joreth: (Purple Mobius)

* I am committed to taking care of myself so that I can be the best partner I can be.

I learned this one through "osmosis". I've always been a fan of letting other people learn my lessons for me. I don't need to burn my own hand just to learn that fire is hot. I became a fan of the Anita Blake series because I felt like Blake was all of my bad traits exaggerated and none of my good traits. So when I saw her get herself into blindingly obviously stupid situations that she could have easily avoided, I used her stupidity as a guide for What Not To Do. Similarly, when I saw my metamours bend so far over backwards to accommodate and enable their partners' dysfunctions, I saw that their lack of self-care directly led to the relationship's toxicity. When my metamours didn't take care of themselves, they were unable to provide the best source of support for their partners in need. When they didn't take care of themselves, they lost the ability to recognize unhealthy relationship patterns. When they didn't take care of themselves, they had no defenses for preventing others from harming them. It turns out that being a good partner, someone who has the emotional resources to care for and support their partners and who has the internal strength and fortitude to maintain good boundaries, requires being in a physically and emotionally healthy state - or as healthy a state as possible given any individual circumstances.

Taking care of myself should be a goal all on its own. But sometimes taking care of myself is a means to an end. Sometimes, some of us need to be in a good state for someone else's sake. My sister was on a downward trajectory involving drugs, alcohol, sex-too-young, and lack of education. But then she got pregnant. Suddenly, her own health became of paramount importance because she had someone else to care for. I'm not saying that my own health takes a backseat to how well I can serve someone else, but I am saying that my ability to be a good partner is related to how well I take care of myself, and these are a list of commitments intended to remind myself of how to be a good partner, so it's included because it's an integral part of being a good partner.
joreth: (Purple Mobius)
One of the things that makes me twitch every time I hear it is "different partners fulfill different needs". My partners are not need fulfillment machines. While it's true that I have certain emotional "needs" from my various relationships in order for those relationships to be maintained, it's not an obligation for my partners to meet them. That's my job. Plus, most of my relationships have overlapping "needs".

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So let's see how well "niche" ... well ... meets that need :-)
joreth: (Nude Drawing)
There is a special, sweet tension that comes with unresolved sexual attraction. There are several people I feel a strong sexual draw towards, whose personalities or other traits make them incompatible with me for any category of sexual partner - from one-night stands to full on Partners. Knowing this, I choose not to act on these feelings, not even to discover if they are returned, to avoid what will inevitably be a much more uncomfortable situation as the incompatibilities play out to a predictable conclusion. I would tell them honestly, if they ever wanted to know, but I have not been given any indication that they are curious, so I don't offer.

Actually, I find it increases the acuteness of the tension when we both are aware of the attraction and of the fact that it can't be acted on. The flirting takes on more nuance and is much richer when that happens. But many people find that knowing someone is attracted to them when a reciprocal relationship is unavailable (either because they're not interested back, or they are but I won't agree to one anyway) to be awkward enough to avoid wanting to know about it. Out of consideration for social mores, I generally choose not to reveal my interest in someone if I'm not at least willing to consider acting on it should they be so inclined. I don't like making people feel uncomfortable around me unless discomfort is my goal (I'm looking at you, misogynists, racists, & PUAs). Anyway, so I am attracted to certain people while simultaneously being repelled by the situation that acting on that attraction would create. Feeling this ambiguity creates a sense of tension that I have come to enjoy in a similar way to how people who like the pain of eating spicy food seem to enjoy that particular torture. Which makes my day when I have to work with one or more of those people very ... flavorful.

One of the effects of being able to experience physical attraction to people without requiring some kind of emotional or intellectual connection is that one might be attracted to someone who is not a suitable romantic partner of some stripe or another. And being attracted TO someone is not the same thing as finding someone attractIVE. I am perfectly capable of appreciating the aesthetics of a person without wanting to fuck them, or have some other sexual encounter with them. I find all kinds of things aesthetically pleasing, like architecture and sunsets and kittens, without wanting to have sex with them even a little bit.

The same goes for people. As a matter of fact, this created quite the dilemma for me just after puberty. As a photographer and an artist (although my proclivities in this area were as yet unrealized back then), I found lots of women attractIVE. Unfortunately, in the era and area in which I grew up, I was pressured by individuals and the culture at large to interpret this pleasure at seeing the female form as a *sexual* attraction, and I identified as bisexual for a few years. It wasn't until I actually started having sex with women that I was able to recognize a distinct difference in my attraction for women vs. my attraction for men - namely that I had no attraction *towards* women, just an *appreciation* for them. But, I digress.

Anyway, because I don't need to have some kind of emotional or intellectual connection to a person in order to develop sexual feelings for them, I can find myself desiring to have some kind of sex with a person who really isn't someone I ought to have a sexual relationship with. It could be that they don't feel any attraction in return. Or it could be that I might want a different style of relationship than they are interested or willing to engage in. Or it could be that they would be willing to have casual sex with me, but would then develop contemptible feelings towards me as a female willing to have casual sex because they have internalized the misogyny of our culture's attitudes about sex. Or it could be that they would be more than willing to have a relationship with me but they are not capable of having a healthy poly relationship (which is non-negotiable with me) and are either not able or not willing to do the work necessary to eventually reach that place. I am not a beginner relationship. If you aren't ready for the hard, advanced work, a relationship with me will be more struggle than pleasure and I do not believe in maintaining relationships whose risk-reward ratio is skewed towards the risk instead of the rewards.

It could also be something on my end. There are lots of traits that people can have that I find very off-putting, and I have discovered through trial and error that ignoring how the first rush of NRC (usually referred to as NRE) can make me overlook those things in the beginning always, and without fail, results in me developing contempt or disgust for my partner when that NRC wears off and my natural dislike of the trait reasserts itself. So, for instance, smoking; I absolutely hate smoking. I hate the taste, I hate the smell, I resent the addiction, and I tend to think less of people who are willing to harm their bodies in this way. I might be able to downplay all of these reactions in the beginning when I'm running on happy brain chemicals, but eventually my dislike of smoking will overcome the waning NRC. And as we know, contempt is the biggest predictor of a relationship's demise. I would rather remain friends with someone and maintain some platonic friendly emotional boundaries around them than engage in a relationship that will eventually trigger my contempt or disgust even though these negative feelings would be merely one of many feelings including many positive ones.

So I sit here, contemplating the tug-of-war going on between my body's sexual attraction and my brain's reminder that this will not end well, while a detached part of me watches all this going on and enjoys the tension it produces. It took me a long time to understand, accept, and lean into this tension. And it's still a balancing act - swing too far to one side and it reverts to that unrequited ache of a teenage crush (with a bit of self-doubt just to mix things up) but swing too far to the other and the body's urges take over and make regrettable decisions. I'm reminded of a comment I once posted on More Than Two's Facebook page, that they liked well enough to reproduce as its own post. I've been meaning to post it myself, so as to archive it, and today's contemplations on the subject are as good a time as any:

"The truth is, sometimes you fall in love with someone who’s a terrible fit for you. In polyamory, sometimes you fall in love with someone whose partner is a terrible fit for you. And sometimes you are a wonderful partner for somebody in one stage of your lives, but then things change, and you find after five or ten or twenty years that you’re holding each other back instead of helping each other flourish. None of these necessarily come down to mistakes; they’re just things that can happen, because people are complicated." ~ Louisa Leontiades' book review of The Husband Swap.

That's why I love [ profile] tacit's aphorism so much about how sometimes we can really and truly love someone and still not make a good partner for them. We have to be able to see the end of a relationship as separate from the failure of a relationship and we have to be able to see that our feelings for people are not the same thing as our compatibility with those people.

The whole *point* of polyamory is to consciously design relationship structures that work for the people in them that break away from the "traditional" model. As long as we're admitting that the Flintstones model doesn't work for everyone, why stop there? Why not question everything about relationships, including the assumption that they're supposed to be forever, or that they're supposed to "be" at all.

The thing that liberated me from the devastating misery that is the unrequited crush (that, as a nerdy, bullied girl, was the majority of my early romantic experiences and the source of much later anguish and self-doubt) was the internalized acceptance that I could have feelings and that was all they had to be. I could love someone, or crush on them, or admire them, or have the hots for them, and the end goal for those feelings was to simply have them. *Doing* anything about those feelings, for example: pursuing a relationship, was a *different* issue. They might be related, but they are a *different* answer to a totally different question.

It's not "I have feelings, therefore...", it's "I have feelings - full stop." It's not even about not acting on the feelings. I'm not suggesting that we don't act. I'm suggesting that acting is *separate* from feeling. Fully recognizing that, perhaps ironically, opens up the possibilities for acting to include more choices. More choices, which might have more options for "success", if we define "success" as "the participants are happy / satisfied / fulfilled with the outcome of their choices" rather than merely "lived together until one of them died."

This is all a very highbrow, analytical, navel-gazing, philosophical essay to say, basically, that I lust after some people I know, including some coworkers, but who would make totally unsuitable partners, so I am not acting on my attraction, but I am enjoying the lustful feelings when I see those people.  If you have not yet learned how to lean into your discomforting feelings, such as desiring someone who doesn't desire you back or who would not make a suitable partner for you, I highly recommend learning how to do this.  In addition to merely removing the discomfort (and / or the drama that comes with poor partner selection), it also creates a new sensation to enjoy.  It takes a lot of practice and a lot of work on the self-esteem to do it, but it's totally worth it.
joreth: (Purple Mobius)
There are benefits and drawbacks to being solo poly. Mostly I think the benefits outweigh the drawbacks by a wide margin, which is why I do it. But it's not a utopian state. One of the benefits is that I have the freedom to encounter and engage in a wide variety of relationships. Being poly, and specifically solo poly, means that I'm open to experiencing things that I might not otherwise be open to. I can go into my relationships with little or no expectations and to just let them be what they will be. That's incredibly liberating and incredibly gratifying.

The downside to that is that I may experience more goodbyes than other people. Since my relationships don't have to be one at a time, and since they're not expected to last "forever", I have had such a wonderful opportunity to meet and enjoy the company of amazing people whom I may only know for a short time.

Con hookups, for example. Unlike many I know, I don't have to be emotionally attached or intellectually stimulated by someone to be attracted to them. I can engage in casual flirtations (or more) with people whom I just find physically attractive, or with people I even like only in certain ways but am not compatible with in a "relationship" sense. This combines with my openness to experience relationships for just what they can be, instead of needing them to fit a particular mold, to provide opportunities to me like hooking up with someone at a convention.

The reason why I'm putting this in the "down side" category is because, sometimes, when the circumstances dictate a fleeting interaction, sometimes I discover that my attraction to someone may have started off as a physical attraction only or may have started off as a superficial or mild interest in them or as an interest in only a specific or narrow aspect of them, but then, over the course of our short time together it may develop into something deeper. Sometimes I find myself really interested in someone as a person, really interested to know them on more intimate levels, really drawn to who they are and how they think and the stories they have to tell and the experiences they want to have.

Which is wonderful and awesome and great ... unless I'm in one of those circumstances that dictates only a fleeting interaction. I mean, it's still wonderful and awesome and great, but it's also a little sad because I've been given a peek into what kind of relationship we *could* have, and then life butts in and shuts the window and pulls the drapes.

All of this is to say that I had an amazing time at DragonCon and for once, my introverted self is not relieved to be going home. I think this year is somewhere at the top of my list for best 'cons and I'm happy to be going home to my own bed and my lovely local partner, I'm grateful for the time I spent getting to know someone who's pretty amazing, and also sad to not being able to explore something that I think could be really incredible. I'm also going to be enjoying the memory of a really good kisser for a long time to come.

joreth: (Purple Mobius)

There's this country song that's popular right now that is supposed to be kind of sad, bittersweet, but I think it's actually *almost* an understanding of how poly works.

It's called "I Got The Boy" and the chorus goes "I got the boy, she got the man". The whole song is about how the singer has this history with this man that the new girl will never have and how that makes what she had with him unique and special, while the new girl now has this future with him that the singer will never have.

It's supposed to be sad because the singer *only* has the boy and his past, and is no longer in a relationship with him now as a man. Not quite spiteful - it's not "ha ha, I got this part of him that you'll never have!" It's more like longing, where she fondly remembers what she used to have in the past and she envies what she will not have because this new girl is getting the future and it's so very different from the boy of the past because of how much he's grown and changed over the years.

But the only thing that I can think of when I hear it is "yes! That's the point! A new person can never come in and replace me because I have this whole history that connects us that she'll never have with him!" and "yes! The preexisting person has such power with the anchor of this shared history that the new person will never have! And I need to be ever-conscious of that as a preexisting partner to not wield that power over anyone else!"

Hearing this song is kind of like reading Heinlein, to me - it's like "yes, that's almost it, just a little bit further, you almost have it ... wait a minute, you're gonna stop there? But you're so close!"

This song comes so close to explaining why poly relationships work and why they're so special. It highlights that each relationship is different, unique, and that each person is going to share experiences with a partner that can never be duplicated or replicated with someone else, even if those experiences are similar. I don't like hearing this song because I want so much for it to be a positive celebration of the differences in relationships instead of this envy and regret for losing - losing to another woman, losing the future.

It's songs like these that really put it in sharp relief for me how lacking the poly community is in music and culture. We have lots of movies now, and books and comics, but we're still really lacking in the love songs, or even heartache songs (because poly heartache isn't quite the same as mono heartache). The possessive and mono-centric love songs remind me of this problem too but the songs that just almost-but-not-quite see the point *and are sad about it* (probably because they almost see the point but just miss the mark) are the songs that really make the lack of music something nearly painful for me.

Many people know now about my passion for movies, but I also have a passion for music. Before I let other hobbies take up my time and I fell out of practice, I played 3 instruments, began teaching myself another, and sang in a choir. I wanted to make music so badly that I taught myself how to read sheet music and how to play a double keyboard organ when my parents refused to "waste" money on lessons, all before age 10. The reason I got into film and video in the first place was to make music videos because I got influenced by the videos in the '90s that really brought the music video to a whole storytelling art form like a film short. My dancing is about more than just physical movement - it's about using the body as a visual representation of the music. I may not excel at any of my endeavors, but I am passionate about them.

And I feel a dearth, a loss, with the hole that the lack of music has left in our community and our poly culture.
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: (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: (Purple Mobius)
* I am committed to supporting my partners in being the best version of themselves that they can be.
This one took a couple of revisions to get it the way I liked it. I tried something along the lines of "accepting my partners for who they are", but that led to either being resistant to desired change on their part or to accepting real, problematic flaws that need to be worked on and improved. An interesting bit of trivia about my and Franklin's relationship is that I originally first considered dating him for the purpose of improving myself. I had just read about the concept of New Paradigm Relationships, which advocated using our interpersonal relationships as vehicles for personal growth. I had also just become aware of BDSM and kink, and I was doing a lot of self-analysis and discovering some rather toxic and inhibiting behaviours of my own that I wanted to get rid of. I am deliberate in all things. When my phobia of spiders started negatively influencing my daily life, I decided to stop being afraid of spiders. When I recognized a terror of falling, I rode a free-fall ride in which I had to pull my own rip cord and cause myself to go into the fall. When I finally recognized that I had panic attacks, I chose to not have them anymore. Not everyone can do this, and I can't even do it for everything, but I am deliberate in who I am, so I do what I can to live with intention.

So when I decided that I was inherently kinky but had no idea how to explore it safely and that I had some relationship fears that were preventing me from experiencing a larger range of happiness in my relationships, and I met Franklin who was skilled in just those things, I told him that I was interested in dating him for the purpose of working on those issues with his help. What followed was a decade-long relationship (as of today) that is the healthiest relationship I've ever been in and the eradication or reduction of exactly those inhibitions that I felt were hampering my relationships. Dating Franklin has made me a better person and I'm very different in some key ways than I was 10 years ago, some ways I didn't even anticipate or set out to change. So I really don't want to cut off avenues, even implicitly, for personal growth in my partners. I want to encourage their growth.

But at the same time, related to the previous point, I can't stand the popular romantic ideal "I love you, now change". So when I rejected "accepting my partners for who they are", I considered something like "promoting growth and accepting change". But that led me too closely to "I love you, now change". I don't want to push my partners into being my ideal for them. I don't want a Pygmalion project. I don't view my partners as fixer-uppers and I most certainly don't want them to view me as such. So I ultimately came up with this phrasing that I hope will reinforce two conflicting relationship goals - to accept my partners for who they are without trying to change them into something that I want them to be; and to encourage and support growth and change without letting fear of the outcome of that change lead me to restricting them from things that are in their best interests (but not necessarily mine).
joreth: (Purple Mobius)

I am committed to working through problems with my partners starting with the assumption that we love and cherish each other and are therefore really on the same side.

I've had people pay lip service to this one, so it is really important to me to be committed to this point and to include this reminder. There's a clip from Sex And The City that is applicable here.



I once knew someone who wrote a blog post all about starting with the assumption that partners are on the same side, and how much smoother conflict resolution goes with that premise. It impressed the hell out of me at the time. But then I got a closer look at how he actually handles conflict resolution in practice.

Everything that his partners did that triggered a bad feeling in him was countered with "how could you do that to me?!" Notice I said "that triggered a bad feeling", not "that did something negative towards him". When his partners did something that had nothing at all to do with him, when they made choices that directly affected only themselves or themselves and other people, when they misunderstood something and then went out and did something based on their misunderstanding of the situation, when they didn't take him into account at all, or even when they did consider him and intentionally chose what they thought was the best possible option under the circumstances, if he felt wibbly about it for any reason at all, he interpreted the action as a conscious, deliberate attack on him. EVERYTHING was in opposition.

As far as I could tell, he only believed that his partners were on his side if they happen to think, want, or do something that he thought, wanted, or did. It got to the point where the others in his family just stopped telling him when they disagreed because, as one said to me, "it's just not worth the fight". They didn't all agree to disagree; the others didn't let him know that they disagreed, so he thought they were all agreeing with him on things he felt strongly about when they weren't. Then, when someone new came along and didn't yet know how much trouble it was, he would talk to the others in the group, who wouldn't disagree out loud, and then go back to the one and say "we all think you're wrong," making the new person feel isolated and ganged up on during conflicts, increasing the feeling that they were not on the same side, but were in opposition.

Our insecurities have a way of getting control of our rational brains and steering us into the shallows with hidden reefs and rocks and the wreckage of past sunken ships now lying in wait to take us down with them. It's far easier to see someone with a different vision and believe that it's in opposition to ourselves than to take a look at all the underlying issues and motivations and biases and assumptions, where we might have to face that someone else sees things more clearly, or that we might have interpreted something incorrectly, or that we might not actually be on the same path with the person we love, or that sometimes shit just happens and we can't always have things match our idyllic utopian ideals, or even that we did the damage ourselves. It's very difficult to see someone with a different perspective whose very perspective might be different precisely because they have the same goals we do but different experiences telling them how to get there.

I've had a long history with partners who weren't on my side. I've dated a lot of people who really didn't like me very much. I was always some "hot chick" or some sexually adventurous chick that they were attracted to, or who made them feel awed that I might be interested in them, or who offered them an opportunity that they didn't want to pass up. And sometimes I was just a warm body with the appropriate genitalia. But I wasn't always someone who was compatible with them. And too many guys have tried to overlook that fact, leading to relationships where they didn't really like who I was and either hoped to change me or hoped they could ignore the stuff they didn't like in order to get the stuff they did like.

But taking the assumption that my partners don't really like me into my relationships from the beginning is kind of a good way to guarantee that we'll end up on opposite sides, one way or another. I've made it very difficult to get to know me and I put my worst foot forward, all to weed out those who don't really like me very much and to keep around only those who really are on the same side. So I want to remind myself that my partners love and cherish me, that they are with me because they want to be my partners, and that, even if we seem to be on opposing sides, maybe from their perspective, they are actually trying to accomplish the same goal, which is to find a way for both of us to be happy.

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: (Nude Drawing)
I wish developing actual film photographs hadn't been so economically prohibitive to my 14-year-old self 25 years ago. I'd love to bombard all those "back in my day, girls dressed like children as in the image on one side, not like sluts as in the image on the other side" posts with hundreds of selfies that I would have taken of myself in my crop tops and micro mini skirts and my bikini swim suit and the jeans with the ass half-ripped out of them (which I still have, btw) had I come of age in the kind of culture that has basically unlimited picture-taking and -storing capabilities.

"Selfies" were not a thing when I was a kid because film cameras didn't have digital screens you could look at while aiming the lens back at yourself. Cameras were big and heavy, even snapshot cameras. You needed a well-paying job to afford regular photo prints and negative development which, as a teenager, I did not have. I had a job, but photography was not a top priority for my spending habits.

Most of my photos from my early teen years were school portraits or big events that included family (because someone else had to take the picture, and most kids didn't have their own cameras so it was the grown-ups taking all our pictures), so I was dressed fairly conservatively. If I took photos of events that were free of my familial influences, my mom still would have demanded to see the photos when she drove me to pick them up from the developing station. Plus, there were all kinds of cautionary tales about film developers making illegal double prints for their own private spank banks, so we just *did not* put most of the shit that we did on film.

If you go back and look at those few photos of me that exist from that time period, you might not have guessed that, at age 14, I had thigh-high stockings and lacy underwear and a mini skirt that didn't cover my ass when I bent over (still have that one too) or that most of the time I walked around with the flannel shirt I left the house in tied low around my waist to show off my awesome abs highlighted by the barely-more-than-a-bra crop top I was wearing in some neon color.

Just because photographic evidence of the past is low, it doesn't mean we weren't still doing the exact same things that teens have always done - rebel against authority, swear, eat food we're not supposed to, and explore our sexuality.

This picture, btw, is of me at age 11. I still have that bikini and wrap too.
joreth: (Purple Mobius)

Haven't posted one of these in a while: ‪Poly Commitments‬

* I am committed to considering my metamours as "family" regardless of the structure or emotional closeness of our individual metamour relationships and to treat them accordingly.

Speaking of poly families, this one is actually complicated enough to deserve its own post, but I will attempt to summarize here and post the link to the full post when I get around to making it. Basically, I was raised with a strong sense of "family" and a strong sense of commitment to family. But I was also raised to view "family" as being this large, nebulous thing with fuzzy borders that accommodated and allowed for everyone in the family to find their own specific relationship structure. The point of valuing "family", in my family, was to acknowledge that, for better or worse, we are all connected to each other through bonds that are supposed to be based on love, and that we all have an obligation to each other to be considerate of how our actions affect each other, although that doesn't trump doing what needs to be done for ourselves - our personal happiness and health is more important than familial obligations.

My family is a chosen family. As an adopted child, it was really hammered home that we are family because we chose to be family through the bonds of love, not blood. But my family was more than just my parents and myself. It was my parents, my sister, my grandparents, my dozen aunts and uncles, my two dozen cousins, great aunts and great uncles, second cousins twice removed, and family friends. Just because someone was a cousin, it didn't mean that we had the exact same relationship as the relationship that I had with my other cousin. I was allowed to develop different kinds of relationships with my different family members. We were friends, or not, as was natural. But at the same time, I was expected to welcome new members into the family because the happiness of the person they were connected to was important. I was expected to be considerate of my cousins and other relatives and to be aware of how my actions affected them. These were valuable lessons that I take with me into my poly family. My metamour relations are allowed to develop in whatever structure is most natural for the personalities involved. I welcome metamours into the family because the happiness of our mutual partner is important and it's his desire to date her that defines whether or not she's part of the family, not my like or dislike of her. I am considerate of my metamours and I try to be aware of how my actions affect them. To me, that's what makes an extended family.
joreth: (Purple Mobius)
I've said this before and I'm sure I'll say it again in a dozen different ways. But it bears repeating.

I've learned that the most effective guidelines for sex in open relationships (and, frankly, guidelines for all areas of all styles of relationships) are to stick with personal boundaries, not rules or agreements that tell other people what they can or can't do.  I tell my partners how I want them to treat me (and only me) and let them make their own choices. Then I choose partners who have similar boundaries.

So, for instance, I might say that I want to use condoms with them every time and I want to know their STI risk profile and any time it changes. That says nothing about what they can or can't do with others. If their risk profile changes to include a higher degree of risk than I am comfortable exposing myself to even with the use of condoms, then I alter the parameters around my partner and me (NOT around them and their other partners). Maybe I have to refrain from PIV entirely or maybe we stick to only non-fluid and non-direct skin contact BDSM. Maybe we abstain until new test results are in. Whatever, the point is that I police only what happens to my body and my emotional well-being.

I've learned that trying to police my partners' behaviour only works for as long as they want it to, and then people do what they want to do. So I can be betrayed, or I can set things up that doesn't leave room for betrayal and leaves only me with the responsibility of protecting me while treating my partners with dignity that honors their autonomy and their right to make their own decisions like the grown ups they are.

And I try never to pull rank. Just because I happened to meet a partner at a particular time, it doesn't give me more "privileges" with regards to his time, attention, or resources, or even his love. If he wants to be with or do something with or feel something for another person that I don't get from him, that's his right as an autonomous being.

It might hurt and I might feel envious, but it's not my call to make. His time, emotions, body, and resources are his. My job is to communicate effectively so that he understands how his actions affect me and to choose partners who honor the respect I give them when I value their autonomy, as well as arranging my life to suit my own needs and idiosyncrasies instead for trying to arrange other people's lives to suit me.
joreth: (Purple Mobius)

This is serendipitous. I *just* answered a question in a poly group about the responsibility we have to our metamours, and this was the next Commitment I had lined up to post about in my "but what do you commit to if not sexual fidelity?" series:

* I am committed to allowing my metamour relationships to find their own structure and direction without forcing them into a predetermined shape.

This is related to the previous commitment. I very strongly favor family-style, inclusive networks where all the metamours get along with each other and, preferably, develop independent friendships with each other. The main reason is because I believe in non-zero sum relationships where time spent with one partner does not have to automatically mean time taken away from another partner. It is my opinion that the only way this can be possible (and not a chore) is if the metamours actually like each other and like being around each other. At a bare minimum, we have to all agree to be civilly polite to each other at social functions and to actually be willing to attend social functions where other metamours might be present in order for non-zero-sum to be possible.

So I need a reminder that forcing my metamour relationships to conform to a prescripted relationship path is no different than forcing romantic relationships to conform to a prescripted relationship path. I have been on the other end, with a metamour trying to force a relationship structure on me that didn't fit, and I am committed to making an effort to avoid doing that to someone else. The things I value most about my various metamours is our differing relationships. Just like my romantic partners and just like my non-poly-connected friends, each metamour relationship is special precisely because it is unique and tailored to the metamour associated with the relationship. I have very important connections with each of my metamours and they only exist because each relationship was allowed to flourish in its own way.

Not all of my metamour relationships are going to be as amazing as the ones I have now, and not all of my past relationships have been this wonderful. Several times, I have had virtually no relationship with a metamour because we just didn't mesh well. If we hadn't had a mutual partner, we wouldn't have had any reason to be connected to each other at all. Only one time did I have a metamour with whom I didn't get along and I was not satisfied with merely coexisting. I believe that the reason is because she artificially imposed a distance between us due to her discomfort with poly relationships. I still use a willingness to meet and foster friendly metamour relations as a litmus test for poly readiness, so this commitment is to remind me that a willingness to meet and foster friendly metamour relations must be different in both intent and execution from prescripting those same metamour relationships to fit my preconceived notions of poly family.
joreth: (Purple Mobius)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

joreth: (Misty in Box)

This is essentially what I've been trying to say whenever someone asks in some support group "I feel bad, how do you make the bad feelings go away?" This is particularly common in poly groups with people asking how to stop feeling jealous.  I've tried to explain that sometimes, you just have to feel what you're feeling and it's not always possible, or even desirable, to just "make it go away".

Sometimes you *do* need a break from the bad feelings in order to pull yourself up high enough to be constructive and productive.  As [ profile] tacit says, when you're ass-deep in aligators, it can be difficult to remember that your original goal was to drain the swamp.  But this idea that we can't ever feel bad for any reason at all is a toxic mindset and counterproductive to our goals. You don't want to wallow in the bad feelings, but you don't want to try to prevent yourself from feeling bad feelings completely either. You need to feel the feelings, identify them, describe them acutely, and then use them to set your goals.

"its anger that tells me that something or someone is getting in the way of goals that matter to me. It tells me I need to remove obstacles. I may need to talk to people. But I need to do something and not just sit here. Anger motivates us to go approach the world and get rid of barriers. "

"It turns out, the people who were more adept at describing how they felt in a fine-grained way, when they’re extremely distressed in the moment, are less likely to fall to pieces, and less likely to do something desperately to take away the pain, such as abusing drugs or being aggressive to others. The were more likely to be able to sit with those emotions, then continue doing what they care about."

"First, emotions are just tools. Don’t make emotions the goal. Research suggests if we take the goal of happiness out of the equation, ironically, that makes us happier in the journey of our lives. Second, train yourself to be better able to clarify, describe and understand what you’re feeling, because that will help you better figure out what to do next."
I have had 2 periods in my life where the feelings were so overwhelming that I couldn't function.  And I've had a handful of times when I felt so bad that, although I *could* function, I just wanted the feeling to stop, so I did what I needed to do in order to stop the feeling and then lost the motivation to fix the situation that produced the feeling in the first place, because I wasn't feeling the feeling anymore.  So I totally understand the desire to make the bad feeling go away.  The first time I lost the ability to function, I somehow figured out how to "turn off" my emotions in order to cope.  I can't remember how I did it, but I went emotionally numb.  The problem is that, as I learned, you can't selectively turn off emotions.  They come as a package deal.  So I lost the ability to feel the good feelings too.  The second time, I couldn't remember how I turned them off the first time, so I sought professional help.  This was a much better coping strategy.  I got some medication that evened out my mood and I could function again.  It didn't prevent me from feeling bad feelings, it just made the bad feelings a little less stark and a little more manageable.

There are some things that well-meaning friends do when a friend of theirs is going through a breakup or a loss of some sort.  I really appreciate the desire to help, but if y'all could stop doing this to each other, you'd be much more helpful.  When someone you know is going through a breakup, for a lot of people there's this desire to cheer them up.  We tell our grieving friend "you're much better off without them!" or anything we can think of to reassure them and make them feel better about the loss.

As a solo poly person, I've been through a LOT of breakups - most of them amicable but still painful in the moment.  The more people one dates, the more chances one has to experience a breakup.  This means that I'm actually pretty comfortable going through breakups.  Don't get me wrong, I don't *like* them.  They don't feel good at all.  I experience all the same stages of grief that everyone else does.  But it means that I've been through them from start to finish enough times that I know, even in the middle of my grief, what's waiting for me on the other side.  I know that I'll get through it, that I'll get over it, and that I'll be fine.  I also know that I just have to feel my grief until it's gone.

So what's most helpful to someone going through a grieving period is not trying to make them feel good again as quickly as possible, but to help them feel their grief.  Give them the space to feel what they're feeling.  Let them know that it's OK to feel bad.  Accept them in their dark moments so that they know that they're not alone in the darkness and that the darkness will pass.  Be there to help them, if they want, to identify what they're feeling so that they can make productive decisions about their life that the emotions are telling them about.  Facilitate and allow them to examine and feel their feelings so that they can better identify root causes, which will lead to the kinds of changes that will bring about those happy feelings you're anxious for them to feel as a consequence, not as the goal.

When emotions are the result and the tool, not the goal, it turns out that the good feelings are more consistent and the bad feelings are more manageable.  If you want to feel good, you can't make feeling good the goal - you have to make *doing things* the goal and the good feelings will follow.  Just like how to "get" a romantic partner - if you make "getting" a partner the goal, you'll have less success.  But if you make being an awesome person the goal, then romantic partners will follow.  Your emotions are giving you important information.  Listen to them, don't wipe them away.  If you listen to them, you'll actually learn the more effective way of reducing the bad ones and increasing the good ones.

On Aging

Mar. 13th, 2015 04:21 pm
joreth: (Self-Portrait)
Got my first pair of reading glasses, and they're strong. I officially feel middle-aged.

I don't actually need them for most things, including reading. My eyesight is still pretty good. But I discovered with my latest bout of jewelry-making that, combining manipulating very tiny pieces that I need to hold up close with working often in poor light situations, having a set of magnifying lenses is beneficial. So that's how I'm thinking of them - portable magnifying lenses and jewelry tools much like the lighted magnifying glass I used to use when I painted miniatures as a teenager.

I've always been extremely sensitive to changes in my eyesight. Back when I wore glasses, my optometrist wouldn't believe me when I came in after a few months complaining of needing a new prescription until he tested me and found a very slight change. He said that most people would not have noticed a change that slight & he resisted giving me new lenses. But I notice.

That's why I had LASIK done. My distance vision is perfect 20/20 with absolutely no aberrations in the spherical-ness of my lens that the computer could detect. But near-sighted degradations happen for different reasons than far-sighted ... at least the ones that happen as we age. That's an aging muscle issue, whereas regular distance issues that are correctable by LASIK are usually aberrations of the surface of the lens. So I knew I would still end up with reading glasses some day and I had the procedure done anyway.

Shortly after my surgery, I did start to notice that I could no longer see my necklace clasp in sharp relief (I also had it done in my 30s). But how often do I look at things *that* close to my face? Other than my necklace clasp, never, and I don't actually need to see my clasp because I've been putting on my own necklaces for something like 25 years.

Until I started doing chainmail again. It's not quite as fuzzy as the clasp, since I'm not holding it *that* close. But jewelry chainmail is much smaller than armor chainmail, and the details matter because it's not a solid sheet of chain where a few not-quite-smoothly-closed jump rings can hide in the sheer volume of other jump rings. And I still pulled it off well.

But I decided to get a pair of reading glasses anyway, just to make it a little easier. I could settle for "good enough", or I could use the tools available to me to do better. And I found them helpful during my test-run with them last night and the night before. It takes some practice and conscious consideration to remember when to look over the glasses for longer distances and when to look down through the glasses for up-close work, which makes the middle ground on the table where I keep my supplies a challenging field, but I'm getting used to them.

I was just starting to get accustomed to the amount of grey in my hair, and now these. I just don't see myself as an adult, at least, not a middle-aged adult. I hate reminders of my mortality.
joreth: (Misty in Box)

I keep saying that the type categories are not binary. I refer to myself as a social introvert, although I'm also a thinking introvert according to this scale.

People think the type systems are crap because they're under the erroneous belief that the systems are the same thing as the tests. They're not. All the tests are crap. All of them. Some are slightly better than others, but the best thing I can say about the tests is that they might help narrow down the number of type categories you should be looking at to determine your type.  And that's another thing - YOU determine your own type, not the tests.  It's not like a horoscope where you're assigned a category based on totally arbitrary criteria.  It's self-referencing.  The tests can sometimes rule out certain categories so that you don't have to waste time reading all of them to determine your type.  But that's the best they can do.

However, as my resident type expert keeps saying, and as he said during his lecture at Dragoncon, the tests are not the same as the system.

There is variability in the systems too, and some systems are better than others. But, generally speaking, the better systems aren't binary. The tests may ask binary questions, but the SYSTEM offers a spectrum. You're 68% introverted & 32% extroverted, or whatever. The better systems also acknowledge that we all have some of every category, it's just that we tend to have preferences or we tend to do some things more often than others. Much like being right or left handed, those of us with two hands use both of them all the time, but we have a dominant hand, one that takes on more of the tasks or the more complex or strength-oriented tasks.  Even ambidextrous people usually have a tendency to choose a particular hand over another, perhaps for certain tasks.  That's what the systems are measuring - preferences, not absolutes.

They also usually only cover personality from a specific angle and won't cover other things. For instance, mental health issues are usually separate from personality type systems even though they affect your personality.  And they're not terribly predictive - they can't tell you which profession you should enter, for example.  They might be indicative of your happiness in a very specific work environment (a strong J surrounded by strong P types in a particular office that's really chaotic might feel frustrated at work often, for example), but really, all the industries require a mix of personalities to cover all the wide, varied tasks involved in making that industry run.  They can't tell you who to marry either, but they might help explain why your partner does certain things and offer ways to work with each other over conflicts so that you both get what you need.  And, to stretch the handedness analogy, the test for handedness won't tell you what your eye prescription is or what color your hair is.  The different type systems tend to focus on certain aspects of personality over others, so there is not one over-arching system that will cover all elements of who you are (although some systems are more useful and more accurate than others).

Type is actually a very complex discipline that can take years of study. It's not as simple as taking an online quiz and now you're locked into a box. I can tell you my MBTI letters, for example, but that barely scratches the surface, even if we stick just with MBTI. As a former partner learned the hard way, you can't treat people based on their type category alone because we're not a monolith even within the more complex type systems. Our individual expression and individual experience of our type categories will manifest in unique combinations, making us all individuals who just happen to have a few things in common enough to loosely group us together.  They can be useful for interpersonal communication and for conflict resolution, but that's about it.  And I say that as a strong supporter of using type systems. 
joreth: (Swing Dance)

I've been asked a lot recently about my dancing, so I thought I'd make a public post.  I get told that I'm a good dancer and people want to know how long I've been dancing and where I take lessons, so here's the story:

I've been dancing for 18 years, and yet I'm only considered a "beginning-intermediate" dancer.  See, I've only had 2 lessons and I only know a handful of steps and no "styling". When I was about 20, I took a class in college called "social dancing" - a 3-hour evening class once a week (I think it was 3 hours with a break, but it was a long time ago, so I'm not sure ... coulda been 2 hours).  The class introduced us to a new dance every week - we reviewed what we learned the previous week at the beginning of the time slot, then learned a new style (about 3 or 4 steps) for the rest of the time.  For each step that we learned, we practiced it a couple of times with a partner, and then we switched partners to try it again, and we did this multiple times throughout the class.

In this way, I learned, not only 8 or so different dances, but more importantly, I learned lead & follow techniques.  It's the lead & follow techniques that make it look like I know what I'm doing. Leading & following is all about communication.  The real trick to social dancing (as opposed to, say, competition or performance dancing), is A) keep your feet moving to the rhythm no matter what; and B) communication.  That's it.  This means that I can get out on a dance floor and, no matter what my dance partner throws at me, I keep my feet moving (and quickly go back to the correct rhythm if I happen to lose it) & I "listen" to what he's telling me to do through his body signals while I "tell" him through my own signals where I am and how I'm doing.

Then, about 2 or 3 years later, I changed schools and discovered that my new school also had a social dance class.  So I took that class, and I took a dedicated swing dance class, and a dedicated salsa class - all of which met 3 times per week for an hour each.  I ended up dropping the salsa class because dancing for 3 hours a day was too much, so I didn't really learn much salsa.  The social dance class covered more or less the same steps I had already learned in the class at the prior school.  The swing dance class covered more steps than I had previously learned when the social class taught swing, naturally, but it was still "beginner" level.

So, how did I get so "good" when I've only had two lessons?  I dance.  Really, that's it.  When I took the dedicated East Coast Swing class, my teacher convinced me to compete as a beginner, so in addition to dancing 3 times a week, I also had rehearsals for my competition every day.  I danced *every day* for half a semester. I also go to social dance events as often as I can.  It's nerve-wracking to attend a ballroom dance as a beginner - you don't know the steps, you don't know the people, you don't know the etiquette.  Plus, I'm an introvert, which means I have difficulty in social settings because they tire me out.  On top of that, I used to be painfully shy.  I still can't ask anyone to dance unless they're already a good friend of mine.  So, it's hard.  But I did it anyway.

Most of what I know, I learned at social ballroom dances.  I just kept going.  As I danced with more people, I got better at learning dance communication.  As I danced with more people, I learned more steps because new partners know steps that I don't, and vice versa, so we can teach each other out on the floor.  As I danced with more people and watched more dancers, I learned certain stylistic movements that seemed popular or flashy or neat and I tried to adopt them, eventually creating my own style.

Many social dances offer a free group lesson at the beginning of the event.  They will teach the same 3 or 4 beginning steps in a particular dance style appropriate for that event (so, a dedicated swing event will teach a swing dance, a social ballroom event will teach one of any number of dances that you can expect to be doing at that event like waltz, foxtrot, cha cha, or even swing).  Even though it's the same handful of steps that I learned 18 years ago in my first class, I attend as many of those pre-event group classes as I can.  I consider them "refresher" lessons.

And as a more seasoned dancer, I find myself "teaching" my newbie partners when they have difficulty getting the step.  The instructors are usually trying to teach 20 people at the same time, so there isn't a lot of time for personalized instruction.  I can explain something specific to my partner based on what he is doing or not doing, and I find that "teaching" in this way also helps me be a better dancer myself.  If the class is teaching something really basic or something that I'm already really familiar with, I'll switch sides and learn it as a lead (traditionally the guy's role) instead of as a follow.  Again, this helps me to be a better dancer and it also helps me to teach those same steps to my partners later.

There are things called "stylings", which are certain movements that make a dance look really sharp; really professional.  If you watch competition or performance dancers, or even just really good social dancers, you'll see things like the women raise their free hand in the air, or run their hands through their hair, or the men will break from the rhythm and kick or freeze and strike a pose.  I know nothing of these, and that's what keeps me from advancing past beginning-intermediate.  Most social dance classes - the kind I took that just try to introduce beginner dancers to a variety of dances in a short span of time - don't teach stylings because they have to focus on just getting the steps right.  They might occasionally throw in a styling here or there, but mostly we're just trying not to step on our partner's feet.  I'm hoping to take a styling class soon, it's just difficult with a freelancer's schedule because I can't dedicate the same day every week without potentially losing work.

So, if you've ever wanted to learn how to dance but felt intimidated, or you've seen my dance videos and were impressed but thought you couldn't do it or thought it would take too many years, hopefully I've inspired in you the possibility.  People are impressed with my dancing and it sounds impressive to hear that I've been dancing for 18 years, but I'm only a beginning-intermediate dancer who has only had 2 lessons, which means that anyone can learn to dance at least to my own level with a little dedication.  I attend the same beginning group classes over and over again, I dance socially as often as possible with as many different partners as possible, and I try to explain to anyone else interested in learning.  Repetition, practice, and exposure - and you too can dance well enough to impress your friends and family and have a good time doing it!

So inquire at your local colleges and community colleges to see if they offer dance as a P.E. class, do a google search for "social dance" in your area, check at your community halls like city parks and recreation departments or neighborhood community centers or even local churches, and just drop in at a dance studio if you happen to see one as you drive by it to ask if they offer lessons or know where you can take lessons.  It really doesn't take very long to learn how to dance socially, and to do it well enough to impress other folks.
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: (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: (Purple Mobius)

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

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

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

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

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

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

*That bullshit about whatever doesn't kill you makes you stronger is crap - sometimes if it doesn't kill you, it still maims you pretty damn good, leaving you worse off than you were before. But if I'm not dead, I'm still alive, and that's not nothin'.
joreth: (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: (Purple Mobius)
I posted this on my FB page, and it was an off-the-cuff sort of thing in the heat of a moment of irritation at remembering past relationships.  I wasn't expecting it to be as popular as it got.  But I'm getting requests left and right to share it in other groups, so I guess I hit a nerve with some people.  Since it seems to mean a lot to some people, I figure I ought to post it somewhere just a little easier to re-find than FB.  It'll probably end up on my website sooner or later.  For bonus points,

Rules-based: "There's something that I want to do but it makes me feel icky to think of you doing it, so I'm going to institute a structure in which I get what I want but you don't get the same thing, and somehow rationalize it away as 'fair' using any number of pop psych / evo-psych terms or logical fallacies or other forms of mental gymnastics."

Rules-based: "There's something that I want to do but it makes me feel icky to think of you doing it, so I'm going to magnanimously sacrifice my desire so that you can't do it either, and that way I never have to face the underlying issue about why it's OK for me to want it but not OK for you to do it. If we both can't do it, then it's 'fair'."

Boundary-based: "There's something that I want to do but it bothers me to think of you doing it. I am completely aware that this is a double standard and there is no rational reason for it. This doesn't mean that you can't do it, but it does mean that I will probably have a freak-out if you do, and I'd like to ask for your help and support to get through it so that you have the freedom to make choices about your life and I still feel nurtured when I hit an insecurity."

Rules-based Masquerading As Boundary-based: "There's something that I want to do but it makes me feel icky to think of you doing it, so I'm going to grudgingly allow you to do it and use my reaction as a weapon every time you do, so that you will begin to make choices based on *my* insecurities and you'll think that it's 'fair' because your sacrifice will be by 'choice'. You don't want to *hurt* me, right?"

Option #1 - e.g. One Penis Policy (but she only WANTS women, so there's nothing wrong with making a RULE about it!)

Option #2 - Relationship By Hostage Situation

Option #4 - You Keep Using That Word "Boundary"; I Don't Think It Means What You Think It Means.
joreth: (Purple Mobius)

"The researchers specifically looked at "self-concept reorganization," the process of seeing and defining yourself separate from your ex and from the relationship. Asking the participants to reflect on their relationships helped the participants "build a stronger sense of who they were as single people," Larson says."

"in close relationships, people begin to feel as though they overlap with the person they are close to. "The process of becoming psychologically intertwined with the partner is painful to have to undo," she says. "Our study provides additional evidence that self-concept repair actually causes improvements in well-being.""

"The recovery of a clear and independent self-concept seems to be a big force driving the positive effects of this study, so I would encourage a person who recently experienced a breakup to consider who he or she is, apart from the relationship," Larson says. "If that person can reflect on the aspects of him- or herself that he or she may have neglected during the relationship but can now nurture once again, this might be particularly helpful."

Although this article was about breaking up, recovery from breaking up, and the study was most likely exclusively about monogamous relationships, my take-away from this article is that solo poly is one relationship style that can give people a leg-up in breakup recovery. Since solo poly is defined, more or less, by the individuality of the participants, regardless of the emotional connection, and the intentional relationship structure based on communication and self-reflection of needs and wants, it seems to me that people who practice solo poly well probably already have the tools necessary to recover from breakups quickly and in healthy ways, and also that people who practice solo poly well probably have the *potential* to have less painful breakups in general since there is less entwinement happening in the relationship to begin with.

With only a few exceptions, I have always felt that I "got over" my breakups faster than it seemed other people did. Some people have accused me of not really loving my exes if I could move past a breakup quickly, and in my blacker moments, I have wondered the same thing. In my most self-doubtingier moments, it has crossed my mind to wonder whether or not I don't feel as deeply as others.

But then I swim out of my morass and realize that the whole reason why I get so upset at the shit I rant about online is precisely because I feel so deeply about things that I get overwhelmed by bad stuff. And then this study comes out, and it just reinforces the high-self-esteem-voice in my head that, no, I'm just fine, I love just as "much" as anyone else. I just probably have more tools in my toolkit for handling breakups because I always maintain my sense of self as distinct from my relationships. My relationships are things that I do and connections that I treasure, but they are not the entirety of my identity. They aren't even a large portion of my identity, in spite of *how* I do relationship (i.e. being poly) being a large part of my identity.

And, it turns out, this thing that I've always done instinctually is probably what makes it possible for me to have had as many breakups as I've had (and also to have withstood as many attempts of people to trap me in abusive relationships as I have) and to still be able to trust in the next one, to open up and risk being vulnerable the next time, and to still believe that I'm worthy of love and that there is more love out there for me to find even after yet another breakup.
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: (Misty in Box)
I got to explain to my mother part of what makes my relationship to [ profile] tacit special: We argue over which rules of grammar to use.

We don't have *serious* arguments over grammar. And what I mean by that, we are both completely serious in our positions, but the arguments aren't really arguments - they're not a big deal and we're not emotionally invested in the outcome, we're just stating (and sticking to) our positions.

While explaining to my mom that I'm a staunch supporter of the Oxford comma, I realized something by her reaction. She was an English major in school, but she never actually made it to college. She got married right out of high school and embarked on that oh-so-desired-by-1950s-mentality career for women of "secretary", where her "English class" skills were most useful for a woman in her class and era. Which means that she actually had no idea what I meant when I said that I preferred the Oxford comma, in spite of being an intelligent woman who specialized in the exact subject where one would have learned about it.

I also realized that she and my dad would never have an argument, serious or otherwise, about grammar, or any kind of intellectual pursuit. They argue about money, how to punish a misbehaving child, whether or not my mom is a backseat driver, whether my dad is being inappropriate, stuff like that. There were never political discussions at our dinner table unless I brought it up from something I learned in school. They don't discuss research or science unless I bring it up. They're both completely in favor of science (they both boggled at me, for instance, when I revealed to them the existence of antivaxxers), but to them, science is a given and not worth debating or discussing. When scientists tell them something is so, they accept it and move on. The implications of said research isn't of any interest to them.

I just got a new therapist - the first time I've ever had any kind of therapy - so we're spending a lot of time working on the basics and establishing foundations. I'm finding this part a bit tedious because I already know a lot of it and I want to skip over the basics and get to the advanced techniques that I haven't learned yet. I had this problem in college too, where I was required to take Intro To Tech Theater 101 after having already worked in the business for, at the time, 15 years.

Talking with my therapist about loss and grief, for example, he said something about how most people don't think about death and their own mortality, so when they hit the age I'm not far away from, with friends now getting heart conditions or dying and caring for ailing parents and facing retirement with no money in the bank, well, that's basically what a midlife crisis is - facing existential questions with no prior exposure to them. I ended up disconnecting from my therapist in that moment because, well, I've spent so much time thinking about those things that the subject is now just a little boring.

Among my circle of friends, having partners who discuss existentialism with one is the norm. I first contemplated death when I went to my first funeral around age 6 or so. Then, in middle school, a kid in my school was killed in a gang-related incident (he was hit by a car that was involved in some kind of gang something or other at the time). I went to his funeral too. In 8th grade, my babysitter's son was killed in a car accident when his car skidded on some black ice and went over a cliff. His father, a doctor heading to work in the opposite direction at the same time, was first on the scene and had to pull his son's destroyed body from the wreck when the chain hoist arrived to lower him down to the crash site.

On my high school graduation day, I was asked out by a guy I had a crush on. I had to turn him down because 1) I had a boyfriend and 2) I had a graduation party that night. He promised to call me in a week or so after he got back from Disneyland, where he and some others were taking another friend for his 21st birthday. He and the birthday boy died on the drive down there. They had a joint funeral, which I attended. Only one of them had an open casket. I spent years afterwards dealing with the denial phase because I didn't see the one who asked me out, so I kept expecting him to call, forgetting that he had died. But the other friend was the first time I had seen a body. That took a while to process too.

A couple of years before that, I got pissed off at my mother for something I don't even remember and took off in my car. I thought I had calmed down by the time I headed back home, but then I decided to try to beat the speed record among my friends for this particular windy, downhill road. My car wasn't built for it and I rolled my car down the hill. I survived without a scratch, but I had plenty of time while rolling down that hill to think of everyone I ever loved and how I couldn't tell them that I was sorry for killing myself in such a stupid, senseless manner that would cause them so much grief.

During the worst of the bullying, I slipped into a depression so deep that I contemplated suicide. I learned how to disconnect myself from my emotions entirely and I felt nothing - no happiness, no sadness, I just moved through the motions. I had taken to scratching myself just to remind myself what feelings were. I didn't know it was depression, and I didn't know there was something that could be done about it. I just existed until the bullying stopped. I taught myself how to feel again. Strangely, I never stopped believing that I was worthy of love, and that self-esteem is probably the only thing that prevented me from actually killing myself. I tried to make plans to do it, but everything ended with my parents feeling pain, and the idea that I couldn't reward them for their love by causing them that kind of pain is usually what prevented me from putting any of those plans into action. I knew that I was loved, and I knew that I would continue to be loved. I've never questioned that.

I've looked into the void. I've contemplated the hard questions - who am I? Where did I come from? What is my purpose? What else is there? And so have many of my friends. That's partly the reason why we're friends. We *think* about things. And that's why I was first attracted to Franklin - he *thinks* about things. He makes me think about things. He makes me think about why I think what I think. He encourages my curiosity to understand why other people think the way they think. He posts things like that Interview dream that I reposted last night, and the twists and turns in his brain always, without fail, make me fall in love with him all over again. I'm fascinated by how his brain works and I love to watch it go through its processes.

I don't generally consider myself sapiosexual because intelligence is not always necessary for me to be physically attracted to someone, and in many cases, intelligence alone is not sufficient for me to develop either attraction or emotional connection to someone. But intelligence is definitely the cornerstone of my relationship with Franklin, at least on my end - his intelligence and his respect for my intelligence, even if I'm wrong about something.

So what makes my relationship with [ profile] tacit so special and meaningful to me is that sometimes we argue over shit like the Oxford comma. Because who cares about a freaking comma? We do, because we care about precision, about thinking, about practical applications, and about a million other things that I've learned in my life that other people don't even bother to consider until they get smacked across the face with them and then they have to freak out because they don't know what to do with that knowledge now that they have it. My social set (including online) is self-selected, but really, we're anomalies.

This is actually a rare quality to find in another person - the dedication to knowledge and understanding, as well as the sense of self-worth that leads us both to holding our position in the face of opposition from someone we care greatly about is kind of the foundation of our entire relationship. All because we argue about grammar.
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: (Silent Bob Headbang)
A few years ago, I was op-ing some meeting rooms and the speaker wanted walk-in music, but it wasn't anticipated in the work order. So I pulled out my iPod and he picked out some songs and was thrilled that I could save him in this way.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I may have a slightly unhealthy obsession with playlists.

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: (Misty in Box)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

joreth: (Nude Drawing)
I've had this one bra for ages.  It wasn't perfect, because it's an American-cut bra and American manufacturers can't size bras to save their lives.  But it sufficed.  What I liked about it was that it was convertible.  It could be a standard bra, but I could also change the straps to halter or criss-cross or go strapless if I wanted (which I never do because strapless tops just don't stay up on me no matter how tight I made the band).
But what made it noteworthy is that it was ALSO low-back convertible.  That means that I could wear the band at a normal level, or I could pull down on the extra-long strap that goes across my ribcage and lower the back of the band to wear a low-back dress or shirt.  This one bra meant that I didn't have to buy a strapless bra, a backless bustier, and a convertible-strap bra all to do the same functions that this one bra did.

But I bought this bra years ago, before I discovered the style of bra I have completely switched to these days.  I posted a while ago about finding the perfect bra-for-me and buying like a dozen in white to dye different colors and to put some away in storage for when these wear out.  Because that bra fits me the way a bra is supposed to fit, I have actually noticed that some of the extra tissue that had started to appear under my arms (as happens to so many women as we age), had started to DISAPPEAR and I started to fill out my bra cups better.  Apparently, I learned, that tissue is breast tissue that migrates away from the breast when we wear bras that don't fit right - particularly when the underwire presses on the sides of the breast instead of the root of the breast.

I haven't exactly increased my cup size, but I am noticeably fuller now.  I went from a full A / flattish-B (depending on the manufacturer and how the bra was cut) to now a very full B and I can't fit into an A at all anymore.  And, when I wear European bras that are sized correctly, I'm actually a 32C or D! (Because cup sizes are relative to the band, not just Big / Medium / Small, which is how many American bras are cut).

My convertible bra is an A cup, which I was always a little snug in but could still fit.  I was fine with being snug in it because it made me pop out the top just a little, which, as a smaller chested person, I rarely ever got to experience and since I wear the bra for dressing up only, that's a silhouette that I would often want in a dress-up bra anyway.  But now I can't fit into it at all.  I overflow the cups both top and bottom, and the underwire doesn't sit at the root, it sits on the breast tissue.
So I've been searching for a replacement bra for about the last year or two.  I have been unable to find anything at all.  I can find convertibles but not with low backs.  I can find low backs, but not with the option to wear standard strap arrangements.  I can find the bustiers but that doesn't hep me when my shirt is both low back and midriff-bearing because bustiers cover the ribcage and sometimes even the stomach (basically all the costumes I wore for Bollywood dancing were both low / open back and midriff-bearing at the same time, so I really needed this specific bra).

I finally found one a few months ago, right in the middle of one of my moves.  Since I was leaving for a trip in a couple of weeks that I needed that bra for, I went ahead and ordered it and prayed for the best.  That bra sucked.  It was complicated, way over-engineered, and because it used so many straps to accomplish the different arrangements, it never actually fit me in ways to match the dress.  What I mean is that, when I put it into halter mode, the two different settings made the straps show either inside the halter straps of the shirt or outside the halter straps of the shirt.  The connecting points weren't where the shirt halter straps were.  When I converted it to low-back, the strange double-strap band was too high under the arms so it was seen.  If it had only used the single-strap band (the bottom strap), it would have been fine.  PLUS, the various hooks and straps didn't stay hooked during wear!  It kept popping open in various places randomly throughout the night!  I finally resorted to just safety-pinning the bra to my dress, so it was essentially a way-over-engineered version of just adding built-in cups to a dress and the band and all the straps did nothing.

I'd given up on finding my bra anywhere and I was starting to contemplate just making one.  I had literally just stopped in the notions aisle at the fabric store the other day to price out bra supplies and get an idea of what kind of bra supplies were available, to plan out the design of a bra.  Then, the next day, I just happened to be in a mall for totally non-shopping reasons.  On the spur of the moment, I decided to look one more time at department stores for a replacement bra, before I went through the trouble of making one.

I discovered that Dillards, in Fashion Square Mall, is converting itself to a clearance type store instead of a department store, so everything in the store was on a steep discount.  I actually got distracted by the $20 prom dresses and almost forgot to look for a bra (I found one, btw, and I'm so excited to have a dress appropriate for a ballroom formal now instead of my old prom dresses which are not suitable for ballroom dancing or my dresses which have skirts appropriate for ballroom dancing but aren't formal, and to have found one for only $20 because I have so far refused to spend the full price on a formal gown for a dance that isn't a landmark dance like a prom and that I probably wouldn't wear much, if at all!).

convertible bra-smAnyway, as I was walking out with my amazing find, I passed by the lingerie section that I had been unable to find until then.  I grazed through, not expecting anything, when suddenly I spotted MY bra!  In my size!  The only one left!  It was exactly the bra I've had forever and no longer fit into and have been trying to replace!  And it was $10 because of the sale.

Now nothing can ever happen to this bra and it has to last me forever because I'll never find it again!
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: (Purple Mobius)
I posted this article with the following commentary in the Singleish and Solo Polyamory FB group, and I was asked permission to re-post my commentary.  So I'm archiving it here to prevent it from getting lost in the FB ether, and so that anyone wishing to re-post or refer to my commentary will have a link-back when they give me attribution:

This is a post by my metamour, that if you follow More Than Two, you've probably already seen.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The following is a paraphrase of a conversation I had recently.  The first sentence is a direct quote, but the rest is basically a summary of what was said following that first sentence.  I have lots of reasons to be afraid in love, as do many people.  Change is inevitable and my crystal ball is in the shop so I can't predict what form that change will take.  And that's scary.  But I leap into love anyway, even with my fears.  And there are things that I do not fear.  One of the things that I have learned to fear about love (not within love) is that people will not respect my independence or my agency, and to discover that only after I've started to love them is very painful.  So when I find people who do respect my agency, it is a rare and wondrous thing.  It is a liberating experience to feel this sort of love and to be loved by someone in this way.  Although this came from a specific conversation that I had, it actually applies to both of my current long-term partners.  I might even say that this is part of the reason *why* these men are my partners at this point in my life.  Respecting my right to make my own life choices, even if it comes at their own expense, is one of the most valuable qualities I can find in another person.

People talk about "unconditional love" - I don't believe that really exists because I don't believe people really understand how big that word "unconditional" really is.  But when they talk about "unconditional love", I do believe that this is the kind of love they think they mean.  This is definitely the closest I've ever seen anyone come to "unconditional" - the ability to love someone enough to trust that the choices that they make for themselves are right for them even if it hurts one to have their partner make those choices, and the ability to love someone enough to risk that kind of hurt, knowingly, consciously, deliberately, to take that chance.

"I'm not afraid to love you because I know you'll let me go if I need to leave. I also know it'll hurt you if I leave so letting me go won't be because you don't care, but precisely because you do care. Your willingness to love me and risk being hurt by me is another reason I'm not afraid to love you. I'm also not afraid to love you because I already know that our relationship can flex and accommodate change, so I'm not driven by fear of an uncertain future."
I once had a conversation with someone who said that, although he enjoyed being in a poly relationship while he was in it, and he respected that it is a valid choice for others, he preferred to be in a monogamous relationship because he preferred to have a partner who cared about what he did.  He said that it hurt him too much to be involved with someone who didn't care what he did or who he did it with.  I was so stunned that this is what he thought polyamory was about, that I couldn't even respond in the moment.  And that conversation has been bouncing around in my head for a good long while now.  Because, in my experience, polyamory doesn't work if the partners "don't care" what the other does, and jealousy is the opposite of "caring" about the other person.

Jealousy is the epitome of selfishness and lack of caring for the other person.  That doesn't mean that anyone who feels jealousy is a bad person.  No one is their best self at all times.  We can all be selfish and petty and childish and other not-best-self things, that's not a judgement that I'm making about anyone.  But jealousy is not about caring for someone else.  It's about caring about ourselves, about prioritizing ourselves.  That's not necessarily and automatically a bad thing either, in principle, but in the context of jealousy, I do believe that it needs to be addressed.

The reason why I say that jealousy is selfish is because jealousy is fundamentally a fear-based reaction towards someone else's behaviour or person about "how does this affect me?"  Jealousy is being afraid of how something will affect me, of fearing or assuming that something will affect me in a way that I don't want.  Jealousy is not a fear on behalf of someone else, it's all about me, although it can masquerade as a fear on their behalf.  If my partner has sex with someone else, and I'm jealous because I'm afraid he'll leave me for someone else, that's an emotion based on what will happen to me, not what is in my partner's best interests or what is best for him.  If I'm jealous (or envious) because he's doing something that I want to do too, that's all about me, not what is best for him or what will make him happy.  If I'm jealous because someone is trying to "get between" us or trying to "steal him away" or trying to destroy what we have, that's all about what I will be losing, not about what will make him happy or what's best for him.

Wanting to be with my partner, not wanting to be without him, wanting to experience something, wanting to experience something with him specifically, wanting to continue our relationship - none of those are bad things and wanting those things does not make me a bad person.  Jealousy does not make me a bad person.  Jealousy is a sign that something is wrong.  But it is fundamentally a selfish concern - wanting something for our own sake *without regard to what's best for the other person*.  By the very definition of the word, jealousy is selfish.

Which means that jealousy is not a sign that someone cares about or loves *me*.  It *can* be borne out of caring or loving someone, for instance if the reason why I don't want my partner to leave me is because I love him.  But it's not a sign, itself, of love.

True love is not being more concerned with what my partner does without me than with how he feels about what he's doing.  I can be concerned *and* love him at the same time.  But being concerned about my partner having other partners is not a sign that I "care" *about him*.  It's a sign that I care about me and how what he's doing affects me and what I want.  True love is being more concerned with what my partner wants for himself than with what I want for him based on how I feel about what's right for him.  Engaging in relationships in which my partners have the freedom to do what they want to do, be who they want to be, even if that means they leave me, is the ultimate sign of caring for my partners, because it places their happiness for themselves as priority.  People say that being a parent is an act of true love.  But parents have to let their children go, to live their own lives, and once they become adults (some of us would argue on when that point is, but that's irrelevant to the point I'm making now) their lives are now their own.  My relationships with my partners are no less a truer love than a parent for a child, for all that it's a different love in structure (romantic, vs. familial).

And since I only have romantic relationships with adults, that means that I have to skip right to the "let them live their own lives" stage of the love.  They *have* to be able to make choices that are right for them.  And sometimes those choices will hurt me.  Sometimes my choices will hurt them.  That's the risk we take when we make ourselves vulnerable to another human, which is another part of what love is.  Contrary to pop culture, love does not mean never having to say you're sorry.  It means knowing that you will have to say you're sorry at some point, and that they will have to say they're sorry at other points, and trusting that you both will actually be sorry after the inevitable hurt occurs.  It means knowing that you will each cause each other pain and trusting each other with your most vulnerable parts (your heart and soul) by believing that the pain is a cost worth the benefits of being able to share those vulnerable parts with each other, and that the pain won't outnumber or outweigh the pleasure.

And sometimes it turns out to not be worth the cost.  Sometimes we guess wrong.  But the love that once was is a true love even after deciding that the cost was too high, *if* we trusted each other with our most vulnerable parts.  And that trust requires us letting go.  We can feel jealous and insecure and that we think they're making a mistake.  We can feel those things and still love, truly, deeply, honestly.  But in order for it to be love, we can't stop there.  We can feel those things, but we have to let go anyway.  If we truly love someone, we have to recognize their agency, their autonomy, their ability to decide for themselves what is right for themselves.  Even if that means we feel hurt because of it.  I am not afraid to love my partners, not because I think we won't ever hurt each other, but because we each acknowledge that sometimes we will hurt each other, but we trust and we hope that we will each do what is best for ourselves because love means wanting the best life for the other person, even if that life doesn't include us.

Related reading:

Related Viewing:

‪#‎ConversationsIHave‬ ‪#‎ThePeopleInRelationshipsAreMoreImportantThanTheRelationships‬ ‪#‎GoodPartnerSelectionSolvesManyProblems‬ ‪#‎FlexibilityInRelstionshipsCreatesStrongRelationships‬ ‪#‎ThankYouForTheOpportunityToExperienceThisKindOfLove‬

joreth: (Kitty Eyes)
Empathy is one of the most difficult senses for people to feel. People think that the goal is to put themselves in the other person's position, but that's not it. If I were to put myself in someone else's position, I would not be in their position. I would have my own experiences, thoughts, opinions, and filters while in that position and I *could not* experience what they experience.

Empathy is attempting to understand what it's like to actually *be* that other person, complete with their experiences, thoughts, opinions, and filters. I can't try to understand someone who is afraid of heights by thinking "well, if I were standing on that ladder where they are, I just wouldn't look down". I do not have a phobia of heights. I can climb a ladder without feeling afraid. I can climb a ladder without looking down. I can climb a ladder without the intrusive thoughts and physiological responses that paralyze me and cause me to break out in a cold sweat.

If I wanted to understand someone who is afraid of heights, I cannot put *myself*, as I am, in their position. I have to understand what a fear of heights actually FEELS like. I have to know what it's like to climb a ladder and have a flood of hormones and chemicals rush through my body making me shake, making my heart race, making my body temperature drop, and literally preventing my limbs from moving.  I cannot put "myself" there, I have to understand what it's like to BE them.

It's really easy to say "when someone bullies you, just stand up to them" if you are in a body capable of defending yourself, in an economic class where people will back up your claims of being bullied, have a brain that can look at an attacker, mental or physical, and react in exactly the right way that will prevent the bully from continuing.

It's really easy to say "if you want to get out of poverty, work hard and move up the corporate ladder" if you are in a body capable of doing the work, have a brain capable of producing the sorts of answers that impress one's superiors, in an economic class that allows you the time to get a job or the education to get a better job, in a situation that doesn't actively hinder efforts, and are in other classes that are not automatically distrusted and discriminated against even if you're brilliant at everything else.

It's really easy to say "just get off the couch and go to work and stop moping around" if you are in a body capable of lifting itself off the couch, have a brain that actually causes the body to respond to "get off the couch" electrical signals, or are in a situation that provides coping mechanisms and strategies for overcoming chemical impulses that are counter-productive to the goal.

But do you know what it feels like to have a body that doesn't work? A brain that sends the wrong chemicals and the wrong electrical signals? A situation that fundamentally changes the very pathways in your brain to produce a personality that CANNOT do the things that you can do?  Do you know what it feels like to be someone else?

Empathy is either being able to actually imagine those things or acknowledging that you can't imagine them but that it is a valid subjective experience for the other person. And empathy is how we will arrive at solutions.
joreth: (Super Tech)
When I was still in film school, I started up a little film company with a couple of my school buddies (that went nowhere). The guy in the producer's role used to say "as long as you live through it and it makes a good story, it's worth doing." If you've ever seen Wag The Dog, Dustin Hoffman's role as producer is totally my old producer.

I grew up having the curiosity and courage beat out of me. Literally. I was picked on and bullied and had the shit kicked out of me for most of puberty. Every idea I had, my parents were right there to explain to me why it couldn't work, why I shouldn't go out on a limb, why I should play it safe. I didn't learn until well into my 30s that my mother actually thinks I have a beautiful singing voice, that she likes my dancing, and that she thought I was a very graceful swimmer (I was a competitive swimmer for a while). I faced discouragement from many angles.

But not all angles. I had teachers who encouraged me. The meaning of the word "encourage" is "to inspire courage". I had quite a few teachers who told me that I could do anything, be anything. I was encouraged to write. I was encouraged to act and sing and dance. I was encouraged to be good at math and science. I was encouraged to be athletic. I was encouraged to drop everything and go into the entertainment field as a technician, which is what I did.

I've always walked this strange line between timidity and bravery. On the one hand, I was terrified to sing in public and I did not express myself enough to convince my parents to get me singing lessons. On the other hand, I went out and taught myself how to read sheet music and to play piano when I was 8 years old, and then in high school, I went by myself to join a church that my family was not a member of just so that I could sing in their choir. I'm full of contradictions.

I am a brave and courageous soul trapped in a timid and fearful body. But by the time I met my producer, my body was having trouble containing my soul. "Did you live? Did it make a good story? Then it was worth it."

I've lived through being stalked and chased up a water tower by a mountain lion in the middle of the night, where I stayed until sunrise when we could verify that the lion really was gone. It makes a great story. Without consulting anyone, I bought an ancient school bus, converted it to a motorhome, and set off 3,000 miles across the country with no job, no house, and only one friend waiting for me on the other end. It makes a great story.

Every time I get my heart broken, my inclination is to pull back, pull inside, go back where it's safe. But then I remember that I won't 't have any more great stories. I live for the great stories, the grand adventures. I haven't had very many lately. I have some good stories - I have far too many interests not to be interesting and not to have some stories to tell. But my life is my ultimate Great Story, my Grandest Adventure. I'm not done yet. So when I start to freeze up, to fear the uncertainty, to grasp for the comfortable, I try to remind myself - if you live through it and it makes a good story, it's worth doing. Get out there and make a story worth telling; have a grand adventure. You're not done telling your story yet.
joreth: (Misty in Box)
Posted this as a comment and thought it deserved its own post:

For me, that's the real value of things like personality types. People want to put faith in the idea of a test that can categorize and box people in and then we'll have everyone figured out, and other people justifiably criticize systems for doing just that.

But the value in personality type systems is not in having a test that can magically sort you like a Sorting Hat and then stick you in a box forevermore, it's in giving people language to explain themselves and to finding methods of compromise.

That the test puts me as a J is less important than giving me a framework to say "there are different types of people out there who have different types of needs in interacting with people. I need these things, you need those things, now what mechanism can we use to get those needs met?"

Exposure to various personality type systems have given me words, labels, language, to explain things that even I, with my incredibly diverse vocabulary, was having trouble explaining before. Having a system with multiple types can (depending on how it's done) reinforce the diversity of the population and can also remove or reduce stigma for people who are "different from me".

For example, I'm a schedule-oriented person. It can be too easy to look at someone who is more spontaneous and see them as being "disrespectful" because they don't value my schedules. A spontaneous person can look at someone like me and see them as being too "rigid". But having a system that accommodates, not just for spontaneity vs. scheduling, but also for a variety of expressions of those two traits, can help to change "he's disrespectful of my time" to "he's not doing anything on purpose to disrespect me, he's just a spontaneous person with different values - it's just who he is".

Then, once we have established that our respective traits are about ourselves and not each other (it's not all about you, dude), we can reach for compromises that seek to get at the underlying needs, rather than focusing on the mechanisms. That's a lot fuzzier and gelatinous so I won't be going into examples right here. But a lot of people confuse "I need to feel this way" with "you must do this thing to produce this feeling that I need". Using the framework of the various personality type systems can help in getting us to the need part so that we have more solutions available to us that serve to actually get the need met without relying on the mechanism as if the mechanism itself were the need.

[ profile] tacit has said things like ask yourself "what does doing this thing make me feel?" Then follow that up with "is this the only way to accomplish that?" That's very difficult and complicated work, to identify an underlying motivation and then seek multiple options for accommodating it. Even more advanced is seeking multiple options that *value the other person* in the attempt to accommodate. I find that personality type systems, even with all their flaws and legitimate criticisms, are a tool that serves this goal surprisingly well, providing that you look at the system as that tool, and not as a magic Sorting Hat.
joreth: (Purple Mobius)

Rules:  Why We Make Them, Where They Can Go Wrong -

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

An unhealthy relationship where at least one person does not grant the other person the right to their own agency and does not fully trust them to make the best decisions for themselves, a relationship in which the people are less important than the relationship itself, is one where someone choosing to do something contrary to a previously stated agreement is one where the other person throws their own adherence to the agreement back at the first person as "proof" of their nobility, how much better of a partner they are than the first person, using punishment & reminders of "but you agreed to this!" to reinforce the desired behaviour and attacks the first person's very humanity for choosing to revoke consent, change the agreement, want something different, or even legitimately having a lapse in judgment.  This is fundamentally different from the other person choosing to renegotiate the relationship and/or revoke some kind of consent themselves in light of the previous agreement now being changed or broken - that's maintaining one's own boundaries.
joreth: (Kitty Eyes)
I am all about being deliberate. I deliberately choose my words. I deliberately choose my attire. I deliberately choose to do things that scare me for the first time without alcohol or any other inhibition assistance so that I can know that I chose to be that person with intention, not as a byproduct.

I have worked on removing certain words from my vocabulary over the years as part of my commitment to being deliberate. Although I would like it if people noticed and it prompted other people to be more deliberate themselves, that's not my intention - that's a hopeful side effect. I do it to remind myself every day of whatever point I'm trying to make by not saying that word.

I've completely removed "gypped" from my vocabulary because it's a racial slur. To me, it doesn't matter if no one else remembers that it's a racial slur or if the people who are hurt or offended by it can't even hear me to become hurt or offended. Every time I have to choose another word to use in its place, I am reminded to be more conscious and considerate of oppressed people and of my own privilege and to not abuse that privilege. It's easy to avoid certain racial slurs because we have plenty of social reinforcement to help us remember not to use those words. But can I be considerate and conscientious when no one else is even listening? Can I be a decent person even when I don't get credit for it? Choosing to stop using the word "gypped" is an attempt to be a good and considerate person even when I get nothing in return for it, not even appreciation from the Romany people.

I've also changed when I use the word "theory" and when I don't. I have stopped saying "conspiracy theory / theorist" and I now say "conspiracy story / conspiracist" because I want to make a point of separating what a theory *actually* is from the common misunderstanding of "just a theory". A conspiracist is NOT promoting a theory, he's telling us a wildly fantastic story. I've tried to remove the phrase "in theory" to mean "in some dubious thoughts about something that hasn't been proved in the practical sense yet" and I try to only use it when I'm actually talking about scientific theories. Instead, I might say "I agree with that in principle, but in reality..." or "well, that's the hypothesis, anyway, it hasn't been tested in real life yet". I wrote a whole long post about this one a while back.

Many of you have also noticed that I use the term OTG in writing, although I have yet to transition to using that phrase consistently in speech (mainly because I don't say oh-tee-gee / oh-em-gee, I actually say the whole phrase and "their" is a much more noticeable substitute for "my" than the T is for the M). That's another deliberate act to remind myself and others that it is not OK to impose one's religious values onto anyone else, including by affecting the entire culture into casual use of one's own religious views. The pervasiveness of religion is so pervasive that it's not even noticeable to most people, including most secularists, until they try to consciously substitute religiosity for a secular version.

On that note, I am also trying to remove religion from my swearing. Not out of any respect for the proposed deity or its adherents, but as a reminder of how pervasive and intrusive religion is in my life. I've started saying "for fuck's sake" in place of "for god's sake" (I always said both, but now I'm trying to eliminate the latter entirely), and I've been looking for decent substitutes for others.

My most recent additions are Dear Gourd and oh Dog. I just really like the sound of "dear lord", and I like the feel of the word in my mouth. When I say it in frustration, it's a very round sound, with the Rs pronounced way back in my throat (like a Southerner), and it feels very base, earthy, grungy, exactly as I'm feeling when I exclaim that phrase. So I was hesitant to give it up. So I'm trying out the substitution of a rhyming word to see how it fits.

Some people, when they give up religious swearing for these reasons, replace the deity entirely, usually with some other deity that they feel is equally ridiculous but that people of the religious faith they are dismissing will also agree is ridiculous, kind of to make the point that they're all just as ridiculous as the religious person thinks the new deity is.

In other words, when a newly out atheist wants to make a point to "Christianity" (not necessarily any specific Christians), I've often seen them replace phrases like "for the love of Christ!" with "for the love of Loki!" The point, of course, being that the atheist thinks both are equally silly or false, and by equating the two, the atheist's beliefs about the equal standing of the two deities is made public.

I'm all for that trend in principle. But in practice, I haven't seemed to be able to make it stick. If I'm going to start substituting deities, I want to get creative. There are thousands of deities out there to choose from, but I seem to only remember Loki, Thor, and Zeus when I'm in the process of swearing. Since the Gourd substitution has been successful for a brief bit now, I'm trying another rhyming substitution by saying "oh Dog" instead of "oh God" or "Dog damn it!"

I'd also like to incorporate some sci-fi slang, but none of that has stuck either. I did manage to spontaneously yell "frak!" one day instead of fuck, but it didn't feel as satisfying as yelling "fuck". But gorramit might be a decent substitute for "god damn it". The only thing I don't like about that, though, is that I don't want anyone to think I'm trying to find more *polite* ways to swear. The ways I'm substituting are just weird enough to feel "off" to some people, particularly religious people, and that's a side effect I want to encourage. I don't want people to hear me make these substitutions and think I did the equivalent of saying "fudge" or "shut the front door!" I have a whole other rant on cussing and my moral reasons for deliberately using swear words instead of polite substitutions that I won't go into now. I want them to feel off-kilter so that the prevalence of religion is brought to their attention.

But, as I said, that's a side effect, and the more important effect is that *I* become more deliberate in my speech, which makes me more deliberate in my thoughts and makes me more intentionally who I am.

So that's what I'm up to these days.
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: (Misty in Box)
One of my pet peeves is when people reject musical genres based on a superficial understanding of that genre. I'll give one of my own examples. I used to say that I didn't like rap because I didn't like music that disrespected women. To anyone who has ever bothered to actually listen to rap, that is clearly not a definitional element of the genre. It turns out that I don't like music that disrespects women, so that includes some rap, but also some rock and some country and some in other genres.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*The title comes from the experiment where people with brain trauma are shown two different pictures to two different sides of their brains, then they select objects from a bag, one with each hand, and explain why they chose those objects.  The side of the brain that saw a picture of a chicken can explain pulling out a toy chicken because it has control over language.  But the side of the brain that saw a picture of a mountain can't explain why that hand chose a snow shovel, so the side with language control post hoc rationalizes the shovel within the context of the chicken.
joreth: (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).
joreth: (Dobert Demons of Stupidity)
I see a lot of people complaining that someone who blocked them just "couldn't handle a difference of opinion". That's not why people get blocked. Ever. Everyone has friends and family who have different opinions from themselves, and they get along with them fine, or at least put up with them.

The reason why people get blocked online is not for their differences of opinion. It's for their attitude or personality regarding those opinions. Every single time, I guarantee you, it's not the opinion, it's because they think you're being a jerk about it. It doesn't even matter if you don't think you're being a jerk - they do, that's why they blocked you, and the opinion that matters when someone is being a jerk is the person who is the recipient of the offending behaviour. Most often it's because you wouldn't drop it when they asked. Respecting consent is important in all social interactions, not just sex (but disrespecting non-sexual consent is a good indicator of that person's attitude towards sexual consent, which is why those of us heavy with the banhammer use it as often as we do).

And I say this as someone who gets blocked. I know when I'm being mean to people. Most of the time, I'm doing it intentionally because that person was a jackass in some way and I'm either trying to teach him what it feels like or I just no longer care about hurting his feelings because I've deemed him not worth my empathy or the cost in spoons for being such a fucktard. But that means that *I'm being an asshole*. Doesn't matter if it's in response to something they did, if they block me, it's not because I'm an atheist or poly or feminist or hold those views, it's because *they don't like me as a person* or they don't like my approach. When I'm being an asshole, that's kind of the point.

I've had plenty of "discussions" with anti-vaxxers, for example, where I thought I was being totally reasonable, calm, rational, in explaining why they're wrong.  And I stand by my belief that they're wrong.  They are, empirically, factually, wrong.  But I wasn't blocked because I am pro-vaccination.  I was pro-vaccination from the beginning when they friended me in the first place.  I was blocked because they didn't like my approach.  *They* thought I was being arrogant and condescending, even if I didn't (and still don't) think so, and they didn't like it.  So, sure, even if there was some way to prove, without a doubt and with completely objective metrics, that I absolutely was not being condescending and they were wrong to think so, the point is that they still did not block me because of my argument; they blocked me because they did not like how I said it.

Maybe it's true that there is absolutely no way to express that opinion in a way that the other person will find acceptable.  That is my position on many of my opinions - I believe that there is no way to express atheism (a personal lack of belief in a deity) that won't offend some people, for example.  There is no magic phrase, no amount of kowtowing or humbling that will make my personal lack of belief acceptable to be spoken about in public.  "I don't care if they're gay, but do they have to rub it in our faces?"  There are times when I believe it is justified to continue to press an opinion even when a listener doesn't like the approach.  This PSA is not a position on whether it is appropriate or not (or when it is or not) to hold or voice a controversial opinion.  This PSA is an EXPLANATION of why people get blocked, regardless of the rightness or moral standing or reasonableness of the action.  It's not the opinion that got you blocked, it was your attitude, your personality, or your approach that got you blocked.

So drop all this self-righteous blathering about how people just can't handle "the truth". What they can't handle is your arrogant, entitled, posturing. Your opinions are not nearly as offensive as you as a person are when you spouted them which resulted in you getting blocked.
joreth: (::headdesk::)

For future reference: if I ask you to drop a subject or to stop talking to me for a period, and I warn you that continuing to press the issue will result in me blocking you, it is not a "threat" that you should feel afraid about; I am giving you necessary information to make informed decisions about your future interactions with me.  I hold no illusions that anyone is "afraid" of no longer having contact with me or that it's even something worth fearing.  Frankly, if someone is afraid of that, then I worry about their emotional stability.  Nor is it because you have a difference of opinion. I am quite good friends with a lot of people who have radically different opinions to me, some positions to which I am actively opposed and even work against. The reason why they remain friends is because we both respect each others' right to hold those positions and not argue about them for the sake of peaceful interactions.  I am opposed to the ideas themselves, not the people, and we can coexist, not just peacefully, but even amicably and as friends as long as a basic level of respect for each others' humanity is in place (if their opinion itself is a disrespect of others' humanity, well, that's a whole other can of worms).

No, when I tell you that I do not wish to discuss a topic anymore, it is not because of your opinion. It's because of your personality. It's because I find your approach to be disrespectful and I am attempting to keep the peace by just agreeing to disagree, at least for now.

If I warn you that I will block you, it is not because I can't handle differing opinions or that I live in an echo chamber. In fact, accusations of such are worth blocking for on that statement alone. It is because you are violating my boundaries in my request for peaceful disagreement and the only way I have to enforce my boundaries is to block you entirely because continued pressing of the issue is direct evidence that YOU DO NOT RESPECT BOUNDARIES and are therefore untrustworthy to be around.

I am posting this because I cannot message you after I have already blocked you to explain why you have just been blocked. So if you get blocked by me, this is why. It's not me, it's definitely you. It's not your opinion, it's you.

You are being blocked because you are untrustworthy, not because you hold a different opinion and certainly not because I can't "handle" that opinion, and not because I have to have to have the last word. In fact, there's a good chance that you already had the last word, since I will often not even bother to refute people I'm about to block, I just say "drop the subject or you will be blocked".  You are not being censored (although I appreciate that you think I am a powerful enough person that I have the force of the government behind me, I simply do not have the ability to censor you). You are not more rational than I. You are not more level-headed than I. You are not more open-minded than I. You are entitled, rude, belligerent, pushy, manipulative, and a conversational terrorist*. None of that is more "rational" or "open-minded".

By the time I feel the need to resort to blocking you, I couldn't give a fuck about whatever opinion you think is so important that I'm blocking you over it. By that point, your opinion is the least objectionable part about you. By that point, I am more concerned with your total lack of empathy and your willingness to trod all over another person's request for space. If you can't even give that space on a stupid social media site, I have to wonder if I'm even safe being around you in person, or will I need one of the weapons that I carry on me at all times**?

And the internet is the ONLY place that I have the power to remove people like you from my presence. Every where else in the world, I am forced to coexist with people I am not safe around. Every where else in the world, I am smaller and less capable than those I am not safe around. But here, on the internet, I can force YOU to give me the space I need to feel safe.

So that is what I'm doing when I block you. I give fuck-all about your stupid opinion on whatever stupid subject that started this whole thing. I care that you have no consideration for the people around you. And THAT is why I will block you.

*Even for me that title is a little too hyperbolic, but that's what it's called and I didn't make up the term so that's the word we're stuck with.

**I have had to pull my knife on 3 occasions, only two of which were strangers but all 3 were people who did not back off when I repeatedly and clearly stated my desire for space.

Page Summary


September 2017

3456 7 8 9
1011 12 13141516


RSS Atom