires. I know what I am capable of, I know what I like, and I know how to stop. I am afraid of other people - afraid they will want to do those things to me, and by those things, I mean lock me up and prevent me from being myself because they are afraid of themselves. If anyone should be ashamed, it's them.

But I like the overall message of this video & I think you should watch it.

cross-posted at

joreth: (anger)
Mr. Palumbo:

I heard your interview where you claimed that a 16-year-old girl was being "coerced by evil people" for insisting that her public school comply with federal law. As a politician and government representative, how dare you! You should be on Ms. Ahlquist's side, supporting our youth for being civic-minded and having a knowledge and understanding of her nation's Constitution that even her educators and government officials seem to lack. You should be on the side of truth, justice, and law instead of tacitly supporting the actions of those who seek to undermine our nation's secular foundation of the separation of Church and State, of those who chose to respond to a lesson in Constitutional law with threats of violence ... towards a teenaged girl!

You are not serving your country or your people. You are not upholding our nation's honorable origins and principles. You are, instead, choosing to publicly villify those who believe in this great nation and strive to defend it from those who would tear it down and build in its place a theocracy where individual rights are trampled on under the boots of bigoted bullies who do not know their own history, laws, or philosophy of government.

You do not deserve to represent anyone, since you obviously do not represent truth or the Constitution. I think you owe Ms. Ahlquist a public apology and a public rebuking of the behaviour of the administration who broke the law and lied under oath, and of the Christians who threatened this girl with rape, death, and eternal torture for daring to uphold the law and speak the truth under oath. This is not the kind of example I expect from public figures who claim the moral high ground.

A Concerned Citizen

The background:
Jessica Ahlquist went to a public school that posted a clearly Christian prayer on its property. Jessica pointed out to the administration that it was breaking the law, will it please take down the prayer? The administration refused, so the ACLU pointed out that it was breaking the law, will it please take down the prayer? The administration continued to refuse, so a compromise was offered - keep the prayer banner, but lose the "Heavenly Father" at the beginning & the "amen" at the end.  The administration continued to refuse, so the matter was taken to court. The school lost and the judge declared that it was a violation of the Constitution because there was no doubt that it was religious in nature.

Since asking the administration to remove the prayer and pointing out it's legal violation, Jessica, a 16 year old high school student, has been subject to a mountain of harassment and violent threats from so-called Christians who object to following the law and refuse to see how the separation of Church and State is to their benefit as well as ours. These followers of the "religion of love" have declared that Jessica is evil, that she deserves to be raped and killed and tortured for eternity, and that they have every legal and moral right to break the law and lie under oath.

Democratic Representative Peter Palumbo was interviewed on the subject, where he was recorded as having said that Jessica was being "coerced by evil people" and had nothing to say about those bullies who have threatened Jessica or the administration who broke the law and lied under oath.

So I wrote this letter to Rep. Palumbo to tell him what I think of him as a state representative. You can find more details, including links to sources at You can email or call (401) 785-2882 to share your opinions with Rep. Palumbo directly.

Poly Irony

Jan. 10th, 2012 03:25 am
joreth: (polyamory)
Irony: a woman who helps adopted kids find their bio-families ranting about the "loose morals" of people who fall in love with more than one person, how it's impossible to love >1 because if you love #2 then you never loved #1 to begin with.

She apparently completely missed the part where us adopted kids love two moms and two dads. Which came first or second for me? Was it my adopted parents who came second, so I never really loved my bio-parents? Or was it my bio-mom since I didn't actually meet her until I was 30, so I never loved my adopted mom who raised me & cared for me & is responsible for the person I am now?

But it's DIFFERENT! You're not having sex with your parents!

That's true, but if sex is really the only defining element of your romantic relationships, if that's REALLY the only thing that sets your marriage apart from any other relationship you have, including your friends, then I have to say that I think I got the better deal.

Now, in MY relationships, if you took the sex away for some reason (like, say, a medical condition), my relationships would still be special, would still be set apart from my friends or my siblings, or my parents, or my pets, for instance.  My romantic relationships are intimate on so many different levels, and in so many ways, that removing the sex, while disappointing, would not sufficiently take away enough from my feelings for my partners to actually destroy the relationship, or even make it so much less somehow that they were indistinguishable from my friends, co-workers, and acquaintances.

And I have nothing but pity for those for whom sex is the ONLY thing of note in their primary romantic relationships (people who choose to have fuckbuddies are a different subject all together).  I also have nothing but pity for those for whom they completely become un-special just because their partners happen to do the same thing with them as with another person.  

I mean, if I had a partner who would cease to find me special just because some other woman cooked him dinner, or called him "honey", or was prettier than me, I don't think I would think much of that partner, or of my relationship with him.  My partners love me so much because of who I am, that I am not so easily replaced that anyone who can give a good backrub can come along and destroy my relationship.  But I guess that, if their relationships really are so tenuous, I would probably be hyper-sensitive and jealous if my relationships were that fragile too.

As for the "loose morals" and "being selfish" and "hurting others", really, I can't find any more ways to explain that it's the opposite of "selfish" (of or for one's self to the detriment of others) to feel happiness at your partner's happiness in his other relationships and it's not hurting someone when they gleefully accept the arrangement - you can only hurt someone if you do something they don't like and trusted you not to do, which is not the case in my relationships.  If you still believe it is even after I've said so in plain terms, you're just refusing to listen, and if you refuse to listen, there's nothing more to say to someone who is more interested in closing their mind than in respecting that other people have different wants, needs, desires, and preferences.  

No one is asking you to jump on the poly bandwagon, just stop insisting that what would make you miserable would make everyone else miserable, especially when you are told that some of us are not, in fact, miserable.
joreth: (anger)
I'm going to rant. I mean really rant. If you hold the opposing viewpoint, I don't want to hear it because this is not a place for a reasoned discussion or rational exchange of ideas. This is me being angry and blowing off steam because it's not physically possible for me to slap sense into people, and I would get arrested if I tried, so I need to vent by pouring all my anger into my words and out of my head in order to get on with the rest of my day. I'm going to rant about veto power.

I've heard all the excuses, all the justifications, all the defenses of veto in poly relationships, so I don't need to hear them again because I guarantee that nothing you can come up with will be something I haven't heard already. And every time I hear another excuse, it doesn't make me more sympathetic or win me over to your side, it only makes me even angrier at the fucking audacity of some people. You don't have to read my rant any more than I have to listen to your excuses, but I am going to rant.  You can go bitch about how mean I am elsewhere and justify your behaviour to people who are as equally deluded as you.

Put on your flame-retardant suits & enter at your own risk )
joreth: (religion)
People who don't know me very well might not know that I used to be a wooager. I mean full-on, hardcore, drunk-the-Kool-Aid woo. I grew up in Northern California - I think it's something in the water there. They add it along with the flouride. Seriously though, if it was magical or occult, I believed in it. I read palms and tarot cards, I believed in ghosts, I was absolutely positive that I could tell the future, had a psychic connection with certain people, and even had some minor influence over the elements. I still have my magic amulet - a small leather bag that I made myself, to wear around my neck and carry magic items, symbols, and the physical representations of my guiding totem spirits. I blame that last one on the Clan of the Cave Bear book and the white, middle-class guilt that is so prevalent in liberal areas like the California Bay Area. Oh, and I could psychically command my dog. Sometimes.

It pains me just to write this all down, before I've posted it and before any of ya'll can read it.

Now, losing one's faith rarely actually happens in a single moment, or even on a single day. Usually, there is a long time and many instances leading up to the final step, and usually quite a few remnants hanging around in the brain like cobwebs to be dusted out for some time afterwards. Sometimes that final step isn't even noticeable as distinct from the others, so that the loss of faith feels more like a gradual fade. But sometimes it is an actual turning point, a moment when everything changes, a "click" in the brain, a lightbulb turning on. Mine was just such an event.

One of my "psychic powers" was the ability to tell when something out of the ordinary was going to happen to me before it did. Now, I had a very good education - I even was enrolled in the smart-kids program at my school, what we called Gifted And Talented Education. And in our GATE classes, where they took us geeks out of regular classes once a week and dumped us all together, all grades, into a single room, we learned about stuff that the rest of the school didn't - we covered art and music and history, and yes, critical thinking.

And yet, I managed to make it all the way to adulthood with very good logic skills and a deep internal sense of skepticism, but a shocking lack of critical thinking skills. In fact, my GATE program had an entire section on ESP and UFOs, from a completely credulous standpoint.  I value the city planning section and the American Sign Language section and the "how to write instructions for complete idiots" section (otherwise known as communication & lessons in assumptions in writing), and also the day we dissected a cow's brain.  But c'mon, UFOs and ESP?  As reality?  I wasn't equipped to tell the good lessons from the bunk at that time, creationist senator's beliefs of kid's abilities notwithstanding.

So I didn't have the tools to understand probability, particularly with respect to just how ordinary "out of the ordinary" actually is. I didn't understand logical fallacies or cognitive flaws like confirmation bias. I didn't know how to ask the types of questions that yielded realistic answers. When you start with faulty premises, you will get faulty conclusions, even if your logic is sound.

So, when my stomach started to flutter, and I started to get a little nauseated, and I became hyper-aware of my surroundings, I thought that I was having a premonition and that something unusual would happen to me soon. I had no idea that when you go anamolie hunting, unlike deer hunting, you are pretty much guaranteed to bag one and bring it home.

Finally, I made it to my mid-twenties. I met a guy who seemed so incredibly in synch with me that I just knew it couldn't be coincidence. I mean, we could read each other's minds! I could have a thought and he could say it out loud before I even opened my mouth! Given my past experience with psychic phenomena, this was totally possible (I thought), but it was kind of spooky just how tight our psychic connection seemed to be!

Then I took him home to meet my family for the holidays. I have never been a really big fan of air travel, but as a kid, I was mostly OK about it. I can read pretty much anywhere, and I can sleep pretty much anywhere, and I can also hold the contents of my bladder for a frighteningly long time. But as I got older, I got more and more bothered by riding in airplanes. Again with the lack of grasping statistics (I could calculate them in my head back then, but I didn't quite grok them, if you know what I mean - I didn't understand their implications), I became more and more uncomfortable at being out of control as a passenger in an airplane. I also started to develop motion sickness that I never had growing up, but I didn't recognize that for what it was until years later.

We boarded the plane and got our luggage stowed away and I sat down in my seat. Suddenly, I was overcome with heat, and that familiar stomach-flopping sensation tripped in my mid-section. I started to sweat and tremble and I could swear that I could hear the creaking of the joints in the plane.

I was going to die.

This flight would be my last and my parents would be waiting for me at the airport, only to be greeted by the news of the death of their eldest daughter. I could see my fate as clearly as if I were watching it on a movie screen. There was going to be a malfunction in the plane and it was going to fall out of the sky. I was going to die.

I jumped out of my seat and started speaking really fast and low "I have to get off I have to get out this plane is going to crash I can't be here I need to leave I have to get off the plane ohgodohgodohgodIhavetogetoff ..." My then-boyfriend tried to calm me down and asked what was wrong. I explained that I was having one of my premonitions and my premonitions were never wrong. He offered to let me up and we would miss the flight together if that was what I wanted to do.

That made me pause. What if I was wrong? I will have missed the flight, I will have lost all that money on the tickets, and I will look incredibly stupid to everyone who finds out why I got off that plane. But, if I'm right, I'll die.

I took a deep breath and decided to stay on the plane. Then I promptly put my head in my lap and cried. And I prayed. I prayed with all my heart to whatever benevolent deities were listening to please deliver me safely. The lady on the other side of me asked my boyfriend if I was alright. He told her that I get motion sick but that I would be fine. I cried and I mumbled to myself - to the powers that be - and rocked in my seat, absolutely positive that these would be my last thoughts on this earth and that I wouldn't be able to tell my parents that I loved them one last time. That is pretty much always my "final" thoughts before my impending demise. I've had more than one brush with death, and that's always the last thing I think before realizing that I'm actually going to survive.

As you can probably guess because you're reading this now, I did not, in fact, die in that plane crash. I meditated myself to sleep (a trick I learned years prior to combat my sleep disorder), and when I woke up, I felt an embarrassment so deep, that I don't think I had ever been that embarrassed before ... except for maybe the time I wet my pants in elementary school because I wanted ice cream from the ice cream truck and my dad didn't want to go out and get it for me, so I chose to wait in line at the truck instead of going to the bathroom and I didn't get either the ice cream or the bathroom.

The sureity that I was going to die had completely lifted by the time I woke up. My premonition was wrong! They're never wrong! Or, were they? Really, how many times had I had those premonitions? And how many times were they actually true? And out of those times, how many of those "out of the ordinary" events were really out of the ordinary? I mean, they were unusual, but how often does unusual really happen to people?

That day, I came face to face with the realization that my magic powers were gone ... or, more likely, I had never had them in the first place. Once I started to question the supernatural events in my life, I had to question them all because they were all connected. I was wrong. I had no magic powers. Magic powers didn't exist.

As I said before, the loss of faith is rarely an isolated event. I mentioned reading palms and tarot cards. I did that until I studied with a psychic medium in Lake Tahoe back in high school. I'll tell that whole story another time, but the punchline is that she told me outright that the cards and the palms are not where the truth lies. The cards and palms are merely a distraction, something for the client to focus on. What she reads is people, and the cards keep the people from realizing that she is just reading them. But learning that lesson still didn't teach me that magic wasn't real. It just told me that magic might not be exactly what I thought it was.

After the plane incident, I started questioning other things. Another story for another time is how I found out that my "psychic" boyfriend and his amazing mind-reading ability was really more computer-magic than mind-magic and that he was just spying on my internet use. But I discovered that because of the plane incident. Once I started questioning, I started finding answers. Once I no longer took magic as a given, but started insisting on evidence for it, I started to see reality.

I also learned what a "panic attack" was and discovered that I probably just had an anxiety attack and that all my "premonitions" were just anxiety that led to me post hoc-ing so-called "unusual occurrances" as the predicted event. Now that I know what anxiety attacks are and what to look for, I have only had 1 since, and I was able to get it under control fairly easily, and I have been able to keep the early tremors of anxiety from blossoming into full-blown anxiety attacks by better understanding what is happening to me. Knowing the reality of my problem led me to solutions that actually work to help me manage it, rather than allowing it to run my life.

I have to say that losing my magic powers was a boon I never would have thought it could be. If you had told me as a teenager that I would lose my magic powers and asked me how I felt about that, I would have been horrified. That would mean that I'm not special anymore, that there isn't anything about me that sets me apart from everyone else, or that makes me better than those lowlife assholes that I was hoping I could use my magic on in retaliation if I could just develop it enough. Life would be ordinary, and then there would be no hope for extraordinary. If this was all I was, then this was all I ever could be.

But I didn't understand what "this" really was. I didn't understand the sheer majesty of it all. I didn't understand how much more potential I had without my magic powers; how special I really was, how unique, and yes, how much better I was than those assholes who used to beat the crap out of me. I wanted to be connected to something greater than myself. I had no idea just how great was the "greater than" that I was really connected to. The daydreams of a bullied, frustrated, impotent, awkward teenager paled in comparison to the reality before me, just waiting to be discovered. Don't get me wrong, I still daydream of being able to fly, of knowing what is inside the heads of other people, and of justice being doled out to the assholes of the world. I still think the world would be more awesome if I could do all those things. But I no longer underestimate just how awesome the universe is without them. And I no longer underestimate just how awesome I am without them either.

That was the day I lost my magic powers, but the day I gained something much more powerful. That was the day the blind became sighted and I was granted access to the universe.
joreth: (polyamory)
Along the same lines as the last post but totally independent of each other, I had a conversation with my mom (my adopted mom) the other day. See, my adopted sister is also adopted. Like me, she was adopted at birth, so other than the lack of shared genes, we are every bit the definition of "sisters". In fact, I even got to name my little sister (well, her middle name, but it's the name we called her for years, and the name I still call her, even though she goes by her first name to everyone outside the family). The reason I located my bio-mom in the first place is because my sister made it her life's quest to locate her own bio-parents, and when her bio-mom was found, the social worker offered to locate mine. I agreed on a whim.

My sister's story did not have the happy ending that mine did, although I believe it had the better ending for her. My sister's bio-mom is a mess. The day my sister first saw her bio-mom in person was at her bio-mom's parole hearing. My sister tried to begin a relationship of some sort with her bio-mom, but discovered that she was most important to her bio-mom as someone with a steady job who could bring her the groceries that she couldn't buy for herself due to her drug problem. So after doing so a couple of times, my sister just dropped out of touch with her bio-mom entirely, knowing that she couldn't help her but would break herself trying, and she consoles herself by praying for her bio-mom.

The reason I believe this is the better ending for my sister is because my sister and I have very different views on our adoptions. I knew from the beginning that my bio-parents were teenagers and that's why I was given up for adoption. I knew from the beginning that being put up for adoption was the smarter choice. I knew from the beginning that I was very, very fortunate to have been raised with a stable, middle-class couple who desperately wanted children and who loved me every bit as much as any parent could love their children. I knew from the beginning that being given up for adoption was not a rejection, but the ultimate sacrifice of true love to give one's children a better life than one could provide oneself. I had nothing more than idle curiosity about my bio-parents - who did I look like, who did I take after, who gave me the genes for loving sci-fi books and pets?

But my sister never saw her adoption as the wiser choice. She always saw her adoption as being "given up" by her bio-mom. She always felt rejected and unwanted, no matter how much love and attention our parents showered on us. She sought her bio-parents with desperation from the time she discovered the internet as a teenager. For my sister, life was always a "grass is greener on the other side" sort of situation.

So when she found her bio-mom and discovered the kind of life she could have had, especially when she learned of the fates of her half-sisters who were not fortunate enough to have been adopted out, it gave my sister a newfound respect and admiration for our adopted parents. My sister is much more content now, much more aware of her privileges, and of the love our parents have for her. I think she is finally done seeking some unattainable thing and she is finally making her life really her own life now. That's why I say it was the better ending for her - I think it taught her a lesson she really needed to learn and her life is better because of it.

So all of that is to put into context the following poly analogue story.

My adopted mom and my bio-mom have never met, have never spoken, have never exchanged words except for one letter that my bio-mom wrote as a teenager, basically thanking my adopted mom for taking me. Both have expressed interest in meeting the other, but both have done so in a very passive way, to avoid intruding on the other. On my adopted mom's side, her hesitation was always out of concern for my sister.

My sister's story played out from beginning to end all before I located my bio-mom. So my adopted mom was always afraid that reaching out to my bio-mom would sort of rub it in my sister's face that her story didn't end as happily. Not that any of us intended to do so, but that it might unintentionally hurt my sister to be reminded that she was the one who wanted so bad to find her bio-mom, and I didn't much care one way or the other, yet it was I who had the feel-good reunion story of the year and not her.

My adopted mom was so concerned about making my sister feel left out or somehow "less" that my adopted mom did not open herself up to exploring a relationship with my bio-mom. My adopted mom was afraid that my sister's insecurities about who she was and how loved she was would be triggered if my adopted mom developed a relationship with her other daughter's bio-mom, since my bio-mom was so much "better" than my sister's bio-mom. My adopted mom was afraid that contact with my bio-mom would be a constant reminder to my sister of how much her own bio-mom sucked, and that would reflect on my sister as a person. Keep in mind that my sister never once asked my adopted mom to refrain from contacting my bio-mom. My adopted mom is self-refraining out of concern for my sister's feelings.

I realize this is convoluted, but it's a classic poly/mono story. One partner is insecure, so the other partner places limits on himself about the types of relationships he can explore out of concern for the insecure partner. As I continually explain when people ask about the whole jealousy thing - monogamy never solved the jealousy issue as far as I could tell. The only thing that solves jealousy is communication and a desire to rid oneself of the jealousy that puts one in uncomfortable, but personal-growth situations.

I'm not sure how it came up, but very recently, my adopted mom and my sister talked about this very problem. My sister has had some years to heal and to look at her situation from other perspectives now. My sister believes that she will not have any issues if my adopted mom and my bio-mom contact each other. And I think my adopted mom would very much like to do so, but I think she has been burying that desire as deeply as she can. I believe my adopted mom has felt a drive to thank my bio-mom in much the same way that I did when I met her.

So even in my ultra-monogamous, slightly religious, insecure-and-often-prefers-to-remain-that-way family, we had to learn to deal with jealousy, with placing limits on behaviour to protect someone else's insecurities, and to go through emotionally difficult situations in order to come out the other side with a better understanding of ourselves and the security in ourselves and our relationships to allow our loved ones the freedom to pursue other relationships.

It's not a poly problem, it's a people problem. Shying away from these situations, insisting on holding onto the rules and the insecurities under the blanket of "there is no One Right Way, so stop critiquing my methods", not only does not help your poly relationships, but it hinders your other relationships as well. As is often repeated in poly circles, the skills learned in polyamory are not unique to polyamory, but all relationships everywhere can benefit from them.

My sister is much healthier now; my sister's relationship with my adopted mom is healthier now; my adopted mom is now free to reach out to someone whom she has always wanted to reach out to; our entire family dynamic is in a much better place, with more security and more freedom. Funny how freedom and security often go together. When freedom is curtailed under the banner of "security", it usually doesn't make people any more secure, it just takes away their freedom. This is not a poly problem, it's a people problem.
joreth: (polyamory)
I discovered something today. I was making a newbie poly mistake with my monogamous bio-family.

Most of what I learned about polyamory, I actually learned from my monogamous family. For instance, I've written before about how being adopted was a poly analogue - that being adopted taught me the importance of intentional family. My adopted parents did a very good job of teaching me that love and acceptance into a family had nothing to do with who contributed what genes, and that a strong family was one that chose to be a family.

But today, I learned another lesson that applies in both the poly and monogamous worlds. It wasn't quite as profound - it was an etiquette question - but I am constantly reminding people who have questions about polyamory that, most of the time, it's not a poly problem ... it's a people problem. Here is yet one more example of just such a problem.

I was raised from birth by my adopted family, so to me, they're my family. When I say "my mom", I am referring to the woman who raised me. A handful of years ago, I was fortunate enough to meet the woman who gave birth to me, and all of my living biological family on her side. Because I have spent the better part of 30 years telling people "my adopted mom IS my mom", I was hesitant to call her "mom" when I met her. So, for the past several years, I have been calling my birth mother by her first name.

In the beginning, it was mostly because I attached a certain significance to the word "mom" and the role it went with, whereas this woman was a stranger to me and did not fit the role of "mom", even though she gave birth to me and seemed like a perfectly nice lady. Over time, however, as I got to know her, I continued the naming convention out of concern for my adopted mom.

From the very beginning of the search for my bio-mom, I have been concerned about how my adopted mom would feel about me connecting to my bio-mom. I wanted my adopted mom to know, I mean really know how much I loved her and appreciated her, and that my bio-mom would never, in any way, shape, or form, take her place. Sound familiar?

My adopted mom would always be my mom. She would always be the woman who tried for years, unsuccessfully, to have me; who waited and faced disappointment after disappointment until finally an adoption came through; who picked me up from school when I was sick; who helped me with my homework; who worked in a dead-end job for years because it had good pay and good benefits, to support her family; and who taught me inumerable lessons. No one else can ever take that history away and no one else could ever take her place. When I met my bio-mom, the first thing I said to her was "thank you" for making the decision to put me up for adoption and for choosing my parents. I told my adopted mom, when she asked me if I ever wanted to find my bio-mom, that the only reason I wanted to meet my bio-mom, was to tell her that. And I did.

So I reserved the title "mom" for my adopted mom as a symbol of her specialness in my life and, even when my relationship with my bio-mom turned into an actual friendship and not just some arbitrary "link" due to shared genes, I continued to hold that term in reserve for my adopted mom.

I think I noticed I was doing this somewhere in the back of my mind, but I mostly ignored it until today.

Today, I had a mini-crisis over what to call my bio-grandfather, and it brought out all this silliness to the forefront.

At first, I couldn't remember my bio-grandfather's first name, so I panicked a little about how to refer to him now that I'm about to go visit him again at the end of the year. Before I could embarrass myself by asking "uh, what's my grandfather's name again?", my bio-mom sent me an email in which she referred to him as "Papa".

So then I started to worry, if I call him by a familial title like "Papa", but I don't call her "mom", will she get her feelings hurt? Should I call him by his first name to make it less offensive that I still call her by her first name? OMG what am I going to call these people!

I sent a slightly hysterical SMS to [ profile] datan0de freaking out about what to do. Then I noticed the irony of Miss Poly Manners having an etiquette crisis. Then I noticed the parallel between this and polyamory.

This situation is the same thing as a pre-existing couple beginning to open their relationship, and one of the spouses getting a new partner, but saving certain nicknames only for the spouse. As in: "You must never call your girlfriend Bunnylips - that word is for me as your wife, and me alone."

I have long been of the opinion that reserving a symbol of your specialness that exists outside of yourself is a recipe for disaster because, if you are special due to something outside of you, then that something can always be taken away from you. In other words, if you wear a wedding ring, and that ring is special because it represents your special relationship, then that's fine. But if you refuse to allow your partner to give a ring to anyone else because it is the ring that makes you special, then your specialness can always be taken away from you. If being called "honey" makes you feel loved, terrific. But if the word "honey" is only special because you are the only one to be called "honey", then any other use of the term makes you less special.

Since I know I am special just for being me, it is absolutely impossible for any of my specialness to be taken away from me just because my partner does or says something with someone other than me that he also happens to do or say with me. Calling me "mi amo" is a sign that I am a special person in his life, but it is because I am me that I have that special place, not because he calls me that term. So that he calls his wife "mi amo" also doesn't detract from either of us being special to him. Do you see what I'm saying here? The symbol is representative of our specialness, the symbol does not GIVE us a specialness. We are not special because we have that symbol, that symbol is special because it represents us, and that cannot be reproduced or duplicated, even if someone else gets the same symbol.

So, back to my family. As a kid, all us cousins and friends and neighborhood kids used to call the parents of our friends "mom & dad". We called most adults by their first names, but our especially-close friends' parents were also given the honorifics of "mom & dad". None of the parents ever seemed to feel slighted when their kids called some other kid's parents "mom & dad" because those parents were being called "mom & dad" by those other kids too.

Then, in all the families I knew growing up, anyone who married into a family called everyone in the in-law family by whatever title their spouse called them. In other words, my mom always called my dad's parents "mom & dad" and vice versa. So there was a whole lot of throwing around of the terms "mom & dad" and other familial nicknames.

Which means that, if you combine my whole rant on specialness with the historical precedent, I was being exceedingly silly in worrying about what names to call my bio-mom and bio-grandfather. My adopted mom is still my mom, even if I call my bio-mom "mom", or my hypothetical mother-in-law "mom", or my best friend's mother "mom". And my bio-grandfather isn't taking anything away from my godfather by being addressed by the same name of "Papa", nor is he taking my dad's place just because my nephews call my dad "Papa". My parents are special because of who they are, and they are given those special names because those names symbolize how special they are as people. They are not special because they have those names - those names are special because of who holds them. My mom is not special because I call her mom. The word "mom" is special because it refers to people who fill a special role. My mom has a lot of names. She is "mom", she is "mother" when I'm being a snotty teen, she is her first name, she is Mrs., she is Nani. She is not special because she has those names. All those names are special because they represent her as a unique person, and that unique person is unchanged, no matter what you call her and no matter who else gets called by the same name.

So, rather than continuing to draw arbitrary lines around certain terms, rather than boxing off nicknames as being the connoters of the specialness instead of representative of the recipients' inherent specialness, and rather than stressing myself out about this whole matter, I'm letting go of the habit of reserving generic nicknames. I'm going to call people by their actual titles or nicknames because that's who they are, and expend my energy reminding them of their specialness in ways that actually matter. But I'll still use unique identifiers like real names to third parties, so there isn't any confusion about which "mom" I'm talking about.
Some links to building personal security:

Casual Sex

Oct. 11th, 2011 07:25 pm
joreth: (sex)

Greta Christina wrote a post listing 5 reasons why she not only likes casual sex, but why her casual sex was a positive activity in her life. That has prompted me to write my own.

In her article, she points out that people keep getting baffled by the idea of women who have sex for its own sake. People insist on believing that women "have sex for love, commitment, poor self-control, to manipulate men, to please men, to make babies, to sooth their low self-esteem, and just about any reason at all other than their own pleasure. (While men, of course, are rutting horndogs who just want to stick it in the nearest wet hole available.)"

And, while those reasons certainly do exist for many women, that is not the only reason why women have sex, and, I would dare to say, not the primary reason why women collectively have sex. If anything, I believe those are more often justifications that women give for why they have sex, because they are not supposed to admit to liking it (although there are, of course, women, and men, who do not like sex).

As she says, "They're not asking, "Why do some women have casual sex?" They're asking, "Why on earth would some women have casual sex, when it's so clearly a bad idea that will do them and other women harm and is obviously not in their best interest?" And they're doing this despite research showing that casual sex isn't, in fact psychologically harmful for young adults. They're basing their questions on the common assumption that women's natural state is to keep their legs closed unless they've got their hands on marriage or commitment... and that women who don't are some sort of baffling phenomenon that needs to be explained."

So she thought she'd explain it. And I also thought I'd explain my own reasons in my own words. My own reasons are actually very similar to hers, so on the one hand I'm throwing my weight in to say "yep, other women have sex for pleasure too". But my reasons are not identical to hers, so on the other hand, I'm also saying "there are lots of reasons why women have sex, and procreation or to manipulate men are not always among them."

  1. Fun. This is Also Greta Christina's number one reason. I have sex because it's fun. I have casual sex because it's fun. It feels good to have someone that I find attractive touch and rub bits of me that respond positively to touching and rubbing and it feels good to elicit similar responses in someone else. I have body parts with nerve endings that seem to exist for no other function than to provide physically pleasing sensations and an innate drive to find at least one other person to stimulate those nerve endings. The whole idea of people being baffled by the reason for sex being "because it feels good" or "because it's fun" or "because I want to" is just nonsensical. I know that there are other reasons for having sex, and I'm even going to give my own other reasons. But to be confused by this reason just baffles me.

  2. Experimentation. This is also Greta Christina's number two reason, but it happens to be mine too. As she says, while having casual sex with a lot of different people, I was also having lots of different kinds of sex. I ballroom dance (I promise this is related), but I don't exactly have ballroom training. I have what's called "social dance" training. That's where they teach a bunch of non-dancers some traditional ballroom steps, but then they mix and match the dance partners so that you never get to learn any particular person's style so well that you actually skip learning how to dance and just learn that partner. The object of "social dance" is to be able to dance socially, not to win competitions or put on performances. It's not enough to know where to put your feet. You have to also know how to read the signals your partner is giving you. This is so that you can go to any dance event, like the company holiday party or your cousin's wedding, and be able to cut a rug no matter who you're dancing with.

    This is what casual sex did for me. I didn't just learn technique, and I didn't just learn a particular partner's preferences. I learned how to read my partners, how to experiment, how to try new things, and how to communicate about trying new things. I learned some things about sex that I would never had learned if I hadn't had some of the casual sex partners that I had, and consequently some of my current partners may never have discovered that thing they like that I introduced them to, that I learned from casual sex.

    And I didn't just learn things about other people. I also learned things about myself. I learned that some things about myself that I thought were weird were totally normal, and some things I thought were normal were actually pretty weird. That was a good thing, because it taught me how to better communicate to my partners those things that are particular to me that they might not have experienced before with their previous partners. I learned what works for me and what doesn't, and I learned that some things that I thought "worked" and "didn't work" for me were not universal truths, but things particular to that partner. That taught me to not give up and to try things a couple of times before deciding that it's not for me. And consequently, I learned about some really awesome things that weren't that great the first couple of times.

    Greta Christina makes a very good point when she brings up the fact that it was easier to explore and express her "freakier desires" with fuckbuddies than with romantic partners. When we are not emotionally attached to the outcome of the experience, or the longevity of the relationship, it can be a liberating feeling, which may contrarily allow us the freedom to express things that are harder to express with a trusted, emotionally-connected partner. It sounds counter-intuitive, I know. But if you really really really want your partner to stick around, you might be afraid of revealing something that could send him running for the hills. Whereas if you don't care too much if you freak this guy out, you might feel safer telling him your deep dark secret because it won't hurt as much if he leaves because of it. Ironically, the lack of or lesser amount of emotional intimacy can sometimes increase our feelings of emotional safety.

    And one of the things that casual sex taught me is that I do not like that counter-intuitive feeling of lower intimacy = greater safety. So I learned, from my casual sex partners, how to be more free, more expressive, and more exploratory with my romantic, long-term partners. In fact, I intentionally sought out a long-term romantic partner who would help me to break down this particular wall. Which, by the way, is something else that casual sex taught me - how to approach and go after relationships that I want and to feel comfortable in engaging in relationships that serve a particular function or purpose, providing that the other person is aware of and agrees to that function or purpose.

    I've learned A LOT about love and relationships from casual sex.

  3. Pleasure without unwanted commitment. Yep, again, this is also Greta Christina's third reason and mine too. But the reasons why we didn't want commitment and why we were single are different. Most of the time, being single wasn't exactly a "choice" for me. Most of the time, being single was because I couldn't find someone who was interested in me, or who was interested in me but wanted different things from a relationship than I wanted. I'm a very independent sort of person (no, it's true!) and a lot of young men and teens seem to be afraid of independence. I was engaged twice before I was old enough to legally drink, both at the urging of my male partners, not because I fell for any of that "a woman isn't worth anything without a husband" crap. My parents were adamant that I not get "tied down" until after I graduated college and started a career - a career that I was expected to maintain after marriage, and my catholic high school was all about female empowerment and female contributions to society that included, but was not limited to, producing the next generation. So both of my engagements were not because I was the one pushing for them.

    But I never really wanted to be "single" either. I just wanted to have relationships with people where I didn't get lost in the relationship. I wanted to still be me and I wanted him to still be him, but I didn't seem to be finding that. I kept finding people who wanted to be "us", as if we were a single entity. Y'know, two halves of a whole and all that. I've seen what happens to people when they lose themselves in a relationship and I think that's horrifying.

    On top of that, for a large portion of my dating life, I was in school or working a job with unusual demands, so I just didn't have the resources to be that responsible for another person's emotional fulfillment. I had papers to write and projects to finish, and later when I started working, I had to cancel appointments and dates because work called and I had to go. Romantic partners all seemed to want more of my time and attention than I had to give, and they were making their emotional satisfaction with the relationship dependent on how much time and attention I gave them. Casual partners did not do that. I even had some very intimate and emotionally close relationships with some of my fuckbuddies. But that lack of intention, that lack of pressure to serve someone else's needs that comes from a casual relationship allowed me to do those things that were important to me like school and work while still maintaining some kind of connection to another human being, as well as have fun sexy times that I am so biologically driven to desire.

    I'm finding, now that I'm older and polyamorous, that there is much less of that kind of intense, fearful stranglehold on me as a romantic partner. Maybe other people have different experiences. If I were to judge by Sex And The City, I might think that men have the exact opposite problem as they get older, with women becoming more intense, more fearful, and more strangleholdy, as they start to think that their options are dwindling and they're running out of time. But I don't think that's universal, and I think a lot of people, including women, are finding more of a comfortable interdependence with their partners as both they get older and as our society matures. So with the apparent abundance now of men who aren't trying to "lock this thing down" and who don't expect me to be responsible for their every happiness, I find I am much more likely, nay, actively interested, in developing closer emotional bonds with people as well as more intentional commitments. And, as a consequence, my plate is full and I just don't have the time for casual partners anymore because I have a job, I have hobbies, I have sex, and I have emotionally intimate relationships that are now all taking my limited time.

  4. Confidence. Greta Christina actually lists her #4 as "independence and confidence", but I was already independent. Casual sex didn't teach me that. If anything, casual sex taught me how to be interdependent instead of so independent. But it did give me confidence. Growing up, I was the geek that everyone picked on, except I wasn't accepted by the geeks either. I was too skinny, too introverted, too smart, and too socially awkward to be accepted by the cool kids, and yet I was terrified of being lumped in with the geeks so I didn't fit in with them because I didn't seem to be smart enough and I wasn't interested in comics or band or gaming or astronomy or any of the other geeky things that bound them together. From an early age, I was told I was ugly and weird and I'd never have a boyfriend.

    So when the first guy who expressed an interest in me came along, I was flattered and flabbergasted. And when he dumped me after making out with me but before his friends could find out that we were "dating", I was heartbroken. Eventually, though, I started to realize that people did like me. Some people thought I was attractive (which I still have trouble believing, to this day) and some people enjoyed being around me, and sometimes both of those types of people were found in the same individual. But the ability to turn someone's head and to make him feel good in bed, and his desire to make me feel good in bed made me feel strong, powerful, likable, and attractive.

    The problem with this explanation is that it sounds as though I am using sex for self-esteem. And maybe I did when I was a teenager. But the implications with labeling it "using sex for self-esteem" is that this is an inherently flawed and possibly dangerous method for bolstering self-esteem, that it won't work, that it's a desperate grab for something by desperate (read: pathetic) people who will never reach what they are grasping for.

    And that's not how it was for me at all. I learned confidence and self-love through casual sex in much the same way that I also learned confidence and self-love through public speech class and drama and, surprisingly enough, through the sci-fi community and conventions. For some reason, if a person wants to develop self-confidence, and they take a drama class, we don't think of them as being "desperate" or warn them that drama will only make them feel worse about themselves in the morning. Like Greta Christina, casual sex taught me the power of adventure. Through experimentation and exploration, I learned to be adventerous, both in bed and out of bed. And being adventerous is being self-confident. I am willing to take risks, to explore, to try new things, because my confidence has taught me that even bad experiences, as Greta and my old college film producer both say, can make for good stories. This extends to every area of my life. I got into rock climbing because of a casual sex affair, and now I walk an 18-inch steel girder 60 feet in the air because it's fun and it's thrilling and because I know I can. My self-confidence doesn't make me reckless. If anything, I have also learned what I can't do and what I shouldn't do. As Francis Bacon says,

    "Your true self can be known only by systematic experimentation, and controlled only by being known."

    Casual sex taught me that long before I ever heard the quote. Knowing what I can and can't do, and knowing that adventure and curiosity brings more experiences and more self-understanding, makes me self-confident.

  5. Polyamory. This is different from Greta's #5, but I think it's related. Casual sex led me to polyamory. I had all the same fucked up ideas about relationships that any other person can have, growing up in this society. I thought that, when I started to fall in love with someone new, it must mean that I was no longer "in love" with the person I was dating at the time. I thought that merely being attracted to someone new meant that there was something wrong with my relationships. I wanted sexual diversity and excitement, but thought I was wrong for wanting them. I wanted both lack of "commitment" and emotional intimacy, but believed I could only have one or the other.

    Every time I got fed up with the suffocating side-effects that comes from dating emotionally-insecure and immature monogamous people, I would swing to the far extreme and go for totally emotion-less casual sex partners - and as many as I could find. Eventually, I would get irritated at the lack of emotional intimacy and find a single person I could bond with to provide it. Which would then spark another round of getting-antsy, suffocating possession, too much expectation, etc., which would push me into more casual sex relationships.

    After a few rounds of that, I saw the pattern. Monogamy taught me what I didn't want out of a relationship - that suffocation, that sense of possession, that emotional insecurity in my partners, that desire to place all their expectations out of life on me, that loss of identity for the merging of two personalities. This doesn't mean that all monogamy is like that. It means that, through my monogamous experiences, this is what I learned that I don't want.

    But casual sex taught me what I do want - diversity and intimacy simultaneously, freedom and responsibility simulteanously, adventure and stability, and the encouragement for each individual to explore and grow and become more of themselves without the fear that doing so would harm the relationship. This is what I got out of my casual sex relationships, and it is what taught me that these sorts of seemingly opposing wants were possible. This is what my polyamory looks like. Even though I rarely have casual sex partners while I have "serious" relationship partners, those things that I wanted from my relationships, and got from my casual sex partners, is what led me to discover the word, the practice, and the community, of polyamory, which led me to my current polyamorous family, which is everything I ever wanted in relationships, even before I knew what I wanted.

I have nothing but positive feelings for my casual sex experiences - even those that didn't work out the way I wanted them to at the time. They were good for me in many ways and I benefited from them greatly. If given the opportunity, I would have casual sex experiences in the future too. The only reason I don't now is because I'm polysaturated - I don't have time, emotional energy, or sexual capacity for any romantic or sexual relationships other than the ones I currently have, an that includes even low-maintenance casual sex. As long as both people have similar goals and expectations for the relationship, I recommend casual sex as an enjoyable experience with the proper safety precautions.

Greta ends with "It gets better". Like her, not all of my individual casual sex experiences were good and not all were done for healthy reasons. But, also like her, not all of my relationships were good and not all were done for healthy reasons. But, again like her, I got better as I went along. I learned and I grew and I had fewer of those bad experiences and more of those positive experiences. Just like my serious romantic relationships. Each one was an improvement on the one before it, with only a sprinkling of setbacks here and there.

And my serious romantic relationships got better because of my casual sex experiences. My serious romantic relationships are better because of the confidence I gained and the insight about myself that I gained. They're better because I learned about interdependence and stopped holding on so tightly to strict independence. They're better because my sexuality is diverse and I'm more knowledgable about my body. They're better because I learned how to communicate and negotiate better. They're better because I learned to just enjoy sex and pleasure for their own sakes, and because I learned, through having casual sex and non-traditional relationships, that things don't have to be permanent to be valuable, which, in turn, has made me receptive, and therefore available to enjoy so many more types of relationships, and so many more types of experiences, than those only-til-death-do-we-part-has-meaning-and-value types.

Not everyone will have good casual sex experiences, and not everyone will be able to enjoy them. And that's fine. But casual sex is not inherently bad, and, in fact, has quite a few benefits going for it, for those open to exploring them. Casual sex benefited me and my current long-term, serious, committed relationships are better because of the casual sex experiences I've had.

joreth: (Super Tech)
Only Yes Means

Yes We've all been raised under the umbrella of No Means No, that campaign by feminists in the'70s to combat rape and sexual assault. It's the idea that when anyone says "no", there is no "but your eyes are saying yes" or any mixed message at all that a rapist can fall back on. No means no. Period*.

And I completely agree. There is no argument from me here whatsoever.

And yet, I do have a problem with this campaign. The problem I have is not that I disagree with it in any way, but that it doesn't go far enough. It does not solve the problem. When a masked man jumps out of the bushes and drags some girl screaming to the ground, he is very well aware that no means no. And when a "nice but clueless" guy pressures a girl into sex because she's giving him mixed signals, he's well aware that no means no too, he just never heard it. In fact, I wrote before about the study that suggests that people understand rejection even if the word "no" is not actually used. So "no means no" is not the real problem. The jackass "she totally wanted it" sort know damn well that no means no, and they're deliberately ignoring it.

The bigger problem is in those grey areas, those times between two people who have some sort of pre-existing relationship, where ambiguity fucks up the picture.

We have a social agreement of ambiguity, and I think that's the real, underlying problem. It has to do with things like The Rules, and lyrics from the Billy Joel song "nice girls wouldn't tell you what you should do", and popular media (like romantic comedies and love songs) that says our One True Love will be a mind-reader so we shouldn't have to be explicit. If he can't read our minds, then he's not The One, because he doesn't know us.


I have two stories that are very similar, but I have opposing viewpoints on them.

In the first story, some of you may already be familiar with the incident on Fetlife. A woman had a pre-existing resistance-play relationshp with a man who is experienced in kink and in the kink community, and also in poly and the poly community. They had negotiated their boundaries, set the ground rules, and all was pretty good. Until one night, he lulled her into thinking no play was going to happen, and then immediately jumped into a resistance scene. Well, OK, awkward, but still within their boundaries. Except that she wasn't into it. For some reason, she found herself unable to say "no"; in fact, she found herself unable to say anything at all. So she tried to tell him that she wasn't into it by just going limp and not responding or fighting back.

This, by the way, is a very common defense technique, and one I have utilized myself on many occasion. It's still my default, instinctual reaction, not something I do consciously, but only when I feel pressured or threatened. I lose the ability to speak and I go completely passive as my mind wanders off somewhere safe, where this bad thing just isn't happening to me. Mine was developed when I was a teenager because the guys in my neighborhood only hurt me worse if I fought back. So I learned to just hold still and eventually they would get bored with my lack of response and go away.

Anyway, so there she was, limp and unresponsive, and adjusting her mind to accepting the situation until he tired and let her go. When suddenly, he did something that they most certainly had not pre-negotiated. He penetrated her without protection. They had never had PIV penetration before and certainly had not had risky activities without protection. As a prominent member of both kink and poly communities, this is not a case of "he didn't know better" and "she didn't say no". This was flat-out stupid.

So, the girl shied away from accusing him of rape and admitted her part in getting herself into that situation. She admitted that she never actually said "no" and that resistance-play was part of their relationship. But, in this situation, with people who are clearly part of a culture that makes a HUGE fuss about consent and negotiated boundaries, I think of this as sexual assault. He, of course, defends himself with "but she didn't say no".

And THAT'S the problem with this concept.

The other story involves a friend of mine from high school. She and I and about 5 guys we knew (2 of whom were our boyfriends) were out at Denny's late one night, when another guy with a group of his friends walks in, and my friend goes quiet and sort of shrinks in on herself. We ask what the problem is and she tells us that the guy who just walked in raped her a few weeks prior. Well, it took both her and myself to bodily wrestle our boyfriends and the rest of the group out of the restaurant to prevent them from going over to his table and beating the shit out of the kid right then and there (he was maybe 17 or 18 years old, she was 16 or 17, our boyfriends & friends were all 18-21 - this could have gotten them jail time).

We get our menfolk outside and somewhat calmed down, and I ask my friend to tell us what happened. So she told us about meeting these guys on the bus, or in the mall, or somewhere stupid like that, and hanging out with them for the entire day. That night, they all went to a motel and rented a room, where someone brought beer and they hung out drinking and watching TV. Some movie came on that she got into watching, but the guys wanted to go out and do something. So she said that she would stay there to watch TV, and the guy in question volunteered to stay with her.

So they sat and drank and watched TV. Eventually they started making out. She had been flirting with him all day, so it's really not unreasonable for him to have thought she might be receptive to making out. And she was. But the making out led to sex. So I asked her if she ever told the guy no. She hadn't. I asked her if she ever did anything to imply no. She hadn't. I asked her how in the hell was he supposed to know that she didn't want to have sex. She had no answer.

Our boyfriends and the other guy friends in our group stopped chomping at the bit to go back and beat up the rapist. Suddenly, they could see themselves in the same position - a girl who doesn't want to but won't say so, a girl who flirts, who drinks, who makes out with them, who does nothing to stop the sex from happening, who then cries "rape" the next day when they honestly had no idea she wasn't into it and would genuinely have stopped had they known.

I have a lot of sympathy for this kid, and I still maintain that what happened wasn't rape. Maybe it was non-consensual or maybe it was buyer's remorse, but I have a strong aversion to painting this kid with the label "rapist" because we have no evidence that he wouldn't have immediately stopped if she had just said so. I am very hesitant to put him in the same category as the guys I grew up with who beat the shit out of me and popped my arm out of the shoulder socket and locked me in closets and pinned me against walls. And with the totally fucked up legal system regarding sex crimes, I definitely do not want to ruin his life over a mixed message that I can completely understand him misunderstanding.

This story is also part of the problem.

There are a variety of reasons why people do not say no when they should. Sometimes it's because they internalize the Madonna/whore concept. Sometimes it's because they don't really know what they want. Sometimes it's because they don't want to hurt someone's feelings. Sometimes it's because they're afraid to say no. There are consequences to saying no. In the best case scenario, the consequence to saying no is hurting someone's feelings for rejecting them. But all too often, the consequences are much worse than that.

There's the consequence of being accused of being a tease. There's the consequence of being talked into sex, of him "wearing her down". There's a social consequence if the story gets out, either the "truth" that she's a cocktease, or a lie that she had sex anyway. And, there's the rare-but-not-as-rare-as-we'd-like-to-think consequence of being physically assaulted.

This doesn't just go for women towards men. It works this way for all genders, and it even works this way in non-sexual settings. For instance, how many of us are familiar with the phrase "I'd love to, but I can't"? We all tend to phrase our rejections in ways that imply conditions beyond our control, rather than not wanting to. It's part of the social contract - we don't want to hurt someone's feelings, or there may be worse consequences to a rejection unless we can come up with an excuse that justifies the rejection. I know that I, and many of my readers, say that we would love it if people would be more honest about rejection, because an excuse just makes us want to find a solution but there's nothing we can do about "I don't want to". But the social conditions of our culture preclude that.

And this is where Only Yes Means Yes comes in.

I would like to continue the spread of "No Means No" as a concept and to encourage people, women especially, to stand their ground and be more forthright about their boundaries. But "no means no" requires people to do just that - police their boundaries. And by the time a person is in a position to be policing her boundaries, she (or he) is already in a vulnerable position and often not able to. It makes the potential victims responsible for their own safety. "No Means No" is still absolutely true. But it's not good enough.

We ought to be putting the burden of responsibility for other people's safety on those who would be compromising that safety. And that's what "yes means yes" is all about. This concept assumes that the answer is ALWAYS "no", unless and until you hear a clear, unambiguous, explicit "yes", instead of assuming the answer is "yes" until you hear a "no" or that the answer is "keep trying until I say stop". So that there are no grey areas, no fuzzy borders, no mixed messages, no ambiguity. This doesn't just go for the first time, and it doesn't just go for penetrative intercourse. It goes for all sexual activities, all the time, even with pre-established relationships.

The biggest opponents of "Only Yes Means Yes" tend to be men who claim that they won't ever get laid if they wait for a yes because women  don't ever say yes, even when they want sex. First of all, boo hoo. If the only way you can have sex is to find women who are afraid to say no, I'm really not very sympathetic to your sense of entitlement. Second of all, if all the men in the world just up and stopped fucking anyone who refused to give consent when they really did want sex, I guarantee this whole "nice girls don't say yes" bullshit will go right out the window.

Now, since all the men in the world will NOT just up and stop fucking anyone who refused to give consent, I understand that those individual men who do might find themselves, initially, having trouble finding female partners. Because there is still slut-shaming and it will take time for the idea of active consent to percolate throughout society. Women can often be afraid to say "no", but they are also often afraid to say "yes". But women owning up to wanting sex is a rapidly growing demographic in our society, so I'm certain that these hard-up guys will find women who can say yes if they hold out for it, as long as they're not doing the creepy-guy-entitlement thing that puts so many women off. And, in that case, it's not an issue of not finding women who give active consent, it's an issue of creepy-guy-entitlement.

I've also written before about an encounter an ex of mine had on a date. He had asked out this girl a few times, they seemed to be real dates, and they had kissed a little. After a while, when he felt it was time to progress past the kissing stage, he found himself sitting on her couch after another date. She was sending him mixed signals. She was flirting and laughing and leaning towards him, but she also had her knees up between them and was hugging a pillow. So he asked her for a kiss. She complied, but he said her kiss was very passive, as per her usual M.O. He could not tell from body language if she was interested in him or just humoring him.

So he just asked her outright if their relationship was going anywhere and if there was hope for some sex in the future. She answered "well, it's all about the chase, isn't it?" Again, I find myself feeling a lot of sympathy for the guy here. What the fuck is that supposed to mean? Does she want him to pursue her through her ambivilent signals? Is that a hint to keep pushing? What a line a guy has to walk! He said he had visions of addressing a judge saying "well, no, she didn't say 'yes', but she strongly implied that I should ignore her resistence to me." Yeah, that's going to go over well in a court of law!

So he said "no, if I have to chase someone, that means she's running away from me," which I still think is the best answer to that kind of question. That was their last date. As of the last time I spoke to him about it, he still wasn't entirely sure if she was trying to reject him without rejecting him, or if she really wanted to play some kind of coy maiden game. But he didn't feel he had the freedom to find out which. And if she genuinely wasn't interested in him, he genuinely didn't want to force his attention on someone who didn't want it.

So, we have a culture in which many women (and some men) are stuck in the middle, damned if they do and damned if they don't, where they can't say no, but they can't say yes either. In both campaigns, No Means No and Only Yes Means Yes both require a society-wide paradigm shift. But No Means No requires people to defend themselves against unwanted attention. Which they should, but is going to be much harder to accomplish than Yes Means Yes, which requires people who already want sex to admit that they want sex. I think that paradigm shift will be easier to accomplish and healthy for society in general. It would remove those grey areas of date rape where it really isn't a clear cut case of assault, it would make things more fair for men who are typically put in the pursuer role whether they want to be there or not and when there isn't a clear signal of whether they *should* be there or not, and it would require people, but women in particular, to own their own sexuality, to know themselves, and to communicate their wishes to their partners. And if everyone is required to actively consent to sexual activity, there can't be any more slut-shaming, or else no one would ever get laid and the next generation will never be born.

Only Yes Means Yes does not solve all the world's problems, nor even all the rape problems. There would still be actual, real, violent rapists who don't care if their partners say yes or no, and there would still be cases of authority abuse where the rapist uses his position of authority to coerce his partner into saying yes. This is not a magic bullet or a cure-all, there aren't any of those. But I think the No Means No campaign has done its job and reached about as far as it can reach (in those societies that subscribe to it) and now it needs to be coupled with Only Yes Means Yes. The two work together, but Only Yes Means Yes takes us further into a sexually healthy society than No Means No can do alone.

I did not come up with this campaign. In fact, I couldn't even remember where I saw it when I started talking about it some time ago.  But apparently there's a book called Yes Means Yes!: Visions of Female Sexual Power & a World Without Rape . There's also a blog with several bloggers contributing, including the editor of the book (link to the book at the blog). I haven't read either the book or more than a couple of posts on the blog. I'm not even positive this is where I first saw the campaign. But I'm not the one to come up with this concept. I'm just embracing a concept that I think has the potential to end a very real social problem - ambiguity in sexual relations and repression of female sexuality.

There is also a fantastic article called Manufacturing Consent: Is It Rape? all about the ways that people (he focuses on women) are coerced into giving consent. It goes into explicit detail and categorizes the different ways that people can find themselves giving consent when they really aren't consenting. If we are to move towards a society that embraces active consent, these are the dangers we need to watch out for. These are the ways the active consent system can be abused. Personally, I take my cues from the standards the BDSM community claims to hold (even if they sometimes don't). When I'm in the mood to play one of these chase-me games, when I want a little "romance", or even when I want the freedom to say "no" and not mean it, I say so up front. I negotiate with my partners when these types of games that so many of us actually enjoy are appropriate. And THAT is active consent. Clear communication, unambiguous answers, explicit negotiation. With these tools, I and my partners can give active consent and still allow for the "fun" of ambiguous play. And I believe that Only Yes Means Yes as a paradigm, as a social contract, is how we achieve this harmony, this compromise, of so-called calculating consent and the fun-times games some people like to play.

There's also a new symbol, for those who are into symbols. In order to facilitate spreading the word, I will be sporting a new badge in my LJ sidebar and encouraging others to display similar symbols where appropriate. Below are a collection of images, derived from a new symbol intended to represent the concept of Only Yes Means Yes, originally created by someone on Fetlife that was then modified. Take them, use them, modify them, or make your own. I'm encouraging the use of any stylistic Y or "yes" or "OYMY" to represent the concepts of Only Yes Means Yes, female sexual empowerment, active consent, and open communication about sexuality. But if you're not into creating symbols and logos, you can use these:
Red stylized Y (font: Algerian). The red comes from the color of the title on the book's cover. Single color round symbol with stylized Y (font: Algerian) and the two rape awareness slogans. This image is intended for public domain and left as a single color to give individuals the freedom to apply their own creativity with colors or changing the text. Red stylized Y (font: Algerian) on black circle with the two rape awareness slogans. Color scheme comes from the book. Red stylized Y (font: Algerian) on black circle without the two rape awareness slogans. Color scheme comes from the book. Red stylized Y (font: Algerian) on black BDSM triskelion with the Only Yes Means Yes slogan. Color scheme comes from the book. The No Always Means No was removed from this variation because in BDSM, sometimes "no" does not mean "no". However, in BDSM, when "no" does not mean "no", some other word is established to substitute for "no", so the concept is still valid, it's just a different word. One could say "The Safeword Always Means No" instead. Red stylized Y (font: Algerian) on the black and blue stripes of the BDSM Pride flag with the Only Yes Means Yes slogan. Color scheme comes from the book. The No Always Means No was removed from this variation because in BDSM, sometimes "no" does not mean "no".  However, in BDSM, when "no" does not mean "no", some other word is established to substitute for "no", so the concept is still valid, it's just a different word. One could say "The Safeword Always Means No" instead.
A horizontal slogan that can be used as a web banner that includes the red stylized Y (font: Algerian) and both rape awareness slogans.
All of these images are also available on physical items to help spread the concept like t-shirts and coffee mugs at Only Yes Means Yes - website.


This video was brought to my attention in the comments, and I think it deserves to be included here.  It's a standup comedy routine about a guy who is faced with a girl who won't ask for sex and expects the guy to just "go for it".  The video seems to end on the punchline for the bit, and it is the punchline, but the bit continues for another line that I happen to think should have been included, so I'm adding the transcript of that line beneath the video:

He goes on to say sarcastically: "I'm gettin' kind of a rapey vibe from this girl I dunno. I suspect she might enjoy being raped, maybe that's her thing.  I don't want to ask first and ruin it so I'll just take a shot and rape her, what the hell.  What's the worst that can happen after all?"

No means no is important.  But it's not enough.  We must be able to say yes when we mean yes and we must all stop assuming that consent is given until it's taken away.  Instead, we must assume that consent is not given until it is.  And thank you to all of you who think your partner's consent to sex trumps your feelings of entitlement to that sex.  If she doesn't say yes, it's a no.  If she wants to say yes but can't in some unambiguous manner, she needs serious help.  Wait until she gets that help and/or look elsewhere.

*For the moment, let's leave BDSM out of it. Yes, there are times when the word "no" doesn't mean the concept "no", but in those situations, they are explicitly agreed upon where all parties involved understand that, and there is usually some other signal that takes the place of the word "no" and clearly means "no" in its place, so the idea behind the slogan still holds, even if the sounds made do not sound like "no".
joreth: (Dobert Demons of Stupidity)
I'm listening to a podcast episode right now that's really bouncing around a variety of topics, but the main theme is how we cannot have logic without emotion and how thought is a physical process. I don't want to get into such a science-heavy topic because that's not the point I want to make and I'm fuzzy on the nitty-gritty details. But within the larger topic, the host and the guest got to a point of conservativism vs. liberalism. And the guest (whose name escapes me) said something that kind of boggled my mind. And I'm still thinking it through.

Anyone who is familiar with the Skeptics Movement(TM) knows about the so-called schism between the "militant atheists" and the apologists (and, I just have to point out how much I fucking hate the term "militant" with regards to atheists. "Militant" is taking up arms in support of your cause, not writing fucking blog posts and books, no matter how loudly one yells "there is no god!" Ahem.) So, in the one camp are those who say we should say it loud, say it proud and stop being wishy-washy, nambsy-pambsy, mealy-mouthed cowtowers to the conservative Right. The other camp says we should be nice and try to find common ground and just accommodate them a little bit because we don't want to alienate anyone.

Ya'll should know which side of this debate I fall on.

The camp that sides with volume and strength has pointed out that the conservative Right has been incredibly successful at winning their battles by using these exact methods. The difference is, the argument goes, that we aren't *just* being loud, we're also backing up our shouting with facts that support what we're yelling about, so we're loud, but we're also right. The other camp says that no one likes to be yelled at, so the middle ground will side with the conservatives just because they don't like our tone. And besides, we don't *like* the other side, so we shouldn't emulate them! We should be distancing ourselves from them, not copying their methods.

Well, according to this scientist, there's a reason for for all this. *He* says that fMRI tests suggest that the reason why people can hold contradictory beliefs in their minds at the same time is because when one section of the brain that corresponds to one type of belief is firing, it cancels out the other section, the one that corresponds to the contradictory belief. It's like a breaker - if you activate conservativism, you shut off liberalism and vice versa.

So, he says, when a conservative wants to convince a middle-grounder who holds a some liberal and some conservative views (which is pretty much most of us) of the conservative position, the conservative doesn't try to find middle ground. Instead, he moves further to the Right because he's trying, basically, to deactivate the liberal portion of the listener's brain by pounding it with conservativism.

Yeah, seriously.

Oh, I'm sure the conservative isn't aware that he's doing this - it's not some rational, science-based game plan. Somewhere along the line, the fundies noticed that the more extremely conservative they got, the more followers they got. And they exploit that trick. So when they're shouting from the pulpits sounding like complete lunatics to people like me, others are hearing them and their liberal breaker gets flipped, and the conservative side of their brains kick in and start thinking "y'know? That guy kinda makes sense!"


The guest then went on to say that the Democrats just haven't figured this out yet. The Democrats (he specified them) are doing the apologist/find-common-ground method to try and win converts. So they moderate their message and tone it down and go a bit more conservative in their effort to sound friendly towards conservatives. And that doesn't win them converts, it just increases the ranks of conservatives. Which is why we have the Wingnut Party and the Republican-Light Party.

So, because I don't know who this guest is, and because I don't know the science behind this, I hesitate to actually endorse it. But, and I'm fully aware of confirmation bias here, this certainly fits my own observations of the world. I continue to be baffled, no, shocked absolutely dumbstruck, at how these wackaloons can get such large followings. I listen to these idiots and the pure bile that comes out of their mouths and I think "how in the world can anyone hear this shit and take them seriously?" And I have no explanation for that, because there really is no lack of intelligence on the conservative side. In fact, quite a lot of conservatives are extremely intelligent. So I just don't get it.

The fundagelicals and the Rethuglicans (I use those slurs intentionally, because not every theist or Republican is the barking moon-bat crazy that these terms more accurately describe) appear to actually be winning converts and followers by doing exactly those things that make my jaw drop - by being extreme and totally out there. That also explains why, in spite of the reasoned arguments of the Don't Be A Dick lobby claiming that "people are swayed by niceness", the biggest names in the skeptics, atheist, and/or liberal movements are considered dicks - PZ Myers, Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, and all the most well-known comedians who are most certainly Not Nice to religionists such as George Carlin, Jon Stewart, Billy Connelly, Eddie Izzard, Tim Minchin, Matt & Trey, Penn & Teller, etc. It's true that there are plenty of nice and famous people too, but if the apologist argument was true - that nobody likes to be yelled at (which, technically, is not what's happening, but that's another rant) and people prefer nice guys, then these famous Dicks shouldn't be so popular.

And, according to this podcast, the reason why is because inundating a person who holds a combination of liberal and conservative viewpoints with an extreme version of one or the other viewpoint activates that side and deactivates the other, so that the listener's decisions are then made using the emotions that are more prominantly featured by that particular viewpoint. In other words, the more extreme conservatives win converts while the moderate liberals trying to be nice just chalk up more points for the conservatives.

And that's a scary thought.
joreth: (Super Tech)
I'm reading a book right now and there's a recurring theme that's pissing me off. The reason it's pissing me off is because I see this same theme in society around me, and it happens to be an extremely personal issue. The issue is adoption.

We have an incredibly fucked up idea of family and parentage in our society. People are really, strongly, obsessively invested in who has whose genes. And I don't mean the biological drive to procreate. I get that we have this drive to make sure we have progeny to ensure the continuation of our genes. But we have lots of ways of making sure that we continue on, and our genes do just fine on their own without our interference. For instance, it turns out that homosexuality actually *helps* procreation. Let's say that Sam and Suzy have 2 children, Bobby and Betty. Bobby is gay and Betty is straight. Betty gets married and Bobby doesn't, because he's gay. That leaves Bobby available to assist Betty and her husband Johnny raise their little tykes, with babysitting duties, gifts, maybe even more substantial contributions to the household. Bobby is Sam and Suzy's insurance policy to make sure that Betty's kids (Sam and Suzy's grandkids) have an edge and therefore out-compete the kids growing up next door, who don't have the benefit of an extra uncle to dote on them.

That's an oversimplification of course, the point is that we have a variety of ways to ensure the propagation of genes, and some of those ways might not seem, on the surface, to be beneficial, but they are.

So, what does that have to do with adoption? Well, my position is that this obsession with whose kids are whose goes far beyond what can be explained with genes. It has to do with memes. Social memes. Those nasty little mind-worms that infect societies and dig in deeper than some biological viruses. Somewhere along the line, we collectively decided it was appropriate, desired, and necessary for men to guard the vaginas to make sure that nothing went in and nothing came out that didn't "belong" to the men guarding them. This idea gained traction quickly and took root deeply to the point where we are now looking for biological justifications to excuse the brutality of men against women and against other men (but mostly against women).

And this meme works going the other direction too - children who are socialized with this kind of bullshit are terrified at the thought that mommy or daddy might not be their "real" mommy or daddy. Even adult children are terrified about this. The worst insult a man can be given is that he doesn't know who supplied half of his genes (bastard). Even as adults, the mere thought that one's parents might not be one's "real" parents is enough to make grown adults resort to violence.

I am adopted. I have always known that I was adopted. Although I did not meet my biological mother until I was 30, and I have never met my biological father, I grew up knowing the story of my birth and my biological lineage. I knew that my bio-parents were teenagers when I was born, and that was the reason I was given up for adoption. I knew that I had European ancestry on my mother's side and Latin American ancestry on my father's side. I knew that my birth-mother was given a choice as to who my adopted parents would be and she chose the couple who raised me, although they never met. I knew all of this from the moment I was able to understand it. And I was always OK with it.

My adopted mom (whom I always call "mom") has always made it very clear to me that I may not have come from her stomach, but I did come from her heart. My adopted parents raised me from the time I was 15 days old. They stayed up with me at night when I was sick, they helped me with my homework, they dried my tears when I was so panicked at the thought of spending another day with the school bullies that I made myself sick. My adopted parents have always been parents in every sense that matters.

My birth mother (whom I usually refer to as "mother") was also held in high esteem. Something else that my adopted parents made sure to instill in me was a deep and profound respect for the woman who made the ultimate sacrifice in my adoption. I can't imagine how difficult it must have been to have carried a baby to term, given birth, and then given that infant to someone else, knowing that she would never see her baby again. She never did see me. She asked not to, afraid she would change her mind if she did. This woman, this girl, didn't abandon me. She made the best decision possible - to allow someone else to raise her child so that her child had the best possible chance for survival, because she was not the best possible choice.

In the book that I'm reading, the main character was raised by his father in a small village. His mother died before he had any real memory of her. The main character doesn't look anything like his father, and in fact, doesn't look anything like anyone in the village. He stands out like a Norseman raised in the south of Spain. But as he travels through the story, he learns hints that he may not be genetically related to his father. He learns that his father left the village for a couple of years and returned home with a baby. His father told him that he had been born in that village, so he vehemently denies this rumor. Every time it is suggested that he may have been a foundling, he shouts his name and that he is the son of his father.

And every time he does that I want to reach through the pages of the book, grab him by the throat, and throttle some sense into him. Of COURSE that's his name; having different genetic donors doesn't change that! Your name is what people call you, and having some other ancestry doesn't change what people call you, or what they have always called you in the past. Of COURSE that's his father; having some stranger impregnate some other stranger doesn't erase the last 20 years of the man he thinks of as his father, as he taught him to read, taught him to farm, taught him to fire a bow and arrow. That his genes come from people he's never met DOES NOT CHANGE WHO HE IS OR WHO HIS FATHER IS. It *might* explain some things about himself that don't make sense without that information, such as his coloring. But it does not change history and it does not erase those relationships with people he currently has.

And this book keeps pissing me off because I see people going through this same situation all the time. I see people panic at the thought that the people they love, who raised them, might have a genetic code that is 3% different from theirs, instead of 2.9% different. And the reason why that reaction pisses me off is because it is a direct accusation to people like me, people who were raised by someone other than their genetic donors. Every time I say I don't want children, and people ask what happens if I change my mind, and I say that I'll adopt, every time they say "but what if you want children of your own someday?" Fuck you. Any child I adopt WOULD be my own goddamn child. I think it's frighteningly telling that these people actually believe that someone could possibly deliberately raise a child and not love it as one's "own".

It's so terrible, so awful, this idea that we might not be blood-related to our parents. Someone who really thinks that is so busy freaking out over that thought, that he doesn't usually stop to consider that, if it's so awful that he is not related to his parents, then it must be just as awful for me to not be related to my parents. And I am deeply resentful of the idea that my parents are not my "real" parents.

My parents are every bit my "real" parents. Not giving birth to me did not make their sacrifices for me any less, or diminish their love even a single iota. There was never even a single moment of "she's not my REAL daughter, so I only love her a little bit". I, and my adopted sister, were the children my parents always wanted. We gave them every bit as much love, and as much grief, as any "natural" child ever gave her parents.

This idea of "natural" offspring is, I think, one of the most harmful, destructive memes we have the misfortune of propagating. It causes men to turn violent, to destroy women's bodies, to kill. It causes women to doubt their very humanity when they can't have children "of their own". It causes relationships to be destroyed at even the suspicion of other genetic material in the vicinity. It causes children to doubt their very identities because we do not encourage people to develop identities on their own merits and personalities, but on their relationships to other people. Who is this strange child if it's not "mine"? Who am I if I'm not related to my parents?

That child is the same child he has always been, and I am always me, no matter who my parents are. Regardless of where my DNA came from, my parents raised me and shaped the person I am now. I am the culmination of biological matter, values instilled by the people who raised me, exposure to ideas from society around me, and my own accomplishments. I am Joreth. Adult human individual and daughter of my parents. All four of them.
joreth: (polyamory)
So I think I finally figured out what bothered me about my ex-boyfriend being interested in a particular person while I was dating him. I knew it bothered me, but I didn't really know why because I actually liked her as a friend. I had a complete emotional panic and I couldn't explain why it was so important to me that he not get involved with her, although I could give plenty of rational justifications why a relationship with her was probably not a good idea, all of which he agreed with. But in the end, those were rationalizations made after the emotional panic, and I knew it, and he knew it.

Part of the problem was something I knew at the time and I tried explaining to him, and, to his credit, he did attempt to soothe that fear ... at first. The problem was that the ex-boyfriend just before him had displayed to me his unwillingness to consider the feelings of his existing partners when making relationship choices.

Oh, he said he "considered" our feelings. But what that meant was that he thought about what we might feel about the situation, and then went ahead and did what he wanted to do anyway. What we (me and one of his other partners) meant by "consider our feelings" was to self-limit his potential partner selection down to girls who would get along with his existing partners, knowing that choosing someone who was not compatible with the whole group was asking for drama and heartache, and we were asking him to place a higher value on maintaining the peace and happiness of his existing relationships than on exploring new ones, if he actually intended to keep his existing relationships. This sort of "consideration" is incompatible with the Free Agent style of polyamory, where a person wants the "freedom" to choose his partners purely based on what he gets out of it, and his existing partners should just "trust" his "partner judgement" and accept the newcomer automatically. I put the word "freedom" in quotes there, because, ultimately, we are all free to make whatever choices we want, and it is only our empathy and consideration of other people, and perhaps thoughts of consequences, that might make us choose not to do something we might otherwise want to do.

So, this prior ex-boyfriend had already shown me that he did not place any higher value on his existing relationships than on potential relationships, and that left me feeling disposable and interchangeable, even though I'm the one who initiated the breakup. So partly I was in a vulnerable place where I was feeling concern and I wanted some kind of evidence that my new partner would not do the same thing. It's probably not very fair to test a current partner based on a past partner's failings, but we all do test our partners to make sure that they are people we can feel safe putting our trust into. That's part of the gradual falling-in-love process. We don't give our housekeys out to some guy on a first date, we get to know him first and see if he's trustworthy before giving him access to our homes.

So I was feeling particularly vulnerable at that moment anyway, but there was another reason I was so upset.

Even though I liked the other girl, what bothered me most, I think, about his romantic interest in her was what it said about him. It said some things I really didn't like, things I was desperately trying to ignore, things that ended up biting me in the ass anyway. With some perspective of several years' distance and some relationships with people who are completely different, I can see some things about my ex that I wasn't facing at the time and that it's really probably a good thing that we're no longer together. I'm trying really hard to not make this into revisionist history, so I've gone over old letters and conversations with people *at the time* to discover that the things I'm figuring out now are not things I'm making up or exaggerating to feel better about the breakup, but things that other people saw back then that I refused to see, or that I did see but refused to acknowledge their importance.

What his interest in the other girl said about him is not really important, just that it said things about him that made him very incompatible with me. He is not a bad person, he is just someone that I should not be in a relationship with. And I think that's what I was afraid of. I was afraid that, if he dated her while he was dating me, I would be forced to acknowledge those things about him, and once I had done that, I would not be able to be with him. And I wanted so badly to be with him.

That's one of the benefits of polyamory that so many people see as a drawback. Inviting more people into the relationship invites more opportunities to see ourselves, and our loved ones, through clearer eyes with more perspective. It's much more difficult to hide in poly relationships, and it's much more difficult to go along with our eyes closed and just accept things as they are. That is both a terrifying and a liberating thing. Being forced to confront yourself, and the reality of your partners, may mean that our relationships don't last as long as monogamous relationships do (and I don't really believe that poly relationships are shorter-lived than mono ones, but for the sake of argument, let's say that it's true). But it also means that a relationship where the participants have been forced to confront themselves, their fears, and the reality of their partner rather than the ideal of their partner, and survives is a stronger, more honest relationship. That goes for monogamous relationships too, polyamory is not the only way to do this, it's just a relationship style that doesn't allow you to not do this.

So I think I could have remained in a relationship with him for a long time, if we had both been monogamous people. I really did love him, even the scary parts of himself he thought I didn't know about. But I think that my emotions were trying to tell me something when I panicked about his new interest, and it wasn't that she was a horrible person. It was that he and I were ultimately not compatible in some very fundamental ways, and that I was refusing to see that. And I think that I am better off for not having remained in that relationship with him for as long as I could have if my panic button had been safely walled away behind a monogamous border where it couldn't be pushed when it was.

I think my only regret is that I didn't recognize the problem for what it was at the time, and that I gave him the opportunity to do to me exactly what I was afraid of with the first part of my fear - to dispose of me when I was no longer convenient and to take up with the next pretty little thing that turned his head. As with most "rules" made out of fear, the thing I was trying to avoid by asking him not to date her was exactly what happened. But I learned my lessons. Eventually.
joreth: (::headdesk::)
from alaink1:

like your profile. new to the area and hoping to meet some new people. if u see my email hopefully u will see that i think your beautiful,

From Me:
You clearly did not read the profile.

from alaink1:

i sent u a cut and paste message because thats all u meritt. so fuck off. i think its funny so fuck off. your a lame bitch and have been kicked out of better whore houses so fuck off. so fuck off. i feel sorry for anyman that has to put up with a confused dyke so fuck off. try a woman so fuck off. fuck off, lololololol therres your clue to a joke so fuck off
Report this
0% Enemy1% Friend70% Match Message from alaink1

From me:
what a douche. No wonder you have to use cut and paste messages, you have no imagination of your own.

That's quality right here. THIS is what women have to put up with on a daily basis. His original message, for all that it's a form letter, is pretty polite. We have no way of knowing that rejecting a man who presents politely will react in such a violet and aggressive manner. In person, that's a terrifying thought. I never wish to have to draw my knife on another person for refusing my rejection again, but I carry it because I had to once, so I may have to once more.

Also, if you follow the link to his profile, you'll notice that he's not some punk kid - he's a 42 year old man who should know better.  But I wouldn't be able to tell that from his behaviour or his atrocious spelling and grammar.

I understand that it feels bad to know that women are automatically defensive around you men when you have done nothing to merit that defensiveness. But please understand that it's the fault of assholes like this that are responsible. He did nothing to merit my defenses either, at first. If you were bombarded daily, online and in person, by people giving you unwanted attention, and by refusing rejections, and when those people are always bigger and stronger than you, you would understand just how frightening the world can be.

It is safer for me to assume that you will harm me and be wrong, than it is for me to assume that you are just as nice as you seem at first and then be wrong about that.

THIS is the reason why women stay away from certain places, like gaming communities and atheist communities, and it will take the assistance of the genuinely nice guys to stand up to these fucktards - not to "protect the wimmenfolk", but to exact a social penalty on such bad behaviour and simultaneously distinguishing between the "good guys" and the "bad guys", so that we can more easily tell who really deserves our defenses and who doesn't.

This, by the way, violates the TOS under the Conduct Clause. Please make liberal use of the Report button when someone approaches you and harasses you in this manner. Maybe we can kick out most of the assholes and make places like OKC safer for women - that way the nice guys can actually find us.

Wrong Road

Jul. 18th, 2011 06:27 pm
joreth: (Bad Joreth)
Wrong Road
Notice the paths that happy and successful people take, and avoid those paths. Favor the popular paths since those will help you achieve average results at best, and average results should safely prevent undesirable feelings of fulfillment. The best roads are those that leave you feeling like you’re walking in circles till you’re too tired to walk anymore and must retire. Roads that are flat or which slope downhill are often good choices, and they tend to satisfy the popularity requirement as well. Avoid any paths that lead over hills or near mountains; the elevated views are disturbing. Head towards terrain you dislike since it’s easier to hate your life when you hate your surroundings. If you can manage to get lost as well, that’s wonderful.

In conversations where I explain what I have done or seen done that leads to success, either in relationships, in work, in life in general, whatever, I often get the following response: "Some of us are not as enlighted as you, so we won't take your advice." And yes, people have actually used the phrase "as enlightened as you", and not because I ever made that claim myself.

Now, I get that, in some circumstances, Person A can look at Person B and see a happy, successful person, but not want to actually be like Person B. I mean, I see plenty of happy and successful Hollywood actors, but I don't want to be an actor. That's not what I'm talking about here. I'm talking about Person A wanting the same outcome as Person B, but not wanting to learn how Person B got there. Basically, Person A is reinventing the wheel, only he's making it square.

What this kind of response and attitude says is this:

I see that you are happy and successful at something that I want to be happy and successful at. But rather than trying to take the lessons you have learned and apply them to my own life, I am going to do the exact opposite in the hopes that doing exactly what you did not do, I will somehow learn the skills and lessons that you learned and end up with the same result as you, because what you did is scary and I want all the benefits without the growing pains. I want what you have, but I will not take even remotely similar paths to get what you have, and I will expect those paths to end at the same destination. Meanwhile, I will be utterly dismissive of everything you have learned about how you got where you did.

These are the people who want to learn how to be less jealous & more secure, but do things that are designed to foster, encourage, and protect insecurity. These are the people who want to protect themselves against STDs but stick their head in the sand so that they're practically inviting STDs. These are the people who want to get ahead in business, but go out of their way to burn bridges and alienate the support that all people "at the top" need to stay at the top. These are the people who want lots of money but don't want to actually *do* anything for it, like, work. These are the people who want social change but end up supporting the status quo by their actions, or inaction. These are the people who whine about how much their life sucks while opportunity after opportunity pass right by. These are the "nice guys" who can't "get a girl" who argue with women explaining to them what they're doing to turn them off. These are the people who want so desperately to be With Someone that they can't see how that desperation is exactly the thing turning people away.

To paraphrase Miss Poly Manners, there might, indeed, be no single Right Way, but there ARE plenty of Wrong Ways. This is one of them.
joreth: (anger)
Why aren't there more women involved in atheism & skepticism, and in particular, why don't they come to the conferences?

Well, besides daycare and expense issues, many of us don't come because we feel we are often dismissed, judged for our looks first and brains second (if at all), ignored, talked over, condescended to, hit on, and there is an underlying attitude of sexism and misogyny, not to mention being outnumbered by so many men, even if they are being nice.  Sometimes, I even feel afraid for my own safety because my concerns are not taken seriously and my wishes to not be hit on are ignored.

  • "Smart women are hot."
  • "Oh lighten up, you should be flattered that men want to hit on you!"
  • "Consider yourself lucky that men hit on you! I wouldn't be upset if more women hit on me!"
  • "Please, you're not pretty enough for anyone to hit on you or rape you, so relax."
  • "You think you have problems? There are women in other countries who are being beaten and mutilated! You have no room to complain because of how good you have it here!"
  • "Let's get some perspective on this. Men have problems too, y'know. We have to deal with you being afraid of us, and every so often, a man gets raped too."
  • "The problem with women is that you're just too emotional. I understand that this is an emotional topic, but you're not discussing this in a rational manner. There's no evidence that any of this happens or that it's the reason why so many women stay away; you're just a single data point."
  • "You used some words that I mistakenly attribute to man-hating feminazis because someone else told me that use of these words is anti-men. So I'm not even going to listen to your actual point because I don't like the words you used. Instead, I'm going to throw my own loaded terminology at you like 'feminist propaganda' and 'agenda' and 'reverse sexism' and then unironically complain about not getting your point across because I have a problem with the words you use."
  • "You fucking bitch, I hope you get raped."
  • "You're just an attention-whore."
  • "*cough*dramaqueen*cough*"
  • "Does getting all this attention from men get you wet? Because you seem like the kind of woman that does."
  • "I'm totally going to cop a feel when I see you at the next convention.  What? It was just a joke!"
  • "I'm going to drug you and rape you."
Several of these comments are direct quotes.  In fact, the most offensive ones are the direct quotes. So please do not tell me that I'm building straw men or overreacting. I have a right to be both afraid and angry at the way women are treated in this culture even though men can have bad things happen to them too and even though women in other countries have it worse.
joreth: (Super Tech)
There's a big deal happening in the skeptics community because Rebecca Watson was propositioned in an elevator at a conference, told the story publicly, and concluded with "don't do that guys". The entire community exploded in opposite directions, with clueless men saying "what's the big deal? Just tell the guy no" and women and men who "get it" trying to explain why this was so bad.

The biggest complaint is that poor, privileged men got their feelings hurt by a woman saying "don't proposition a woman at 4 AM in an elevator where she can't escape" because, they think, it must have implied that men can't ever speak to or look at a woman anywhere, at any time, ever, because all men are always a threat to all women. Always.

And that is not what the women are saying at all. It's not that all men are automatically a threat. It's that we have been told BY MEN from the day we are born that someday, some man is going to come along and rape us. Not only is he going to try to assault us, but it will be our own fault. Because of what we wear, what we say, or where we are, some man is going to be so overcome with lust at something that WE DID, that he will assault us, and that it is our own responsibility to avoid this attack by choosing our clothing, our behaviour, our words, our locations to prevent some guy from losing control of himself.

No, it's not that every man is a threat. It's that SOME man is a threat, but we have no way of knowing WHICH man he is until it's too late. And that the reason why he is a threat is because of something that we did to bring it upon ourselves, and that we live in a society that will scrutinize our every move and our every thought to see if it can find exactly what we did to bring it upon ourselves, so that the poor man can be absolved of his responsibility for assaulting us (just ask any woman who ever pressed rape charges how carefully her own background and behaviour was dragged into the harsh light of the courtroom so the defense attorney could find some shred of "she was asking for it" to get his client off the hook).

We are told these very things about ourselves and about men being threatening ... by men. By our fathers, by our police officers, by our clergy, and it is reinforced by every one of those skeevy men out there who responds to our rejections, no matter how polite or careful or blame-shifting we try to make them, with accusations of "slut", "bitch", "dyke", or with pressure to change our minds. First, we're told that men are a threat to us, then we're told that it's our own responsibility to police our own boundaries and make sure that all men know what they can't get away with, and THEN, when we dutifully buck up the courage to reject someone (no one likes to feel rejected so many of us don't like to do the rejecting because we don't want to hurt someone's feelings), we are penalized for it by the man's behaviour. We're called names, we're shouted at, we're gossiped about, or we're ignored by those who have been told that "no" is just another word for "maybe".

We are told that "good girls" don't say "yes", so some men are convinced that we are only saying "no" because we're not supposed to say "yes". Other men believe the "no", but don't believe that it is a permanent state. In other words, if they just keep asking, eventually it'll change into a "yes". So even if we DO manage to reject someone, we're still not off the hook. We still have to vigilantly maintain those boundaries, like a fort with an enemy at the gate, probing for weaknesses, just one little chink in the fence where he can weasel his way in.

I don't like to think of men in these terms; I'd like to give them the benefit of the doubt. But this is what I have been told, and this is what many women have been told about men ... by men. Who hasn't heard the line about a father telling his daughter that "boys only want one thing", backing that up with "because I was a boy once and that's how I thought". Rather than an entire nation of fathers trying to change their sons' views on how to treat women now that they have wives & daughters that they don't want assaulted (we'll just overlook, for now, that these fathers didn't care about assaulting someone ELSE'S wives or daughters), these fathers are, instead, trying to lock up their daughters to "protect" them from all those predatory boys and men, apparently just sitting at the front door, panting and drooling, waiting for the daughters to take a step out the front door so they can pounce. Women are penalized by being treated as prisoners for the crimes of all these men that we're led to believe are just waiting for us. We're locked up indoors, under clothing, and behind demure expressions all to prevent some man from assulting us. And in some countries, this isn't even hyperbole.

Young women are given earlier curfews, or made to give the information for where they expect to be and what time they expect to be home, or scrutinized by their mothers to ensure that their clothing doesn't send the "wrong impression" when young men are not often given the same treatment. We are subjected to this treatment because our parents believe that we are at greater risk for assault than our male counterparts, in spite of the fact that men are quite often the victims of violent crime such as robbery and beatings. Even though, statistically, men are more likely to be the assaulter in all violent crimes, other men are not told to fear going into a steambath, naked with other men, on the off-chance that one of those men will try to rape him (unless he's a conservative fundie, who DO seem to think that just because another man is gay, being naked in the same room with him is naturally going to lead to being raped by the gay man), beat him for thinking he's gay, or steal his wallet that he left in the locker room. Women, however, are told that we cannot go into certain areas with men, such as a steambath or a locker room, because one of those men will try to rape us, beat us, or steal our purse.

And I'll even concede that this does happen more often to women than men. I have no statistics at my fingertips and I don't feel like looking it up, so if someone wants to insist that women are assulted by men more often than men are assaulted by men, I'll give you the benefit of the doubt, for the sake of discussion. I don't believe this is the case, but I'm not willing to argue this point right now. The main point is that our society's solution to this problem is not to change the society to make this unacceptable, nor is it to tighten up security in these areas to allow women the freedom to move about the country as they choose. The solution is not to frown and shake our fingers at men and call them "naughty boys". No, the solution is to make the WOMEN curtail their activities, their clothing, their behaviour, their speech, whatever they have to do to prevent the rare man who might be hiding amongst all the "nice guys" just waiting for his chance to beat us, rape us, kill us, while men are not given the same effort at telling them not to go certain places or dress in certain ways to avoid an assault. So women have to treat everyone as a threat in order to protect ourselves from the actual threats.

Let me tell you a few stories of some of your oh-so-non-threatening bretheren:

1) I and two of my female coworkers went out to the Hard Rock Casino one night after work to hang out - just us ladies. None of us are shrinking violets and we're pretty well able to take care of ourselves, being all butch and manual-laborey, but we're also fairly easy on the eyes, if I do say so myself, and still subjected to the same social programming as everyone else. So we were hanging out at the casino lounge, having our first drinks (mine was non-alcoholic) when an obviously drunk man came over to our table. I don't recall the exact words he used at this point, but I do recall that he had trouble pronouncing them and that they were supposed to be complimentary. At any rate, he expressed admiration for our appearances and then proceeded to indicate interest in sexual relations.

Well, I was much younger then, and still trying to be polite, and I fell into the same old trap that most women do, of giving an excuse for my rejection that clearly says "no" without saying "because you're a douchebag". Most women use lines like "I have a boyfriend" or "I have to get up early" or some other line that says "I can't" rather than "I won't", to try and soften the rejection. I and one of the other girls told him that we were all lesbians and in a committed slave-relationship with the third girl. She was our Mistress and she did not share us and we absolutely could not do anything without her permission, which she would not give. So A) we were the wrong orientation, B) we were in an exclusive relationship, and C) it was the type of relationship that makes straight, vanilla, drunk fratboys at bars uncomfortable.

He looked confused and wandered off, only to return a few minutes later and press the issue. We continued to insist that we were not interested in men at all and we were "taken", to which he responded by trying to talk us out of both, including the "you just haven't met a Real Man yet" trope. Finally, he leaned over to me and tried to kiss me. Right there in the lounge. I ducked and slid off my chair and ran to the girl who was posing as the "Mistress", where I sat at her feet while she put her hand possessively on my head and glared at the jerk.

His eyes opened wide and he slurred "oh, you mean, like, THAT kind of relationship?" I looked up at him and frowned, saying "yes, I am not interested because you are not what I want" or something similar. He stumbled off with a dazed expression on his face.

I wish I could say that was the end of it.

He came back AGAIN and this time tried to kiss the other "slave" girl. She jumped back and this time all three of us pulled out our knives. At the "snick" of my switchblade, he looked up, put his hands in front of himself, and backed up. We decided we'd had enough and left. We never made it to a second drink.

2) I know a bunch of guys through work or school, and this story is told as though it is a specific encounter, but the truth is that I've had this exact same situation on multiple occasions with multiple people. I decided not to write down each one individually because they really are so similiar that I would end up cutting and pasting all but the age and location.

Hanging out with male friends often involves watching movies. When we are poor, or young especially, watching movies usually happens in someone's bedroom, usually due to sharing living spaces like dorm rooms or apartments with roommates, or even as teenagers living at home with parents. There are some circumstances in our society where mixed-gendered socializing just happens in private rooms like bedrooms and there's nothing inherently or automatically sexual about it. When I was 12, my Nintendo was hooked up in my bedroom because my dad hated competing with me for the TV in the living room. My next door neighbor was male. There was nowhere else for us to play video games but in someone's room. That's just how it was.

So, hanging out with a male friend, watching a movie or playing games, or sometimes just talking, occasionally ended up with him aggressively hitting on me in a bedroom. This almost always happened out of the blue, not as the result of some sexy talk or flirting. It was more like I would say something, then he would say something, and I would look at him because he was talking, then he would launch himself at me. If this was the first time this particular guy did that, I would be startled, and probably freeze for a moment, allowing him to get a kiss in, but then he would press his advantage and try to fondle my breasts. At that point, I would knock his hand away and back up, and we'd probably go back to watching movies or playing games.

If a guy had tried this once, he would almost always try it again. By the second time, though, I would not freeze when he came at me. I would dodge him and tell him "no". For the guy who was willing to try it after having been rejected previously, this type of guy would not fall back at the rejection, but he would continue to lean in for a kiss and reach for a breast. If I managed to block his hand from my breast, he would then grab for my crotch. If I succeeded in blocking him there, he'd go again for the breast. By the time I managed to disintangle myself from Mr. Octopus, he would attempt to keep me from leaving by promising to stop if I would just stay and finish whatever activity got me there in the first place, like the movie or video game. Sometimes he did stop. For that visit.

When I was younger, this was just how things were. So I did not know to not visit that "friend" again. I did know enough to insist that he not treat me that way, to say that I wouldn't come over if he was going to behave this way. He would always say he promised not to, and maybe he would keep that promise the next time, but there was always another encounter with these guys until I learned to cut off friendships with guys who behaved this way.

I'd like to say this was all exclusively in my teens, when boys were clueless and dumb or that I lived in a particularly fucked up neighborhood. But my most recent encounter like this happened 3 years ago. I was 31 years old. I believe he is a couple of years older than me. He is still not an unusual occurance.

3) Back in California, where the public transportation system is actually worth taking, I used to wear a silver band on my ring finger of my left hand. That was because I could hardly ever make it through a bus ride without some guy sitting down next to me, trapping me against the window, and asking for my phone number to "hook up".

As I explained to a friend recently, who had never been propositioned for a purely sexual relationship (she thinks - I think she just didn't recognize the propositions), this is not the same thing as getting involved in a conversation with a person where you talk about yourselves or some topic of interest, and he asks for a communication method to continue to the conversation. When a man sees a girl he thinks is attractive and just wants a physical relationship with her, he won't bother to get to know her at all. He will begin his approach with "damn baby, you're lookin' fine! Can I getcha number?"

Yes, seriously.  Often this is yelled from passing cars to women walking on the sidewalk, or from random strangers in a mall.  Yes, both occasions happened to me.   Yes, more than once.  Yes, that was a quote, not a paraphrase.

I'm sure there are some men out there who just don't know about these assholes, and who genuinely see a woman they find attractive whom they want to get to know on a personal level. And these clueless men will ask her for a date or her phone number right off the bat with the intention of actually starting a dialog at a later time or in some other place. But the problem is that, from the woman's perspective, these men are nearly indistinguishable from the "your dress would look AWESOME crumpled on my floor in the morning!" types.

If you are genuinely interested in getting to know the woman as a person, there is no need to postpone that discussion for a later phone call or dinner date. Get to know her NOW. At least ask her name and ascertain just one topic that you might have in common to make it worth both of your whiles to bother with a phone conversation or a coffee date. Because without that, without having something in common to discuss, the both of you are completely interchangeable with any other human since there is nothing about either of you to distinguish each other from anyone else. You are both, literally, nothing more, at that moment, than a body. And THAT'S why this approach is so creepy - it is not flattering in the slightest to most women to be considered as nothing more than a convenient body, no matter how complimentary you think you've phrased it.

4) I'm a huggy person, but like many men, I can't tell when a hug will be well received, when it's appropriate, or when it will be mistaken for a sexual proposition when I don't intend it as such. So I don't hug unless someone offers to hug me first. But I am generally welcoming of hugs.

Many men take the permission to hug as permission to see what else they can get. First, this kind of man will offer a hug goodbye. Since I've accepted, the next time he sees me, he'll offer a hug hello. Gradually, that hug will become tighter and more intimate - a full body hug instead of a shoulder embrace. Then, he'll brush cheeks as he hugs. Soon, he'll start kissing the air by my ear when he brushes my cheek while he hugs me with the entire body touching. Eventually, that air-kiss will turn into a kiss high up on the cheek along with that full body hug. And after a while, I will have to make a concerted effort to turn my head sideways as the kiss migrates further away from my ear and closer to my mouth, to the point where I'm standing in the classic Viennese Waltz pose, bending backwards and tilting my head towards the ground, gazing somewhere just behind my left shoulder, just to make sure he doesn't try to merge with my body right there in public or suck my soul out from my mouth.

And it's always a gradual thing, as the man becomes more and more friendly and I grow genuinely fond feelings towards him, it becomes simultaneously more complicated and difficult to avoid this kind of pressure. When it's a stranger, it's easy to back off and not allow him to invade my personal space. But when it's someone I consider a friend, or at least a friendly acquaintance whom I have fond feelings for, it becomes more difficult to defend my personal space, for two reasons. First, because personal space *does* diminish correspondingly with how close two people become emotionally, and second because now there is a friendship that I might not want to damage in spite of the discomfort of having my personal space be invaded. The more assertive I am, the more potentially damaging it could be to a friendship that I might value, yet the less assertive I am, the more likely it is that someone I am emotionally close to might mistake my friendship and lack of assertion for permission. It can be a difficult conundrum that many of us do not want to have to choose between asserting our boundaries and losing friends, but sometimes, that is the case.

And some may even say that if your friendship is so damaged by one party asserting her boundaries, then it's not a friendship worth keeping. I know I've certainly suggested similar to friends who really feel pressured by people who should not be pressuring them. But the reality is that life and relationships are messy and complicated, and our culture's indoctrination on how Men And Women Should Behave sets up a totally impossible set of contradictory instructions that sometimes, really earnest but clueless people just get tripped up over. Many of the men I know honestly do not want to be sexist and honestly value women, but because of their position of privilege, they have a hard time actually seeing why a casual statement they made is sexist when a woman gets offended by it. Likewise, a given man could earnestly wish to be respectful of women, particularly women he values as friends, but just not realize or understand that something he is doing is comming across as pressure or threatening because *he is not in a position to be on the receiving end of that behaviour* and so can't see it that way.

I'm not excusing them, don't get me wrong. I'm saying that *wanting* to be non-threatening is not the same thing as *being* non-threatening, and when you mix in contradictory social instructions with personal insecurities, rejecting the physical advances of a person I actually like otherwise is a veritable social and emotional minefield - his advances may be undesired, and maybe even a symptom of a very big problem, but I might still find value in our friendship & in him as a person and not want to damage it irreparably while I am forced to police my boundaries.

5) I used to go to nightclubs more frequently, but especially back in CA where they don't allow smoking in clubs. One night, I was sitting at a table, having a drink & and rest in between dances, when a guy sidled up to me and started hitting on me. I could tell right away that he wasn't my type, only I'd be hard pressed at this late date to remember the details of why. But the bottom line is that he indicated an interest in me and I turned him down. He actually said "what are you, lesbian?" as if he could only comprehend a woman not wanting him if she only wanted women.

I've heard rumors about me from men in my social circles or other coworkers who speculated about my sexual orientation, and these rumors always stemmed from men who I've rejected. I've been called a bitch and a dyke for turning someone down. The funniest ones are when I'm called a slut, since, if I WAS a slut, I wouldn't have just rejected the asshole who just called me one. Pointing that out to a guy in a bar got him laughed at by the other men nearby, so that was a bit satisfying.

But there is a penalty for rejecting someone. Most of the time, the penalty is just feeling bad for hurting someone else's feelings. But occasionally, rejecting someone's advances results in some damned uncomfortable public scenes, and every so often it results in much more than uncomfortable PRIVATE scenes - the kinds that make us fear for our safety.

6) Again, when I was much younger and much more willing to avoid confrontation by giving an excuse instead of a flat-out rejection, my sister and I would occasionally go to nightclubs together, along with a friend or two of hers. On her 21st birthday, she and I and her best friend went out, and she told me that she did not want to be bothered by men that night - this was a Girl's Night Out where she could just dance and drink and forget about things for an evening. She asked me if I would pose as her possessive girlfriend if any guy tried to hit on her, and I agreed because I was young and didn't realize that "sorry, I'm a lesbian" is usually heard as "hey baby, hot bi babe action over here!"

So the three of us got on the dance floor and started dancing. Almost immediately, some big guy came up behind my sister and started dancing suggestively with her - we called it "freaking" when I was a teenager, where it's basically vertical spooning frottage on the dance floor. My sister kept moving away, and he kept moving closer. She started moving towards me & dancing suggestively with me, giving me The Look to indicate she wanted me to intervene. So I moved in between them and said "sorry, she's mine".

As you can guess, that didn't dissuade him. Instead, it seemed to turn him on, as he kept trying to dance between us and saying things implying threesomes. Eventually I had to stop, put a hand on his chest, and say "I told you that she's mine and I don't share, now back off." He got huffy and demanded to know what my problem was. I said my problem was that he didn't know when to keep his hands off someone else's property. By this time, the bartender, who was a friend of my sister's and the reason we were at that particular club in the first place, sent a bouncer over to pull the guy away, who was getting all puffed up and blustery about me cockblocking him. If the bouncer hadn't intervened, this very well could have turned into a physical altercation with a man who refused to accept a rejection, if his assertive body language is any indication.

7) As I mentioned earlier, many women use some kind of excuse that implies that we CAN'T accept someone's advances, rather than we WON'T. I dunno, I guess we think it makes the rejection easier to accept, like it doesn't hurt someone's feelings as much. One of my exes used to be a bouncer in a strip club, and he told me how the dancers were constantly propositioned for more than just lap dances. He says that the overwhelmingly favorite response was to tell the customer that she had a boyfriend. Apparently, it allowed the fantasy that she COULD be more continue to exist while still being clear that she WON'T be more than a dancer. But, almost as common as the boyfriend-response, was the customer's response of "you don't have to tell him!" The private reaction (never to the customer's face!) to that was, as my ex used to say, "well holy shit, I don't? Why didn't I think of that? When I think of all the customers I COULD have gone home with, if only I had realized that I didn't have to tell my boyfriend, I just feel stupid now!" That line should be read dripping with sarcasm for full effect.

There has been a lot of talk about going beyond "no means no" to "yes means yes" and about women being more assertive in their rejections. But a few research papers suggest that, even if a woman doesn't use the actual word "no", a rejection is still clearly understood by men in general, which means that men who use the excuse that she didn't say "no" really mean that they chose to ignore it. The conclusions in these papers make sense to me. If you take any social situation other than propositioning a woman for sex, most people have no problem understanding a rejection even when it doesn't use the word "no". When you ask someone to hang out sometime, or to go to a movie, or to have coffee, if you remove the heteronormative dating associations and say "my wife and I would love it if you came for dinner" or "a bunch of us are going to this movie, wanna come?", if the person you're asking says "I'd love to, but...", pretty much all of us recognize that as a rejection.

Sometimes, if the rejection sounds too much like a real conflict, as in the giver really does want to go but can't, and the excuse given is one we can solve, we don't just let the rejection lie, we offer a solution. For instance, if you ask a friend to see a movie, and he says he's broke and can't afford it, well, you might offer to pay for him if you have the spare cash & you really want to see the movie with your friend. But whether we try to offer a suggestion or not, the phrase "I'd love to, but..." is clearly understood by all of us that the person you are talking to is, in fact, telling you "no".

Now, there genuinely are times when a person can't tell that it's a no. For example, I have an ex who once asked a girl out on a few dates. One one date in particular, they were sitting on the couch, and he asked outright for a kiss because he couldn't tell from her body language what she wanted. She kissed him, but he said she didn't seem too into it. So he asked her if this relationship was going anywhere or not. Instead of saying "no", or even giving him a "it's not you, it's me ... I'm too busy with work for a boyfriend right now, and my cat needs my attention, and I have to wash my hair every weekend for the next 20 years", she said "well, it's all about the chase, isn't it?" Yes, that was her answer.

How was he supposed to take that? Was that a hedge, a rejection without saying "no"? Or was that her way of saying she wanted to play the coy-maiden-gets-chased-by-assertive-man game? Cuz, y'know, sometimes that's fun. So he said "no, actually, it's not about the chase. If I'm chasing a woman, it means she's running away from me. So which is it, are you interested or not?" I don't think she ever gave him a clear answer, but he took that ambiguity AS an answer (good for him) and stopped asking her out on dates.

So don't think I'm giving all women a free pass here when it comes to earnest-but-clueless men who really want to do the right thing. I'm not. I DO think we all ought to be more clear and explicit about our boundaries - I've written tons on that very subject. And I am a big supporter of the "yes means yes" campaign, which has at its heart the philosophy that only a clear and unambiguous "yes" should ever be taken as a "yes" and that everything else is a "no". It's meant to subvert the idea that men are not responsible for assaulting women if, for some reason, she hasn't uttered that single syllable, because there is a social penalty for saying that word, or maybe she's drunk or high or unconscious. It's ALWAYS a "no" if she CAN'T say "no".

But generally speaking, we have a fairly well-understood social convention of expressing rejection in a myriad of ways that do not use the word "no", and, generally speaking, we all pretty much accept these rejections in all cases, except when it comes to men propositioning women for sex. Only in this one area do people claim to not understand that they were given a rejection and it falls on the person offering the rejection to defend themselves from an actual assault rather than the person being rejected to ask for clarification or, at the very least, fall back on the safest possible interpretation and just assume she said "no" hidden in her "I'd love to, but..." somewhere.

8) Most of my strong opinions come from experiences where I made some bad choices.  I'm not sitting in my ivory tower armchair quarterbacking other people's relationships.  I learned the hard way how some of these things work.  I made many of the same mistakes I try to tell other people they shouldn't do.  I've gotten into the very messes I try to prevent others from getting into.  I stand here with my strong opinions and my strong will because there was a time that I did not, and I paid heavy prices for it.

I met a guy while working backstage, so you'd think that it wouldn't be a surprise to him that I was a tomboy, right?  You'd be wrong - hence my online profiles & dozens of blog posts reminding everyone just now not-girlie I am.  I met a guy and we seemed to have everything in common.  We were in the same industry, we liked the same movies, we wanted the same things from relationships, we had similar religious backgrounds - we seemed perfect for each other.  Except he wasn't honest with me about who he was or what he wanted.  He didn't actually want a girl who was better at fixing things than he was.  He didn't want a relationship with an equal partner, he wanted traditional gender roles.  He didn't like an inquisitive, curious, skeptical girlfriend, he wanted one who accepted what she was told on face value.  And he most certainly did not want a partner who viewed her own body as autonomous, he wanted a partner who took "what's mine is yours and what's yours is mine"  literally.

After we moved in together, the stress of managing a household, going to school full time and still working to pay the bills but still being the "housewife" and making sure he got fed and the dishes got done and the trash got out, all eventually piled up and my sex drive dropped.  I was just too damn tired to be interested in sex.  I was only getting about 4-6 hours of sleep every night as it was, and I didn't want to sacrifice any of that time for sex.

After the first few nights of saying "not tonight honey, I have to wake up early tomorrow", he started pressuring me.  He'd whine and try to talk me into it.  Let me just say that there's nothing more of a turn-off than a guy begging for sex when I'm not in the mood to begin with.  After about a week of nightly arguments in bed, he started waiting for me to fall asleep and then started touching me when he thought I was unconscious.  When I turned on him & yelled at him to leave me the fuck alone, he said he was only trying to arouse me, that he wouldn't ever do anything against my will or when I couldn't give consent.  We'd get into a big fight about it that would end with me telling him not to touch me until I said he could, and he'd finally leave me alone to sleep.  That night.

The next night would be the same thing.  When I reminded him that I had told him not to touch me, he would say that he hadn't touched me all day, so therefore he held up his end of the bargain, and now it was my turn to provide sex.  Naturally, I said that was not what we agreed on, and it sparked another argument, cutting into my valuable and rare sleep time.  This argument would end the same way, only to have a repeat the next night.

Some nights I gave in just because my experience had taught me that he could argue for longer than he could have sex, so if I wanted sleep, it would be faster to give in than to tell him "no". Of course, he then got pissed at me for not being into it, which would sometimes spark another round of arguing, as if picking a fight with me would fix the lack of interest in sex or the inability to get aroused. I have no idea how many nights this went on, but it was the same thing every night for weeks.  

I was a wreck.  I was exhausted, I couldn't concentrate in school, I was depressed, and I started making excuses to be away from the apartment.  So he started making rules to prevent me from going anywhere without him.  Naturally, I  ignored those rules, but that only caused more arguments at home.  One night, I finally got out of bed with the intention of sleeping in the living room.  He told me that if I did that, he would damage my property in his anger at being rejected.  It was then that I finally understood that I was in an abusive relationship without ever having been hit.  Between the nightly unwanted gropings, the begging for sex, the threats to my property, and the refusal to allow me to have friends or go anywhere without him, I was well and truly trapped in an abusive relationship.

I spent that night sleeping in the adjoining bathroom, because I could not sleep next to him and I could still keep an eye on my property.  That was the first of several such nights.  But I started looking for a way out.  It was hard to leave.  I couldn't afford to live on my own because I was only working part time while attending school.  I was afraid to move back in with my parents because it would injure my pride.  I moved in with him against my parents' wishes and they continually disapproved of him, so I had spent my whole relationship with him defending my choice to be with him.  It made it very difficult for someone as proud as me to come back to my parents and say that I was wrong, can I  please have my old room back?

Fortunately, our roommate decided to move out because he couldn't stand our nightly fights.  Without him, we did not make enough money to keep the apartment, according to our lease agreement, so we got evicted.  I could move back in with my parents under the excuse that we had to move out but couldn't find anywhere else to live in the short time we had to vacate.  My parents said that I could come back home, but I would not get my old room back - my sister took it because it was bigger, &  I would have her old room - and absolutely he could NOT move in their house with me.  I accepted those terms and managed to escape by blaming my parents and the departing roommate.  We couldn't move in with his parents because his parents hated me as much as my parents hated him, and I somehow managed to not find any other apartments that would have us before our move-out deadline approached.

That solved the nightly sexual assault problem, but I still had to figure out how to break up with him.  Once I was away from him, all my property was safe, and I had a place to sleep without him in it, I found my bravery and I broke up with him on my birthday.  It was my gift to myself.  But that relationship taught me that even people I trusted, people I had known for years, could still sexually assault me, and that it would be seen as my own fault because agreeing to prior sexual activity is often seen as an agreement of future sexual activity.  Many people still believe that sex is an automatic part of the marriage contract.  He and I were engaged to be married, therefore I "owed" him sex, and he couldn't assault me because he had every right to expect that he could request sex of me.  I dare anyone to go what I went through and come out of that maintaining that position.

So no, not all men are a threat to all women. But all women are under a constant state of threat because that threatening man could be any one of you and we won't know who he is until it's too late. We are under that constant state of threat because some men really do behave in threatening ways, and because we are constantly reminded BY OTHER MEN that this could happen to us someday. We are also told that the only solution to these kinds of threats is to monitor OURSELVES to make sure we do not do something that might provoke an attack.

To those guys who are totally non-threatening in all cases, all the time, with every woman and in every situation, I do understand that it sucks to be thought of as a threat by women when you have done nothing to deserve that assumption - really, I do. But please forgive me if I'm just a little less concerned with your dilemma when the worst that happens to you is that women cross the street to avoid you, when the worst that could happen to me is that I get killed, beaten, and raped - and if I'm lucky, it'll happen in that order.

If you want to see the automatic fear removed from women's eyes simply because of your gender, you'll join in the chorus of female voices demanding that the rape culture be ended. Because a woman making that demand is often dismissed as a shrill, man-hating shrew by those very men who most need to change. But other men who disapprove of rape culture offer a much higher social penalty for those men than women whom we have already established those men don't respect. I suspect that I would like to see the day when I do not have to automatically suspect someone of potential threat just for his genitals even more than you would like to see the day when you are not automatically suspsected by someone of potential threat just for your genitals, so your public support of ending rape culture would be very much appreciated by all except those few who stand to benefit from it.


Anyone who wants to dismiss the use of the phrase "rape culture" would do well to follow Rebecca Watson and see what kind of shitstorm her mild request has started.  Keep in mind that she never called the elevator guy a rapist, never compared her situation with the horrors of Muslim women or any other third world society, never said anything about "all men".  She only said this was annoying, so "guys don't do that". 

For this, she is being accused of being a man-hating bitch, an attention-seeking whore, and she has been flooded with rape and murder threats.  She has posted a few screen captures in her various online feeds.  Guys who think that my experiences above are rare have never tried being a female on the internet.  

Rebecca didn't even post one of my angry rants.  She just said, "guys, don't do that".  That's it.  It IS annoying to have spent all day talking about how many women don't like to get hit on at atheist conventions, to have just left a group of people, telling them how tired you are, to have someone in that group who heard you say how tired you are and how you want to go up to bed now detach himself from the group, follow you into an elevator, where you are alone in a foreign country at 4 AM, and then ask you to come back to his room.  Frankly, I think she handled it with much more aplomb than I would have.

But the reaction to her using this situation as an example was so much more severe than either the original offense or her response to it.  A "rape culture" is one where its members, male or female, think it is perfectly acceptable to trap a woman alone and proposition her.  A "rape culture" is one where it's members, male or female, think it is perfectly acceptable to respond to her offense by threatening to rape her at the next convention.  A "rape culture" is one where its members, male or female, think a line like "I'm totally going to cop a feel on @RebeccaWatson at the next con" is humorous and an acceptable joke.  A "rape culture" is one where its members, male or female, feel justified in sending messages that say "I want to drug you and fuck you" to ANYONE, but especially to a woman who has just made it clear that this is offensive behaviour.

I get that men can be in abusive relationships too.  I've written plenty about that.  There's no excuse for abuse, no matter what gender to what gender.  But there are very few men out there who have to put up with the sheer volume of "just words" that Richard Dawkins seems to think are so harmless.  If I could make these men experience what it's like to be a woman, not for a day or a week, but a lifetime of harassment, I guarantee that they would not find "just words" to be such a minor crime, or that "rape culture" is such an offensive phrase.  Rape culture harms everyone, not just women, and it's not just men who commit the crimes and offenses.  All reasonable, thinking women understand that.  It's only a certain group of men who are reading sexism into the word "rape" who think that the phrase applies only to men as perpetrators and all women as victims.  Rape, abuse, molestation, fear, these apply to everyone and they should apply to no one.
joreth: (boxed in)
  • Courage: to tell the story of who you are with your whole heart.
  • We can't practice compassion with other people if we can't first treat ourselves kindly.
  • You can't form connections without being willing to let go of who you "should" be in order to be who you are.
  • Whole-hearted people are those who fully embrace vulnerability, who believe that what makes them vulnerable makes them beautiful, and that results in a strong sense of worthiness.
  • Vulnerability is the core of shame, fear, struggle for worthiness. But also birthplace of joy, creativity, belonging, love.
These quotes and paraphrases are from a TEDTalk by Brene Brown on her research into vulnerability.  These sentiments remind me strongly of [ profile] tacit and his approach to life.  This is how I view the world too, but it took me a while longer to get here.

Brene Brown studies human connection -- our ability to empathize, belong, love. In a poignant, funny talk at TEDxHouston, she shares a deep insight from her research, one that sent her on a personal quest to know herself as well as to understand humanity.
joreth: (Dobert Demons of Stupidity)
Much like the poly community, the pro-science and skeptical communities are suspiciously lacking representation in culture and art.  Obviously, this doesn't mean there is NO art or culture with a science base, it means that, in the general population, entertainment and art seem to favor mysticism, supernaturalism, ignorance, and fear.  

Now, like most skeptics I know, I can enjoy a wide range of entertainment and art, even that with a supernatural bent, providing it's at least internally consistent.  I mean, in a universe where thinking really hard really does make lightning shoot out of your fingertips, I'd probably be inclined to believe in mysterious forces too - after all, there would be evidence for them.  

But what bothers me is the sheer preponderance of movies and books and other forms of art and entertainment whose moral is to punish for curiosity and scientific advancement.  Even with our predilection for trying to kill ourselves with ever more advanced technology, we have ALSO managed to increase the quality of life for every human on this planet when not blocked by conservative, superstitious, fearmongering dictators.  In spite of our ever-increasingly devastating methods for death, our wars have gotten progressively less bloody, & with a lower body count.  The higher and messier death tolls remain with older methods of war.  Of course, war, by its nature, is bloody and deadly, so please, let's not get off on a tangent debating war - I'm not saying I'm in favor of it, regardless of how advanced the battle technology is.  The point is that technology, in addition to being used for evil, has, by and large, been used for good and every time something new is discovered & the troglodytes cry out "it's the end of the world, you'll destroy us all", it hasn't been and we haven't, even when we could have.

So, I bring you two things.  The first is a new Pro-Science & Pro-Skeptic Movie list.  I'm creating a Movie List on Netflix - movies that I have personally watched, or can take on very good authority, that show things like: the hero using science or skepticism to solve the day; the bad guy being a proponent of mysticism, woo, pseudo-science, magic, or religion; the bad guy NOT being a Mad Scientist who will destroy the world because of his tinkering; a message of enthusiasm for responsible science; etc.  I will include TV shows, but for the sake of brevity, since Netflix lists each season individually, I'll just list the first season & let ya'll figure out that the entire show is probably more of the same.  I like using Netflix lists, in spite of requiring you to have an account to view it, because people can immediately put suggested movies in their queue, rather than going out to find it on Amazon or Blockbuster and purchasing something they don't know if they will enjoy.

I suppose, like my Poly-ish Movie List, I will include documentary or non-fiction - for those exceptionally entertaining examples like Carl Sagan's Cosmos and Mythbusters, but I'd like to focus on fiction.  There are entire networks devoted to nonfiction, pro-science stuff, and tons of educational materials, and that would completely overwhelm the list if I included all examples of non-fiction.  So let's focus on *entertainment* and *art* that happens to be pro-science or pro-skepticism or uses science/skepticism as the vehicle for the story.  There are some good ones out there.  This is intended to be a growing, dynamic, list, so keep checking back.  I welcome suggestions!

The second thing is a comic strip that illustrates and supports my point.  What would sci-fi movies look like if cavemen made movies using our sci-fi plots?  We, as a society, are constantly yelling about the threat that science is to us, our culture, and our planet, and we make movies that exaggerate this perceived threat, which only adds to the fear the public has about science.  Yet, every time we go back and watch a sci-fi movie from a past era, those of us in the "future" laugh at the totally wacky fears portrayed in the movie.  Of COURSE it wouldn't happen like that!  With our 20/20-hindsight vision, we can see how ridiculous that fear is!  But then we go right back to accusing today's scientists of "playing god" and "messing with nature" and "things we can't possibly understand".

And, because it ALWAYS happens, yes, I KNOW that sometimes science screws up. Sometimes we create medicines that do more harm than good. We create weapons of mass destruction. We fuck up the environment & lose species to extinction. That's not the point. I, and all proponents of science, are not now saying, nor have we ever (to the best of my knowledge) said, that science is a utopia of technology, always done for the betterment of mankind, etc. I am saying that more good than harm has come from science - that the good that has come out far exceeds the harm that has happened, and the fears that science will be the destruction of all have been unfounded every time they've come up so far.

Out of all the tragedies that science has actually contributed to, it was science that managed whatever corrections were developed in response. Wars kill people, but medical technology advances at a faster rate during war & are built upon after the war ends. Environmental disasters happen, but technology is what is ultimately used to clean up the mistake and prevent it from happening again. People live longer, eat more, are overall healthier, and with more leisure time, can afford to help people not of their own tribes (who are often prevented from enjoying the same luxuries as health and longer life span by superstitious leaders) and choose more conscientious environmental endeavors. These things would not be possible without scientific advancement, and refraining from scientific advancement has never prevented death and destruction and, in many cases, encourages it.


Stupid LJ and their stupid no-javascript rules! I am unable to post any rss feeds anywhere in LJ, after searching for a way all day. I did, however, finally manage to build an rss feed reader onto my website that I am happy with. So, here is a list of Skeptic Movies and here is a list of Poly-ish Movies, both of which are pulling content directly from the Netflix lists and will self-update so I don't have to maintain multiple lists.
joreth: (anger)
 Some of you may have seen the news reports about a few deaths in India shortly after being administered the HPV vaccine.  6 young girls have died in a very short time after being given the vaccine, and naturally the authorities wanted to investigate.  But I was waiting until the details came out before I reported on it.

So, here's the scoop.  Both Gardasil and Ceravix were given permission to conduct Phase III trials in India - which is basically the kind of trial that has been deemed safe enough to test on humans directly in large numbers.  In the lab, it passed enough tests to be considered safe, but sometimes there are things that we only find out when we can expose large numbers of humans to find any unusual quirks that might not show up in a nice and tidy lab.  Drugs and vaccines need to be tested as excessively safe before they make it to the Phase III level.  That's just a quick sum-up.

Anyway, so they did this trial and 6 girls who participated in the trial ended up dead.  The vaccines were immediately pulled and investigations started, naturally.  This, of course, was done on their own, not prompted only by special interests groups, because, contrary to the fearmongers, Big Pharma is not some shadowy cloak-and-dagger evil Empire out to kill the humans.  It's a collection of many organizations, for-profit corporations, and government entities, all staffed by people.  Some, naturally, want their corporations to to do well, others are motivated by compassion for other people - a desire to help find cures and make lives better, and others just want to file their papers alphabetically and collect their paycheck.  

Anyway, so they pulled the vaccines and conducted an investigation.  And, surprise, surprise, all 6 of the deaths are conclusively attributed to other causes.  4 of which were stated in this one article:  fever, suicide, drowning, and severe anemia with malaria & a snake bite.  

Seriously?  Two girls died from drowning and a suicide and they got lumped into the body count for Gardasil?  This isn't like some mysterious and unusual heart condition that would take an in-depth autopsy to conclusively determine was a pre-existing condition and not related to the vaccine but that we wouldn't know that at the time it happened and a correlation would be a reasonable suspicion.

I haven't even gotten to the worst part.  

So, they conclusively decided that all 6 of the deaths were not related, and yet India has decided to permanently pull the plug on the HPV vaccine and there is a call to pull the vaccine from all the other States.

So, here's a vaccine that has proven to be harmless (as far as vaccines go, this has some of the fewest side effects, and least dangerous side effects of almost any vaccine), has also proven to significantly decrease the incidence of death by painful and prolonged cancer, and yet, for your "protection", we're going to refuse to allow you to take it because a handful of people who have taken the vaccine have, coincidentally, died of totally unrelated causes.

Because dying of cancer is preferable to taking a vaccine that someone else took who happened to drown later that same year.
joreth: (being wise)
First, the Bad News:

Measles are making a comeback. This isn't exactly brand new, there has been quite a few pockets of measles outbreaks over the last few years since that fucking moron baby-killer Jenny McCarthy (there are not harsh enough words to describe her) started her imbecilic anti-vaccine campaign. Thanks to our shitty educational system, the anti-intellectual/anti-science movement that thinks people with specialized education are "elitist", and the utterly naive Libertarian position of "just throw out all the information and let people access what they want", entire communities have absolutely no comprehension of how the immune system works and how vaccines function. They seem to think that exposing their bodies to the full virus makes their bodies STRONGER and that exposure to a dead, neutralized, inactive, or partial virus is somehow WORSE.

I'll repeat that.

People actually believe that exposing themselves to something that can't possibly hurt them but will turn their immune system on to create blueprints for the real thing before it comes along is WORSE than exposing themselves to a full, activated, deadly virus running rampant.

"In spite of years of research proving otherwise, some parents still misguidedly believe vaccines ... can cause autism. ... Measles once affected about 4 million children a year, causing hundreds of deaths and leaving thousands more with brain damage."

Do you people not understand that these vaccines basically FUCKING ELIMINATED measles in First World countries until your stupidity brought it back? It is still a deadly threat in other parts of the world, which means that we are not yet safe from it! In this article, Canada is suffering from an influx of measles because they hosted the Olympics, which brought in the disease from those parts of the world that have not eradicated it, and the completely misguided belief that vaccines cause autism is killing children.

16 people contracted measles ... 8 OF THEM IN A SINGLE HOUSEHOLD.

Can you imagine wiping out your entire family with a virus that we have the ability to prevent you from catching? Can you imagine refusing a vaccine on the grounds that it *might* cause autism only to have all of your children get brain damage from the virus itself? Can you imagine being responsible for ending your family line by killing your children because you refused to listen to the experts?

"'If a measles-infected person walks into a room with 10 uninfected people," says Dr. David Sugerman of the CDC, "nine of them will get infected.' Moreover, anyone who goes into that room within the next two hours after the infected person has left is likely to get measles, too."

In one case, a 7-year-old boy picked up a case of measles on a family trip to Switzerland and infected "839 people. Of those, 73 were unvaccinated children — 25 whose parents chose not to get them vaccinated, and 48 children under 12 months who were too young to be vaccinated." ( If that 7-year-old boy had only been vaccinated, those 48 children who were too young could have relied on the herd immunity that the vaccine schedule is supposed to create and would not have fallen ill to a disease that could kill them or cause brain damage in their oh-so-young and developing brains.

And if you want to be particularly pragmatic and callous about it, this incident cost the taxpayers $10,000 per case to contain and treat.

The second article there goes on to emphasize that the anti-vaccine parents are not the bad guys, they're just misinformed and guided by a sense of concern for their children. I agree, although my vitriol at these senseless deaths and illnesses might suggest otherwise. I do understand that these parents are concerned for the wellbeing of their children, and it is due to the completely irresponsible Jenny McCarthy and her ilk that we have these misguided parents who are trying to do the right thing by their children and end up doing exactly the opposite and endangering their children's lives.

I have spoken to parents with autistic children who were told it was caused by vaccines, and I have actually managed to convince them that they were mistaken by being informed and having the correct information readily available. These parents are concerned, and how are they supposed to be able to distinguish between good information and bad information when people in lab coats are telling them two different stories?

Oh, maybe by instilling in them a good science and critical thinking background in school, we can give people the tools they need to tell the difference between actual medical advice and pseudoscientific rubbish.

And now for the Good News:

Researchers see cancer vaccine revolution on the horizon

There are "several cancer vaccine drugs nearing FDA approval. Dendreon's prostate cancer vaccine Provenge is awaiting the agency's OK, and Merck KGaA's Stimuvax is in trials for multiple myleoma, lung cancer, and breast cancer. ... UPMC researcher Olivera Finn is developing a vaccine to treat patients with advanced pancreatic cancer." This is fantastic news.

Most of these types of vaccines get started by treating people who already have cancer, so that helps people to beat it and recover. "Part of the challenge of testing preventative vaccines in people with early-stage cancer is time; patients would have to be followed for years for researchers to determine if early treatment was effective. And that's enormously expensive. "...[I]t's much easier to do that after you've got a revenue-generating product," says Robert Kirkman, president of Oncothyreon, which originally developed Stimuvax. That's why developers choose to treat late-stage diseases first."

So we will first see vaccines being used to treat people who already have advanced stages of cancer - which in a way is a good thing since those people need the treatments right away. Remember, that they won't be getting them until after they've shown efficacy and safety in the lab first, but once the vaccine starts bringing in money, the drug companies can start testing the efficacy and safety for early stages and preventative uses.

Just think, we are on the cusp of an era that could eliminate cancer as a primary cause of death in the human species!
joreth: (Dobert Demons of Stupidity)
The Texas school board has had a long history of changing textbooks to reflect inaccurate information. And because Texas is the largest purchaser of textbooks, whatever they want to be put in them is what the rest of the nation ends up getting by default.

This is not simply a conservative vs. liberal issue. Even other conservatives do not all agree with the changes being made. They are removing or reducing actual historical and scientific data from the textbooks which will give future generations an inaccurate understanding of history and science.

In order to compete in the global market and as a leading nation, we need our children to be well-educated on those subjects that will keep us as global leaders in politics, in business, and in science and technology. It does no one any good to rewrite history in our textbooks because some extremists don't like the story.  They actually want to completely remove Thomas Jefferson's writings on the separation of church and state because it will be easier to convince people that this country was founded on religious principles if future voters never learn that the Founding Fathers explicitly and intentionally separated church and state.  That is not the only proposed change either, but it's a representative example.

Please sign this petition to encourage textbook publishers to refuse to make nationwide changes to their textbooks to the detriment of all our children on the basis that a handful of extremists with no historical, scientific, or academic background think they know better than the "experts". Pass this on to your friends and family - even people without children or with grown children are affected by the future of our Nation's children.  Email it, Tweet about it, blog about it, post it in Facebook.
joreth: (::headdesk::)

A study was released on January 13 of this year with some really interesting results on "cultural cognition".  They wanted to find out who thought the HPV vaccine was risky and who didn't, and why.  The "who" came as no surprise to me, but the "why" was interesting.

Interviews of more than 1,500 U.S. adults reveal that individuals who favor authority and other traditional values and who are likely to see the HPV vaccine as condoning premarital sex perceive the vaccine as risky. Individuals who strongly support gender equality and government involvement in basic health care are more likely to see the vaccine as low risk and high benefit.

See that? It's not just that religious people don't want the vaccine because sex is immoral, it's that people who think sex is immoral ALSO think it's "risky". People's cultural values affect how they perceive risk - not facts, not statistics, but a totally unrelated set of subjective values changes how a person evaluates facts and data that has nothing to do with those values.

I totally get that if someone is opposed to premarital sex for religious reasons, and if a vaccine comes along to reduce or eliminate one of the possible drawbacks to sex, that person might be opposed to the vaccine because he might think people will go off and have sex now that it's "safe". I think it's highly unethical to encourage disease, suffering & death in order to "punish" people for doing an activity that *you* don't like, but I see how one follows from the other - if you think action A is bad, then there should be some punishment for people who do it and I get that logic (the part where I have a problem is when action A is agreed upon by all involved & the person who thinks it's bad isn't participating, that and the whole idea of punishing a natural human need that evolution has seen fit to encourage for the survival of our genes, but that's another rant).

I think to some extent it's true - if sex had fewer complications, *some* people would have more of it with a wider variety of partners.  But what I don't get is "premarital sex is immoral, therefore this vaccine is dangerous and will cause you to have a stroke".  I would have more respect for someone who said "I read the data and the vaccine seems perfectly safe, but I'm opposed to it on moral reasons".  At least that's being honest ... stupid, but honest.

They also discovered that when you give people a well-balanced view on the vaccine, they got MORE OPPOSED to it if they were already opposed to it. This is called "bias assimilation", apparently.

Let me say that again in another way: Giving people information to make up their own minds MAKES THEM MORE RESISTANT TO ACCEPTING THE DATA. Sorry you Libertarians who think there shouldn't be any controls or standards in place and that people should just have all the info they want to make their own choices with no mandates or government agencies to oversee the population, but this just DOES NOT WORK. When it comes to things like vaccines, other people's choices affect everyone around them and people do not make good choices even (and especially) if you present them with the information they need to make those choices.

The joke about sticking fingers in ears and yelling "LALALALA I CAN'T HEAR YOU!" isn't really a joke it would seem.

They also found out that what made people more willing to moderate their positions from their adamant opposition to the vaccine was hearing that someone who they perceived to have similar cultural background, or had "cultural credibility", take the pro-vaccine stance.

In other words, they were only willing to take their fingers out of the ears if the person speaking to them looked like them. This is a complete reliance upon the Argument From Authority - the message is exactly the same, but they were only willing to believe it if the messenger wasn't "too different" from themselves.

The concluding message from this study was that if we want to get our point across about the safety of vaccinations, we have to cultivate a very diverse group of spokespeople, so that no matter what cultural identity our audience has, *someone* will be "good enough" for the audience to listen to.
joreth: (Dobert Demons of Stupidity)

I will, once again, preface this with a disclaimer that really shouldn't need to be said. But it does, so I will.

I am not opposed to proper legislation and punishment for actual sexual offenders. Rapists (violent and non-violent), child molesters, sexual harassment perpetrators, etc. do, indeed, need to be both punished and prevented from harming society. That's not what I'm talking about here.

What I'm talking about is the criminalization of any activity that even remotely involves the genitals with complete disregard to whether or not the activity is sexual in nature, whether it's participated in by consenting adults, and whether it's performed on private property. I'm talking about the punishment not fitting the crime, and about labeling all of these people with the same label, as if their offenses were equal, and about the punishment for sharing a label with a rapist or child molester resulting in otherwise decent human beings being denied their basic rights as citizens after completing their time served, such as housing and the ability to work a legitimate job and contribute to society after their debt has been paid.

In this case, a guy has been arrested for being naked in his own kitchen.

Yes, you read that right.  It wasn't a typo.  He was ARRESTED for being naked in his own kitchen.  Should he later be convicted in a court of law, he will have to serve jail time, probably pay a fine, and only be allowed to live in certain places, take certain types of jobs, and be denied for all other jobs because of his felony record, all because he was NAKED IN HIS OWN KITCHEN.

The article I'm linking to provides some questionable points in the case.  And I think these are reasonable points to question.  But the really important points in the case are:

2) She was trespassing on HIS property
3) If the genders were reversed, the lookiloo would have been arrested as a Peeping Tom

OK, so maybe it wasn't in the best of taste to leave his blinds open, but c'mon, it's not reasonable to expect a person to shut himself off from sunlight on the off-chance someone might be illegally on his property and peeking through his windows to catch a glimpse of his bare chest and call the cops for it.

Oh, did I mention that she only saw him naked from the waist up?

But really, if you don't want to see what people are doing inside their homes, DON'T FUCKING PEEK IN THEIR WINDOWS!

And I have to agree with the author of the article I linked to about the gender bias.  I think this says some very dangerous things about our society, including how we have sexualized and objectified women to a pathological degree.  A man looking at a naked woman is the criminal.  A woman looking at a naked man makes the man the criminal.  No matter how you slice it, the man is always at fault when it comes to exposing a woman to sex.  Because men are all sex maniacs and monsters (and, by extension, it's OK that they are), and women are delicate flowers that must be protected from all things sex-related at all costs.  Or something.  There are just so many things wrong with this that I think it deserves its own rant just on the gender bias ... but now now, I'm running late.

The criminalization of everything genital-related is absurd.  People, I have a newsflash:  It's not going to scar your kids for life if they know what a penis looks like, or where babies come from, or even that adults sometimes do silly things like walk around naked in their living rooms.  In fact, it probably WILL scar them for life if they don't know this.
joreth: (Super Tech)
Joseph Albietz said it best in an article debunking the anti-vaxxers claim against the swine flu vaccine. His statement stands for all vaccines:

" discussing only the children who die, Dr. Mercola implies that the only benefit of vaccination is the prevention of death in the person vaccinated. People aren’t either healthy or dead. Those who survive an infection are still subject to its inherent suffering and complications. Furthermore, survivors [and/or carriers] run a high risk of spreading it to others who then share in the risk and misery. ... We do not vaccinate “to prevent perhaps 100 deaths,” we vaccinate to prevent a disease altogether, and to help the entire population avoid all of these risks."

He also says later on:

"I’ll take the opportunity to point out that pharmaceutical companies, doctors, and hospitals stand to make a lot more money from an uncontrolled pandemic than from its prevention. The money spent on antivirals, antibiotics, sedation and pain medications, physician and hospital billing for the 200,000 people hospitalized in the US during a normal flu season would compensate them far better than profits from vaccine sales. It’s almost as though, against our financial interest, all of our efforts are designed to keep people from getting sick…"

All of my journaling and ranting doesn't say it any better, any more concisely, or any clearer, than this.

joreth: (Polydragon)
And not enough time!

I'm way behind on stuff I need to do before Dragoncon, so I don't really want to take the time to write up the journal posts I have in mind for some of these articles. But the open tabs on my browser are adding up, and my computer's ability to process is slowing down, so I need to do something. Bookmarking them usually means I'll never get around to it, so I'm going to go ahead and post a bunch of links here and there, and if discussion happens, that's great, but I'll have to write up the full journal response to them later:

... polyamorous culture is still expanding through their control of three areas of public policy: “education of children, sex education, and adolescent health.” Fagan said that through such control polyamorous culture “snatches children away from their parents and away from monogamous culture in ways analogous to the Ottoman Turks of the 14th century who raided boys from Christian nations to train them aS their own elite warriors, the Janissaries.”

Much like atheists are considered "militant" for simply speaking out, whereas a militant religious person has to actually be in favor of violence and terror, polyamorous people are compared to a brutal, warlord culture who visciously kidnaps and brainwashes children out of their very homes because we (along with sane monogamous people) want to educate children on the dangers and benefits of sex.

A study that seems to indicate that women are actively attracted to men who are already partnered because it shows that there is some precedence for the assertion that they make good partners. In polyamory, we say that poly people come with references. I am a bit disturbed by 1) the gender assumptions that are not clarified to include the high probability that they are socially constructed, and 2) the pervasive idea that the "chase" is a desired part of the relationship. As my former sweetie, [profile] zen_shooter is fond of saying, if I'm chasing them, it means they're running away. I'm not a fan of "the chase", as either a pursuer or pursued, and although I've only recently discovered just how delightful NRE can feel to people who don't tend to get bogged down in waiting for the other shoe to drop (like I habitually do), I still vastly prefer to get to the part in a relationship where it's comfortable and a bit more predictable, where I can feel as though I can count on my partner being around tomorrow, even if I know in the back of my head it's not written in stone.  Adrenaline high aside, I do not like the chase and I am not happy with a society that promotes it as the best, or even a worthwhile, endeaver all on its own.  

joreth: (Misty in Box)

[Verse 1:]
There's a place in your heart where nobody's been.
Take me there.
Things nobody knows, not even your friends.
Take me there.
Tell me about your momma, your daddy, your home town, show me around.
I wanna see it all, don't leave anything out.

I wanna know, everything about you.
And I wanna go, down every road you've been.
Where your hopes and dreams and wishes live, where you keep the rest of your life hid.
I wanna know the girl behind that pretty stare.
Take me there.

[Verse 2:]
Your first real kiss, your first true love, you were scared.
Show me where.
You learned about life, spent your summer nights, without a care.
Take me there.
I wanna roll down mainstreet and backroads like you did when you were a kid.
What makes you who you are, tell me what your story is.

[Chorus 2x:]
I wanna know, everything about you.
And I wanna go, down every road you've been.
Where your hopes and dreams and wishes live, where you keep the rest of your life hid.
I wanna know the girl behind that pretty stare.
Take me there.

I wanna roll down mainstreet.
I wanna know your hopes and your dreams.
Take me, take me there.

So, other than the implications of being "the first" and "no one else", I think this is a very powerful love song and not a sentiment I see in our current culture very often.

Many people are afraid to know their partners too well, to look too closely, because if they do, they might come face to face with someone they don't like very much.  An awful lot of people date and marry people they don't actually like, because being *in* a relationship is more important than who you're in it with.

This is most clearly illustrated in the idea that we aren't ever supposed to talk about our past relationships, or tell how many people we've had sex with.  Because that means that we weren't THE FIRST or THE ONLY.  We might get insecure at the idea that our lover has done this same sexual act with someone else, has let someone else touch her that way, has let someone else see her vulnerable.  I'm not really sure *why* that's frightening.  Frankly, I'd be more terrified to find I was dating someone who *hadn't* had those experiences before.  I am, after all, in my 30s, and my dating partners tend to be close to my own age or older, so the idea that they've gone their whole lives without similar experiences means that they do not have the same level of relationship skills that I do - not even close.

I remember having a conversation with a metamour several years ago, where she questioned me whether or not I wanted to be *known*.  There was special emphasis put on that word "known".  At the time, I told her "not particularly".  And that's still mostly true.  I don't care if people really *get* me or not, so long as they leave me alone to do my thing.  The reason I spend so much time and effort trying to explain myself to people, such as in this journal and in poly lectures and through my activism, isn't because the end goal is to be *known*, but because that's the means by which I can acheive my end goal, which is to be left alone to make my own choices in peace.

But that answer is not complete, as I later discovered.  I do want to be *known* ... by certain individuals.  Particularly by people whom I want to *know*.

Of course no one will ever 100% absolutely totally and perfectly know anyone else - hell, I don't think anyone ever reaches that level with themselves (although some people get close, and I believe we should always strive to get closer).  But when I think about building intimate relationships with people, I can't quite formulate a definition for "intimate" that doesn't include that *knowing* of another person.

I want to *know* him.  As the song says, I want to know what makes him who he is.  I want to know his thoughts, his dreams, his fears, his experiences.  I want to crawl inside his head and see what it's like to be him, what makes him tick.

And I want someone who wants to do that with me ... and isn't afraid at what he finds when he tries.

In my mind, that's all part of what makes an intimate relationship.  No, we never reach the end, we never know someone completely.  But that desire to know, and the path and processes it takes to find out, those are what builds intimate relationships.

I find this song particularly valuable because it is a country song, a song in a genre that is so steeped in "tradition" and "what should be" and it feeds and buys into so many of the particularly destructive social memes and mores.  I find it especially valuable for the line "Your first real kiss, your first true love, you were scared. / Show me where" and in the chorus "I wanna know the girl behind that pretty stare."  

In the first case, not only does he acknowledge that his current love interest *had* previous partners, but he wants to know all about them because they contributed to who she is today.  It's not out of jealousy, he doesn't want a comparison, and he doesn't hide from that knowledge out of fear or jealousy either.

In the second case, far too many songs wax on and on about a woman's looks.  Many of them are just party songs - something to dance to, and, let's face it, hookups happen, so those songs are not irrelevant.  But this is the first time I've heard a song say, explicitly, "I'm interested in who you are and what's going on in your mind".  As a girl, I can't tell you how rare that sentiment actually is, and how meaningful it is to hear it said sincerely.  Sure, I've heard love songs written after the love has happened, where someone talks about the whole person.  But I've never heard it sung before where someone does *not* know the love interest and wants to.  

Usually the knowing part happens sort of by accident.  People get "lucky" because they use looks as their main criteria for finding a mate, and then, by sheer coincidence (and social training to not leave and fear of being alone) they end up with someone they can tolerate.  In songs, of course, they more than just tolerate them, they actively adore their partners.  But it still started out with a guy seeing a hot chick across the room and feeing a physical attraction.

Here, although he probably *does* feel a physical attraction (she does, after all, have a pretty stare), it's more than just "hey baby, ur hot, wanna fuck?" or even "you're awfully pretty ma'am, would you like to dance?"  He wants to know her as a full and complete person.

An awful lot of men (and women too, but since I'm a straight female, I'm going to address things from my perspective for now) want to lump women into a single category, and then spend the rest of their lives trying to figure out What Women Want.  They read books, they go to seminars, they talk to their buddies, some of them even ask a female friend or two.  They try to change something about themselves to make them more attractive to the opposite sex.

And this completely misses the point.

There is no What Women Want.  Because we all want different things.  Funny how that happens, since, y'know, we're all individual, unique, and different people.

This has come up in [ profile] tacit's journal recently, although it's not entirely the point he was trying to make.  He was talking about society's sense of entitlement that people have regarding relationships.  People feel they are entitled to them, as if relationships (and the gender they are interested in, in this case, women) are a commodity that people somehow deserve, and if they just follow Steps 1-5, they will be rewarded with the relationship at the end.

And that sort of thinking leads to people starting forum posts on the internet that ask "hey, I've been on OKC for 6 months now and I haven't found a date yet.  What do women want?"

And it's a ridiculous question.  Because not all women want the same things.  Even women in more accurate subcategories don't want exactly the same things.  And sometimes there's just something, I dunno, chemical, that makes any individual attracted or not attracted to any other individual, regardless of whatever category they fit in or what they think they want, sort of as [ profile] leora was postulating over in her journal.

In fact, there's even another country song out there that specifically says "I don't know what I did to deserve you, but I hope I keep doing it".  These people don't *know* each other, and that makes their world a whole lot scarier, and a whole lot more out of their own control.  If you don't know what you did to attract, keep the attention of, or "deserve" your partner, how in the hell can you possibly expect to continue to do so?  If you don't know what it is she wants or sees in you or why she sticks around, how can you feel secure in your relationship that she will continue to do so?  How can you possibly choose your actions to most likely bring about the desired response?  You can't.   It's a completely crapshoot and your life, and your relationship, are totally out of your control.

One guy in [ profile] tacit's post actually said "I know women are individual, but there's nothing wrong with thinking about them in a category in an academic sense".  *blink blink*  yeah, actually, there is.

The closest you can get is to pick a single trait, just one, and you can talk about trends.  But that is only a single trait, and all you can say is that many or a majority, or few women like this or do that.  That tells you absolutely nothing about me and if you want to relate to me you have to throw those trends out the window and find out what *I* want or like or do or hate or am insecure about or am confident about.  Because no matter what the trends say, it is not me and you will not know me by thinking, even academically, about trends.

But this song, this character, he wants to *know* his mate.  He recognizes that she's an individual.  He sees her as unique.  He sees her as *her*.

And that's a rare quality, and one that is far more attractive than the idea that this guy sitting in front of me sees me as an incomprehensible creature, or, worse yet, that he thinks he already *does* comprehend me because he believes that All Women or even Most Women do or want or think or feel anything.  Playing the odds, figuring you'll go with "most women like X" and just assume I do too because the chances are good that I do, that still tells me that you do not see me as an individual.  You put me in a category, and objects placed in a category can be more or less interchangeable.

And I am most certainly not interchangeable.

And neither are my partners.  I see them.  I might not 100% know them, but I see them.  And I want to know them, because that helps me to see them better.  I want to know about their first kiss, their first love, the street they grew up on, their hopes and dreams and wishes, I want to know what pains them and I want to know what makes them happy.

And this is the first country song I've heard that even comes close to expressing this concept, and to acknowledge a person's individuality and uniqueness, and that their past is a very important part of who they are, and to show no fear and no shame at wanting to explore all the scary paths that are required to building an intimate relationship.

I'm fascinated by who my partners are and by what makes them who they are.  Tell me everything about you.  Tell me about your day, tell me about your past, tell me about your future.  Let me see you, let me see who you were, who you will be, who you are.  Take me there.

joreth: (Misty in Box)
C: Does that ever really work? Just coming out and being so ... obvious?
A: Well, if it's the right guy, sure. It certainly beats the alternative
C: What do you mean?
A: Having no idea whether or not a man is interested in you.
C: You really can't tell?
A: Well, generally that IS how you tell, they make a move.

Let's talk a little about fear and honesty and owning your own feelings.
I really hate the phrase "own your feelings" because it has been taken up by as a mantra by wacky pop-psych and militant feminists and others I tend to get cranky around.  But if I can get past the idea that people I don't like use a particular term, and get to its usefulness, there's something valuable in that phrase.  
Our society has all these elaborate rules and games on how to properly conduct the mating ritual in humans. You can't admit to being attracted to someone outright, so you have to drop hints and do some detective work to dig out if the other person likes you too (who is, of course, trying to hide that they like you just the way you are trying to hide that you like them). You have to make jokes about liking them so that if they do not return your feelings, everyone can just pretend it was a joke and no one has to feel AWKWARD because that's the worst thing EVAR. Girls should never ask out guys because that's forward - make them come to you. Guys should never ask a girl on a date outright, because that puts you in a vulnerable position where she now knows that you like her and she has all the power. When you do ask someone on a date, first you ask them out for something small, like coffee. Work your way up to an actual "date" date only when you're sure your feelings are reciprocated - except you are never, ever, EVER to tell her how you feel because that will scare her off, and you are never, ever, EVER to ask her how she feels because then she will feel obligated to give you an answer that you expect.
See, people are afraid of their own feelings.  We construct elaborate social rules to prevent us from our own feelings.  Our society is based on a mountain of myths, all designed to prevent us from feeling our feelings.  Guys and girls can't ever be friends because the sex thing always gets in the way (remember When Harry Met Sally?).  You can't ever admit to liking a friend, that'll destroy the friendship.  And forget about admitting you like someone who is already in a monogamous relationship!  Then, once you're in a relationship, don't ever ask for what you want, you have to subtly hint and cajole.  FSM forbid if what you want is a sexual kink!  Why, then you're a monster!  If you look at/feel attraction for other people while in a romantic relationship, that will make your partner feel all kinds of bad feelings, so don't ever even look at another person of the appropriate gender - especially if your partner can see you!
These are the forum threads I haunted not too long ago.  I'm not making this up, nor am I summarizing.  Most of these are direct quotes.  In one thread, a man sagely intoned that men and women could never be platonic friends.  You see, apparently a man and a woman could never, ever, EVER be alone with each other if they are not in a romantic relationship because they could not help themselves, they will fall upon each other like ravening beasts.  Unfortunately, I have TONS of experiences that says *that's* not true!  
Then, if you admit to liking a friend, well, now the sex thing is in the way there too, causing (dramatic music) TENSION and AWKWARDNESS, and we can't ever allow ourselves to get into any situation where we might feel that!  This goes double if the feelings aren't reciprocated.
Now, if that friend is already in a monogamous relationship, well, admitting your attraction is even worse!  Because now you've *admitted* to the attraction, so the partner has absolutely every right to be jealous and to believe that you are no longer trustworthy to be in the presence of the person you fancy. 
And the hiding of the emotions doesn't stop there.  Once you're in a relationship, you can't now *start* to reveal your feelings, because your partner might then learn something about who you are!  And your partner might not like you as that person!  And you might be rejected!  Oh, the horror!  We might actually feel bad!  Now, don't get me wrong, feeling bad sucks.  But being in a relationship with someone, spending all your time and energy with someone with whom you have to constantly watch what you say and guard your actions sounds like the worst of all possible hells to me, not to mention impossible.
Looking at another person while in a monogamous relationship might make your partner be forced to confront feelings of inadequacy or abandonment, or some other issue.  We can't have that!  We must protect our partner from having any uncomfortable feelings at all costs because then they might, I dunno, learn something and grow as a human, or, worse yet, make YOU feel uncomfortable by having to put up with their shit.
So, here we have an entire society of people who are afraid of their feelings.  Oh, the effort and the energy expended to protect themselves from feeling those feelings!  My god, it's exhausting just thinking about it!  There are rules and regulations and laws and mores and assumptions, and we're supposed to navigate our way through this complex and conflicting mire by somehow picking up the map through osmosis or something.  
Or, we could own our feelings.
Here's what I mean.  See, in all of these situations, there is an unstated assumption that our admission of a particular feeling or having a particular feeling should come with an expectation of the other person's behaviour.  If I tell you that I love you, my admission should make you love me back.  The fear that it won't is what causes the trouble here.  But if I let go of that expectation, if I state that I love you with no particular attachment to the idea of whether or not you love me back, well, then it's not nearly so scary.  Of course, it might not stop me from *wanting* you to love me back, but the act of saying "I love you" is no longer frightening if I do not *expect* any particular response, if I'm not *attached* to that expectation or desire of wanting any particular response.  I have removed my attachment from your response.  "I love you.  Just wanted you to know.  OK, see ya!"
If you tell me that you love me, and I don't return your feelings, the expectation that I am *supposed* to return your feelings will make hearing this admission difficult, and that will cause the awkwardness and tension in our relationship.  Combine that with your own expectation that I *should* love you back, and here's where we have drama.  But if I do not feel obligated to return your feelings, there is no awkwardness on my end when you tell me that you love me.
Now, I actually have a big problem with obligation.  I was pretty thoroughly programmed with this little nugget.  My parents are SJs - there are an awful lot of shoulds when dealing with SJs, being rather attached to "tradition" for tradition's sake in many cases.  When someone says "hi", you should say "hi" back.  When someone sneezes, you should say "god bless you".  When someone tells you "god bless you", you should say "thank you".  When I say "I love you", you should respond with "I love you too".  Hell, I was raised Catholic - attend a Catholic mass sometime and see how they programm the congregation to always respond to certain key phrases, and how to respond.  It sounds like a freakin' brainwashed cult:
"And the Lord be with you" - "And also with you."  "We lift up our hearts" - "We lift them up to the Lord".  "We should give thanks to the Lord our God" - "It is right to give Him thanks and praise".  

If you've never heard the monotone responsorials before, I highly recommend listening - it's damn creepy.  I thought so as a kid when I was not yet an atheist.  In fact, the responsorials were the first thing that pushed me away from the cult ... er ... I mean religion.
In order to de-program myself from this sense of obligation, I have intentionally refused to respond to people in expected ways, even if the response is actually the truth.  I do not bless people for sneezing (nor do I say gesundheit), I do not thank people for blessing me, I do not respond to "hi, how are you" with "fine, how are you?".  I do not say "I love you too" every time someone I love says it to me.  Now, I make a point to explain this to my partners, so they understand what I'm doing and don't get hurt if I don't say it back every time.  I still struggle with this, I still feel the pull to respond appropriately, the programming is so deep.  But I refuse to let my genuine feelings get muddied up with obligation.  
So when I am in a situation where my feelings actually are not reciprocated, I feel much less awkward because I do not have that sense of obligation.  It is not my responsibility to behave the way this person hopes I do.  And if he has the courage to tell me that he is attracted to me without knowing how I feel about him, that courage deserves to be rewarded by, the very least, me not flipping out on him and ceasing to be his friend.
I am responsible for no one's actions other than my own.  I cannot help having feelings, but I can attempt to remove my expectations of what other people should do in response to those feelings.  
When in a romantic relationship, I try to create an atmosphere that allows my partners to come to me with any particular feeling or request.  It doesn't mean that I can't have my own reaction to it - some things might hurt me or piss me off.  It means that my partners and I are *allowed* to come to each other and the other person is not obligated to respond to our admission in like kind.  Of course, once I'm in a romantic relationship with someone, there are a *few* assumptions of expected behaviour, such as "you will not hit me if you are angry".  I think it's a pretty reasonable expectation to place on a romantic partner of no physical violence to an admission of a feeling.  But that's sort of a general expectation of treating a human with dignity and respect, not one attached to a particular feeling.
If I have a feeling of getting really turned on by wearing a strap-on harness and dildo and penetrating my male partners' anuses, I believe a healthy romantic relationship should allow me to admit to this desire, providing I do not attach the expectation that my partner is now obligated to allow me to experience this desire with him.  I can't reasonably expect to get what I want if I never ask for it.  How will I know if any given partner is open to the experience if I don't ask?  Other than him admitting it himself, because then it's still the same situation, only the roles are reversed.  But I have to be able to let go of any attachment to the expectation that he will respond in the manner I most desire him to.  Then it simply becomes a statement.  I like pegging my boyfriends.  Period.  You are not obligated to be pegged.  No tension or awkwardness on my part for admitting it when I have no attachment to the outcome.  No tension or awkwardness on his part if he doesn't reciprocate.
Now a lot of people might say "sure, this is all great in theory, but that's not how the world works.  People get jealous, people act on their emotions in ways that they shouldn't, people feel obligated.  Just because you're all enlightened or whatever and can be all Buddhist and remove your attachment to expectations doesn't mean that other people can.  So you can't go around acting all honest and stuff because it's fucking things up with people who live in the real world." (and yes, someone actually did accuse me of being "enlightened" and that I should have more understanding for everyone who isn't, and they used that specific word).
So, OK, it's true a lot of people have not done the work (and many who aren't interested in doing the work) to really analyze their feelings, get to the bottom of things, question the necessity of social mores, and deliberately attempt to rise above the petty maze of rules and regulations and not be controlled by their fears.
I do not think that absolves us of trying to behave better anyway.  First of all, nothing will change if there aren't the first few people to try it and show how it works.  Second of all, there *are* some people who desire to stop all the games and the lying and who do not wish to be ruled by fear, and I can choose to surround myself with those people more often than with the ones who don't put in the work to know themselves and better their relationships.
Most of my friends are male.  Many of them are in some kind of situation where a romantic relationship with me is not possible.  Some of them are monogamous, some just have incompatible dating styles, some are long distance and unlikely to see me in person in the forseeable future, whatever.  There are a handful of these friends to whom I am attracted.  I have admitted to my attraction to every single friend that I have an attraction for.  And guess what?  No drama, no lost friendships, no jealous wives, no real awkward moments even.  I admitted my feelings without getting all attached to an expectation that they would suddenly turn to me after my admission and say "OMG, I feel the same way!  Let's run off together and start a geek-commune with lots of kinky sex and intelligent people!"  Doesn't mean I'm not disappointed that no one is willing/able to run off and start a geek commune with me with lots of kinky sex and our best intelligent friends.  But the goal of my admission was not to achieve this reaction.  It was simply to admit to my feelings because my feelings wanted to be admitted.
In some cases, the feelings were not returned.  In other cases, they were returned, but something about the choices we have made in our lives makes it not possible at this stage to be in a romantic relationship together.  And both reactions are OK.  They know how I feel, they told me how they feel, and we go on with our lives.  We have constructed friendships that honor those feelings without requiring a change in circumstance or hurting anyone.  For example, with the friends who are already partnered, there is no need for the partner to feel jealous, or limit our interactions, or assume anything illicit is happening, because, although there are feelings involved, there is no attachment to the expectation that the person I'm attracted to should behave in a certain way.  In other words, I'm not a threat to anyone's marriage because me having the hots for the husband doesn't mean I'm going to do anything about it or get upset if he doesn't do anything about it (of course, had he been the type who *would* act upon these feelings in direct opposition to his wife's feelings, I wouldn't have respected him enough to develop an attraction in the first place).
I have some other friends.  These friends have not yet learned to divorce their attachments to their expectations.  These are the friends that make things awkward.  Again, most of them are male.  Some of them have admitted to having romantic feelings for me.  When they tell me these things, I do not feel obligated to respond in kind.  In my ideal situation, someone would express his attraction to me, and I would smile and say that I was flattered, and then go back to whatever it is we were doing before the admission.  I do not pretend to like him back (and then start avoiding him, hoping he'll get the hint, which seems to be the most common response), and I do go on being the same friendly friend that I was before the admission.
But, with these types of people, the point of admitting their attraction is to get me to respond back.  So they will keep letting me know how they feel.  Sometimes they will drop hints, and sometimes they will ask me outright for things, like a date or sex.  When this happens, I will have to say, clearly, that I do not return their feelings, but we can still be friends if they'd like.  I do not enjoy letting someone down, but I will do it.  I absolutely hate it when people hem and haw and are vague and ambiguous, and then start avoiding the person just to avoid having an awkward conversation (even if I have been known to do it myself in the past).  
But, with these "friends", it doesn't stop there.  They are so invested in getting that response, they will continue pushing.  I can't tell you how many times I have gone through this process all the way to the "thank you but no" stage only to have somone grope me the next time I saw them.  I've gotten pretty darn good at fighting off Octopus Hands.  Someone will try to touch my breasts, and when I say no and physically restrain them, they'll use the other hand to grab for my crotch.  *This* is the reason why people have developed the avoidance tactic.  And this happens more often that you'd expect.
Then it's this type of behaviour that makes the recipient of the affection (in this scenario, it's often a woman) do the avoidance dance.  The "Um, yeah, I'd love to hang out sometime, but, uh, I just got *really* busy with work and won't be free for the next 12 years" conversation.  The "always hijack another person into accompanying you so that the guy expressing is affection is never alone with you to tell you what you are afraid to hear" method seems to be another favorite move.
So people develop an expectation that someone's admission of their feelings will be accompanied by an expectation of how *they* themselves should behave.  Now we have these expectations on both sides that create these elaborate societal rules.
But when we dispense with the bullshit, when we remove our sense of expectation and obligation, none of this is necessary.  I can admit to someone that I like him because I do not expect him to respond in kind, even if I might hope he does.  I can hear someone admit to liking me because I do not expect that *I* should respond in kind when I don't want to.  And the world goes on.
But then, when two people's desires for the path of the relationship happen to match up, we don't have this time- and energy-wasting dance of people trying to figure out if the other likes him or her and trying not to be the first one to say so, and they can just get down to the business of relating to each other.
I understand that all these complex rules are designed to make society run smoother ... but if we could learn to let go of the expectation that comes with our feelings, then we are free to feel those feelings without all the drama and heartache and pain and tension and awkwardness that these rules are designed to protect us from.
joreth: (polyamory)
Doogie is jealous when Wanda becomes enamored with the nude male model in her life drawing class. The model is handsome, he's built, and Doogie's girlfriend has already seen him naked. So Doogie starts lifting weights in a frenzied attempt to bulk up to win back Wanda's affections. All he wins is sore muscles. Fortunately (and predictably, since it's a teen show from the '80s), Wanda learns that her ultra-handsome date is completely enamored of himself, and not her. Disgusted by his narcissism, she comes back to Doogie and apolgizes.

That was the backstory, here's the point of this post. The lessoned-learned talk with Dad.

Doogie: "I think I'm going to cool it with the weights for a while."
Dad: "Good. I think you've been overdoing it."
Doogie: "That's easy for you to say, you were always been one of the big guys."
Dad: (chuckles) "Trust me, it's all relative. There'll always be someone bigger than you are, someone stronger, or better looking, or smarter ... well, maybe not smarter. Do you really like being a prodigy Doogie, I mean, does it make you feel special?"
Doogie: "Well, yeah, if I'm being honest, it does."
Dad: "You're growing up. Pretty soon you'll be just a really, really smart adult."
Doogie: "What a come down."
Dad: "Well, the point is that you don't look to other people for your self-esteem. You can earn respect from other people, even admiration and praise. But it won't mean anything to you if you don't respect yourself."

Yeah, yeah, how after-school-special, right? Except it happens to be true. This is what makes it possible to be polyamorous, or even healthily monogamous. Reporters and co-workers are always asking me "but doesn't anyone get jealous?" Of course people get jealous. Some more than others. But what makes it possible to work through the jealousy, the fear that you will lose your partner to another person, is the rock-hard belief that you are loved and loveable; that it's not about being "the best" because "the best" is impossible. It's about being *you*. And your partner is with you because of *who you are*. Becoming "the best", "the smartest", "the prettiest", will not prevent your partner from leaving ... and if that's what it took to keep him, I'd rather not be with him anyway. What will prevent your partner from leaving is your partner desiring not to leave. And that's the only thing.

It's scary to think that your partner could leave at any time, for any reason. Lots of people cling to the idea of marriage because they think it's a way to hold onto their partner forever, that if they just make it more difficult to leave, their partner won't. Frankly, I don't want to know that my partner is only my partner because I'm holding him hostage. It might be scary to think he could leave you, but it's awfully rewarding to realize that he hasn't left you, not because you forced him to stay, but because he wanted to stay.

There is no "best", there is no "perfect", and there is no "forever". But there is me, and there are people who like me for me. Maybe not a lot of people, but there are people. And their love for me is what keeps them in my life, not any attempt at perfection because perfection does not exist.


September 2017

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