joreth: (Dobert Demons of Stupidity)

This supports the comments I've been making about this issue - that the culture around Those Assholes* is the important factor, and the ideology merely focuses the targets for them. The underlying motivations for these sorts of tragedies are toxic masculinity, entitlement, and the glorification and celebritization of violent offenders. That's what they all have in common. They are ticking time bombs, all they need is some ideology to point them in a direction.

Even if this guy *was* truly atheist, and not one of those pathetic "I am chaos, the Devil bows before me" poser jackasses who chose Christians just because they have the most power in this country so they make the most high profile targets (and therefore are guaranteed to grant him the celebrity status he so obviously desires), we have that same dark underbelly in our own subculture. We have those same dark alleys of entitlement, toxic masculinity, and the glorification and celebritization of violent offenders and violence.

Those dark alleys have been spilling out their filth over the last several years. They're the reason I now identify as Feminist. I was one of those irritating Chill Girls who thought the gender wars were largely over and we had won, so I didn't need feminism. Until I joined the atheist community. Then I saw how bad misogyny still is and how much of it still reigns in our culture. That's how I became a labeled Feminist. Atheists turned me into a big-F Feminist.

If this guy really is an atheist targeting Christians, I won't pull the No True Scotsman card. Atheists can be assholes and atheists can be Assholes. Any woman who dares to criticize atheists on any topic, but particularly gaming, knows this, especially those women who have been forced from their homes because of the public threats of violence. This is why Atheism+ was born and why, even those who didn't jump on the + bandwagon are fighting from within our own ranks to clean up our atheosphere metaphorical "streets" of these dark alleys and the disturbing elements they produce.

But it sounds more and more likely that he wasn't atheist, and that he targeted Christians for their publicity power. Which brings us right back to the original point, that what those asshole atheists and Those Assholes, and This Asshole specifically, have in common is a deeply ingrained sense of entitlement, toxic masculinity, and the glorification and celebritization of violent offenders.

Gun Rights proponents like to trot out countries with high gun ownership, low gun restrictions, and still low gun violence. The *reason* why those nations exist like that is because their culture is different. They don't have the same entitlement and toxic masculinity permeating their culture. Sure "guns don't kill people, people kill people", but those people are products of their culture.

I was raised in liberal-but-rural California where guns were not glorified, but necessary for hunting. Guns were weapons to be treated with respect. They were not part of our identities, but tools - dangerous tools - to be used with caution and limitations. I was raised in a culture that does not produce mass shooters, racism, or the idea that violence is a solution to anything.

I was also raised in gang-ridden urban California, where guns were glorified as a status symbol and a means to power. I was within the physical boundaries of that culture, but I was apart from it, thanks to my family. I knew of children, my own peers, who had been caught in gang wars. I even dated someone who had been removed from the entire school district because he threatened violence on a teacher (which he gleefully admitted at the time). Violence was all around me and my family. Both of us - my family members and the gang members in my neighborhoods - had access to guns. One of us thought guns were a solution and the other saw them as a tool. Guess which of us has a higher incarceration rate for violent offenses?

The *culture* needs to be changed. And until it can be changed, it shouldn't have easy access to weapons. As a child, guns were kept out of my hands until I could understand and respect them properly. I was handling guns at a very young age, because I could understand. But my father would never have handed a loaded weapon to a 2-year old. He introduced them to me as I was able to understand and respect their inherent danger. Apparently, we need to treat our nation as a toddler prone to temper tantrums with no control and no higher cognitive functioning. You can't have the guns until you understand and respect their inherent danger. When you understand that, like your older sibling - the countries who don't have the same violent glorification tendencies - perhaps you can have them back.

I won't pretend to know which, specific, policies will effect the change I'm talking about. I am not an expert on legal policy, so I'm not proposing specific restrictions because I don't know which ones will work. What I do know is that the evidence increasingly shows it's the culture that's prompting these shootings. It's our *culture*. It's *our* culture. We need to stop promoting toxic masculinity, stop excusing entitlement and start owning up to it when we have it so that we can work on dismantling it, and stop turning these shooters into fucking celebrities. Regardless of their specific ideologies that chooses their targets for them, they choose acts of violence because they think it's a good thing to display anger and aggression and violence as signs of their masculinity and that this version of masculinity is something desirable. They choose acts of violence because they feel entitled to remove other people's agency. They choose acts of violence because they crave the fame, the notoriety and WE FUCKING GIVE IT TO THEM.

They achieve their goals. They choose acts of violence because they're fucking successful. And they're successful because we have given them a clear path to their success. WE have. Our culture. Our society. We gave them exactly what they wanted. The number of people they kill, whether they "get away" with it or not, that's all irrelevant. They've asserted their dominance and commanded our attention. They are successful. *We* are the ones who need to change because we are their final targets.

As an atheist, if any mass shooter is actually atheist, I fight to change our atheist culture so that we stop producing Those Assholes from within, not denying that they exist, not distancing myself from the responsibility of the culture that produced them. I don't see the gun nuts doing the same. I don't see men (who aren't already feminists or feminist allies and therefore largely shunned from masculine culture anyway) doing the same. I don't see theists doing the same when it's one of their own. 4-chan, PUA circles, Southern Pride groups - these types of groups are the tinder for these firebombs.

Our larger culture that excuses rape, excuses casual racism, excuses religious posturing, excuses homophobia and transphobia, excuses any sort of dehumanization, objectification, othering, and the removing of agency - our larger culture gives places for these cesspools to thrive and fester. Just like the guy who doesn't actually agree with rape but who laughs at rape jokes so that the rapist standing next to him thinks they are allies, our culture provides the hiding places for those among us who would do such harm. Our culture built those alleyways and is refusing to install safety lights. It's time to root out the dark places, and that starts with us.

*Those Assholes or That Asshole is the term I use in place of the name of any violent offender, as doing my individual part to deny them the celebrity status that is one of the main goals for their actions.
joreth: (Super Tech)

This is actually a really good video. Lots of times, videos of this nature are hyperbolic, to make a point. But I didn't feel that there was anything exaggerated for humor's sake at all. I've had every single one of these conversations (except the one about maternity leave, since I'm childfree by choice).

The most striking conversation for me was the one entitled "wow, three men on one team!" I work in a male dominated field. It's heavy labor, mathematical, rational, engineering, technical - all stuff associated with men's interests. So, even though plenty of my coworkers state emphatically how much respect they have for women and tell stories about how much they prefer to work with women because we work harder and do our jobs better (seriously, that's what is said), there is still often surprise when women show up for work and especially when the number of women on a crew reach some magical critical number. Suddenly it's all "wow, so many women on the crew! That's amazing!"

Except women have been involved in entertainment, and in particular backstage work, for ages. Women quite often dominate lighting specifically, which is one of the more manual labor-heavy departments. I am quite often on all female lighting crews. Now, since there are like 5 other departments, the women might still be a minority when you add up everyone all together, but it's really not unusual to see quite a few women working backstage anymore. But the perception remains that backstage is men's domain and women who join it are aberrations.

And what many of my well-meaning colleagues don't see to understand is that this kind of singling out, even complimentary as it can be (see above women work harder comments) is part of what makes the environment uncomfortable for women. In order for a woman to make this industry her career, she has to be really passionate about what she's doing, to overcome all the little microaggressions and mini slights.

Because, you see, making a point to notice our gender makes many of us uncomfortable. And I'm not talking about eradicating flirting either, because a lot of women who are drawn to this line of work are drawn to the bawdy, rough-and-tumble environment. We like the dirty jokes and the flirting too, for the most part. Most of the guys I know flirt with each other on the job too, because it's a *joke* and not to be taken seriously. We all know that. No one is asking anyone to somehow *unsee* our gender or to treat us with kid gloves. But many of us would be a whole lot happier if you'd quit reminding us of our gender when it's not relevant. When I'm at work, I'm a stagehand first and everything else second.

There's a study going around that I don't have at my fingertips that shows that when women make up something like 30% of the group, men (and I think women too) see the group as being overrun by females, and when women talk something like 30% of the time, men (and I think women too) think that women dominate the conversation.

This is related. When the number of women reach a critical mass on the job, suddenly it's all "whoa, look at all the women around here!" Dude, just stop that. We make up more than 50% of the population. So yeah, some of us are going to want to work in thus-and-such industry. You don't need to point it out to us, just fucking treat us like colleagues.
joreth: (Dobert Demons of Stupidity)
With the whole Kentucky gay marriage license debacle currently unfolding (remember, she is an elected official at the county level who is currently violating a court order to perform the job duties she swore an oath to perform on behalf of the citizens who elected her), I want to remind everyone of the importance of voting at the local level, not just the presidential elections every 4 years.

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

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

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

Pay attention to your local elections. They make a difference, and YOU make a difference.
joreth: (Bad Computer!)
In general, I want less government involvement in people's personal lives, overall. But I'd really like to see more legal penalties for people who refuse to fuck off when told.

So, like, two people are in an online forum and get into an argument. One tells the other to stop arguing, but they keep arguing *in the forum*. OK, we can leave that for the moderators to handle.

But say that the forum gives the users the ability to block someone, and one person blocks the other. The blocked person then deliberately contacts them on another platform or using another medium, not to apologize, but to continue the argument that the first person is no longer interested in having. I'd like to see that, since it's text-based and time-stamped, maybe have like a $25 fine for the first offense with increasing penalties for repeat offenses.

Then, let's say that two people are walking down the street and one approaches the other. The other tells the first person to leave them alone, but the first keeps on with "why you gotta be like that? I'm just tryin' to talk with you! Hey, come back here, I'm talking to you!" That ought to be a misdemeanor of some sort too. Doesn't matter that the first didn't touch the other. The other wanted out and that's all that needed to be done.

Like, is it really so hard for people to understand that someone DOESN'T WANT TO FUCKING HEAR WHAT YOU HAVE TO SAY? Don't answer that, it's a rhetorical question. Of course it's really so hard for some people to understand that, that's why they keep talking at people who have made it crystal clear that they don't want to hear any more.

And I'm not talking about the police busting down the door to arrest a parent telling their kid why they have to eat their veggies and the kid isn't having any of it, or a boss getting thrown in the clink for telling an employee something that he doesn't want to hear, or people using any sort of public platform for spouting their ideas and opinions to the general public. Don't strawman me or start Pedantically Missing The Point.

I'm talking about when an individual person invades the space of another individual person and deliberately disrespects personal boundaries by following after someone who has revoked or not given consent to the encounter. I'm talking about taking harassment more seriously. Because, legally, we don't give a shit about the guy emailing someone repeatedly using different email addresses or texting with different numbers or using a dozen different social media accounts after she has unambiguously told him to fuck off. We, legally, cared once that I know about, and it took years and his harassment of dozens (if not hundreds) of people with strict record keeping before the authorities finally took notice, and once he got out of jail, he just started up again (look up the saga of David Mabius if you're curious).

Because, legally, we only care about a dude harassing someone after he's killed her. And then we all moan and wail about why wasn't something done about it sooner? Because no one is willing or able to make harassment an actual offense with consequences. No, that would be too Big Brothery. Besides, it's just talking, right? Sticks and stones and all. Until it's not.

You are entitled to your opinions. You are not entitled to forcing me to hear them. I don't care if you don't like me, I don't need to be repeatedly told so, just LEAVE ME THE FUCK ALONE.
joreth: (Super Tech)

Why I need ‪#‎Feminism‬:

My well-meaning family still thinks it's appropriate to tell *me* to "be safe" and change my behaviour when I complain about someone else harassing me online, as if it's my fault and as if there is actually anything I can do to stop it.

Stop being assholes online. That's how I can be more safe.

Why I Need ‪#‎Feminism‬:

Because some dudes still think that being a Latino male makes life harder than being a Latina, disabled, poor, religious minority, not-exactly-cis-female does and that being that horribly discriminated against Latino male entitles said dudebro to constantly seek out said female on multiple platforms every time she blocks him on one to tell her so.

Because his opinion must be heard, dontcha know. We can't live in a world where someone doesn't want to hear some dudebro's opinion on something.

PSA: When someone blocks you on social media, and blocks your phone number, and reports you to the authorities for harassment, if you find them on some other social media or some other location and try to initiate contact with them there, especially if your contact continues to include insults and attacks, YOU ARE THE BAD GUY. You are creepy and stalkery and a fucking asshole.

Don't do that.

Also, if I have had to block you and I see you on jobsite afterwards, I will tell our employer and ask for you to be removed for my safety. One block and you leave me alone? That's fine. But repeated contact after repeated blocking in multiple spaces? You are officially harassing me and a danger to my safety.

Also, you don't get to pull the race card in the Oppression Olympics when the only oppression you feel is because you're a Latino male.

I'm a minority in race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, and in health. I'm not here to out-minority anyone because, together, we all make up the majority and we can wrest power away from the cis-white-rich-christian-male power structure at the top. But if you're gonna puff up your chest at me over your discrimination, I'm gonna win that battle right at the start.

joreth: (::headdesk::)
I just *do not* understand why it's so important to some people that they get to address other people the way they want to address them. Like, of all the things for people to be attached to in society, how we address other people shouldn't be the thing we're fighting over.

Street harassment - it's really important that guys be able to say overtly sexual things to women on the street. Or to compliment them. Or to ask for a date. Or to talk to them, period.

Trans & genderqueer invisibility - it's really important to be able to call people "ma'am" or "sir" or other gendered names, labels, and titles.

Racism - it's really important to be able to call by certain terms that people of various races have asked not to be called.

As far as I can tell, the only time I've ever seen anyone say "actually, I'd rather be called this" and have absolutely 100% acceptance from everyone in society and all walks of life and all relationships from strangers to intimates is when a woman gets married and takes her husband's name (with the extremely rare situation where a woman's parents don't approve of the marriage and refuse to acknowledge it, but srsly, don't Pedantically Miss The Point here and derail). In every single other case, there's someone out there why has to say "well, I just don't want to have to change what I've been saying up until now, because I'm used to it, so I'm going to keep calling you X whether you like it or not."

Just ... fucking hell people, change your goddamn habits. It is literally not costing you ANYTHING. When a woman gets married, you learn to change what you call her. So I know you have the ability to do it. You just have to decide that there are other things worth putting in the same amount of effort as fucking remembering someone's goddamn married name and switching to that.
joreth: (Bad Computer!)
You know what pisses me off? That resting bitch face is a thing. You know why? Because only women have a term for what their faces look like when a smile is not their default expression.

Here's a little secret: YOU ALL HAVE RESTING BITCH FACE BECAUSE NO ONE (but my ex, [ profile] silverdragon) SMILES ALL THE GODDAMN TIME. It's just that we don't expect men to smile all the time and we don't think there's anything wrong with them if they're not actively emoting joy at any given moment.

Since, y'know, happy feelings are girlie and negative feelings are manly and neutral is male and male is neutral. Or some shit.

Fuck you, I don't have resting bitch face. You who buy into that are the one with the problem recognizing that people have a full range of emotions and that women not being actively happy isn't being a bitch while men not being actively happy isn't an equal problem.
joreth: (Bad Computer!)
I think I get one of the reasons why I lose my temper online, and I'll try to expand later (but right now I'm running late, as usual). The things I post are about people's subjective experience, their personal autonomy, their personhood, and their dignity. These things are not up for debate.

Yet people treat the posts in my feed as though it's a stage where two equal ideas with equal merit are to be weighed and considered. The counterpoint to the stuff that I post about does not deserve to share a stage with the stuff I post about. They do not deserve equal time, equal consideration.

My rage is part frustration that I'm not being heard and I'm not making myself understood, and it's also the sheer horror that anyone could even think that these topics are up for debate in the first place.

I post things for people's education and information. Which means that people need to *learn*. Learning involves listening, not talking back. People's autonomy, personhood, dignity, subjective experiences, the right to exist - these things are not up for debate, and if you think they are, you're a horrible person and I will not host a platform that helps spread your position. The Flat Earth "theory" does not deserve to share the stage with real science and rejection of other people as people does not deserve the same stage as respect for those people.
joreth: (Misty in Box)

Awesome article just got republished on Everyday Feminism​ by a terrific online blogger I discovered a year or two ago, Shea Emma Fett​:

"Gaslighting does not require deliberate plotting. Gaslighting only requires a belief that it is acceptable to overwrite another person’s reality."

"The distinguishing feature between someone who gaslights and someone who doesn’t is an internalized paradigm of ownership."

"Gaslighting Doesn’t Always Involve Anger or Intimidation"

"Losing spots in your memory makes it very plausible when someone tells you that they cannot trust your memory. It makes it very plausible when they tell you that you are abusive."

I once knew someone who was abusing his partner, and I knew the partner as well, but I didn't see the abuse. Because I couldn't see the abuse, I unwittingly enabled it, for which I feel deeply ashamed and guilty to this day. That guilt is a good deal why I write about abuse so much more now - to prevent anyone else from unknowingly enabling abuse.

One of the ways in which I enabled the abuse is because of this principle. As a skeptic, I am fully aware of how fallible our memories are. This often leads me to demanding proof before believing something. When it comes to real-but-invisible things like abuse or oppression, that's a dangerous mindset to have.

This abuser that I knew also considered himself a skeptic. So, naturally, we shared an understanding in the fallibility of memory. In fact, his memory was so fallible, that if it didn't exist in pictures or a chat log, his brain would erase the memory all together.

So, when he said that his partner was remembering things wrong, I saw no reason to contradict him. Of course she was remembering things wrong - we all remember things wrong! Except in this case, he wasn't being scientifically pedantic about memory, he was using her natural fallibility to *rewrite history* and therefore erode her own sense of self.

I remember one time in particular when she even came to me and told me that he was doing this. I had been in full protect-my-sister-empathize-with-her-fully mode, but then she brought up the memory thing. I instantly backpedaled and tried to "explain" that he wasn't gaslighting her, he was just being a good skeptic by reminding her of the fallibility of memory.

If I could go back in time and smack myself upside the head when I said this, I would. This was the equivalent of "oh, he didn't mean anything by it! He's harmless! You shouldn't feel creeped out by him inappropriately touching you!" I'm still working on the balance between scientific accuracy of how memory works and supporting victims of abuse. I have not mastered this trick yet.

"Change should make you bigger. It should increase your tank of self-love. It should make you stronger, clearer, more directed, more differentiated, and more compassionate. The pain of growth is different than the pain of destruction. One will fill you with love and pride, even when it’s hard, and the other will fill you with shame and fear."

"It’s ridiculous when someone tries to tell you who you are, what you feel, what you think, what you intended, or what you experienced. When it happens, you should be angry, puzzled, or maybe even concerned for them."

"You can solve a lot of things with communication, so long as the objective of both people is understanding. But the minute someone tries to replace your experience, it’s time to stop communicating, at least on that subject."
joreth: (Super Tech)
To go along with another post I made recently about identifying as masculine but some people not seeing me that way, here's a video on masculine femininity:

The tl;dr is that, surprise! Just as there's no real gender binary between man and woman, there's also no binary single categories for what makes "masculine" and "feminine" in assigned-female-at-birth bodies. In other words, there's more than one way for a "woman" to be a "man". I don't have to be stocky with small boobs and short hair and "pass" as a guy to still be masculine-identified.

My preferred identity labels are those that include or imply ambiguity: tomboy; gender fluid, androgynous; "effeminate gay man in woman's body", gender neutral, etc. This video also just introduced me to the term MoC - Masculine of Center - and I kinda like that one too.

Because I like the mixture of male and female, I prefer male titles but female pronouns: "she is a good cameraman." I'm much more accepting of being misgendered with male pronouns than with female titles, though. However, I also can identify as cisgender woman on occasion, particularly when I'm talking about feminist issues or biological situations because my childhood identity was that of a tomboy with the attitude "this IS a girl thing because I'm a girl and it's my thing, therefore it's a girl thing!"
joreth: (Super Tech)

I find this article interesting. I only recently added "I feel like" to my speech. I have always identified as more masculine than feminine, but I know some people don't see me as such. There are 2 reasons why people don't see me as masculine: 1) my physical appearance; and 2) I talk about relationships and feminism a lot.

1) I can't help how I was born, but I deliberately choose to not go butch because I like the androgyny - I like the mixing of feminine and masculine elements and of fucking with people's gender assumptions. I like that, when I wear men's clothing, I don't do so in a way to hide the female body underneath. I like that, when I cuss like a sailor, I do so in a clearly female vocal tone. I look "like a girl" but I act "like a guy".

2) First, the feminism is a new thing. Until a few years ago, I was squarely in the category of what the MRAs *claim* to be - defending men's actual rights. I just didn't understand at the time that those legitimate criticisms were the patriarchy backfiring on itself and that fixing feminist issues would, as a consequence, also fix those legitimate men's rights issues. Second, in my circles, talking about relationships is not the exclusive domain of women. It's true that the poly movement is led primarily by women, but all genders talk about relationships and communication all the time because that's what is necessary in poly relationships. Hell, my very male-identified boyfriend is one of the authors who literally "wrote the book" on how to have relationships! It's not the subject matter that makes someone a "guy" or a "girl", it's how they talk about those subjects that are delineated along gender lines.

For instance - I hear more men talking about shoes than women. Men talk about shoes all the goddamn time! But men are talking about the comfort and structure of boots and sneakers, so that often goes unnoticed as "talking about shoes" when people are mentally tallying up "girl subjects" and "guy subjects" (confirmation bias). I've been in FAR more conversations with men about the importance of shoes, the appropriate look of shoes, the comfort of shoes, where to get good shoes, than I ever have with women, and I usually end up in those conversations because I overhear a couple of guys talking about it and I butt in, as I am wont to do when I have an opinion on something (another "guy" trait).

So, it's not that I talk about relationships that makes me "girlie" - in my social circles, that's a topic that everyone is expected to talk about. A man who refuses to talk about relationships is generally considered a high risk partner and often red-flagged.  And women are just as likely, if not more, to complain about all the talking and to express a fervent desire to stop talking about "issues" and can't we just have sex now please?

But my *speech patterns* are "masculine". In the days before real name policies, I was constantly getting kicked out of chat rooms for being a guy who was posing as a girl. I was banned from more than half of my IRC groups on that accusation. And there was no way to prove the opposite because webcams weren't available. I speak in declarative sentences without qualifiers all the time, and I'm attempting to learn how to use those qualifiers more effectively only now.

However, just as this article points out, I *do* use those internal qualifiers like "perhaps" and "tends" and "often", etc. I believe that I picked that up from the science-based circles that I move in because it is more scientifically accurate to not use 100% declarations since very few things are ever 100%. But, since the scientific fields are so heavily dominated by men, those kinds of internal qualifiers are expected to be used by men and not counted as being a "passive" "feminine" speech pattern, so it's not surprising that they found their way into my speech as well.

When my gender is not known because I am presented only as text on a screen, I am almost always assumed to be masculine. It's partly why I am often received as being "aggressive" or "argumentative" or even "condescending". I mean, sometimes I am, but more often than not, the accusations of being upset or angry or aggressive or arguing are completely false, as those are subjective feelings that I am not feeling, but my pragmatic speech, in the absence of any other clues and/or with respect to the knowledge that a female is speaking, is often received as being such.

When I speak to people in person, I very rarely have these kinds of misassumptions and mistakes in conversation. With my words being tempered by a soft voice, passive posture, a very feminine appearance, and a much more expressive vocal tone and facial expressions, people are often less likely to hear my pragmatic words as "aggressive" or "angry" - words that are usually only criticisms when applied to females, of course.

So I feel like (see what I did there?) this article did 2 things for me - it reinforces the relatively new message that women's speech isn't "wrong" or a "broken version of being a man" and that, not only should they not be criticized for it but that everyone will be speaking like them eventually because they're leading the cultural linguistic shifts (which I had no idea about); and it reinforces my own identity as not-feminine because I identify more with the men in this article in terms of what my speech is currently like and how I gradually jump on the bandwagon in what seems like "after the fact" with respect to certain speech patterns.
joreth: (Bad Computer!)
I know this will piss some people off, but I firmly believe that everyone has a right to not have sex with anyone they don't want to have sex with, for any reason they have, or no reason at all. Even if that reason is stupid. Even if that reason hurts someone's feelings. Even if I think that reason is so full of shit that I want to physically and literally knock some sense into them. They have a right to say no and they have a right to revoke consent at any time.

What they don't have a right to do is treat that person any differently in a non-sexual context than anyone else, or harm them in any way, or participate in a system that discriminates against them or any of that other bullshit. But that's not the issue. Those are good reasons not to disclose private information to people who are not sex partners and it's a good reason not to take on certain people as sex partners (with the added bonus that you don't have to disclose to them). It is *not* a good reason to manipulate someone into becoming a sex partner who would not consent to that role had they known.

"But we can't read minds to know all the possible things that all the people in the world might possibly make them not want to have sex with me!"

Strawman argument. There are things that we know by virtue of living in our cultures what people are *likely* to object to. Just like I know what Christianity is all about, and what the experience of being a white male out in society is all about, and what mono relationships are all about - even though #NotAllWhateverMajorityDemographic, I know enough about those demographics because I'm steeped in the expression of the experience of those demographics every fucking day of my life. I know that if some guy hits on me while I'm walking down the street, there is a greater-than-average chance that he won't like me *because* of my atheism, my polyamory, my feminism, my job, my independence, and my gender identity even though I'm really not that far away from cis. Those things all go contrary to the cultural narrative, so I'm pretty sure that at least one of them will be deal-breakers for the average guy who thinks it's appropriate to hit on me while walking down the street.

But, on the very off chance that he might like me precisely because of those things, or that maybe he won't mind those things, telling him about it up front will be a bonus. It'll give him even more reason to be interested in me. But that's such a statistically unlikely event that it has never once happened to me in all my years of being hit on by randos on the street.  Excuse me, not minding the atheism thing happened exactly once, but he was not American-born and he was from a country where religion isn't a big thing, so I don't think it's really an exception to my point.

Now, disclosing all that shit to street randos is not what I'm advocating either - that's a personal call regarding safety. But by the time I've decided to accept someone as a sexual partner, and he has accepted the idea of me as a sexual partner, I know there are certain things that he is, by pure numbers, likely to have a problem with and could affect his willingness to consent.  Most of those things are actually related to the act of sex itself and are not unreasonable to want to know, even if their reaction to that information or their beliefs about that information are, in my opinion, unreasonable.

What I absolutely do not want, as a small female person, is to find out *afterwards* that he would not have given consent by *him* finding out afterwards and thinking that I betrayed him. I've actually already had that happen to me and I count myself damn lucky that all I got away with was a hurt pride and some temporary embarrassment at being shoved out the front door without all my clothes on. I know all the excuses - this was just for fun and not some long-term relationship, if that was a deal-breaker for him then it was his responsibility to ask about it, blah blah blah.

I know how mainstream guys (and a lot of poly guys) feel about the idea of putting their dick in somewhere that some other dick has already (recently) been. Telling them up front that their dick isn't the only one is the best way I've found so far of only fucking the guys who won't beat me for it later, and being open about that in general is the best way I've found to locate guys who actually think it's pretty fucking cool that they're not the only ones.

When someone finds out after they have already had sex with someone whom they wouldn't have had sex with had they known what they found out later, it doesn't matter how "wrong" they are for not wanting to have sex. It doesn't matter how unjustified they are for feeling betrayed. It doesn't matter to the people they kill, or beat, or humiliate. Being "right" doesn't save them that beating, that death, that humiliation, that heartache, or that disappointment.  Knowing that the potential partner is that sort of person is the kind of information you want *before* you fuck them and not to find it out the hard way.

It didn't feel great when I had to disclose to people who I liked that I had an STD.  It really hurt my feelings to have people I cared about be so afraid of something based on stigma, and not facts, that they were afraid to even touch me non-sexually even though it wasn't something they could catch that way and it wasn't even something that was likely to harm them.  But it would have hurt them more to have sex with me without the information necessary to give informed consent.  It was more than just physically harming them, because I disclosed my STD long after I needed to, long after it wasn't possible to pass it on, just to make sure they understood sexual safety.  Not giving them that information would have been robbing them of their agency.  It would have been manipulative, and it would have been making decisions for them - deciding what they "needed to know" on their behalf based on what *I* felt about that information.  Sure, *I* knew that the STD wasn't likely to harm them, but that wasn't my call to make.  They have the right to refuse sex with me on any grounds and to make decisions for their own participation based on their own risk analysis, not mine.

If the information that you're hiding (even passively) isn't a big deal, then it shouldn't be a big deal to disclose. This goes along with the Little White Lies defenses & [ profile] tacit's post on truth and virtue- if someone is defending the secret that hard, then it's clearly not "no big deal". Remember, this isn't a situation where one partner is demanding to know something that isn't relevant and is attempting to violate another's privacy. This is something that could *change someone's consent* for having sex with you.

If you can't trust the person you're about to get slippery with to handle the information that you're keeping secret, then this is probably not the safest person for you to be getting slippery with either. If you fear for your safety, then don't take them as a partner. You don't *have* to disclose anything that will make you unsafe, but if you're unsafe with this partner, then choosing them as a partner was your first mistake (assuming you, yourself, weren't coerced or forced into the encounter in the first place - this whole rant is aimed at consensual sexual arrangements, not abuse victims keeping secrets from their abusers to prevent further abuse - again, go back to the truth and virtue post) and keeping the secret is the second in a list of mistakes.

This is about two things - 1) respecting your partner's agency enough to give them the information necessary for them to give consent. You can't read their minds to know that they would revoke consent if they found out that you once masturbated to a poster of the New Kids On The Block when you were a kid and they have an irrational fear of cooties from Donny or whatever the fuck one of their names was, but you can know that there are certain kinds of information that is culturally important and likely to affect someone's willingness to fuck you if they knew about it (and if you don't know that person individually well enough to know their specific deal-breakers, you at least know those culturally likely deal-breakers). Your partners are human fucking beings and deserve to be treated with no less dignity and respect than allowing them to consent to sex with you and I can't fucking believe this still has to be said;

And 2) saving yourself either the repercussions of being found out later, or of being a person who is not your best self. Sure, it's possible that person may never find out, especially if it's a one-night stand in a strange town and you didn't exchange names or phone numbers and have no overlapping social circles or interests to ever run into them again, even on the internet. It's probably even likely. But *you* know that you will have acted with the best of intentions and the highest degree of integrity. *You* will have been a person who respects your partner's agency. *You* will have been the sort of person that you ultimately hope your partners would be for you - someone who does not take it upon themselves to decide on your behalf what information is "necessary" when it's actually something that you think is not only important, but reasonable to be informed about.

This isn't about degree of severity.  I have two analogies I often bring out in this debate - murder and jawalking aren't the same thing and don't deserve the same punishment, but both are against the law.  A creek isn't the same as the ocean, but both will get you wet if you step in them.  I'm not talking about whose the baddest, most evilest, most terrible person out there and I'm not talking about stringing people up by their toenails even for minor infractions.  The guy who didn't dislose his HIV and had unprotected sex with a bunch of people, giving them HIV? Yeah, he was a monster, and I'm not putting him in the same category as someone who has a sort-of sexual partner with no arrangement of exclusivity not disclosing that person to a one-night-stand in another country on a business trip.  But both are still examples of not disclosing information that not only could affect one's willingness to consent but is *likely* to.  Both are still examples of not respecting the other person's right to not have sex, one example just has much more dire consequences than the other.

I'm far less likely to make a personal value judgement about someone who says "I've done some things where I wasn't my best self. I know my justifications for them, and I may even slip and not be my best self in the future, but I know that this thing is not living up to my highest ideals of integrity," than someone who tries to justify their actions, digging in their heels and doubling down on preventing informed consent with excuses, selfish justifications of "privacy" and "not my responsibility" and "too much trouble / effort."  Someone who says "yeah, I torrent big blockbuster movies.  I know it's wrong, but I do it," isn't getting the same kind of judgement from me as someone who says "I don't care if you're a starving artist, you OWE the world, and consequently me, the right to use your art without being compensated for it." (That's a real example, btw, not a strawman and not hyperbole).  This isn't about degree.  It's about being your best self and by doing so, treating those around you with the dignity and respect that they deserve, especially those you engage intimately with.

If I want to live in a world where I, as a woman, have the right to say "no" for any reason whatsoever and no reason at all, if I want to live in a world where my body is completely mine and I have ultimate authority over what happens to it, then I have to make that world by defending other people's right to say "no", even if I disagree with their reasons, because it's *not my place* to decide the validity of someone else's reasons for saying "no".  If integrity were easy, everyone would do it all the time.

"Ben, there's a story eating at you ... one you know you gotta tell."

"Not that simple."

"Telling the truth is never simple... or easy. Why only the best of us ever really try."
joreth: (Nude Drawing)

"OMG, women like hardcore porn!"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Equality" does not necessarily mean or have to mean equal dollar amounts. It means equal opportunity for "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness".
joreth: (Super Tech)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And, strangely, those partners of mine who have not attempted to abuse me or who do not have abusive tendencies don't feel that those adjectives describe me in the slightest.  Funny, that.
joreth: (Misty in Box)

"Gaslighting doesn’t have to be deliberate ... We learn how to control and manipulate each other very naturally. The distinguishing feature between someone who gaslights and someone who doesn’t, is an internalized paradigm of ownership."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You see (she explained to me), women walking around with sexually alluring clothing make it hard for her son with AS, because he is not capable of controlling himself in the same way that other people are.

So I explained to her that, my cultures (combining kink & poly & feminist geeky subcultures together, just so that I didn't have to start out with a lecture about the similarities and differences of each of those subcultures) are actually very popular with people who have AS. They seem drawn to them in high numbers and the cultures seem to be very welcoming and able to deal with the symptoms of AS. And yet, we don't have this big problem of everyone with AS being overwhelmed with uncontrollable emotions or urges as a result of seeing boobs or skimpy outfits or even outright nudity. And that's because the cultures emphasize contextual sexuality - sex depends on the context.

I could see her stumped, as no one had ever presented this possibility to her before. I think everyone she has ever said this to in the past probably nodded knowingly and gave her a pass for her sexism (she's also a bonafide Tea Partyist, so that should give you a clue to her regular social circles). But our food came and the moment passed, so we moved onto other topics of conversation.

Now, yes we need to talk *within* our communities about problems with fetishization and rape culture and sexism, etc. But I think that it needed to be pointed out that *AS* is not the problem here, and women covering up is not the solution. Other cultures have different social contexts for nudity, and people behave according to their culture's approval for nudity. While the kink community, for example, does have a problem with rape culture, it's not a "men will be men" thing, nor a "people with mental illness can't deal with society" thing, nor a "women must change themselves to make men behave" thing.

The rape culture in the kink community is a product of people bringing in the rape culture from the larger culture that we are all steeped in. It's not somehow *worse* in kink communities because women walk around dungeons in thongs, baring their breasts. If the amount of skin was the cause, then the amount of assault should be directly proportional to the amount of skin shown, and it's obviously not.

If we were going to draw correlations, I would bet money that the correlation would show an inverse relationship if any were to emerge at all. The LESS skin that is culturally appropriate to show, the HIGHER the assault rate is in that culture. And I would bet that the reason is because of the sense of entitlement that comes with a culture that considers telling women to cover up is the solution to men's "urges" is what is responsible for assault, not amount of skin showing.

Damn, I wish I had thought of those last 2 paragraphs when I was talking to that woman.

*EDIT* There are actually studies showing this correlation from a couple of different perspectives or angles.  I was reminded of these studies (at least one of which I've read before and forgot), but haven't had time to look up the links.  Bottom line is - I was right, it's not the amount of skin that's showing, it's what the culture consideres acceptable regarding entitlement to women's bodies.
joreth: (Super Tech)

I've had people trying to put me on a pedestal my entire life. Some women eagerly accept being raised up, because it gives us some leverage, an illusion of power, in an otherwise powerless existence. They embrace their pedestal and enforce the hierarchy of being "goddesses".

I, however, noticed how little room I had to move on that pedestal, and how far I had to fall if I ever made one misstep. I have always resisted the pedestal. I've never wanted to be raised up. I wanted to be on equal ground. "But I don't treat you this way because I think you're weak! I treat you this way because you deserve to be treated like a queen! I treat you this way out of respect!"

"Respect" is a slippery word. That's not respect. I am human, not a goddess, not a queen, not a work of art. That kind of respect only lasts until you decide that I'm not worthy of that respect anymore, if I step out of line and behave in a way un-goddess-like. I have never liked the pedestal.

But women everywhere think I'm nuts. Women, who subconsciously know that we have no real power so they grasp at the scraps thrown to us by our oppressors, couched in pretty language like "goddess" and "respect", those women have always resisted my message that we are not goddesses, we are not works of art to be protected like the Mona Lisa from a thief in black.

I have always known this intuitively. So I have not always had the language to explain why it's so wrong. Who wouldn't want to be cherished? Worshiped? Protected? Anyone who can see the cage surrounding the object needing to be protected, that's who. But if you are someone who knows this intuitively, and haven't had it explained to you, then you, like me, might not have had the words to explain the feeling of wrongness. And you, like me, might not have always been able to unpack how tightly race and gender are woven together, like delicate steel fibers in the mesh that makes up the cage we are being "protected" in.

You can keep your pedestal. I wish to run free on the ground.

"American racism is always gendered; racism and sexism are mutually dependent, and cannot be unstitched."

"There is an important distinction between white women, a people, and the concept of white womanhood—one that holds that a white woman is the best thing you can be in America after a white man, and that it is the responsibility of white men to protect your virtue at any and all costs. This white supremacist and benevolently sexist ideology depends both on the subjugation of white women by white men, and on the subjugation of all people who are not white—by white people (including white women)."

"This highly selective concern about preventing sexual violence is dependent on the peril of white women;"

"It was, and remains, necessary for white women to decry the violence that is done in our name. It is on us to dismantle racism with just as much commitment as we dismantle sexism, for one cannot happen without the other."

" those women were shot because the belief that white women must be protected at all costs depends on the belief that black women aren’t truly women, that they’re barely people. That they’re disposable. Racism is always gendered, and gender always raced."
joreth: (Purple Mobius)

"Because abusers see their partner merely as an extension of themselves rather than their own person with every right to their own opinions and limitations, boundaries are often blurred."

This. This so clearly and succinctly explains the problem I have with our culture's view on relationships. And this toxic attitude has seeped into the poly community. It starts as the One True Love fantasy. It morphed into the Soulmate dream and the "two halves of one whole" myth. When we subsume our identity into the relationship, and when our partners accept that submission, that enables abuse even if the abuser never *intended* to abuse or be malicious.

The act of viewing a partner as an extension of oneself rather than an independent person who has chosen to entangle their life with one is an abusive act. Merely seeing a partner as an extension is a dehumanizing event and robs them of agency, even if you are "benign" about what you do with that view.

When it moves into polyamory, we see this in closed groups and in typical unicorn hunting "add a third to our relationship". I shouldn't have to say this, but I will because I do have to: this is not a commentary on the *structure* of triads or of core couples with secondaries. This is about the *mentality* that often leads to a particular structure rather than other structures because those structures are so compatible with abusive mentalities. It is possible to be in a triad that is not abusive. I was in one myself. But the structure of a pre-existing couple wanting to add a very specific sort of person to "complete" their household has, at its very foundations, the script for abuse.

It's right there in the descriptions - "complete us", "add to our relationship". This could be a quad or a quint or anything else. It's the context, which is why motivations are so important.

Abusers see their partners as extensions of themselves. Couples who see their secondaries as an extension of themselves or an extension of their relationship are starting out with the exact same dehumanizing, agency-removing viewpoint as abusers. People in quads that put the "family" group above the needs of the people in it are dehumanizing their partners, which removes their agency, which *fundamentally* removes the ability to consent.

I was in an "open" 6-person tribe. Some members viewed the other members as extensions of themselves via the family group. This led directly to abuse.

It's not the structure, it's the mindset. It's just that there aren't a whole lot of dehumanizing abusers out there deliberately setting up *open* networks. That's too difficult to control.

But a triad filled with unexamined gender assumptions and gender and/or racial privilege, with a dash of cultural discrimination in the form of couple privilege is much more logistically easier to control, as well as including built-in support for isolation and other common abuse tactics.

Poly folk are so busy reinventing the wheel and thinking that mono-based scripts don't apply to us, that we're all too ready to ignore and rationalize away abuse under the well-intentioned but very damaging rose-colored lens of "there's no Right Way" and "truth is relative" and "we are trailblazers making up our own society as we go".

It's so very easy to hide abuse when the culture has its own persecution complex mixed with our fucking stupid American Rugged Individualism. Galileo Effect, Dunning-Kruger Effect, No True Scotsman, and our fantastically good innate ability for self-deception - it's past time to stop harboring abuse in our communities and in our relationships.

joreth: (Super Tech)
So, I'm new to the Social Justice War. I know it doesn't seem like it, but I spent most of my formative years fighting for environmental issues, and I moved immediately into poly issues, which doesn't really feel like "social justice", at least not in the early days because the level of persecution doesn't even compare to any other social justice issue. Feminism, racism, homo- and transphobia issues, these all came to me recently, even though my *feelings* on the subject have always been for equal rights. So bear with me here, because this needs to be fleshed out.

It has come up in several different contexts over the last week that there is a lot of confusion over what an ally is, what an ally should do, intersectionality privilege and oppression, and related topics. Because I'm so late to the game, I'm sure someone better researched and more knowledgeable than I has already come to this conclusion and written about it somewhere. But this is a new concept *for me*, and I wanted to share it as a way to work through it and refine it in my own head.

People with privilege have come to hate the word "privilege" and they have stopped listening when that word comes up. But we *all* have privilege in some ways, and we are all disadvantaged in other ways. I'm female, so I'm disadvantaged. But I pass as white and I grew up middle class, so I'm privileged there. But I'm currently lower / working class and I'm technically an ethnic minority as well as a religious and sexual minority so I'm disadvantaged there too.

And just because I'm part of a class of people who is *structurally* disadvantaged by *the system*, it doesn't necessarily mean that I, personally, experienced the kind of systemic discrimination or oppression that others in my class have, or of other disadvantaged classes. And just because I'm part of a class of people who, as a *group*, are given *group* privileges by that same system, it doesn't mean that I, personally, haven't had some hard times, or even that I haven't had some hard times specifically because of that same class that is supposed to be privileged.

So I want to stop all this bullshit fear of the word "privilege" and instead I want to just recognize *where* we have it and where we don't - because we all do and we all don't. I refuse to play the Oppression Olympics. My oppression is not worse or easier than someone else's - I've had some benefits and I've had some shit in life, that's just how it goes.  My oppression is not *equal* to others, either, I just don't think the relative level of oppression is relevant here.

Instead of arguing over who has privilege and who doesn't, I want to recognize where my privileges come from, and then I want to *use* that privilege (to steal a phrase from a different issue) to "punch up". Here's where being an ally gets complicated.

People who pride themselves on being allies often find themselves feeling confused and betrayed when, after all their hard work they've done for underprivileged people, those people turn on them and tell them that they're doing it wrong. Some of us might just cross our arms and say "well, fine, then, if you don't like my assistance, then I'll just stop helping!" Others really want to help, but if they've spent any time at all listening to disadvantaged people, they've probably heard "you can't know what it's like to live my experience" somewhere along the line. And if they've heard that phrase, then they might have no idea what they can even do to help, since the privileged person can't possibly know what it's like to be someone who is in a class that they're not in so they don't feel that they can talk *for* that class.

Here's what, in my opinion, it takes to be a good ally: First, listen to the group that we want to be an ally for. That way, we can learn what their position is. Next, take what we hear, and speak about it. But, here's the tricky part. We have to speak to people *in our privileged class*, but we cannot speak *to that group* that we are defending about their own experience.

So that's what I mean by "punch up". We have to use our status as white, cis, straight, male, whatever to be an amplifier for the voices of the non-white, non-male, non-straight, non-whatever that we are trying to support. We have to say the words that are being spoken by the underprivileged group, and we have to say those words *to the privileged group* that we are a part of, because that group only wants to listen to other members of the same group.

But then here comes the next part ... after listening and after speaking, we then have to go back to listening. We have to be conscious that we aren't taking on the mantle of the White Savior. The words we are speaking are not our own. We are only repeating them to people who refuse to hear them otherwise. But if the people we are speaking for don't like that we're speaking for them, or they don't like *how* we're speaking for them, being a good ally means not arguing or defending ourselves against the people we are trying to support. That would be "punching down". In the end, this is not our fight, so it is not our place to decide that we are the warriors the fight needs or that our fighting style is the proper strategy. THEY are the generals, and if we step out of line, it is our duty to be corrected.

We have to "punch up" by punching a hole in the defenses of our own class or higher so that those from beneath can rise up. It is not appropriate to "punch down" by telling those beneath us how they should run their war. We are the support team. We are not the drivers of the movement. And, as part of the support team who happens to have better armor and weapons, we might end up being put on the front lines to absorb some of the attack while we take the more effective shots from the front while others direct us from behind our human body shields.

As someone in a privileged group, I can afford to be put out in front. They can't. That's why they're underprivileged in the first place. As someone in a privileged group, I have less to lose therefore I have less need for additional defenses or reinforcements to watch my own back. Not zero - remember, I am part of privileged groups but I am also part of underprivileged groups. As a woman, I need men to stand up to other men on my behalf because the men they are standing up to *won't hear me* when I speak. As a white woman, I can afford to face down other white people because they will hear me better than a black person when it comes to issues of race.

I have other, related thoughts on this - stuff about how it's our responsibility to sacrifice for those less privileged but to not expect the same level of sacrifice in return, but I'm going to save those for another post. This one was specifically about punching up. That phrase came from criticisms on comedy. Comedy is a necessary tool for discussing difficult issues in the public sphere. But what differentiates a particular joke on a difficult issue from being funny vs. being offensive is whether it "punches up" or it "punches down". Does it make fun of of the privileged class or the underprivileged class? Making the rapist the butt of a rape joke is funny. Make the victim the butt of a rape joke is offensive. Who is being targeted? Someone above, or someone below?  Are we punching out the big guy with muscles and a bullet proof vest or the little guy who is already beaten and bloody on the ground?

In a similar vein, we all need allies in our social justice battles. We need people in higher classes to help us fight our wars. But since people belong to multiple classes, it can sometimes feel like we're trying to rank people when we talk about privilege and who has it worse than whom. And then it can feel like, when we *do* try to help, our help wasn't appreciated. Or maybe we're so conscious about the Savior Complex that we're afraid to help because we don't want to step on anyone's toes.

So I'm proposing some simple rules of thumb to help navigate this complex privilege discussion. 1) We all belong to some classes that might be considered privileged and we all belong to some classes that might be considered underprivileged. Accept that and leave off debating who has it "better" than whom in any area. It doesn't matter if someone is part of 3 privileged classes but only 2 underprivileged classes and someone else is part of 4 underprivileged classes and only 1 privileged class. Pick one category, and if you're in the privileged class, then shut the fuck up and listen to the person in the underprivileged class *on that class experience*.  If we're talking about race, leave out your underprivilege-ness in some class that isn't race.  That's a distraction.  We're talking about race here, and in race (for example), you are not the underprivileged one so shut up and listen.  If you belong to some other underprivileged class, then use your experience to develop *empathy* internally for this group that you are not a part of, but we don't need to compare and contrast our various classes.

2) Use whatever privileged status you have to repeat the words of the group you want to be an ally to to others in your same class. Point those people in your class directly to the source of your words as soon as they are finally able to hear the source instead of needing it filtered through your shared class.  Your responsibility is to get them to listen.  Once they are able and willing to listen, pass them off to the source so that you don't become The Savior.  Our job is to *borrow* the words of the underprivileged class, not to steal them.  They still get all the credit.

3) Never presume to tell someone in the class you are trying to be an ally for what they ought to do or what their experience is, especially if someone is directly contradicting you. Let them debate amongst themselves the best strategies, if there is any debate to be had. If one of them asks you for advice, and you happen to have information on the subject, you can share what has worked for your other underprivileged classes in those fights, but they may not be directly comparable so don't get too attached to the group you're talking to actually adopting your advice.

4) Retain your humility and always be ready to apologize and change strategies when someone of the group you are trying to be an ally for tells you that your efforts aren't appreciated or are contraindicated. Remember, this isn't your fight and if you're doing it for the social cookies, then you're not really an ally. We've all had to adjust our methods as the groups we're defending have matured and tried different tactics over time. We just have to learn to try and keep up and accept that we are not the experts in their fight.

These are the lessons I'm hearing right now from the various groups that I wish to be an ally to.  These are not the lessons I grew up with and I'm trying to change my tactics to accommodate.  I hope that I will be a good enough ally, that when the strategies change again as the culture changes in response to all these social justice battles, that I will be able to rewrite these rules of thumb to better reflect the needs of the communities that I wish to ally myself with.
joreth: (Purple Mobius)
Don't let your mind be so open that your brain falls out.

I see this is lefty politics, in right politics, and in poly groups. People want to keep "considering the options" even when the evidence against efficacy mounts.

There comes a point at which it is no longer reasonable to continue considering certain options. It is no longer reasonable to continue considering the possibility that the world is flat. We have such overwhelming evidence, that we can safely discard that hypothesis without being "close minded".

When the poly community erupts over a book or a blog post that carefully details a more effective, efficient, and ethical way of doing relationships, the *reason* why the community erupts over that literature is because someone has finally written a Theory Of Ethical Relating that explains and summarizes the overwhelming evidence that this method is more effective, efficient, and ethical.

That's what a Theory is - it's not a guess, it's a summation of the facts that exist and an explanation that ties those facts together. You may not like the conclusions, but the "open minded" person doesn't keep their mind continually open for bullshit and crap. Being "open minded" means being willing to consider the evidence. When the evidence is in, you can accept the conclusion and still be an "open minded person", because you did what open minded people do - you considered the evidence.

All this to say, if everyone in the community is saying "dude, that method is fucked up", then the community is not the bad guy for discarding your fucked up method. You are not Galileo. The "experts" agreed with Galileo, and the religious nutbags were the ones who condemned him. The "experts" are not agreeing with you. You, in this analogy, are the close-minded nutbag who refuses to accept the changing consensus which was developed as more and more evidence accrued.

Being open-minded is considering the evidence. Insisting that your lone wolf maverick idea is the right one when everyone around you is saying "dude, that's not new, we already tested that one and it failed testing multiple times over" is the very definition of "close minded". You are not willing to consider the evidence. You are the close-minded one.
joreth: (Misty in Box)
This was created as a Facebook event worldwide by the rather well-known Lee Harrington (look them up).  Since not everyone has FB, I'm sharing it here.  I wanted to make sure all the details came through even for people who couldn't visit the event page, which of course meant that it's too long for Twitter, so I'm making a public blog post so that I can tweet *that* and anyone can see it (hopefully).

I HATE April Fool's Day.  Our culture has begun to reward and celebrate the sorts of pranks that punish belief and gullibility.  Now, as a skeptic, I would ordinarily say that's a good thing.  But we aren't just teaching people to be more skeptical, we're teaching people to be more cynical because we're presenting these false stories by TRUSTWORTHY SOURCES and then humiliating people when they have the gall to believe a person (or a business) who has previously earned their trust.  April Fool's Day isn't about teaching people to investigate or question, it's about setting someone up with a totally believable story or prank as presented by someone they have reason to believe, and then publicly displaying their belief in the most humiliating way possible.  April Fool's Day has become:
"Ha ha, I'm a good friend that you have every reason to believe, and I'm telling you a totally reasonably believable story, BUT IT'S FALSE and you believed it, you fool!  You're such an idiot for believing me, even though I deliberately set you up to believe me!"
And that's the nice version.  Other popular forms of pranks involve other sorts of humiliation that don't require belief but often require destruction of property or poking at people's vulnerable spots (like fake pregnancy announcements on social media when there are women who can't have children but who desperately want them, for instance, or fake-coming out as gay when real people face discrimination, ostracization, violence, homelessness, and even death).  So I am really opposed to April Fool's Day as a national holiday.  But THIS is a holiday that I can get behind:
In our culture, April Fools Day has become a day of pranks and emotional confusion, deceit cast in the guise of playfulness.

Let us make a new holiday to counter the experience, one week later...

April 8th
Honesty and Vulnerability Day!

Turn to a friend and share how you adore them. Tell the world about a joy of yours, or a tender shadow that has been weighing you down. As you do so, let them know that you are being vulnerable and honest, and ask that they receive your gift of honesty and vulnerability from a place of love as well. This is not just an online event, this is a push to make the world at large a better place for us all.

Day of Honesty and Vulnerability is a chance for us to build strength and connection in our world rather than perpetuate pain and confusion. Let us build a better world for us to all live in, one day at a time.

joreth: (Super Tech)

I've pointed this out in my Love Languages course, saying something like "if you've ever seen me completely lose my shit online when someone tried to offer 'helpful advice'..."  It's almost always men who do this and almost always men when I lose my shit over it (obligatory #NotAllMen & #ButSomeWomen here).

IT'S NOT HELPFUL. STOP DOING THAT. I'm a grown adult and I know how to comport my life and I've already researched all the relevant options before forming opinions or making decisions according to my personal priorities, preferences, and abilities.  I swear, if my Mac-head ex-bf tried to tell me that the solution to my computer problems was to buy a Mac that I already said I couldn't afford one more time, I was going to beat him with my crappy laptop.

"So when you discuss this, bring it back to the issue, the issue being his need to control everything when it comes to you and how irritating it is when he does that. Whether he’s a controlling ass by nature, or he’s having some kind of anxiety reaction to the idea of things being done “wrong” that manifests in him acting like a controlling ass, he’s really out of line here and he needs to be told a flat “You’re doing that thing again” when he does it."

Also, I understand - I offer unsolicited advice all the time. I'm learning to ask "do you want advice or do you want me to listen?" Stop trying to solve my life for me. If you *really* can't help it, ask me how you can help me, don't just tell me how I could be doing things "better".

For example, one of my partners' Love Language is Acts of Service. He asked me to give him specific tasks to do that I would find helpful. As one of my Relationship Commitments is to learn how to more gracefully accept assistance from my partners, this was an excellent opportunity for us both to learn the other's Language and to offer our own expressions of Love to each other. He wanted to Do Things for me but had to refrain from imposing on my independence and autonomy. I wanted to make room for him in my life and honor his bid for affection-sharing without setting myself up for future resentment.

So I thought of real, actual things that I would appreciate having done and I clearly communicated what those things were so that he could express his love for me in a way that felt natural to him. I feel respected as an independent individual, he feels appreciated and wanted, and shit gets done around the house. We both win.
joreth: (Kitty Eyes)
There hasn't been an HPV update in a really long time, mainly because there hasn't been any HPV news in a really long time.  No real progress on the vaccine or the virus itself, either in curing or in understanding.  We already understood it pretty well and things seemed to reach a plateau.  But today, I have 2 fairly major updates!

1) There is now a vaccine that covers 9 strains of the virus!  The original, Gardasil, covered 4 strains - the two most common strains known to cause cancer (HPV 16 & 18) and the two most common strains known to cause genital warts (HPV 6, & 11), while the main competitor Ceravix covered the two cancer-causing strains.  There are dozens, perhaps hundreds of strains of HPV, but 16 & 19 were known to cause something like 70% of all the hpv-caused cancer cases and a smiliar number of genital warts, so the researchers understandably focused on those strains first.  There has been some evidence that Gardasil was 50% effective against several other strains as well, but it was approved for those 4, for which it's about 90~% effective.

Now, however, there will be a new vaccine, called Gardasil 9 that covers  HPV-31, 33, 45, 52 and 58 in addition to the original 4 strains.  That is estimated to protect against 90% of the cancer-caused-by-HPV cases in vaccine-protected women!  The test shows that there were slightly more side effects after taking the vaccine, but the side effects were completely within the range of expected side effects for any vaccine - namely that if you stick someone with a needle, they might faint or feel sore at the injection site.  Duh!

2) The CDC has compiled a report analyzing adverse reactions to the HPV vaccine.  And, guess what?  It's exactly as predicted - totally safe!  More than 23 million (MILLION!!) doses were administered in the US since it became licensed in 2006.  There were just over 12,000 adverse reactions reported in the 2 years that this study covers.  Out of those 12,000~ adverse reactions, 94% were not serious and the usual sorts of things you'd expect when you get jabbed with a needle - fainting, soreness, redness at the injection site, dizziness, etc.

Out of the 6% that were classified as "serious", 32 were deaths.  I know, 32 dead is an awful number.  But remember, that's 32 out of MILLIONS of doses.  AND, on top of that, not a single one of those deaths can be tied to the vaccine itself.  They had to do with illicit drug use, diabetes, a known heart condition that resulted in heart failure, etc.  Remember, VAERS - the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System - collects data about, literally ANYTHING that happens to someone after a vaccine.  I wrote about the Phase III trials in India a bunch of years ago, where 6 girls died after taking the vaccine, but that included several suicides by drowning and a fatal snake bite.  And yet, the system is designed to count anything bad that happens, so they got counted.  Even if all 32 of them could be linked to HPV due to some quirk of genetics or something, that's still only 32 out of millions, and that's still a risk worth taking.  And yes, I do take these risks myself.

After analyzing all the data, the summary concludes that there is no evidence to support the vaccine causing a single one of those serious adverse reactions.  There are, however, several cases that the study recommends further investigation, although I would like to reiterate that it recommends further investigation EVEN THOUGH there is currently no evidence to suggest those reactions were a result of the vaccine.  This is science working - if the evidence doesn't reach a certain level of confidence, they keep looking at it.  There rarely is any black & white, yes / no answers in science.  There is, however, margins of error and robust vs. weak spectrums.  And the evidence for the safety and efficacy of the HPV vaccine has pretty much slammed the needle on the "robust" side supporting the vaccine.

However, even with the safety evidence continuing to mount, the CDC and the FDA both have amended their warning recommendations to better reinforce safety protocols, such as keeping a better watch on patients for 15 minutes after receiving the vaccine to make sure that they don't fall and hit their head if they get dizzy from being stabbed with a sharp pointy object.

So, the bottom line is that the HPV vaccine is as safe as any vaccine out there - which is to say pretty damn safe; pretty much no one has been harmed by it any more than one would expect to be harmed by being poked with a big needle even with no vaccine at all; they continue to watch and evaluate and refine the process; and there will shortly be an even better vaccine available that I heartily recommend to everyone who can afford it.

For more on HPV vaccine safety, I refer you to a previous post that includes a graphic from the Information Is Beautiful site that elegantly explains, using easy-to-grasp graphics, the relative risk vs. safety and efficacy of the vaccine.  I also recommend clicking on the STI tag below to see all my older posts on the subject.
joreth: (Super Tech)

I've made comments before about having been in relationships with abusive men before, but their abuse didn't "stick" to me, so I didn't recognize what they were doing as abusive tactics until much, much later. I might say that we weren't compatible or I might even say that someone was a jerk, but I don't always recognize patterns of abuse when I see them and I don't identify as an abuse victim because I don't feel as though I *have* been abused. Instead, I feel as though people have attempted to abuse me and they were unsuccessful (with the exception of my second fiance).

I actually have a whole series of blog pieces I'm writing now on abuse in the poly community, and one of the pieces is devoted entirely to that concept - being in relationships with abusive men but not being actually abused. I'm finding this series very difficult to write, precisely because I don't consider myself to have been abused so I don't feel like I'm qualified to really talk about it, at least not in depth like that. This article was pointed out to me, and I think that it is giving me a little clarity on the subject.
"My abusive behavior started because I thought I was entitled to control what people thought and how they reacted. A lot of people fuck up there – even people who never hit anybody, they still think it’s ok to mess with your mind and make you feel bad so you’ll do what they want. That counts as abuse. Abuse is about putting someone down, not just physically hurting them."
I find that a lot of people's control issues have sexist roots. We are told from the beginning by some sources that the Man is in Control at all times. He is in control of himself, he is the head of the household, he provides for his family ... control, control, control. If I acted in a way that someone felt was inappropriate, my male partners might be told to "get your woman under control." In fact, this is actually a direct quote.

Once, a person was having some personal emotional issues and, just by coincidence, I and two of my metamours just happened to touch on those subjects in conversation with that person in very close proximity to each other. So, like, I said something to that person's partner, then my metamour said something to that person, then another metamour made some kind of suggestion. Keep in mind that we weren't offering any sort of advice like "hey, your hair is dumb, you should change it." No, I mean that I talked to that person's partner once about, oh, I dunno, let's say being adopted. Then my metamour mentioned in passing something about babysitting. Then another metamour said something about wanting kids. And this person had, let's say, an emotional crisis about being sterile, or something. Obviously this wasn't the subject, but I think it's still a fairly accurate analogy.

So, just by coincidence, we all happened to have these totally unrelated conversations about kids, and we all did so without knowing that the others were having their respective kid conversations and without any of us knowing that this person was having a sterility issue. This person then had a massive freakout, accused us all of attacking them, and then emailed the partner that made us all metamours and told him "get your women under control". He, not having any idea what this was all about, responded "have you MET my partners?!"

So, to get back to the point, control. Our culture has a deeply rooted relationship with the word "control", in a variety of ways - sexism is just one of them. We fetishize control. And I say this as a self-admitted control freak myself. The reason why I'm harping on this point is because wanting to be in control, by itself, doesn't make anyone a bad person. Wanting control, disliking feeling out of control - I'm not making a negative judgement on that alone. There are completely valid and legitimate and appropriate reasons for people to feel that being in control is a good thing and something to aspire to.

However, here's where we can start to have problems. If you start with the mindset that control is good, and you follow that up with the idea that you need to be in control, it is not a very big step to keep going with "in order to be in control, I have to control other people around me, or else my life will not be in my control". We have examples of this all around us - from the police maintaining civil order, to parents being expected to "control" their children in public, to wrangling our office minions in order to increase next quarter's sales, etc.

What I'm trying to say here is that, with all our cultural and familial influences, it may seem perfectly reasonable and a sane and rational adult might not see anything wrong with wanting control even if it means controlling other people. As [ profile] tacit said in his keynote at PolyLiving this week, we are not all divided into Good Guys and Bad Guys - we are all both. And if we could just get comfortable with the idea that good people can sometimes do bad things, we might all find it easier to correct our own mistakes when confronted with them.
"Abuse grows from attitudes and values, not feelings. The roots are ownership, the trunk is entitlement, and the branches are control"

~ Lundy Bancroft in "Why does he do that?"
This quote is saying that abuse isn't about feelings. Feelings can be changed. An abuser doesn't feel like being an abusive dick. Abuse is about attitudes and beliefs, and that's much harder to change. If we have a controlling attitude, if we think that we need to be in control all the time including in control of other people, that leads to abuse. That's much harder to change because, to the abuser, they aren't doing anything wrong. A man who hits his wife does so because he has an attitude or a value that women need to be "put in their place". In his mind, he's not doing anything wrong because women need correcting and it is right for him to correct his wife.

But what does all this have to do with my original premise? What does this have to do with my self-identiy as not an abuse victim? Well, this next quote from the article is what caught my attention and prompted this piece:
You wanna know why we continue to abuse? Because getting your way with someone can’t be a one-time deal. If I abuse you once and give you time to really think about it, you’re probably gonna be better prepared the next time, more confident, with a plan. We gotta feel like we control you.
So the reason why I say that abuse doesn't "stick" to me is because I go into my relationships already "prepared" and "confident" and "with a plan". See, I have ridiculously high self-esteem, as I have said many places before. Self-esteem doesn't come from believing that you're the cat's pajamas. I mean, sure you can think you're awesome, but self-esteem actually comes from honesty. Self-esteem comes from truth. It comes from looking at yourself, seeing your flaws and vulnerabilities and warts and wrinkles and thinking "hey, I'm a pretty awesome person and it is totally OK that I have these flaws and vulnerabilities and warts and wrinkles because that's just who I am."

I'm a pretty thin person. But my weight fluctuates and I have been different sizes over the years. I am currently a larger size than I'd like to be and larger than I have been at other times in the past. I am also lacking some of the muscle tone and definition that I have had in the past. This bothers me and I'm working on it. That's not the important part. The problem is that, when I talk about this, I get a lot of responses along the lines of "but you're not fat!" and "please, you don't need to lose weight, you're so thin!" and even worse, "I think you look great!" and "you're so pretty!" Look, I'm not fishing or compliments and I'm not passing negative judgement on myself. I'm stating facts - I *am* a larger clothing size than I have been in the past and I am not as strong or well-defined as I have been in the past and I have reasons for wanting that fact to be changed. Those are simply facts, and facts exist whether we like them or not. That's what I mean about self-esteem. I accept these facts about myself. I'm not hurt or upset or depressed at these facts. I'm not bothered by the fact that some people find me unattractive. These facts just are. I am aware of how I look and I accept it. The same goes with other of my attributes.

Again, I'm running off on tangents to better explain my point. So I have this ridiculously high self-esteem. That means that abusers try their abuse on me and I don't react to their abuse in ways that benefit them, that don't give up control over me to them. When someone attempted to gaslight me, I'm far too confident in my memory of events, even while acknowledging the flaws in human memory to succumb easily to gaslighting. So I don't recognize gaslighting when I see it, sometimes. When someone attempts to control me, like setting rules that dictate how my other relationships should go, I resist that control.

Now, if I'm all in the middle of NRE, and we're talking about our preferences and goals for our relationship, I might miss someone's attempt to control me, and I might sound like I'm agreeing to give up control. I'm human, after all, and things that might present as a red flag when I'm sane may sound just peachy-keen when I'm all hopped up on happy brain chemicals at the beginning of a relationship and not necessarily thinking straight. But you can always tell, when the rubber meets the road, that I do. not. give. up. control. When it comes time for that new relationship to start, for example, that relationship goes in whatever fucking direction it's going to go, and suddenly the controlling partner is left bewildered and panicked and wondering how the fuck they lost control so quickly.

You never had it to begin with.

"Because getting your way with someone can't be a one-time deal." Abusers typically build up to abusing. They don't start out on the first date smacking someone around and they don't bring a 40 page contract to the restaurant and insist you sign it, except when we build communities that support abuse and consent violations (*cough*Christian Grey*cough* *cough*unicorn hunters*cough*). They start out small, by pushing boundaries just a little to see what they can get away with. And they push the boundary just a bit, so that your boundary has to move now. And now that it's moved, they push it just a little bit more so that it's over just a tiny bit more. Until eventually you're sitting at home one day trying to figure out how your life got to be such a mess and how will you ever get out of it?

Like most people, I have some soft boundaries and some hard boundaries. So abusers might push on some of my soft boundaries and, thinking that I'm someone they can manipulate they're compatible with, we get into a relationship. And they use all their charm and cute puppy dog eyes, so I think they're a great person and we have so much in common. So they keep pushing on the soft boundaries. But something that I do differently, is that every little soft boundary that gets pushed back is kind of like a small papercut. I might not notice it right away, but it'll start to irritate me the more it gets touched and the more I think about it. So that the next time he tries to push on a soft boundary, I'll be more resentful and more impatient about it. It won't take too many of these soft boundary pushes before I've lost my patience, so that when he hits a hard boundary, I push back.

And here's where that quote is relevant. It "can't be a one-time deal. ... We gotta feel like we control you." When I start to feel like someone is trying to control me, whether it's even true or not, I push back and I mean I push back hard. Their tactics don't work. So I find that one of two things happens: 1) They recognize me as someone that they can't control and they bugger right off. Not that they're necessarily thinking of it like this; they may be thinking of me as a stubborn, selfish bitch who won't compromise or consider their feelings. But as the blogger Emma Fett said, "I was victimized by acts of control" is not the same as "I was victimized by the other person’s resistance to my control." People get really defensive when I resist their control.

So, either that or 2) They double-down on their efforts which makes me dig in my own heels and we spiral very quickly into an impasse, usually ending with me getting fed up and leaving. Either way, my relationships with abusers seem to be fine, fine, fine, BIG FUCKING BLOWUP OUT OF NOWHERE. They will think things are going just fine because they're getting away with some soft boundary pushing, but I'll be building up resentment. I'll be thinking things are just fine because it's only some soft boundary pushing that I can rationalize away as "compromise" and learning to adjust to someone who is different from me. Then they'll push on a hard boundary and I'll be surprised at their audacity to want something so awful, and they'll be surprised at my sudden lack of passivity or acceptance.

See, most of my relationship partners remark, in the beginning, about how easy I am to get along with. I know it doesn't seem like that to people who only know me from my rants online, but I am actually fairly easy going and generally a happy person. I'm cool with a wide range of things and I don't particularly need to be in charge all the time or make a lot of decisions. So, like, what's for dinner? I don't know, what do you want? I legitimately don't know and don't have a preference most times. Want chinese? OK, I'm cool with that. Want Indian instead? Sure. Want vegan-gluten-sodium-free? Well, OK, but not as a daily diet please. Point is that I seem like I'm pretty easy to get along with and most of my partners agree. At first. Until they push on a hard boundary. And then they blink in shock at Joreth suddenly showing up. Hence all my "hello, have we met?" posts on Twitter and Facebook. That's why I keep showing guys who are interested in me my online social media - I'm sick of them acting surprised when they push me and I push back.

So they'll push a boundary and I'm like "I had no idea you actually think trying to control me in this way was a good idea, haven't you read anything I've written?" and they're all "whoa, where did the pliable, happy, nice girl go and who is this selfish bitch who won't even compromise with me? Can't she see how much she's HURTING me that she won't let me control her?!" and I'll be like "OUT, OUT YOU HELL DEMON, OFF YOU MUST FUCK!" and they'll be going all "dude, that Joreth is totally crazy, everyone block her!"

So ... this is my very long and rambly way to say that articles like this one are helping me to recognize, acknowledge, and understand my past experiences with abusive people, and why things became abusive or failed to become abusive with me. Articles like this one are making connections for me so that I can look back over my history and see the abusive patterns in people that I didn't see before. And this is helping me to recognize abusive patterns in people that I meet now. So I write about these connections because I see too many people who, like me, don't recognize a whole bunch of abuse as abuse. They defend it, they enshrine it, they hide it, they offer it shelter and dark places to grow and fester like fungus or bacteria. Why? Because being in control is good, right?

Well, perhaps being in control of oneself is a desirable state for most of the time. But losing control doesn't have to be the end of the world, and controlling others is both inherently unethical and ultimately impossible. So I am trying to highlight all the myriad ways in which we justify, rationalize, and accept controlling other people. Maybe, if it doesn't shine a light on the motivations of an abuser and get him to stop, maybe it'll shine a light on a victim or an abuse apologist and get them to stop accepting it.
And if it sounds like your partner has a long way to go to get there with you, well, now you know why people say it’s pretty much impossible. Abusive people don’t just “stop abusing.” They have to change completely. They have to go through a transformation in which they completely leave behind many of the core values they had before, values that make it ok in their mind to act abusive.
This author may not be willing to suggest that a victim leave, and I understand why it's hard to leave. So I'm also not going to suggest that any particular victim leave at any specific time - that's not my call to make. But I am going to hope that reading posts like mine and the ones that I've been linking to and referencing will encourage enough victims to leave and enough apologists to leave off that we will eventually change our culture to one in which abusers are held accountable and no longer have hiding places to get away with their abuse, and people who genuinely want to be Good People won't ever develop the attitudes and values that lead them to abuse in the first place. Because abusers do think they're Good People. It's just that their abuse comes from attitudes and values that lead them to abuse (and many abuse victims develop attitudes and values that lead them to accepting abuse, or at least not fighting or fleeing from it, which is a whole other rant on society priming victims). And that's what I'm hoping to see changed.
joreth: (Bad Computer!)
I think I might be zeroing in on why it pisses me off so much that people are defending 50 Shades.  This is still rough, but I think I'm getting closer to what's wrong with these defenses.  I've been spending a lot of time learning how to support abuse victims over the last couple of years.  Over and over, the message to victim supporters is "just listen, and accept".  Believe victims, listen to them, accept their story.  You don't have to "take sides" by accusing the abuser or doing anything active against the abuser.  You can even reserve some empathy and support for the alleged abuser.  The important part is that you make a safe space for the victim to heal and to feel.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"This was domestic abuse marketed as Valentine’s Day fun."
joreth: (BDSM)
I've said this before and I'll continue saying it until this fucking book fades into obscurity:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

joreth: (Nude Drawing)
Even though I ballroom dance, I'm not a Dancer and I don't have what is typically thought of as a dancer's body. I'm relatively thin and small, but I have just enough of my Latina heritage to give me hips and an ass, while just enough of my Northern European heritage to make it not obvious and to make people who don't know that I'm Latina say stupid things like "oh, but you're so skinny!" whenever I complain about weight.

When I buy dance tights, I have to buy the larger sizes because of the stereotypes of what a dancer's body is supposed to look like, so I already feel annoyed buying tights right out of the gate. About a year ago, I bought my usual size, only to find that I couldn't pull the waistband up over my hips. I bought another pair, one size up (which, of course, was too big everywhere else, but I dealt with it), and felt bad about my weight gain ever since. So I've been trying to dance regularly and to control my portion sizes, and y'all know about my recent 2nd attempt at a 30 Day Challenge regimen.

Well, my larger size tights got ruined the last time I wore them thanks to a rough edge on my fingernail, so I only have the too-small pair left. I tried them on today, just to see, and I was able (just barely) to pull them all the way on! They fit everywhere except getting the waistband over the hips (as they probably did when I couldn't pull them all the way up at all last summer), so even though they're still uncomfortable to get past that point, it means that I've lost enough weight to wear them again.

This is in addition to having to add another hole to my belt and now being unable to wear my jeans (that I bought specifically because my old pair didn't fit anymore, so I think of them as my "fat jeans") without a belt. I'm feeling so much better about my shape and my progress lately. I know that I'm still thin and that I don't have the social stigma that others do, but it's still problematic for me.

The biggest concern I have is that I'm too poor to replace my wardrobe, so I need to maintain my weight just so that I don't have to buy any new clothes. I'm not quite down to my target weight yet, but it does mean that I'm starting to fit into some of my smaller clothes again, which really relieves a lot of my anxiety about spending money. I was pretty OK with how I looked with the extra weight, but every time I got dressed and something was tight, I fretted about needing to spend money on clothes.

This anxiety triggered my old anorexia that I thought I had gotten over decades ago, and I've been working to keep the anorexia in check by channeling the obsessive thoughts into a more healthy version, such as portion control as opposed to starvation, and the 30 Day Challenges as opposed to binge-exercising. The weight loss has been gradual with no adverse health effects, so I'm doing much better this time around.

I'm feeling encouraged by the tights, but I'm going to work on not letting it fuel a frantic workout routine and to remind myself to eat regularly.

Please don't comment with "but you're so thin / pretty / don't need to worry about weight" or offer compliments or tips. I know I'm thin, I know some people think I'm fine just the way I am, and I'm already doing what I feel is healthy and necessary for my body, given my peculiar dietary and psychological issues. This is way more complicated, involving psychology & social class issues, than anyone can help with in the comments section. If you're not my therapist, nutritionist, or medical doctor, I don't need advice and I'm not fishing for compliments. I don't care what other people think of me so validation that someone else finds me attractive doesn't help, and, in fact, will probably trigger one of my other issues about objectification.

I, and other people, need space to discuss our body issues without that space turning into someone else's expectations or desires for our bodies. It's not about how you see me, it's about how I see me and how I feel about me and how I can deal with all the sociopolitical-economic issues around being me.
joreth: (Bad Joreth)
This week's episode of Poly Weekly is on abuse in relationships. EVERYONE NEEDS TO LISTEN TO THIS EPISODE, not just poly people. It's not about abuse in poly relationships, it's about abuse in relationships, because poly relationships are really just relationships like any other.

In addition, everyone needs to read this blog post on the community response to abuse:

"When I first tried to articulate what I thought the community response to abuse should be, the only thing I could really think was that abusers need good friends. The kind of friends who are willing to tell them when they are not being the best that they can be."

I knew an abuser*, only I didn't know he was an abuser at the time. He had very good, close friends. But his friends were not willing to tell him when he was not being the best that he could be. After stumbling into a handful of roadblocks with him myself, some of his friends actually contacted me privately to tell me that they supported me, they thought he was being unreasonable, they wanted me to know that, but they wouldn't tell him about it because it "wasn't worth the argument".

Each argument I had with him resulted in him going to his group and telling them about the argument, then coming back to me to say "I talked to everyone else, and we all agree that you're wrong." Even knowing that wasn't always true, it's a horrible, isolating feeling that drove a wedge between me and our mutual friends. When I broke off contact with him, I lost my entire social circle because of the isolating effect that siding with an abuser has on his victims, and I wasn't even a "victim" because his abusive tactics never took a hold on me. But I wasn't immune to the effects anyway.

"Both survivors AND abusers need community support.

Specifically, survivors need protection and validation and abusers need support for accountability.

Abuse does not always look like what you think it should look like, and it usually occurs behind closed doors. As a community member, it is important to get rid of the idea that you will know abuse when you see it. It is ignorant to think that we will always be able to spot abuse in our communities."

I thought I knew what abuse looked like because I've been on the periphery of relationship sociology and psychology my entire life. And yet, when it happened RIGHT IN FRONT OF ME, I missed it. I couldn't see it, and as a consequence, I contributed to it - I enabled it. To my horror and shame, I didn't hear and I didn't see someone very dear to me being abused right in front of my own eyes.

"People who don’t want to change will often tell you that they don’t change because of the way that you are asking. This is horse puckey. Change is a personal matter, and it’s hard no matter what. If you want to change, no amount of assholery will be able to stop you. If you don’t, no amount of gentle crooning will make it happen. ... The methods that will get through to someone are varied. I don’t buy the idea that if we were just all nice that we could stop the bullying."

There are 2 basic camps in the atheist communities - those fire and brimstone atheists and those who walk around telling everyone not to be a dick. The thing is, the fire and brimstone atheists are not telling the DBAD guys to shut up. We know that it takes a wide variety of methods to change the minds of a wide variety of people. Go with your strengths. Mine is anger.

"Be willing to distance yourself from people who display abusive behaviors

Sometimes you can’t be a friend of someone who is abusive unless you support their beliefs. It’s hard to fracture your community that way, especially when it is already small. It’s hard when you realize that maybe you can’t just invite everyone to your party."

I'm glad there are people out there with a softer touch who are willing to be that bridge and try to help others back on the path of Greatest Courage and Integrity. I, however, am the one who will throw the party who doesn't just invite "everyone". When I created the local poly discussion group, I deliberately held our meetings in our local LBGTQ center because our previous community had a problem with homophobia. I created an environment that made homophobes uncomfortable. They were not invited to my party.

Sometimes, I *am* in a position to be connected to both sides of a toxic relationship, because the circumstances give me enough space to do so safely (I am not a target, I am not personally affected by the abuser so I can maintain my temper and be that "softer touch", the victims have enough distance with me to not be overly affected, etc.). But when there is a conflict, I am choosing the safety of the victims of abuse.

"'I was victimized by acts of control' is not the same as 'I was victimized by the other person’s resistance to my control.'"

This is SO SO SO SO important. I cannot stress enough how important this statement is. This is the difference between real abuse and entitlement. This is the difference between racism and "reverse racism". This is the difference between misogyny and "misandry". This is the difference between oppression and privilege.

As someone once told me, the victim in an abusive relationship is the one who is struggling to escape. The one holding on is not the victim. This is *obviously* an oversimplification, because there are plenty of reasons why victims remain with their abusers, as even a cursory glance at the #WhyIStayed and similar hashtags will tell you. But, underneath all the complexity and all the confabulations and all the confounding factors, if you are being hurt by acts of control, then you are being harmed. If you are being hurt because someone is resistant to your attempts to control them, then you are doing the harming - both to your victim and to yourself. Theists are not being oppressed because gays want to get married.  Those theists are feeling hurt because gay people are resisting their control.  When you attempt to impose rules on your partner, and your partner says those rules are hurting them and they behave in ways that are resistant to those rules, and you feel hurt because they are rejecting your attempts to restrict their behaviour, you are the one doing the hurting, even if you are doing it out of your own feelings of pain or insecurity.  You need different types of support. And I will hold you accountable.

*I've actually known quite a few abusers, and have been in relationships with several abusers. I have a whole post in the can elaborating on this very subject. I have a particular quirk that leaves me somewhat resistant to abuse - not totally immune to their effects, but abuse tactics tend to backfire when people try them on me. So, for much of my life, I was not aware of what emotional abuse looked like even when I saw it first-hand because I do not react to attempts to manipulate and control me the way that an abuse victim does when the abuse attempts are successful. So it is only much later that I learned to recognize what emotional abuse looked like in my previous relationships, and I am still learning. What I have learned so far is that I have actually had numerous encounters with abusers throughout my life, and that thought is rather chilling. Pulling the wool over my eyes, tricking me, and making me not see what's right in front of my nose tends to make me angry, and when I get angry, I get stubborn and impatient, so I have very little compassion or tolerance for abuse now that I know some things to look for. I'm sure many of my regular readers are familiar with my low-tolerance reaction by now.
joreth: (Super Tech)
I haven't done one of these Media Reflections in a while.  That's where I take some form of popular media like a TV show or song and use it as a springboard for some kind of commentary, usually social commentary.  I'm not necessarily talking about the medium itself, it's not like a review or a critique, but it's more of an illustration for some larger point.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

joreth: (Super Tech)
I was the Chill Girl - you know that girl, the one who doesn't "get along with other women", who only has guy friends, whose said guy friends will bitch about "women" and then say "except for you, you're cool" or "but you don't count", and who took that as a compliment. I've always had one or two female "best friends", but the vast majority of my closest friends were guys. I always just "got" them better. But, in reality, what I "got" was that I had interests and hobbies that society deemed "guy things" and since most girls were strongly discouraged from enjoying them, most girls that I had met in my rather small subset of humans that I had contact with happened to not share my interests, or at least they didn't share my stubbornness to enjoy those interests in spite of being discouraged from them.  What I also "got" was the unfairness heaped on guys because of patriarchy, I just didn't realize it was the patriarchy that was responsible.  But I empathized with them for their shitty situations (and still do).

So I didn't really understand "women" and I didn't really have a lot of female friends for most of my life. Until I became poly, when I later met [ profile] tacit, who has exceptional taste in women. It turns out that guys who like dating girls like me ... like girls like me. So, consequently, I ended up meeting lots of women who share at least some of my interests and personality quirks because the guys I was dating were attracted to those very things, so they kept finding women I had things in common with.

And then I joined the atheist and skeptics communities. I was still the Chill Girl, and I considered my new, larger circle of female friends (made up mostly of metamours) to be exceptions. I knew that I wasn't completely unique in the world, I just thought I was rare. So I just assumed that being poly increased my chances of meeting the other rare gems like myself because I deliberately redesigned how I met people and who I was likely to meet.

But then the atheist and skeptics communities exploded into a feminist / misogynist war zone. And that's when I discovered that I was actually a feminist. And that's also when I discovered other feminists. Women, like me, who rejected the gender binary, the enforced gender roles, who were stubborn and strong-willed, who were flawed and 3-dimensional, who had a variety of interests and personality quirks. That's when I finally realized that I had been playing against my own hand this whole time, and that I get along with "women" just as well as I get along with "men" - that is to say that I get along with anyone who is complimentary to me, basically like everyone else.

I just realized that my friends list is filled with women who all have something fabulous to contribute to the world. So I just want to say thank you, to all the feminists out there who read my feed and who let me read theirs. You are not all the exact same fire-and-brimstone internet flame warriors as me (some of you are even better warriors than I am), but you are all strong in your own ways, and complex, and nuanced, and colorful, and you make my life better. If you had told teenage-me that someday I would actually count more close female confidantes than males, and I would feel better about seeing more non-guy people in my social circles than if I were the sole woman among "guys" (as I used to prefer), and that I would rather seek out the advice and consolation of other women in times of stress than from the guys I know (with certain exceptions, and you few who have seen my cry know who you are), I would have asked what you were smoking.

I am frequently disheartened and overwhelmed by the kinds of things I see posted in my social networking spaces, but the fact that I have so many people talking about them actually makes me feel better about the world, knowing that I'm not the only one who sees and not the only one who is doing, and, in fact, more people out there are actually better than me at the doing. So thank you all for being you - angry, sad, happy, confused, conflicted, broken and repaired all of you.
joreth: (Self-Portrait)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Part B: How to turn me on -

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sexually: Flirting

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sexually: Sex

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Turn ons:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Turn offs:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

joreth: (Self-Portrait)
Someone asked me the following question, and this was my off-the-cuff answer (with a couple of minor additions & polishes after the fact):

What is your "price of admission" in a romantic relationship? Something that could be considered a flaw or a drawback, but that someone has to deal with to be in a relationship with you.

  • I'm independent, solo poly (even if I choose to someday cohabitate and/or marry, I will still be an independent person who happens to be partnered, never "half of a single unit"). I make my own decisions. I ask for input and I consider how my actions will affect my partners, and I will try to make them part of the decision-making process if I can, based on how these decisions affect them, but ultimately, I make my own decisions about my life, I need to be seen as an independent, unique, and individual human being by my partner and the world around me, and that's that.

  • I still need public acknowledgement of my relationships and to present as part of a "couple" at social functions, even though I'm solo poly (to me, presenting as a "couple" is not exclusive and does not preclude my partners from also presenting as part of other couples, even at the same events, nor does it preclude me from presenting as part of a couple with other partners, even at the same events).

  • I'm a mass of contradictions on the surface and it may take some digging to understand the motivations that actually make my contradictions totally not contradictory.

  • I'm poly and that's not changing, although the structure of my network will ebb and flow and change over time and I will occasionally have only one, two, or no partners.  The number of my partners and/or metamours is not what makes me poly, it's how I view & structure relationships that make me poly. I will never leave my other partners for someone, and I will never be comfortable dating someone who wants only me, unless he's even more solo & independent than I am and the reason he wants only me is because he spends so much time alone that he can't fit in another partner and still give me the time I need from him, and it's his choice that he's fine with.

  • I'm atheist. I fucking slam the needle on atheism. I'm anti-theist. I'm firebrand atheist. And I will mercilessly mock religion and supernatural beliefs. My friends know this about me and accept it of me because I don't pick fights with them over their beliefs, and they can choose to read my social media or not, knowing how I feel and that I will express my opinions here. Although I will challenge them if they say something to me directly that I know to be false, I am perfectly capable of holding my tongue and not *bringing up* my opinions against supernaturalism right at my friends because I can still like people as people even if I think they have silly ideas. However, I am *not* perfectly capable of holding my tongue with intimate partners and I need for them to be on board with my brand and style of atheism.

  • I'm feminist. That actually explains most of the above. And a good portion of below too.

  • I'm a ballroom and swing dancer. If my partner won't dance with me, I'll dance with others. Even if my partner *will* dance with me, it's proper ballroom etiquette to dance with others, and I happen to like that etiquette because it's primarily responsible for making me as good of a dancer as I am, since I've only had 2 real classes in dancing. And I will always feel like something is missing in my relationships where dancing is not an important shared activity.  I view dancing as a metaphor for life and relationships, and vice versa.  It's hard to overstate how important dance is to me.

  • I have a very dangerous job and I love it.

  • I have a job that keeps me poor, and I love it (the job, not being poor).

  • I cuss. A lot.

  • I do not want kids. Like, not even a little bit. And I'm pro-abortion.

  • I do, however, enjoy having pets. And those pets will always come first because they are dependent creatures that I have accepted responsibility for. Some days I have a reasonable handle on this, and some days I don't. So I might appear inconsistent in when I prioritize my pets above my people, but it's consistent in my own head and that's where it counts.  You do not get a say in how I prioritize them, and you do not get a say in when I'm being unreasonable about handling my responsibilities.

  • I'm a teetotaler. I don't drink *at all*, and I don't do any kind of drugs that aren't prescription and absolutely necessary for medical recovery or treatment. I'm not opposed to those around me drinking alcohol, but I don't date people who use drugs or smoke cigarettes (but I'm fine with people who used to or people who try things once or twice for the experience and that's enough), and I'm only going to barely tolerate social drinking and vaping. I will never stop hoping that someday my partners (who do them) will give up those things too, although I won't pressure anyone to change what they don't want to change.  I will, however, assist in their efforts to quit if they want.

  • I'm a cranky, cynical motherfucker who gets into fights on the internet, even though they cause me massive anxiety and make me disappear for several days. This isn't likely to change.

  • As [ profile] tacit has once said, I'm a little bit scary sometimes. And I consider that a compliment.

  • I'm kinky. I don't have to have kink in all my relationships, but I am kinky and that's not likely to change.

  • My gender identity today is "tomboy". It may not be that tomorrow. But whatever it is, I probably still won't want to have sex with your girlfriend.

  • I am inconveniently straight. Yes, I find it an inconvenience. No, that doesn't mean that you can find some magical phrase that will "fix" this. On the rare occasion that I do engage in sexual activity with people of female biology, it's usually twigging some kind of gender play in my head, so I *still* consider myself straight even in that context. If you're wigged out by my fluid gender or by me experiencing mixed or different genders during my sex, we're really going to be a bad match.  And I still probably won't want to have sex with your girlfriend.  But I might be willing to have sex with certain of my metamours, under the right circumstances & with the right chemistry.  If you don't understand the difference between those last two sentences, we're going to be a bad match.

  • I likely have what's called a "responsive libido", meaning that it's mostly low-to-non-existent, but can be revved up on occasion. Sex will likely fade to nearly gone over the course of a relationship and the only thing that will prevent it from disappearing all together is the acceptance of this fact and appreciation for the times when I can get it going. No wheedling, pressure, or moping about its loss will help.

  • I am not a beginner relationship partner.

  • And I do not react well to being "dealt with" or "tolerated" by partners.  This "price of admission" needs to be paid gladly, gleefully, considered an honor to pay, or else I will begin to feel dismissed, condescended to, and unappreciated, and that will sour any relationship with me.  The price of admission for a relationship with me is someone seeing all these things about me, truly seeing them, and saying "I'm not paying a goddamn thing.  I'm so privileged to be in a relationship with you, that these are not deficits that I have to pay, they are things I am getting in return for providing you with the space to feel safe in being who you are around me.  It is you who is paying me with the honor of seeing you as you are."

joreth: (Misty in Box)
In our collective fear of "looking like the bad guy", of being unwilling to say "you're wrong", in our social insistence that we "educate" people who are doing harmful things using a kind tone and hand-holding them to a "better" way, instead of flat-out condemning harmful behaviour, I wonder what kind of impact that has on abuse victims.

When a person has spent a lifetime, or even just a few months of being gaslighted and having their self-esteem eroded and disempowered and programmed to subsume their own needs and concerns to another, how much harder is it for them to learn how to advocate for their needs and/or gather the strength to leave a harmful situation when the message they receive from their community is that, on top of all their pain and suffering, in addition to their own self-doubt, they also have to consider the feelings of their abuser (or other abusive people who remind them of their abuser because they do similar things) and lead their abuser to a "more successful strategy"?

Because, remember, we're talking about people who are already not well; people who have already internalized massively destructive amounts of negative feelings like guilt and shame.  Someone who is in healthy relationships or someone who has a healthy sense of self can afford to hear the message "be nice to people who just don't have good relationship skills yet and teach them how to improve" and they can identify those situations for which that advice is useful and when it's not.

If you ever wanted to know why they stay, it’s probably because of a deep sense of responsibility and compassion, overwhelming feelings of guilt and shame, and a deep and pervasive confusion about how to make it right. If you ever wanted to know why it’s hard to talk about it, it’s because the thing you always seem to remember the most, the thing that really hurts the most, is the guilt over hurting them, abandoning them.

But someone who has been broken by another person, someone who is fucked over, someone who has lost themselves, someone who is trapped, someone who isn't as strong, someone who needs help themselves, all those people - how can they hear that message in their state and not similarly internalize the, perhaps unintended, subtext "the person you are in opposition to has delicate feels and it's YOUR JOB to treat those delicate feels like precious Fabrege Eggs, no matter what you're feeling.  It's rude to lose your temper, it's rude to call them names, it's rude to arm yourself with condescension or to defend yourself with sarcasm, and you don't want to be rude, do you?"

There's a heart-breakingly beautiful blog post about what it feels like to be emotionally abused.  After reading that, I find myself getting even more enraged than usual at the relentless admonitions to be "nice" when we come across posts in the community with all the same, tired old tropes that those who have been in abusive situations are all too familiar with as the first steps towards abusing someone - dehumanization, objectification, disempowerment.

He pulled his arm back again and I covered my face again. "Why are you doing this to me?" he pleaded, coming at me over and over. Finally, I stood up and pushed him back. "Stop abusing me!" he shouted. I stopped, stunned. Why did I do that? I looked at his arms, red from where I had blocked him. Why was I hurting him so much?

"Be nice."  "Try educating them instead of name-calling."  "They just don't know any better, you should make yourself vulnerable and tell your own story so that they understand."  "Don't say it's wrong, explain gently that there are lots of different ways to do things and some of them are a little better."  Fuck that. As activists in the feminist and anti-racism communities have been arguing about for decades, stop getting mad at people for yelling when the reason they're yelling is because someone else is stepping on their toes.  Or, as Tim Minchin said in a totally unrelated song:

And if you don't like the swearing
That this motherfucker forced from me
And reckon it shows moral
Or intellectual paucity
Then fuck you, motherfucker
This is language one employs
When one is fucking cross
About fuckers fucking boys

I'm wondering how many abuse victims, and how many people in perhaps toxic or unhealthy but not quite "abusive" relationships, are hearing the constant message to be "nice" to people doing bad things, and have not been able to adequately stand up for themselves because they don't want to be perceived as "not nice"?  I'm wondering how many people we, as a community, are enabling people to remain in bad situations because we're so fucking pathologically afraid of calling others "bad" or, not even calling them bad people but just telling them that they're wrong or that they're doing something wrong or bad?  And I'm wondering how many people dishing out this advice can do so because they've never been in the position where advocating for their needs in any tone has been equated with being "rude" and where their deep sense of compassion and guilt has been manipulated so that they can't tell the difference between standing up for themselves vs. actually hurting innocent people so they don't do the former out of fear of the latter?  I'm wondering how many people playing the Tone Card are living in the privileged position of never having been abused and are speaking from their position of privilege when they tell other abuse survivors how they ought to experience their survival and how they ought to react to their triggers?

How many people continue to go unsaved because we're more concerned with etiquette and delicate abuser-feels than with creating an atmosphere that encourages people to believe that their feelings are not less important than being polite to those stepping on their toes?  How many people remain lost because we don't give them the space to be angry, to be strong, to fight back, because it's "rude" and we mustn't ever be rude.  Anger and defensiveness have no place in polite society because the people who are doing things worth getting angry about might feel bad, and we can't ever let them feel bad about hurting you, can we?
joreth: (Super Tech)

Some of these ought to go in my Me Manual. In fact, I think I'll start by re-posting this article here in full. I've bolded the ones that speak to me the most and italicized my commentary:

1. Expect her to do her own thing often and without letting you know, at least at first. It’s not that you don’t matter; it’s just that she’s learned to love doing what she wants, when she wants, and without asking permission or informing anyone.

2. She’ll probably want to take things slowly because she’ll not be used to all the attention. Don’t think she doesn’t like you enough, she probably likes you a lot; it’s just all new to her.

3. Expect her friends to be overprotective of her and to be suspicious of you at first. They’re not used to her being with someone and they’ll want to make sure you’re the kind of guy who will treat her well.

4. She’ll have a hard time letting you do things for her. Try not to take this personally. She’s just used to taking care of herself and it’ll be hard for her to live in a world where she’s got someone else looking out for her in that way.

5. Expect her to be stubborn, to always want things her way, and to fight you when she doesn’t get it. Don’t always give in to her, but do let her win sometimes. I'm not a fan of the phrasing here "do let her win sometimes".  I never want someone to "let" me win, I want to "win" because I'm right.  Partners should acquiese to me doing things "my way" because they respect my agency and my right to control my own actions and my life.  Don't strawman me here, obviously there needs to be give-and-take in relationships and compromise and the ability to see each other's point of view.  It's the phrasing "let her win" that's irking me because it seems condescending, the way you might throw a board game for a child in order to make them feel better or something.  Never do that.  Stand up to me when you need to advocate for your own needs and I'm not seeing how I'm overstepping myself, and back off when I'm advocating for my own needs because it's the right thing to do, but never condescend to me by conceding.

6. She needs to be left alone often especially when you first start seeing each other and it should feel like she’s head over heels. Believe that she has more butterflies in her stomach than she knows what to do with, which is why she’ll need to compose herself. I need to be left alone often, period, not "especially when you first start seeing each other".  I will want more and more alone time as our relationship progresses, because the beginning of our relationship will flood me with NRC (New Relationship Chemistry) and I won't need as much alone time and I'll also be less-good at policing my boundaries in that rush of new feelings.

7. Expect her to pull away from you, especially when she realizes how much she likes you. She’ll come back to you but she’ll need time to think her feelings through. This should say "especially when she's having a hard time", not when I realize how much I like you.  I'm used to being on my own, but I also have a lot of dating experience and I'm not afraid of or often confused by my feelings.  I do withdraw when I'm hurting, and if the hurting doesn't continue or you do what needs to be done to draw me out, I'll come back eventually.  Most people don't stick around to find out, though.

8. She’ll question you, sometimes directly, sometimes implicitly, about your feelings for her. She’ll always want to know if they are real or if she’s making things up in her head. Direct Communiation FTW

9. Expect her to be headstrong. She’ll tell you, “I’ve got this,” more than you’ll want to hear. But she’ll get used to your offers to help. And in time she’ll know how to let go of the tight grip she seems to have on everything.

10. She’ll be guarded, and she won’t be keen on letting you in. She’s waiting to see if you’re patient, she’s waiting to see if you’re worth it. She’s hoping that you’re worth it.

11. Expect her to be stingy with trust, to only give a little bit at a time. But every time she gives you a little, it’ll feel like a big step for her. Cherish these big steps.

12. She’ll come across as strong, maybe too strong for you at first. But don’t be intimidated, this is her outer shell. And when you get to know her, you’ll know she’s strong but soft; tough but kind.

13. Expect her to be reserved, at least about the things that matter. Until you really get to know her. And then you’ll see the untamed, raw, and always beautiful open version of her that she’ll let you fully discover.

14. She’ll be slow with her vulnerabilities, and hide many of her weaknesses. And when she shows you them, she’ll feel naked. Clothe her with your words.

15. Expect her not to need you, and not to believe in needing much of anything at all. But she’ll want you. And when she does, it’ll be the most exhilarating feeling you’ve ever experienced.

16. She’ll be scared – scared to be hurt, scared to love, and be loved. Scared that you’ll eventually hurt her or leave her and if and when that happens, she won’t know who she was before.

17. Being alone is her default, it’s her comfort zone. But expect her to fall in love with you faster than she’ll admit and in a way that isn’t loud but still powerful; it’ll be like a little bit of heaven. And it won’t matter if you love her for a while or for a lifetime; her love will change both you and her forever.

And to stave off the inevitable "these apply to guys too!" ...

Sure, they might apply to guys, but the social script we're all sold (whether we buy it or not) says that guys are *supposed* to be like that so many women kind of expect it, whereas girls *aren't* supposed to be like that, so it'll be a shock to some guys who won't know how to handle it, hence the "warning" or advisory article.  If someone wrote an article telling women that they should expect some men not to need them, that being alone is their default, that they'll be stubborn, guarded, and reserved, that they'll be stingy with trust, or that they'll have a hard time letting women do things for them, the overwhelming reaction from many women will be "well, duh!" even if it's patently not true for some guys and even if lots of women know men who don't fit that bill.

Besides, sometimes some writers write from their own perspective and don't feel that they can speak for other demographics, even if they recognize similarities.

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

"Why? Did something happen?"

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

"You got beat up?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Any body image issues magically disappeared for that experience. What has returned now that I'm living once again among the sighted is so much less than those issues I see my friends suffering. To be able to see myself through the eyes of someone without eyes was a life-changing experience and I wish the epiphany on everyone, if it could be done without fetishizing a disability.
joreth: (::headdesk::) by Amanda Marcotte

I'm literally sputtering over here, this makes me so angry.

"'But I can’t [compliment you] – because you’re always walking around with your damn earbuds in (“Don’t talk to me!”) and your sunglasses on, even when they’re not necessary (which incidentally doesn’t make you look cool or sexy, only unapproachable).'

This is the statement that makes it clear that the street faux-compliment harasser is not, in fact, acting out of ignorance. He knows that you don’t want him to talk to you. He quite clearly states that he is aware of this.

Congratulations dudebro, you accurately guessed the exact message I'm trying to convey. Contrary to popular opinion, I do not choose my attire with the goal of making YOU think that I look cool or sexy (I literally could not care less if you like or don't like how I look), nor do I choose to wear earbuds or sunglasses for the purpose of looking cool or sexy. I am, in fact, wearing those things precisely to appear unapproachable.  That's the motherfucking point.

SO FUCK OFF ASSHOLE. I do not want to hear your compliment and you are not entitled to give me your compliment. IT IS NOT A COMPLIMENT. Just leave women alone, for fuck's sake. When a woman is interested in catching the attention of the people around her, she will go to a place where that sort of interaction is expected, and she will look up and around her with interest.

As a side note, a smile does not indicate interest, by itself. Usually women smile because it's the safest way to escape a dudebro pestering her. Don't trust a smile, by itself, as proof that your attention is welcome. Odds are, she doesn't welcome your attention, she's desperately hoping you'll go away and she's frantically plotting escape routes in her head and using her smile as a smokescreen for her panic. YOU'LL NEVER KNOW the difference between a legitimate smile and a frightened reaction if that's the only sign you use to read women. My smile is most warm while I'm cussing at the top of my inner voice at some racist fucknugget who happens to be a customer that I have to pander to. You'll never know.

If she's reading a book, playing on her phone, wearing earbuds, wearing sunglasses, or even just not fucking looking at you, SHE'S NOT INTERESTED in you telling her what she should be doing, what she should be wearing, what expression she should have plastered on her face, what emotions she should be feeling, or that you popped a boner for her.

The really sad part is that guys like this make women go out of their way to appear unapproachable. It should just be a common courtesy that a woman can go out in public and not be approached unless she's actively seeking out interaction.

"P.S.: Oh, and by the way, it’d be nice if your default expression was a smile – or, at worst, a merely neutral expression – instead of a scowl that says, “I’ll cut you off at the knees if you try to talk to me.” C’mon, is life really that bad? Just sayin’."

P.S., Oh, and by the way, it'd be nice if your default behaviour was fucking respectful, or at worst, a merely neutral passing-by while not acknowledging others - instead of your entitled, pompous, arrogant, self-aggrandizing, 'splaining attitude that says "I'm an idiot who thinks women exist for my entertainment and I suck in bed because I don't care about women's authenticity or autonomy and I'm only concerned about what I'm getting out of the deal." Just sayin'.

My scowl that says “I’ll cut you off at the knees if you try to talk to me.” is not because life is "really that bad", it's because I'll fucking cut you off at the knees if you try to talk to me. Dipshit.
joreth: (Nude Drawing)
I have always categorized my sex drive as "low". I don't have any particular internalized stigma about it. Sure, I sometimes get frustrated by it, but I've never met anyone whose sex drive worked exactly as they want it to. So I don't think things like I'm less than a woman, or that I'm broken, or that something is wrong with me because of having a low sex drive. I don't feel bad about myself for having a low sex drive, although I would like to increase my desire for my own pleasure. It's a bit ironic, because I think about and talk about sex all the time, but I'm rarely interested in actually participating.

I go through waxing and waning periods. I go through a few months of really high libido where I'm aroused and interested in sex several times a day, but then after a few weeks or a couple of months, the drive drops to only being interested once every week or two, then it can drop to having no interest at all for weeks or months at a time. I think my longest low period lasted a little over a year.

Then there are external things that can affect my libido, usually for the negative. If I start to feel that the sex in my relationship is becoming a defining trait, I will start to lose interest. Here's what I mean by that: See, for me, sex is an accessory to a relationship. It's fun, it's something I like to do, and it can even be important the way that my poly necklace is an important accessory that I wear all the time. I make sure that I have a poly symbol on pretty much at all times, because it's important to me. But it's an accessory. My outfits are not defined by my necklace, they're complimented by it. My relationships are not (necessarily) defined by whether or not we're having sex, or how often. The relationships are complimented by the presence of sex, but if the sex wanes or disappears all together, that doesn't mean that there's anything wrong with my relationships or with my interest in my partner.

But I've dated guys who use the sex as a barometer for the relationship. If we're not having sex, they take it as a symptom of something being wrong. I can understand that perspective a little bit, but what I can't understand is when that meteric is the only metric being used. Whether we're fighting a lot or not? Irrelevant. Whether we actively like to be in the presence of each other? Irrelevant. Whether we have fun together? Irrelevant. Whether we're communicating well? Irrelevant. As long as we're having sex, we're OK. We could be fighting all the time, we could be not seeing each other very often, we could even actively dislike each other's personalities and just wish that they would keep their mouth shut and only use it for oral sex, but as long as there is oral sex, the relationship is fine.

That is not acceptable to me. I need for my romantic relationships to be the whole deal. I need for my partners to actively enjoy being with me. I ned for us to communicate well. Those are far more important to me than whether we're having sex or not. I intensely dislike the feeling of being appreciated only for being a body to have sex with. I feel interchangeable, replaceable, servicable, not human. If the only thing that our relationship hinges on is sex then literally anyone with my same plumbing could fill that role and the only thing that makes me special is that I'm the one willing to do it. So I need my partners to like me for the whole package. Sure, I want my partners to appreciate my physical body and what it can do, but that's both the least important part about who I am and it's also the most likely to change into something else as time goes on. So I just cannot have romantic relationships whose definitial element is sex.

So when I date someone, and they start to exhibit pressure that implies that the sex in our relationship is becoming integral to the relationship, and to their feelings for me, that becomes a major turn off and I start to lose my interest in sex. The more important that the presence of sex is to our continuing relationship, the less I am likely to be interested in having it. It doesn't even matter if he really feels that way or not, as long as *I* feel that way due to his behavioural patterns regarding sex and our relationship that match up with every single other person in my past who prioritized sex above any other health metric.

In addition to that, if I'm stressed about other things in life, my interest in sex might drop. When my cat of 14 years, my companion, the first pet I ever had that was my own and not a family pet, the creature who suffered my cross-country trip in a dilapidated old school bus and my twenty-thousand moves around the state of Florida, who always knew when I was cramping and would curl herself up into my stomach and purr at me (when she didn't do it any other time), who let me hold her and stroke her soft fur when I needed to cry, who was there for me no matter what, when she got terminally ill and I had to watch her go through a slow decline over a period of 2 years, I lost my sex drive. Sex just didn't seem all that important when I had to care for a sick cat and when I had to spend every day for 2 years contemplating death and waiting for the loss of my dear friend that simultaneously never seemed to come and happened all too quickly.

I've been homeless for, well, a while. I've found places to live, but then I lose them with little notice and no time to find new homes. I've been fortunate in that I've had friends who could offer me spare rooms to stay in temporarily, but that means that I live out of suitcases and some of those "friends" turned into people that I had to escape from quickly too. The lack of a regular income, the lack of a living wage when I did get a job that could offer me "regular" hours, never knowing where I might be living at any given moment, the lack of having a "home base", where my stuff was and that I can treat as "mine", not having enough money even for the application fees for apartments that I don't even know will be suitable for me (because they won't let you see the apartment unless you pay an application fee, and at $25+ per application, that adds up to a lot of money quickly), all these things take a toll. I stop sleeping well, which means that my health suffers. I'm constantly evaluating everything I do in terms of how much money will it cost and how will it hamper my ability to find a place to live.

I'm also getting older, and experiencing all the stuff that comes along with aging but without a lot of the safety nets that other people have (or are supposed to have). I'm not married, so every illness and injury, including my monthly endometriosis that keeps me in bed for 2 days every 3-ish weeks, has to be taken care of by myself. There's no one here to get me soup while I lay sick in bed. There's no one to drive me to the doctor. There's no one to make sure that I wake up on time to take my medication or adjust the air conditioner. There's no one to automatically handle my bills if I become incapacitated for any length of time or, worst case scenario, to go through my stuff and deal with the aftermath if I were to die. I don't have a second income to fall back on in case I get so sick or injured that I can't work for a while. I don't have anyone to make sure there's food in the fridge. I'm not completely alone and I have friends who are willing to help with some things, but the point is that I have to explicitly arrange for these things as they happen because I don't have the sort of setup where it's reasonable to expect these things by default. So I worry a lot and things hurt more than they used to and things are harder than they used to be.

I went to Atlanta Poly Weekend this year and, as happens at sex positive events, I got to talking about my libido. I explained briefly that my sex drive is irregular and it's affected by external things and certain pressures, especially those from partners, can make it disappear completely causing a spiraling degredation of the relationship. I explained all this to someone who turned out to be a sexologist. I'll be honest, I'm on the fence about sexology. I'm probably biased against the term itself, which just sounds so fake and woo-ey. I keep expecting a legitimate science-based field of study to have a legitimate latin term, not just tacking "ology" (which means, roughly, "the study of") onto the end of a common term. I associate it with the 1970s and the pseudo-intellectual snobs who revived Freud and reinforced gender roles through the artificial elevation of the female gender to a position of superiority (or worse, the pretense of appreciation for females that still somehow reinforced the superiority of males), a la Heinlein and his ilk.

But I mentioned my libido to a sexologist who asked me to do her a favor. She asked me to reconsider using the phrase "low sex drive" and to substitute "responsive sex drive" instead. She was concerned about the shame that women feel about sex that, apparently, the word "low" can reinforce because it implies that there's something wrong with it since "low" has to be compared to "high" and "normal" in order to have any meaning. As I said at the beginning, I don't feel any shame or stigma or bad feelings about having a low sex drive, but since I had never heard the phrase "responsive sex drive" before, I was at least willing to learn more about it and to consider it as an alternative phrase.

So that phrase has been floating around in my head for the last several months and I'm finally getting around to researching it. So let's start with some definitions. Wikipedia says that "Sexual desire is a motivational state and an interest in “sexual objects or activities, or as a wish, need, or drive to seek out sexual objects or to engage in sexual activities”.[1] Synonyms for sexual desire are libido, sexual drive, sexual motivation, sexual attraction, and lust.[2] Sexual desire is an aspect of a person's sexuality, which varies significantly from one person to another, and also varies depending on circumstances at a particular time" and "Sexual desire is a subjective feeling state that can 'be triggered by both internal and external cues, and that may or may not result in overt sexual behavior'".

According to "Sex Nerd" Emily Nagoski on her blog: "'Responsive desire' is when the motivation to have sex begins AFTER sexual behavior has started. As in, you're doing something else when your partner comes over and starts kissin' on ya, and you go, "Oh yeah! That's a good idea!" Or you and your partner set aside Friday night as Sex Night, and then Sex Night gets here and you're like, "Oh, Sex Night. But I'm so tired..." But you made a deal, so you get started... and before long you've forgotten you were tired."

So, basically, sexual desire is the motivation to engage in sexual activities and there appear to be two basic categories for that motivation. People are motivated to have sex either spontaneously or responsively. Some people are motivated to have sex because they experience a spontaneous state of arousal so they think "hey, I'm aroused, why not have sex?" Other people are motivated to have sex because they are experiencing some kind of activity that encourages arousal, such as foreplay or maybe some kind of romantic wooing. Basically, something triggers the motivation, where they go "hey, this thing makes me think of sex and now that I'm thinking about sex / doing something sexy, I'm starting to get aroused!"

This was apparently started by Drs. Whipple and Brash-McGreer coming up with a circular model of sexual desire, followed by Dr. Rosemary Basson proposing a non-linear model. Our collective idea about human sexuality is more or less based on theories invented decades ago, generations ago. We're all aware of the name Kinsey, and most of us know that he was really the first one to talk about sexuality publicly and in academia. Fewer of us know the names Masters and Johnson, although they're probably the next most famous researchers in the area of human sexuality. They published the book Human Sexual Response back in 1966, where they proposed the liniear model of sexual response that we still use today. It describes the sexual response in four stages: excitement / arousal > plateau > orgasm > resolution. In 1979, a researcher named Kaplan threw in the concept of desire but took out plateau and resolution.

Then, in 1997, Whipple and Brash-McGreer proposed their Circular Model, which uses a model proposed by Reed as the base, suggesting that the four stages of sexual desire are seduction (which includes desire), sensation (which includes both excitement and plateau), surrender (which includes orgasm), and reflection (which includes resultion) but makes the four stages circular, implying that "pleasant and satisfying sexual experiences may have a reinforcing effect" leading to the seduction phase of the next experience. This seems to map with observations that many women are more likely to want repeat sexual activity rather than one-night stands, because the pattern of satisfying sexual encounters (either because they were physically pleasurable or because they reinforced or fulfilled some emotional need) is what's needed to make them interested in sex, so a one-night stand couldn't have offered a repeated pattern that the women can evaluate for potential future interest. Of course, that's where the trick is - how to establish a pattern of satisfying sexual encounters when one needs the pattern in order to establish it.

Then, a Dr. Rosemary Basson came up with a non-linear model that incorporates non-biological influences on sexual desire, such as emotional intimacy and satisfaction. This was the first, as far as I could tell in my superficial research (i.e. Google search), model that explicitly included external factors on sexual desire such as pyschosocial issues like self-image and relationship satisfaction.

According to Basson, [people] have many reasons for engaging in sexual activity other than sexual hunger or drive, as the traditional model suggests. Although many [people] may experience spontaneous desire and interest while in the throes of a new sexual relationship or after a long separation from a partner, most women in long-term relationships do not frequently think of sex or experience spontaneous hunger for sexual activity. In these latter cases, Basson suggests that a desire for increased emotional closeness and intimacy or overtures from a partner may predispose a woman to participate in sexual activity. From this point of sexual neutrality—where a woman is receptive to being sexual but does not initiate sexual activity—the desire for intimacy prompts her to seek ways to become sexually aroused via conversation, music, reading or viewing erotic materials, or direct stimulation. Once she is aroused, sexual desire emerges and motivates her to continue the activity. On the road to satisfaction, there are many points of vulnerability that may derail or distract a woman from feeling sexually fulfilled. The Basson model clarifies that the goal of sexual activity for women is not necessarily orgasm but rather personal satisfaction, which can manifest as physical satisfaction (orgasm) and/or emotional satisfaction (a feeling of intimacy and connection with a partner).

I'm having conflicting feelings about this theory. On the one hand, I really resonate with this description. I think that this description of a person who may not be feeling physically aroused nevertheless has some desire or motivation to engage in sexual activity and so does things to encourage physical arousal which may or may not lead to orgasm and in which there are several points during the time frame at which the arousal may be negatively impacted - I think that description very closely describes my own experience with sexuality and that of many people I've heard from over the years.

Where I'm having trouble is in the gender reinforcement. I believe that this is largely unintentional. The fact is that, in observational studies, people with female genitalia, on average, tend to describe their sexuality one way while people with male genitalia, on average, tend to describe their sexuality another. I believe that this new focus on female sexuality was borne out of a desire to break through the sexist glass ceilings in sexuality research. Up until the point of this research that I've been referencing, academic sexuality had a tendency to be described in terms that identified the "male" sexuality as the default and any deviation from that was patholigized. So, let's say that the generally accepted average description of male sexuality was the stereotypical "thinks of sex every 7 seconds, will stick his penis in anything, gets aroused by a light breeze, can't handle his desire and must be controlled by managing women's appearance because he's an uncontrollable raging boner beast."

If we then start looking at women's sexuality, and we chart everyone as points on a graph, and the graph shows something roughly Bell Curve-like, it might give us a mean range of traits that we can then lump together into a "description of average female sexuality" that shows most women as having a different sex drive. Let's say that the tallest point in the Bell Curve describes women as the stereotypical "thinks of sex only when reminded of it, can't open her legs until she's emotionally invested, takes hours of foreplay that must include roses and candlelight, and usually only uses sex as a means to an emotional end". What we see in the presentation of all this sexuality research is that the male stereotype above is considered the standard, so a woman who "requires hours of foreplay" or who "only thinks of sex when reminded" has a "low" sex drive, because it's "lower" than the man's, which is the standard. Anyone who wants sex more often than that has a "high" sex drive and anyone who wants sex less often has a "low" sex drive. Since women (in our hypothetical Bell Curve scenario) aren't generally aroused by a light breeze, they're considered to have a "low" sex drive. Terms like "low" and "high" require a level of some sort that one can be "lower" than in order to be "low". What is "low" if there is no normal or high to compare it to? Low has no meaning without some sense of "normal" or "high".

So the reason why all this new sex research is happening is because some people are challenging the idea that the stereotypical male default should be the default and everything else is a deviation, making all women's sexuality deviant sexuality automatically. Because then, if you happen to come across a woman whose sex drive functions more like a man's sex drive, then she's deviant because she doesn't fit into the standard for "women", so no matter what, the woman's sex drive is wrong, which then becomes pathologized, because that's what we do when people do things "wrong". This also pathologizes any man who falls outside of the standard as well, because a man with a "low" sex drive must be "a woman" (which, apparently, is an insult and must be an insult if "woman" is considered to be deviant from the norm) or broken in some way. Men are sometimes patholigized for having high sex drives too, but since the bar for "normal" is already set at a level that includes a lot of interest in sex, it's requires an extreme amount of sexual desire for a man to be considered deviant. And, although deviantly-high sex drives in males are shamed and pathologized, the stigma for such is still lower than for a woman with a deviantly high sex drive because men are still considered to be sexual beings while women are less encouraged for being sexual beings.

I am very much in support of the concept of challenging the default assumptions about sexuality and in particular holding up one male standard as "normal" and everything else being deviant in some way. But where I twig on these new models is that they still seem to reinforce gender binaries to me and I do not see enough importance placed on cultural pressures to explain apparent gender binary differences. Here's what I mean by this. Let's say that, regardless of how sexuality is defined, we really do see two different (even if overlapping) Bell Curves that map to people with male genitalia and people with female genitalia. I believe that cultural pressures to conform to current cultural sexual standards are more influential than the studies accommodate for. I believe that if a man is raised from birth with the stereotype message coming at him from all directions, both subtle and overt, and reinforced with social shaming and bullying, that he will be more likely to describe his own sexuality in terms that match the cultural standard because he will be more likely to recognize his sexuality in those terms that match the cultural standard.

And I believe that reinforcing that standard both externally and internally can build in patterns that, when "tested", will conform to the cultural standard because he has now repressed or exaggerated whatever was "natural" to more closely match the cultural standard so the standard might begin to feel "natural" by this point. Sort of like how athletes that specialize in one sport might end up sculpting their bodies to match what is most necessary to succeed in that sport, so when we see that all swimmers have a "swimmer's body", is it because they were born with that shape or because they spent their lives doing things that encourage that shape? Probably both. But by the time they have that shape, could we really tell how much of it is "natural" and how much was created by external pressure after the fact? And by that time, is it even relevant to them, as individuals? Their bodies, at this point, are "natural" to them because it's what they exist in.  Or what about someone who is "naturally" left-handed but was forced to become right-handed as a child?  As an adult, writing with his left hand may not feel "natural" to them because they have spent their life writing with their right hand even though left-handedness might have been the dominant "natural" preference at one time.  If we did a brain scan, we might even see pathways in the brain that conform with right-handedness because a lifetime of using the right hand dominently might wear those grooves in the brain so that it eventually becomes less "natural" to use the left hand over time. So one's sex drive may be shaped by external pressures and we may not be able to ever tease out exactly how much of that sex drive is "natural" and how much "isn't", nor does it necessarily matter to that individual person because, to him, having lived within his sexuality all this time, it's "natural" to him.

There was a study done not too long ago that showed groups of men and women erotic pictures and then asked the participants if they were aroused. They also measured physical symptoms of sexual arousal and matched those results with the participants' answers. The men pretty consistently said they were aroused when they had physical symptoms of arousal and said they weren't aroused when they lacked those symptoms. But the women quite often said that they were not aroused when they actually did have physical symptoms of arousal. One hypothetical explanation for this discrepancy is that physical symptoms of arousal in males include an engorged penis. I don't know about others, but even though I don't have a penis, I'm pretty sure that if I had one and it started to harden, I'd probably be able to say with reasonable consistency when I was aroused because I could actually see and feel a hardening penis. But the symptoms of female arousal are much more subtle. I'm lubricated often for a variety of reasons. When I ovulate, for example, like most ovulating females, I discharge a thick, sticky, white-ish fluid. I know that I'm not aroused, but if you were to measure the amount of fluid in my vagina during my ovulation, and that was your metric for determining arousal, you might think that I was aroused and didn't know it. Conversely, if I discharged all the time for random reasons, I might dismiss the presense of lubrication as a symptom of arousal alone because it wouldn't be a reliable metric without further education (maybe there's a way to tell the difference, scientifically, between ovluation discharge and sexual lubrication but how would I know that?).

So I might go my entire life not being able to recognize certain symptoms of arousal because of extraneous factors. Then if, in a clinical setting where I'm being asked to tell strangers my state of arousal, and I grew up in a culture that reinforced from birth a certain narrow standard of sexuality that includes requiring that I deny being a sexual being or enjoying certain sexual acts or having sexual fantasies, I might not be able to accurately describe my state of arousal as easily as someone who has a built-in turkey timer that pops out big and hard when arousal appears and who is told that it's normal, nay encouraged, to be a sexual being and to be aroused at the drop of a hat and who is not shamed to publicly admit it.

That's why, in the quote above, there are a couple of places where I substuted [people] for the original word "women". I feel, in reading about these more progressive scientific views of sexuality, that there is still a reinforcement of a binary gender system that is artificially inflated. I strongly believe that there are a lot of people, probably the majority of people, whose sexuality would be different if they had different cultural pressures.  For isntance, I believe that male bisexuality is far more likely in the population and is only such a small minority because of the extreme cultural pressures put on men to not express or explore bisexuality, so any bisexual inclinations would be ignored, dismissed, repressed, or even unrecognized and, over time, will sculpt a man's sexuality in such a way as to render him effectively heterosexual regardless of his biological potential. If there's anything that's consistent in the human species, it's flexibility and adaptability and the ability for people (generally speaking) change themselves or to choose from among multiple paths to survive. I also believe that female bisexuality may be slightly more prevalent than "natural" because I live in a culture that encourages female bisexuality, so non-bisexual (i.e. hetero- or homosexual) inclinations may be ignored, dismissed, repressed, or even unrecognized.

Take the recently-discovered experience that many people (usually women), have a tendency to put themselves into scenarios like movies and stories.  Look at the feminist movement where it focuses on female representation in the media, or at any race-based or alternative sexuality movements who want to see more people representing themselves in media.  People want to see themselves in movies and stories.  People want to feel like they are represented.  Not all indivudals, of course, but people in general seem to like seeing themselves in media.  Another study of "women's sexuality" found that a lot of women get aroused by same-sex imagery but not because they were attracted to the women in the images or movies.  No, they got aroused because they were mentally putting themselves in the other woman's position in the picture or movie, so they were imagining that they were experiencing what those women were experiencing, and if what the actor was experiencing seemed pleasurable to the viewer, then the viewer would get aroused at the thought of having that experience.  But before this option was considered, all we saw was women, even self-professed straight women, were getting aroused at imagery of other women in sexual scenarios.  Without understanding the underlying motivation, that may lead to a mistaken conclusion that women are more bisexual than they really are.

Since heterosexuality is still the "default" standard even in women, and since homosexuality has gained such acceptance as it has, I believe that the gap between actual bisexual women and women who have been artificially encouraged to be bisexual is much, much smaller than the gap between actual bisexual men and men who have been artificially discouraged from being bisexual, so they're not really equal states. But I feel that I was pressured into exploring bisexuality in a way that was not "natural" to my desires. I have an artist's eye and I enjoy looking at aesthetically pleasing things. I also have a hyper-awareness of sexuality in general so I think about sexuality a lot, even when the subject or environment is not personally sexually arousing. I'm also very much one of those people who puts herself into the metaphorical shoes of the actors in movies and stories, so I can get aroused at female-displayed erotica, not because I find her arousing but because I imagine what she must be feeling based on what I would feel in that scenario, and that's what is arousing me.  I can do that when the actor is physically male too, actually, because of my gender identity, but that's a tangent.  I feel that I was culturally pressured to label my aesthetic appreciation of female bodies (images of which I was bombarded with throughout my entire life specifically positioning female bodies as sexual objects) and my mental substitution as a sexual appreciation for women's bodies, which I now understand is not true. So I explored sexuality with female-bodied people and the feeling was consistently and categorically different from my feelings associated with sexual activity with male-bodied people.

I don't regret most of my experiences with my female partners. For the most part, I did enjoy my experiences, and I mostly really appreciated the connection it brought me to them. But, internally, I can just feel that my sexuality is attached to male bodies. And I don't think I would have explored the things that I explored had I not been told by so many sources that my appreciation of their aesthetics must indicate some kind of sexual response or that my arousal to imagery must be attached to the female body and not just associated with it. I have seen the reverse in several men too. I've known quite a few men who were adamant that they were straight, but I find the idea of male homosexuality to be physically arousing. So when I described my own interest in male homosexuality, if my viewpoint was held in high enough esteem, some men were willing to reconsider their heterosexuality, and some of them discovered an innate interest in the male body while retaining their interest in female bodies. Based on my experiences with these men, it seems as though they just needed to be in an environment that gave them permission and encouragement to explore the question "do I find male bodies arousing?" in order to learn to recognize the answer. In some cases, these were men well settled into their adulthood, when sexual exploration and experimentation is not generally common and where patterns tend to be more established.

So I believe that categorizing "responsive libido" and "spontaneous libido" as female vs. male sex drives, even with caveats that they're generalizations and that people of any gender can experience either form of libido, further entrenches an artificial gender binary even in light of the more progressive values that sparked the investigation of alternative sexual categorizations in the first place. I do not have any problem with the idea that biological sex may have sort of a reverse Bell Curve, with the majority of people falling into biological categories of male and female and a significant but minor portion of people falling in between with a variety of sex categories and expressions (which, of course, is not the same thing as gender categories because I'm talking strictly about biology here). I also don't have a problem with the idea that, if we cut out that middle and we map out biological female vs. male graphs, we'll get Bell Curves that do not match identically. But repeatedly we see that those respective Bell Curves have more overlap than non-overlap, and I think that if we were able to seperate "nature" from "nurture", we would find this would be consistent over sexuality.

Meaning that I believe more men have a Responsive Libido than we currently believe because cultural pressures have sculpted men's libidos and their recognition of their own libidos (not to mention cognitive biases well known but not referenced in this post regarding subjective observation) in such a way as to skew the results of self-reported research. And vice versa for women. The Bell Curves won't be identical, I'm sure. But they'll be more overlapping than not, if we could get past the limitations in our current research abilities.

So the conclusion that I think I've reached after reading a handful of articles and typing out my responses is that I do feel that the description of Responsive Libido or Responsive Sex Drive or Responsive Desire fairly accurately matches my own experience of my sexuality. But I feel a strong emotional aversion to changing my terminology because of the gender binary that I feel is still attached to the current research on the subject. I think I would be much more willing to embrace this as a new descriptive label for myself if it didn't come along with an implicit assumption that I have a Responsive Libido because I'm female, or that because I'm female I must have a Responsive Libido. If Responsive Libido was just something that some people had and some people didn't, I think I would be more willing to embrace the term personally.  And I don't feel that this is an intentional implication on the part of any individual researcher who advocates for these new categories.  I definitely appreciate having a term that accurately describes a more complex, fluid form of sexuality, especially when it comes to needing to describe my sexuality to potential partners for expectation mangement. When I say only that I have a low sex drive, and then the beginning NRC phase of a relationship increases my sex drive by a significant amount, my partners get confused and dismiss my claims. Then, when the drive drops as it does, my partners take it personally, and we enter a well-worn downward spiral that I would love to never have to experience again. If it could just be culturally accepted that my sex drive does what it does, and that was just how sex drives act (at least in some people), I think (and I hope) that people's expectations for the sex in our relationships would be more easily managed to match reality instead of fantasy.
joreth: (Super Tech)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We find equality by dismantling the dominant oppressive class and replacing it with an inclusive class.
joreth: (Super Tech)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And that's NOT something to brag about, that's something to be deeply troubled about.
joreth: (Super Tech)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I have a series of clips taken from a few different episodes that single out certain topics and points that I've uploaded to YouTube, and I post them occasionally when the comments threads are relevant. Maybe someday I'll get around to starting up that blog series on this show. It'll be in the Media Reflections tag here in my LiveJournal, if anyone is interested.
joreth: (Super Tech)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gender Swap

Jul. 9th, 2014 01:09 pm
joreth: (Super Tech)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*My high school was so small that it didn't have a theater program, or even a building with a stage in it (our gym didn't have the obligatory stage to make it convertible for presentations).  The first play they ever put on wasn't even until my 8th grade year - the year before I started attending.  So the school, which was private so it had money, hired professional staff for all its performances, including the director and stagehands.  We didn't even have a theater teacher to take over as director.  The stagehands physically built a new stage for every play in our multi-purpose room (not the gym).
joreth: (Super Tech)
I woke up this morning to thoughts of my stalker.  His so-far-last text to me was asking if we could still be friends, after I insulted him and was condescending to him and told him that I loathed him.  In my head, I continued the conversation (because that's what my brain does, which is partly why online arguments are so damaging to me - I end up losing sleep by continuing arguments, whether I continue them IRL or not).  In my head, I continued with a horrified and offended tone, saying "no, we can't be friends, you fuckwad!  I will not be Girlfriendzoned!" which of course required me to explain what girlfriendzoning was.

Because I was not yet fully awake when I had this conversation in my head, I jumped to two other scenarios simultaneously.  One was the following thought: "It's very sad, now there's some perfectly nice guy, a real nice guy and not a Nice Guy, who shares my interest, my hobbies, my passions, who may come into my store someday and who will spark a connection between us, and I'll be unable to trust him even enough to give out my number because of this incident.  This situation has created an opportunity lost that is no fault of the nice guy, but he will feel the consequences and we'll both lose because of this asshole."

The other was a conversation with clueless-but-nice-guys about why this whole thing was such a big deal and what girlfriendzoning was.  I said "The Girlfriendzone is where some guys put a girl in a category in their head of being Girlfriend material (or sex partner material), even after she rejects him, and they use her offer of friendship as a door stopper to try and wedge themselves into her life as a future boyfriend (or lover), only to get progressively more whiny and demanding and resentful when she proceeds to give them nothing but what she offered in the first place - a friendship.  This is where an offered friendship with a girl is not viewed as the gift that it is, but as leverage to try and get something out of her without her consent by deceptively coercing her into a relationship that she has already said she doesn't want."

Being girlfriendzoned does what this stalker has done to me - it makes people put up walls and create defenses to prevent being put in that position again.  Usually it takes several times of similar situations before we start building those defenses.  The first time, maybe it was subtle so we didn't see the warning flags for what they are and we just naively missed the warning flags the next time, so it might take several times before we see the pattern.  Or maybe the first time wasn't subtle but we think it can't possibly be a normal experience and we write it off as an anomoly.  So by the time you meet someone with walls, you can safely assume that this sort of thing has either happened to her many times or it has happened to her with such disasterous consequences that it justified building walls after only one exposure.

But what this means is that real nice guys (I mean people who are genuinely nice and who genuinely care about other human beings and who do not see them as need fulfillment machines, not Nice Guys who are people who are actually not nice because they are subversive and coercive and resentful and do see people as tools to fulfill their needs rather than whole people with their own agency and their own right to reject them) actually suffer some consequences from these kinds of assholes who are responsible for the walls going up in the first place.

I've been told by some men that it's not fair to be feared when they haven't done anything wrong.  I agree, it's not fair.  Life isn't fair.  Nature has never had any interest in fairness.  Nature has no problem with a system that requires trading in one life for another (the food chain) or smacking an asteroid into a planet and killing off almost all life in one blow.  Nature has never heard of the word "fair".  That's a human value, and often a misplaced value, in my opinion.  But what's more unfair is being stalked or harassed or raped or violated or murdered all because some narcissist thinks he has the right to someone else's body.  In the grand scheme of things, being "feared" (which really means being put in the "uncertain until otherwise proven" category) is far preferable to being afraid with reason.

But it's not fair.  It would be wonderful if we could all start with blank slates and give all nice people enough of an opening to start out by being respected instead of feared.  However, the way we accomplish that is not to browbeat the very people who have been traumatized into trusting you before you've earned any trust.  People are right to be upset at living in a society where people are feared on sight because of what someone else who shares superficial traits did.  But here are two things that you can *actually* do to fix this problem that don't involve justifying those exact walls that you're upset about in the first place.

1) When you meet someone who you are interested in romantically or sexually, you can first be clear about your intentions and wishes for the kind of relationship you are interested in and then you can indicate in clear and plain terms that there is no expectation for reciprocation; if they are not interested, it's OK with you, and that if they find you worthy of bestowing an offer of friendship instead, that you accept it freely and without obligation or coercion to use that offer as a back door into the kind of relationship that you *really* want.  And then you have to MEAN it.  If you are not willing to accept a friendship, or if you think of it as a consolation prize instead of the gift that it is, be willing to say up front that you are not interested in a friendship, but thank them for the offer and recognize its value, and then go your separate ways with no consequences for the other person for having rejected you.  Leave a trail of people who can have at least one example to point to of someone who takes responsibility for his own emotions and does not make them responsible for soothing his hurt ego when there are mismatched relationship desires.

2) This is actually the most important part, although the first one is also very important.  When you hear other people complaining about being friendzoned or whining about being rejected, you can say something to them about it.  Especially if you are both in a male category.  You can tell them that they are being disrespectful and unreasonable and coercive.  You can explain that the reason why their target* is behaving the way that she is, it's because of other guys doing exactly what they're doing or other guys doing worse so that it's reasonable for her to behave this way (or at least understandable and deserving of compassion).  You, who have nothing in that dogfight, who is not the target and not the competition and not affected by the outcome of this specific situation in any way, you can step in and tell the other person that he is, in fact, the person in the wrong here.

You will probably not see any culture-changing results or immediate changes in any individual situation.  Don't try these steps thinking that you are now the Rape-Culture Crusader, bashing in minds with your impeccable logic and your superpower of thinking of women as human beings with their own agency.  You will probably lose some "friends" over it, or have strange men at bars yell at you for butting your nose into their business.  It will take lots of people having lots of these conversations for a long time before we see a change.  But because it will take lots of people, your individual contribution is necessary to make this long-term change.  YOU will become a better person for doing these two things, and you will start to see benefits in your own personal life eventually, perhaps in small ways at first.

We change the culture by providing enough examples of the kind of culture we want to have to reach a tipping point.  That's what is meant by "be the change you wish to see in the world".  You have to go out there and be the example and you have to do it in a way that other people can see.  That includes using the privilege of being in the same class as someone else to tell him things that he won't hear coming from someone in another class.  It is a scientific fact that people in general tend to listen to other people that we feel are similar to us in certain ways and to dismiss arguments more easily from people that we feel are "different" in key ways.  What those ways are depends on both the issue and the values of the person doing the judging.  So it is important to use our superficial similarities to open that conversation and to tell people the things that they won't want to hear if they come from someone else.

We change the culture by being an example of what we wish to see.  That includes going out on a limb and saying things that might feel awkward or uncomfortable, such as frequently checking in for consent throughout sex and making an offer of a relationship clear instead of hiding behind a joke that can be written off and then making it clear that there are no strings attached to that offer and that you are responsible for your own emotions so that your interest can have the freedom to consent (which also means the freedom to say "no").  But for step #2, it means being nosy and giving your honest opinion to strangers and friends alike that you disapprove of the position they are presenting and why.  It will feel awkward and uncomfortable if you are not currently in the habit of telling people that you think they are wrong.  It can be done subtly or, like me, by crashing into them with a clue-by-four - you choose your own method.  But I believe that it needs to be done, one way or another.

You, by yourself, are not going to change the culture even by doing the two things I suggested faithfully.  But the change will not happen without you.  It will take every one of us to do our part.  If you ever knew someone who has been harassed, assaulted, raped, pressured, stalked, who has high walls and is afraid to trust, if you ever wished that life didn't have to be as unfair as it is, please do these two things.  And talk about how you do these two things.  And implore others to do these two things.  We don't need to be "rescued", we don't need to be taught martial arts, we don't need to be told how to react to the shit we get in life.  What we need is for other people to recognize the root causes of this shit and address *that* instead of us.  People's walls and defenses are a symptom and if you want people to let their walls down, then you have to treat the disease.

*I used the word "target" deliberately.  Very often, the people (and it's usually women) whom these people (usually men) are interested in are not recognized as humans.  They are seen as targets.  They are dehumanized and villified and seen as need-fulfillment machines.  They are seen as something to be aquired based on what they can do for the person in question, like Pokemon balls.  I used the word "target" not because *I* see people as targets, but because the people I'm talking about do and I think it's important to make note of that.
joreth: (Bad Computer!)
Here are the transcripts from the texts I've exchanged with my stalker, that I promised to post.  Keep in mind the following facts:

1. I have never met this person.  He saw me at my place of business, interacting with another customer, and he did not interact with me in any way.  I do not know what he looks like and I have had no conversation with him at all in person.

2. He called me at my place of business to ask me out.  I did not accept his invitation, but I did give my phone number because I wanted to be able to explain myself while I was not constrained with my professional limitations at work.

3. During that conversation, I told him I would not be available to talk for several days and to not contact me until the date I gave as acceptable.  He then called my place of business and spoke to my manager twice more after that, and then began texting incessantly that night while I was still at work, until I threatened to block him if he bothered me before the previously-stated acceptable date.

4. That date happened to be while I was visiting friends and family on vacation, and I did not feel that I had the time or the energy to have the kind of conversation I was anticipating, so I did not respond to his texts or voicemails after that first night.  In addition to the following texts, which I saved long enough to record here, he also called several times, leaving voicemails saying the same things as in the texts.  Those I deleted because of the kind of cell plan and phone that I have.

5. I have already indicated, both in voice and text on the first night, that I found his behaviour to be unacceptable and that I did not wish his contact.  I also then IGNORED him for more than three weeks.  And this is still what happened.

6. I chose not to block his number because, just like on OKC, I feel that it is important to explain why I am rejecting someone, especially the worse their behaviour is.  Anyone who defends "but he's just clueless / socially awkward / doesn't understand" can find no traction for their arguments here because I make it very plain.  My plan was to wait until I had the time to explain why his behaviour was unacceptable and then block him.  So here is my attempt to explain.

7. All grammar and spelling is left intact.

6/11 8:45pm - I really like so much and want you as a girlfriend
6/13 10:51am - I want you as a girlfriend and text me back
6/14 7:29pm - What are you doing
6/15 10:31am - Can you text now
6/15 5:53pm - What are you doing now
6/16 12:07pm - I want you as a girlfriend
6/16 3:25pm - I want you as a girlfriend
6/16 7:09pm - What are you doing now
6/16 8:02pm - Text me back
6/17 6:46am - Good morning
6/17 11:35am - I want you as a girlfriend
6/17 2:13pm - I want you And where are you at
6/17 7:32pm - What do you like do to for fun
6/24 10:24pm - I want you as a girlfriend
7/2 10:56pm - I want take care of you and won't rush you

7/6 5:34pm - Him: I want  you and text me back

Me:  How old are you?

Him: How old are you first

Me: I'm guessing you're 17 by your behaviour

Him: What do you mean

Me: You act like a child who has not yet learned that what you're doing is coercive and intrusive and selfish and immature

Him: Not a child lot older 17 and how old are you first and will tell you mine

Me: Refusing to tell me your age is another sign of immaturity.

Him: I want you as a girlfriend and how old are you

Me: Relationships are developed over time, as adults get to know each other and build a connection based on mutual respect and admiration.  Only inexperienced children think you can go straight to "girlfriend" when you haven't even met in person.

Me: I do not date children who objectify women like you do.  I only date grown adults who understand the complexity of adult relationships.

Him: Do you have kids

Me: Apparently I have one child who won't stop texting me to be his girlfriend even though I've never met him.

Him: I am 48 and you

Me: I don't believe you.

Him: Born May 30 1966

Me: Can't be true.  No adult makes it to that age still behaving as poorly as you.  Your mother should have spanked you more to teach you better manners.

Him: I want you as a girlfriend and want meet you

Me: No you don't want me as a girlfriend.  You want a female-shaped doll because you do not recognize a woman's agency or how fucking creepy you are being.

Me: You don't care about my humanity or about me as a person because you don't recognize agency.

Him: I do care about you

Me: You do not.  1. You are behaving very disrespectfully which shows you don't care about my humanity. 2. You don't know me at all to care about me as an individual

Him: I want get know you

Me: No you don't. You have exhibited absolutely no interest in getting to know me, you only care about what I can do for you.  You objectify me.

Me: I have absolutely no interest in you whatsoever.  I think you are creepy, entitled, disrespectful, immature, and selfish

Me: People like you are the reason why women are afraid to give out their phone numbers and why they have safe people walk them to their cars.

Him: Not creepy

Me: The people you creep out are the only ones who get to decide if you are creepy or not.  And you are one of the creepiest people I have ever had the misfortune of texting with.

Him: Give me chances

Me: I gave you a chance when I gave you my number.  You have done nothing but disrespect that offer since.  Assholes who do not respect my agency do not deserve chances to further disrespect me.  I do not owe you my presence just because you exist

Him: What do you mean offer since

Me: Giving you my phone number was an offer to give you a chance to prove yourself worthy of consideration.  You failed astronomically.  You failed so badly that you're lucky I haven't reported you to the police for harassment.  You deserve no further chances.

Me: You failed that first night when you called my store 3 times, twice after I said not to call again.  You lost all chance then and only dug your grave deeper since

Him: Give me other chances please

Me: People who reject other people's boundaries do not deserve further chances to assault them.  You are unsafe to associate with

Him: What do you mean

Me: I feel nothing but contempt and disgust for you.  Begging me to stick around even after I've spent all this time insulting you only makes you more pathetic and disgusting.  An adult wouldn't beg someone who obviously dislikes them to stay.  It's just more evidence that you disregard my agency and care only for what you can get out of me.  You only see women as need-fulfillment machines and I think that's abhorrent.

Him: What can I get you as a girlfriend and how can I get you as a girlfriend
Me: You haven't heard a word I've said.  You can never "get" me as a girlfriend or as anything because I am not an object that a person can obtain.  You are creepy and I loathe you.  Never contact me again.

Me: Until you learn why what you just said is one of the most threatening and offensive things you can say to a woman, you will remain alone and unlovable.  No woman should ever have to be subjected to your objectifying narcissism.

Him: I am not a creepy

Me: Yes you are.  Fuck off you creepy jerk.

Him: I was come see you at work

Me: I'm blocking your number and I will not see any more of your texts.  If you approach me at work, I will have my manager call the police and have you arrested for stalking and harassment.

7/06 6:53pm - Fine won't come and can t text you as a friend
7/06 8:39pm - Text me back

As you can see, I did not exactly block his number when I said I would.  When he immediately texted me before I could complete the blocking process, I decided that it was actually more important to have a record of harassment for legal purposes.  If I block his number, then I won't have a trail showing his disregard for my direct requests to leave me alone.

People who disrespect boundaries are not people who don't hear "no".  They hear it, they just choose to ignore it.  With all my vast experience with men who I have clearly and unambiguously said "no" to, I'm gonna have to view with dubiousness claims that guys "didn't know she wasn't into it".  My experience says that it doesn't matter if she screams the word "no" or "fuck off you fucking creepy asshole", he still won't hear it and will still give a confused puppy look and say "but I didn't know she wasn't into it!" because it suits him to be able to deny responsibility for violating her boundaries.

The really annoying part is that I could have ended this whole thing simply by saying that I have a boyfriend. He asked me that during the conversation on the first night on the phone at work, but the poly talk is not something I wanted to have right then and there.

All my words calling him disgusting and saying that I loathe him and telling him to leave me alone are disregarded as less important than whether or not I am someone else's property that he should not disturb. My own desires to be left alone are irrelevant here. Only his own desire to "get" me as a girlfriend and possibly the desire of some other man who already properly owns me are relevant here.
joreth: (Super Tech)
"If this is the motherfucking law of the land now, what's good for the motherfuckin' goose is good for the motherfuckin' gander. ...
Going to church is a choice, no? Let's make sure they regret that fuckin' choice, however legal it may be for them to make it. Then let's see how quickly they're begging for buffer zones."

The idea of *actually* doing this makes me so anxious that my stomach is tied in knots just thinking about it.  I hate confrontation.  But I will do what needs to be done to show that these laws that I fight for are for everyone's benefit and are the right things to do.
Every time you think about imposing a law that will allow you to practice your "freedom" in a way that imposes on another human, consider how you would feel if they did it to you.  Want religion in school?  How do you feel about Islam being taught to your children?  Want a religious statue erected with taxpayer money on taxpayer land?  How do you feel about a statue dedicated to Satan paid for with your tax money on taxpayer land?  Want to exercise your "free speech" by shouting at women entering legal places to do legal things that you happen to not like?  How do you feel about a bunch of angry feminist atheists exercising their free speech by shouting at you when you enter your legal places to do your legal things that they happen to not like?

We exist by virtue of an uneasy truce - I promise not to hit you in the nose if you promise not to hit me in the nose.  That's how societies too large for our monkeysphere get along.  You can swing your arm all you want, as long as you don't hit me in the nose.  But if you start swinging, I'm gonna start getting nervous and may swing back, just in case.  Sooner or later, one of us is going to punch the other in the nose.

Or you can choose to acknowledge that you have the right to swing your arm but choose not to do it out of courtesy and compassion for how uncomfortable it would make me feel because you know that you would feel uncomfortable if I swung my arm towards you.  We can live in a world where we have an uneasy truce, barely missing each other's noses and snarling at each other, or we can live in a world where we give each other space and nod as we pass by.

I'd like to give you the benefit of the doubt and just walk on past you.  But if you insist, I will start swinging back.

The Rude Pundit: You Wanna Keep Harassing Women At Clinics?  Then Let's Play.
joreth: (Super Tech)
Everyone knows that I am opposed to complimenting strangers on their appearance as a blanket rule. But some people "just can't help themselves"! Hey, "it's a compliment, you should be flattered!" "But I'm not one of Those Guys!"

So, fine, since you're doing your best to convince me that men are slavering idiots who can't control themselves in public, that you can't intuitively figure out how to be compassionate and considerate human beings without clear guidelines, and that teh poor menz feelings about giving a compliment trumps the recipients feelings about receiving the "compliment", at least learn how to compliment properly.

If you absolutely can not restrain yourself from complimenting someone on their physical appearance, here's how you do it correctly:

  1. Choose something that they deliberately did to themselves, like their wardrobe or their hair style (if they have an obvious style - mine is just straight down, that's not a "style", that's "I was too lazy to do anything with it today").

  2. Tell them that the thing itself is attractive, such as "that's a very pretty dress you have on" or "your necklace is really cool!" or "I love how you did your hair!". DO NOT tell them that their body is attractive in that item of clothing or that the thing they did to themselves makes their body attractive. And for fuck's sake, do not allude, imply, or outright state anything about sexuality. At all. "Hey baby, lookin' good in that dress!" is not appropriate.

  3. If they overreact (in your opinion) or take it the "wrong way", slightly tilt your head down in an apologetic manner and back away. You have no idea what they have been going through that led them to that reaction, so just give them space and move on. Then let it go. Do not come online and whine about that crazy bitch who couldn't take a compliment, even though you followed all the protocols us manhating feminazis insist on. Accept that it's not about you and let it go.

  4. Repeat this mantra over and over in your head: "it's not about me, it's not about me". This means that the compliment you give should not be about you - it's about the recipient, and if the recipient doesn't like it, then you did it wrong because it should be about THEM and their values and preferences, not yours. This also means that the reaction is not necessarily about you. The recipient has no way of knowing who you are or what your motivations are, so they have to draw upon experience to evaluate the world around them and make decisions.

There ya go, 4 simple steps that even the complete and bumbling morons some of you keep trying to convince me that men are should be able to handle. Pick something the recipient did deliberately, tell them that it is attractive without referencing their body or sex, back away and give them space, and accept that this whole thing is not about you personally.

Now, I happen to know quite a few man-identified persons who are perfectly capable of grasping this concept on their own, and even more who can understand it once it was explained, so I still refuse to believe those of you who seem hell-bent on maintaining that men are barely more than wild animals who tolerate domestication in exchange for sexy privileges. But this should be simple enough even for those types.

Then again, I could still be over-estimating the capacity of men. It's a flaw I have - assuming that men can be decent human beings, capable of rational thought and compassionate behaviour. It's one of those crazy lessons I learned from feminists (although I didn't know they were feminists at the time, nor did I realize at the time that this lesson was a feminist lesson).

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