joreth: (::headdesk::)
I cannot stress enough just how important it is to plan your exit strategies with ANYONE you have any kind of legal connection or financial ties with - family, lovers, friends, strangers, exes, coworkers, anyone.  I don't know why this is such a difficult concept for people to accept, but you NEED to put down in writing how to split up with people when you're dealing with anything financial or legal.  And you need to do this when y'all still like each other.

If you get married, get a fucking pre-nup.  Like, seriously, get one.  It doesn't take the "romance" out of it, and it doesn't show a lack of trust.  It's a goddamn necessity.

If you are already married and didn't get a pre-nup, get a post-nup.  It's basically the same thing, but with all the verb tenses changed.  And the most recent post-nup supersedes any prior post-nup and any pre-nup, just automatically, so keep doing post-nups even if you did get a pre-nup, as your various assets and liabilities and debts change over time.

If you go into business together, don't just talk about how you're going to split the business while you're in it, talk about how to LEAVE the business.  PUT IT IN WRITING.  Discuss if one of you wants to leave the business to the other, how can you get out, and discuss if you both want to end the business, how you're going to split the assets and the debts.

Assume a worst case scenario.  Assume that the other person has been body-swapped with their double from the mirror universe and they are suddenly, without warning, totally evil.

No, seriously, have fun with this discussion - if one of you turns evil, how can you write an exit strategy to save the other one?  Then switch roles, is the exit strategy still fair now that the other person is evil?  Role play this out while y'all are on good terms and can laugh at the absurdity of the thought that one of you would try to screw over the other.

Because I guaran-fucking-tee that everyone who has been screwed over would have laughed at the absurdity of that thought at the beginning of their relationship too.

I have some friends who are going through a divorce.  OK, I know quite a few people going through divorces, so let's take a look at one hypothetical couple.  They're poly, they're "ethical", they totally agree with everything in More Than Two and everything I write about power imbalances, abuse, feminism, privilege, etc. They know a few things about a few things.

One of them is being blindsided by what appears to be the other one pulling a stunt like my abusive ex - after years of controlling behaviour that the first one never recognized, the second one is going around telling everyone else that the first one was abusing the second one all along. And they have all this legal crap to untangle.

One of our mutual buddies and I were talking the other day.  The mutual said to me, "I had a bad feeling about That One when I first met them. But I didn't say anything because This One was clearly smitten, and what do I know?  I had just met them.  But, do you think, maybe if I had said something back then, This One could have been warned that That One would do these things and maybe done something to protect themself?"

I had to say "no, I didn't think there is anything we could have said to protect This One, because some of us DID say something.  Over the course of their marriage, several of us, independently, did tell This One that we saw some red flags about That One, and a couple people actually argued with This One pretty strenuously, trying to make This One see.

But when anyone expressed concern about how deep This One was getting entangled, and how that was leaving them open for the potential for That One to do some fucked up shit, This One always said 'well that's just silly, That One would NEVER do something like that!  So I just won't worry about it.'

This One kept insisting, to everyone who brought up concerns, that none of us really knew That One like This One did.  Which is true, of course.  Nobody who said anything about the red flags we saw really got to know That One very well.  They were often absent from group events and did not reach out to most of This One's friends independently.  So we had to concede that point.  And This One felt confident that everyone coming to them with red flags was independently wrong for our own reasons, so there was nothing for This One to be concerned about."

All my friend could say after that conversation with me was "Huh. So there's nothing we could have done then?  Well, that's depressing.  I guess people just have to get bitten on the ass then."

No one who ever ended up on opposing tables in a bitter divorce court ever walked down the aisle and thought "y'know what? I bet, some day, this dearest angel, whom I love with every fiber of my being, will probably turn out to be the biggest asshole in the world!  But I love them so much, I'll just jump head-first anyway!"

Everyone who has ever found themselves at the point of a metaphorical sword held by a former lover thought that their lover was an OK person in the beginning, not likely to do anything horrible enough to financially ruin them or damage their standing with the law.

Take my aphorism about rules and look at it backwards here.  I often say that anyone who would follow the rules doesn't need them and anyone who wants to do the things against the rules, the rules won't stop them.

When it comes to legal and financial stuff, however, things are a little different.  You can't control another human being with rules without tromping on their agency, but you can protect yourself from *them* attempting to control or harm *you* using the leverage of money or business power with some contracts.  If they're truly good-hearted, compassionate people who care about your well-being, then they will WANT to protect you with documents, so things like pre-nups should not be offensive to them because if they really loved you, they would want to see you protected and cared for.

And since y'all are so confident that this is just hypothetical anyway because your love will never die and you are both the paragons of virtue you think of each other, then it doesn't matter if you have legal paperwork or not because you both know you'll never have to use it.  So might as well have it and not need it.  Just like any other insurance policy.

If they are one of these monsters in disguise who is managing to completely fool you, then you *need* that paperwork.

In addition, one of you will die before the other one.  That is almost guaranteed.  Part of these exit strategies can and should encompass how to handle assets and debts and property in the event of that kind of split as well.  Nobody likes talking about death, but too fucking bad. Put on the big kid pants and have the awkward conversation already. Like with most things in poly, or in any healthy relationship, if you want to adult with other people, you have to have awkward conversations, so roll up your sleeves and hitch up your britches and start talking.

And while you're playing at being grown ups with the conversation about death, you might as well go all the way and talk about splitting up too.  It's awkward and unsexy and you might learn something about your partner that you don't like as you hear them talk about how to divvy up property and cash, but if you can't handle that kind of conversation, you shouldn't be entangling yourself in finances or business or legal shit in the first place.

Treat your financial and legal presence as seriously as you treat your sexual presence - use some goddamn protection, and if you can't talk about it with each other, then you shouldn't be doing it with each other.

joreth: (boxed in)
This is your occasional reminder that I have actually had to pull my knife on a man 3 times in my life, since I started carrying one.

Assault, harassment, and intimidation are regular, "normal" parts of most women's lives, and definitely a part of mine. In absolutely none of the cases where I had to pull a knife out and brandish it was I "dressed for it" or "asking for it" or "sending mixed signals".

In all 3 cases, it was actually after work and I was wearing my military cargo pants and steel toe boots with no makeup or attempt at hair styling. I was in a casino lounge with my other coworkers, minding our own business and not interacting with any other patrons, at a party at a friend's house in a conversation with my ex (who was not the one I pulled the knife on), and at a gas station working on my car.

There are *lots* of times when, in retrospect, I should have pulled a knife on a date or a "friend", but because they were not strangers, I just kept giving them the benefit of the doubt and trying to find non-violent ways out of the situation. I even remained "friends" with many of them or continued to date them long after the fact (or while the behaviour was ongoing).

Being attacked by strangers, while common, happens less often than being assaulted by "friends" and partners. Had I pulled a knife on someone I had some kind of relationship with, I guarantee you that I would have been accused of "overreacting" or of being the aggressor or the "assaulter" for having escalated it to violence with a weapon. We are taught to fear Stranger Danger when the worst of our danger comes from intimates.

But, the thing is, it has *never* occurred to me to pull a weapon on a partner or a "friend". Because each and every time, the severity of the assault is not fully recognized until afterwards, when I've had time to see that my brain won't stop replaying the incident and I'm getting more and more upset over it, since I couldn't afford to react in the moment or else risk escalating something, namely his wrath.

My instinctual response is to freeze, make myself smaller, and smile to placate him into thinking it's not a big deal so that he doesn't get angry at me. The last time I actively fought back against a "friend" who was assaulting me, I got my shoulder dislocated for the effort. I have not fought back since then (I think I was 14?). I go very still instead.

When my ex-fiance used to sexually assault me at night by touching my genitals when he thought I was asleep, if I would get pissed off at him and try to leave the room to go sleep on the couch, as I was attempting to get out of bed, he would tell me that if I left right then, my precious figurine collection (which I loved dearly, almost everything in that collection was a gift) would be damaged.

I know now that this is a clear cut case of abuse, but that's not something I knew back then and I'm not entirely sure that, had I been told, I would have recognized it as abuse while I was going through it. He never once laid a hand on me in anger, or threatened to, and I never feared that he would. *That* was something I would recognize as abuse. But not the sexual assault and not the threat of property damage.

It would never have occurred to me to respond with violence to someone who was not being violent towards me, particularly with someone I loved. Partner abuse is a much more complex and insidious thing than stranger assaults.

And I have had enough of both that I have pulled a knife in self-defense 3 times so far. I'm lucky none of them had a gun.
joreth: (boxed in)
"Friendships can be abusive. It took me a long time to realize that a friend can manipulate you, emotionally abuse you, gaslight you, and that the effects of that trauma can last for years after the friendship ends. Abuse also knows no distance; one of the most damaging friendships I ever had had thousands of miles between us. We haven't spoken in years and I'm only recently discovering the depths to which that friendship has affected me to this day. I didn't even want to admit the fact that it was abusive in nature even though she's not in my life anymore because her hold on me is still present, and because I didn't think friendships could be classified as abusive relationships. But they absolutely can be. Please be careful and take [care] of yourselves and if you think a friend is crossing a line, please reach out." ~ jacksisko
When I was in high school, I had a best friend. Because I tend to nurture post-breakup friendships, I did some post hoc analysis with my exes. With 3 different guys (every guy I was involved with one way or another while she and I were friends), I discovered that she contacted each of them to deliberately mislead them about me.

Each guy, she tried to convince I was cheating on him. One of them, I did end up cheating on him, but only after she told him that I already was, and I did so because instead of confronting me about it, he just turned into an asshole and I turned to another guy friend for comfort that led to sex, instead of dumping him for being an asshole (I was a teenager with my own relationship issues).

One guy just flat out didn't believe her. We're still fairly close.

And the third guy I wasn't even dating, but he was a friend of mine who was actually obsessive about me and was girlfriendzoning me, trying to be my "friend" so that I'd eventually recognize him as superior to all those "losers" (i.e. like the awesome guy above who refused to believe her lies) and dump them to be with him instead.

It was only after she ghosted me on our high school graduation day (devastating me on what was already an emotionally challenging day) and the final romantic relationship breakup happened a year later and then all the post-breakup repairs were done with all 3 guys that I found out she had pulled the same stunt with each of them.

As I connected the dots on the patterns of our relationship with the benefit of more information and hindsight, she turned out to be extremely jealous of anyone who was taking up my time and attention and was manipulating everyone around her and gaslighting me about their behaviour in response to her manipulation to control our friendship so that she was my sole focus.

She is one of the main reasons why I held onto the Chill Girl persona for so long - I'm not one of Those Girls, I don't do Drama, I just don't Get Along with women, blah blah blah. It's taken me a really long time to learn how to trust women again, and I have never gotten over my physical withdrawal from them. To this day, I still can't initiate a cuddly, affectionate relationship with women like I had with her. I can only respond to overtures of affection, but I can't initiate (once an affectionate pattern has been established, I can, but I can't be the one to start that pattern).

My cousin also tried to develop an abusive relationship with my sister. She would go into a rage if my sister didn't put her first, didn't read her mind and anticipate her emotions. I've told the story before about my grandfather hosting a BBQ in my sister's honor when she came to visit (after having moved up north from living in their neighborhood for a year or two), and my cousin just going ballistic at my sister for receiving the invitation from our grandfather instead of directly from my sister. It didn't seem to matter that it wasn't my sister's party, or that my sister didn't even know about it at first. What mattered is that my sister wasn't the one to extend the invitation. She did shit like this all the time.

So, yeah, you can have abusive friends too. Abuse is about control. It's a belief that one is justified in controlling another. Platonic relationships do not offer some kind of magical vaccine against one's deeply ingrained belief that they are justified in controlling other people.

If anything, I might suggest that women, with our social permission to develop deeply intimate platonic relationships, can be particularly prone or at risk of doing this to others, and also likely at risk of having it done to us by abusive men we are not dating but who *want* us to date them, because girlfriendzoning seems like a situation just ripe for someone with beliefs about entitlement and controlling others to obtain what they feel they are owed.
joreth: (anger)
I see a lot of people say things like "I wish I had known this lesson before, then I wouldn't have ..." I've said it myself. But I also spend LOTS of time repeating things in poly forums that the community has collectively learned over the decades the hard way.

In my more cynical moments, I don't think most of us would really have changed things had we known because some of this shit WAS known. I see plenty of people being told what will happen, who get *mad* that people are warning them, and go off and do it anyway.

How many times have you had someone ask your advice, not listened to you, the thing you predicted happened, then they complain about it happening? Or they do it again next opportunity?

My ranting on the internet is predicated on the premise that we don't need to burn our own hands in order to learn that fire is hot. Our entire educational system is based on the idea that people learn things the hard way first and then we tell others about it so we can keep moving forward as a society, each new generation standing on the shoulders of those who came before.

But no, let's continue to fuck up our relationships and governments as if we've never seen or done this shit before. And then wail about "if only we'd known ahead of time, we would have done it differently!"

Y'all know. You just don't want to know.
joreth: (polyamory)

Why do poly people always need to invent new words? What's wrong with all the words we already have?

Because, even when we use the words we already have, people don't understand what we're saying, thanks to narrow gender roles and social expectations.

I'm watching a video where a couple of women are professional dance partners and they're talking about the nature of their relationship. They go by the professional title of The Decavita Sisters (I think - I wasn't really paying attention to their names; a big flaw I have in general). So the interviewer asks about other siblings, and they admit that they're not biological sisters. They're asked to go on, so they talk about meeting "a very, very long time ago" and how close they became very quickly, and eventually they became sisters. "We adopted each other".

The interviewer's next question was "so, are you *together*? Or just dance partners?" The women both look at her and repeat "no, we're sisters. We adopted each other." So the interviewer asks "and you changed your name legally?" They look at her as if to say "well, yeah, we adopted each other, that's kinda what you do," but they answered much more politely with a "yes, it's in our passports."

She then asks whose name they took, so the women have to explain that they made it up, and that they are "the only in the whole world with that name." The interviewer is just stunned and baffled by this. She has no idea what to do with this information. To me, this makes perfect sense. They became sisters, so they are now sisters. I don't understand the confusion. "Sisters" is the relationship that they have, therefore, they are.

I think my adopted background helps me in polyamory. I intuitively recognize families of choice. I have a sister, because we were raised together as sisters. We're not biologically related, but we're still sisters because that's our relationship.

When I was in junior high school, my clique did a thing where we all took on familial titles. I have no idea why we thought this was a good thing at the time, we just did. So I had 3 sons, I think, and a sister, and an aunt maybe? I don't remember them all, just that 3 guys were my "sons". We were all the same age, and there were maybe 10 or 12 of us in this "family". I think I drew out a chart. As I do.

Then, in high school, I had my 5-40 Fone Crew - my besties who all hung around the only pay phone on campus during our lunch break (40 minute lunch break, 5 days a week). Our boyfriends were all friends too (I introduced my friends to his friends when we started dating and everyone kinda just paired up), and we were the first in our school to all have pagers because our boyfriends were older and all had them, so we sat by the phone so we could all send each other l33t-type pager messages. We were also a family of sorts, and we had our own terminology for our group.

I was just in a thread discussing a term for a metamour who is technically no longer a metamour because one or both of you are not dating the person who connected you, but you both still *feel* like metamours (the word is metafore, btw,

There are 2 uses for the term "metamour" - one that means just the connecting line, which is "one's partner's other partner", and the other that means a special kind of direct connection between two people who have a mutual romantic partner in common. Both are valid and necessary definitions.

Because of the nature of poly relationships, as different from other forms of non-monogamy, which builds more interconnected, entangled, and interdependent types of relationships, it's important to acknowledge our partners' other partners as valid and deserving of recognition. So we have a word to call them.

I really like the fact that my metamours are MY metamours, not "something over there on the other side of my partner that he does that has nothing to do with me". I think there's a certain level of respect inherent in the metamour relationship that other forms of non-monogamy don't require in their partner's other partner relationships.

But this label doesn't tell us what *kind* of relationship we have with each other, just *how* we are connected. I make the analogy to cousins and in-laws: saying that someone is my cousin or my sister-in-law tells you how we are connected via other relationships between us, but it doesn't tell you if we like each other, or get along, or what. But it does tell you that we are *family*.

And I think that's an enormously important concept - the idea of acknowledging and respecting how people are connected to each other without dictating or prescripting how that relationship ought to look.

The other definition *is* about the nature of the relationship. Some poly people don't bestow the label "metamour" without that direct connection between them - usually an independent friendship or a sibling-like bond. We often hear about sister-wives (controversial because of the associations with religiously determined polygyny), and about metamours who see each other as "brothers" or co-husbands, etc.

This is why "metafore" came into being. This is when people feel a special closeness that is related to their shared connection to a mutual partner. It's difficult to really explain, but there is a special quality to the closeness between people who have a romantic partner in common that doesn't exist in any other relationship bond. So when the connection to the mutual partner is severed, that closeness can sometimes remain in spite of the break, because of that shared linkage in our history.

Or, in my case with my 2 metafores, that bond gets even closer when we both went through breakups with our mutual partner. I have people whom I like and respect a great deal who are former metamours, and I have 2 metafores because that bond is unique to that situation of having once been close metamours and remaining in (or strengthening) that close bond.

People ask why we need all these terms. And I think that's because society gives us such strict roles, that anything outside of that role doesn't make any sense without a new word to cover it. Instead, society tries to give us a blanket term, "friend", to cover *everything* from slightly more than acquaintance to "best" friend who can often be a more intimate, stronger bond than romantic partnerships.

Sex And The City, for as problematic as it is, was an excellent example of "friends" who are "more than" the romantic relationships in their lives. No matter what happened in their romantic relationships, their friendships were their anchors, their partners, the core of their lives. That show was instrumental for me in being my first step towards learning to see the relationship between women as valuable, and as necessary, even for tomboy Chill Girls like me.


We can't use "friend" because that means too many things, so it doesn't cover it. But, at the same time, we have a culture that privileges romantic couples. Romantic partners are privileged and prioritized above everything else, except possibly the parent / child relationship.

This is why the SATC show was so controversial. The characters were accused of "using men like Kleenex" because all their romantic partnerships took a backseat to their platonic friendships. The only men who made the cut were the ones who basically accepted that they came in second to "the girls".

Normally, if a platonic friendship interferes with a romantic relationship, it is culturally expected that the platonic friendship will have to end unless the romantic relationship isn't The One. Nobody ever asks what happens if the romantic relationship interferes with the platonic friendship. Except abuse specialists.

If you get invited to a wedding, your legal spouse is pretty much automatically invited. I've never heard of anyone sending a wedding invitation to one half of a married couple and then getting upset when they RSVP for the spouse too. But bringing along "just a friend" is very controversial. It's often seen as the "consolation prize" - who you invite when you can't get a date. And you need to ask permission to do so. And it's totally cool for the bride to say no, but saying no to bringing a spouse? That's pretty uncool.

Legal marriage confers a whole bunch of legal rights and responsibilities that are *just not available* through any other means. Like immigration, for example, and not testifying against someone in court. If you try to use these rights, the government makes you "prove" that the person you're using them with is a "legitimate" spouse, meaning a *romantic partner*. If you aren't romantically involved with your spouse, that's actually grounds for an annulment in many areas, which means that the marriage never legally existed in the first place.

This is my entire problem with legal marriage. I should be able to enter into any legal contract with any other person I want, providing we are otherwise eligible to enter into legal contracts with each other. My ability to enter into a contract with someone should not hinge on something as subjective and ethereal and, frankly, nobody's fucking business, as romantic feelings for them. If they are of legal age and "sound" mind to give consent, that's all that should be necessary for entering into a contract with them.

But before I go too far down the rabbit hole of my moral objections to legal marriage, let's get back to the point. If two people seem exceptionally close to each other, we just automatically assume they must be romantically involved. Because romantic couple privilege.

If we call them "friend", it's not descriptive enough, even though it's true, because "friend" covers too many different things. But "friend", for as broad as it is, is also limited in its own way, *because* of that romantic couple privilege. As in, "just" friends. Since romantic couples are privileged, everything else is "just", no matter how close those "friends" actually are.  So we come up with other terms. "Sisters" (but, if you don't have the same parents, how can you be sisters?), soulmates (but that's for romantic relationships!), metamours, anchors, nesting partners, core partners...

We need these terms because we're not *allowed* to be these things otherwise. Two women are supposed to be close because women have certain gendered expectations of their relationships and women (apparently) are all nurturing and emotionally intimate. But they can't be "too" close, because then they'd have to be romantic partners.

We can only understand that level of intimacy without sex as siblings. Never mind the fact that lots of sisters aren't that close. Only "sisters" can be that close. Blood vs. water, and all that (and don't even get me started on the irony of that cliché in context).

I don't really have a point, I think. I just heard this bit of dialog in a video, and it came on the heels of a discussion of metafores and people complaining about yet another poly term and why is it even necessary when we have the word "friend", and I got all annoyed at the interviewer's confusion because our current vocabulary is simultaneously too broad to be clear and too narrow to allow for the diversity of intimate connections.

In other words, our culture is incredibly stunted when it comes to recognizing and accepting intimacy. And that irritates me.

joreth: (anger)
*Sigh* Let's go over this again.


When someone blocks you, it means that they don't want to talk to you anymore. Any attempt to contact them* after that on another platform, using another profile, or using another method entirely is a blatant disregard for their boundaries.

If the person who blocked you didn't say it was temporary, didn't give you conditions under which it would be appropriate to contact them again, or didn't un-block or otherwise reach out to you, then contacting them while blocked is boundary pushing and probably the reason why they resorted to blocking in the first place.

If I have to block someone I know in real life, I will often give them the benefit of the doubt and block them only in that medium where they are pushing me. I am trusting them to be grown-up enough not to keep pushing, not to keep violating my boundaries, not to look for ways around my block. I'm trusting them to understand that this is the online equivalent of hanging up the phone or walking out of the room during an argument and dropping the subject and not following after me to keep going.  Maybe, with time, I'll unblock and attempt to reconnect sometime in the future.

When I block someone and they try to contact me in other ways, particularly if they contact me in other ways *to continue the conversation / argument*, this only confirms the reason why I blocked in the first place and is a guaranteed way to make sure that the blocking is permanent and across all forms of contact.  This should not ever have to be explained. You, who does this, are the reason why my online profiles are so ranty. You are exactly who I am ranting about.

*There are some exceptions to this. Sometimes we have to cut off contact with people that we can't afford to cut off contact in every single manner.  For instance, needing to cut off social contact with a boss or coworker but still needing to keep in contact in a professional capacity; or co-parenting with an abusive ex.

If you have been blocked by someone online but you have a LEGITIMATE other relationship with them that requires LEGITIMATE contact with them in this other capacity, and you can keep your contact with them limited to this legitimate other relationship, then it's probably not a boundary violation.

Normally I have no problem blocking people who are becoming a pain in the ass, but when it's a *friend* who says *several times* that he will back out of an argument and then refuses to do so, sometimes I have to hang up the phone for him. But I'd rather not, and it hurts to do it.

I already know that when I lose my temper, I'll say things that I will later regret. So when I back out of an argument, I back out. I know that I can't be trusted to have a productive conversation when I'm too emotionally invested in my position to really hear the other side.  If you have the foresight to know that about yourself too, then seriously, back out when you say you're going to. Because I guarantee, no matter what the person on the other side of the argument is like, you will only make things worse if you stay in an argument past the point that even you recognize that you need to take a break from it.

The other person could be the best, most calm and collected arguer ever, or they could be a total douchebag, and either way, if you're not in the right emotional space for the argument, anything you say is going to make things worse. Which is why I back out when I'm getting pissed off. Unfortunately, though, online spaces don't offer very good ways to "back out" and they rely on the other person's cooperation or nuking them.

I wish FB had an option to just, say, put someone in a time-out. I mean, I know that you can unblock people later, but it's so ... final, so harsh. Maybe I just want to stop someone from talking at me for a while. It's like, if you're in an argument with someone in person, you can leave the room. But if you're in an argument with someone at a *party*, then you have to either leave the party to prevent them from following you around the party to continue arguing or kick them out of the party.

Sometimes, neither is an acceptable option for the circumstances. Sometimes, I just want someone to stop talking at me while I go into the "quiet room" at the party, or go talk with someone else on the other side of the room. I can turn off FB for a while and let them rant and rave at an empty inbox, but then I can't wander around FB. That's me leaving the party. Besides, then they're still ranting and raving and those messages will be there when I get back. Leaving might prevent *me* from saying something I don't want to say, but it doesn't make someone else take the space they need but won't take. And obviously I can't kick *them* off FB (nor would I want to).

Unfriending & unfollowing aren't always the right options either. When the problem is that someone I know posts shit that I don't want to see, then those are two reasonable options. But when the problem is that someone keeps talking at me, unfriending and unfollowing don't prevent that.

And, maybe I don't *want* to actually unfriend someone. I grew up understanding that friends and family argue sometimes, and it's not the end of the relationship. Sometimes those arguments are some pretty ugly fights, even, and it still doesn't mean that the relationship *has* to end over it.

I've been reading some stuff (citations not at hand atm) that suggests that there is a point in an argument at which nothing productive is happening because the participants are "flooded", meaning too emotional, and taking a break at that point significantly increases the chances of a resolution post-break. My family did this intuitively. I think it's one of the reasons why I maintain such strong emotional ties to members of my family who have such different worldviews from me.

Sometimes I just don't want to be in *this* argument right *now* and the other person doesn't seem to have the self-control to stop arguing. But, for whatever reason, I don't want to nuke the relationship. It would be nice to have, like, a 24-hour Wall of Silence, where neither of us can message each other or comment on each other's posts, until we've both had some space and time to calm down. But, y'know, you're still friends, and maybe you can even still see each other's posts and still interact in groups or mutual friends' comment threads. You just can't PM them or talk *in their space*.

But as long as people can't seem to help themselves and continue talking at others past the point where even they recognize that they are not in the right frame of mind to be continuing the conversation, I have to resort to blocking.

And I don't like that. There's not enough nuance in our online responses, and I think that hurts us individually and as communities.  Blocking needs to be contextual, but we only have on/off blocking options.  

But it's pretty safe to say that if someone has blocked you in the middle of an argument, don't continue the argument using other means of communication.  If someone has blocked you seemingly out of the blue but left other means of contact open to you, it might be appropriate for you to contact them to ask if you should stay away.  If someone has blocked you in one medium, and you're pretty sure you know why or it was during an argument, but you also have some other reason to be in contact with them, then respect their boundary and restrict your contact of them to those other mediums and that other relationship / reason.
joreth: (Misty in Box)
Ever since the presidential campaign trail, the effort to work alongside people and make happy small talk yet avoid important topics takes more spoons than normal.

I'm fucking exhausted and distressed at the end of work days because I'm forced to coexist alongside of people who I now know to be truly terrible people. So I can cut off all non-essential contact with my coworkers and lose one of the main reasons why I love my job, or I can very carefully manage dozens of relationships per day to stay within very specific parameters so as to be able to laugh with my coworkers and not be reminded that they honestly don't care about my existence on a daily basis.

I used to love my job. It was one of the things that gave me meaning. It wasn't just a paycheck to me, it was a passion. I still love doing the physical act of my job, but I don't look forward to each day the way I used to anymore.  I used to say that being at work was where I could be the most "me". I had the fewest filters, was the most authentic, and enjoyed life most often. Even a bad day at my job was better than a good day at any other job (and I've worked in something like 30 other industries, so I can say this with some authority).

I no longer feel that I can be my most authentic self at work. I have more filters now, and I have to put on more of an act. This takes a lot of emotional energy and I'm less happy to be working than I used to.

I once said (OK, more than once) that even if I were to win a lottery big enough to live in style for the rest of my life, I would still work at my job because I love it that much and I like staying busy. I don't think I would do that now. I have enough other hobbies that I also love, and enough other interests that I'd like to try, that tip the scales once we add on the weight of managing coworkers' awfulness.

Now, since I still need an income, this is still the job that I love the most and I'd rather do this than any other job. But if money weren't an object, I no longer love my job so much that I'd do it for free. I'd rather be costuming or photographing something or dancing (as long as I don't have to talk to those people either, because here in the South, the dance community is filled with some awful people too), than putting up with my coworkers' bullshit just to be able to climb some truss or fight for a seat behind a camera watching another talking head lecture about quarterly projections.

And I'm sad that my job is no longer one of the greatest passions of my life, or rather that the passion has been dimmed with prolonged exposure to the reality of my coworkers' bigotry and ignorance. After 25 years in the business, I guess the honeymoon is finally over.
joreth: (Xmas Kitties)
If people ever wanted to support me but didn't want to buy a gift or send money and didn't know what else to do, consider buying something from one of my stores for yourself or someone else.

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

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

My stores include:

Poly Tees -
Atheist Tees -
Backstage Tee Shirts -

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Miss Poly Manners -
Poly-ish Movie Reviews -

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  6. You don't have to worry about people buying the same item twice like you do when you send out an email to several different people because when something is purchased, it gets removed from the list and other visitors won't even see the item.
Gift Registries for weddings and baby showers are considered a normal, acceptable custom where some people want to buy one person a gift and the recipient gets to specify exactly what they want. Nobody is offended that the recipient lists specific items, nobody is offended that the givers want to know specific item suggestions, and nobody actually has to ask directly for gifts or ask directly what to buy. I think this should apply to all gift-giving events like holidays and birthdays, and even hard-luck times like job loss or illness or funerals, when it might help to have people give useful items to make it through a tough time, because it simplifies the exchange and removes or reduces the sense of obligation that some people feel regarding gift exchange events without removing the joy of gift exchange.

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

I never did find a wishlist service that had *all* of the features of my previous one (nor did I remember all the items on my old list). But I did find only one wishlist service that had *most* of the features I wanted - :
  • This service is not attached to any particular retailer and I can add items from literally anywhere. I can add items from online stores with a browser plugin button, and I can manually add items that are not online. It also offers the ability to accept cash donations.

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

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

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

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

  • When visitors click to view or purchase the item, this service will open the store's website in another tab or window so that you do not lose the wishlist itself. It then gives you the option to go back to the wishlist and anonymously mark the item as "purchased" so that no one else will buy the same thing you did. Once I share my wishlist for Christmas, I do not look at my wishlist again until the holiday (and my birthday the next month) is over, so that I will be surprised by my gifts. That way visitors can safely mark items as purchased and still keep it a surprise.
There are two things that this service does not do that my old one did: one is to give me the option to tag my items. Tagging an item allows me to associate multiple tags to each item so that it can be cross-referenced and viewed under several different tags. So, I might have an item that is both a household item and an electronic item and I could tag it with both keywords and visitors who want to look just for household things as well as visitors who want to look just for electronic things would all see this item. The new service only gives me the option of putting items in a single category, so I have to choose - is this a household item or an electronic item?

The other is priority ranking. My old service allowed me to rank my items on a scale of 1-6 with one being "must have" and 6 being "don't buy for me, I'm just thinking about it", which I thought was a very useful feature. Visitors could sort the list by priority order and only look at those things you wanted the most.

But other than these features, this service does everything else that I was looking for. I was willing to give up the tagging because of the categories and I already manually order my list by priority because an extra step to view priority was just a touch too complicated for my parents. But I do miss these features and feel that they made the previous service more valuable to others who don't have my same limitations and made me even more enthusiastic about recommending it. I had to look at and try out more than a dozen different wishlist services before I found this one that even has all of these features! So I'm passing it on so that other people can take advantage of it.

And now, because several people have requested that I do so, I am including a link to my online wishlists for those who want to see them:
joreth: (Misty in Box)
I have a problem with our new trend of slinging around labels like "narcissistic" and "borderline personality" and even "abuse". I had the misfortune to observe up close several relationships that imploded under mutual accusations of abuse and personality disorder labels. And in many of those cases, I got it wrong. I backed the wrong horse. I heard the accusations and I chose a side to "believe the victim" and it turned out that the "victim" was not what they appeared to be.

To be fair, both sides in all the dramas that I watched *did* do some terrible things to each other. We all hurt others when we are hurting ourselves. But, when all the cards finally got laid on the table, the people I backed as "victims" were solidly, unquestionably, abusive and they were so either first (leading to their victim to lash out in whatever legitimately toxic ways the abuser accused their victim of doing) or were so worse (not that it justifies the other side if the other side was, in fact, abusive, but it does *not* justify my misplaced support of them).

Remember that post I made about abuse being about beliefs, not feelings? Here's the problem: in every case, the abuser honestly, truly, genuinely, sincerely believed that what they did was right and they ALSO honestly, truly, genuinely, sincerely believe, to this day, that they were the victims. Even when I *witnessed*, in person, live, someone gaslighting another, they sincerely believe that they have never gaslighted anyone and that their victim was really a narcissist who abused *them*. In that case, the gaslighter uses science articles about faulty memories as armor and accuses *me* of not seeing what I saw because they keep emails (nevermind that this all happened in person, not in email).

I had someone contact me once, crying, hysterical you might even say, over some disagreement they had. One person accused the other of doing something "wrong". So the one who did the thing was terribly upset over the idea that they had harmed their partner and was a horrible person. What they did, in my opinion, was not "wrong". In my opinion, the demand that they not do the thing is what was "wrong" because it was a controlling act. So, they were upset. Later, I confronted the other person, who tried to tell me that they were totally in the right over demanding to control the other in this way, and besides, the other is OK with it so keep my nose out of their business.

I told them that the other was most definitey NOT OK with the controlling behaviour, I saw how not-ok they were myself. So they called the other person over and said "now tell Joreth that we worked this out and everything is OK." So they said to me "It's totally not a big deal, we talked about it, and I really wasn't all that upset anyway." Uh, yes you were. I SAW you. You had a total and complete meltdown. You were barely even verbal, you were so upset. But no, the abuser had the victim convinced that, not only was the thing they were doing not a big deal, but that the victim wasn't even as upset over it as they really were.

So now, years later, I've had a chance to see how all these different people have evolved after their experiences in these doomed relationships. And here's the problem that I have: without exception, all the people I have now identified as "abusive" still believe that they were the victims and that they were abused. There are even therapists involved! Yet no therapist that I'm aware of in these cases has told anyone that they are using abusive tactics or holding them accountable for controlling behaviour. Although, and here's the really scary part, at least one therapist *has* told a victim that *they* were the abuser. And remember, this is one of the cases where I personally was able to witness and observe the relationship over time, and one of the cases where I originally would have agreed with the therapist until I saw the abuse myself, instead of the rewritten reality that is presented to the public after the abuse happens.

These abusers sincerely believe that they were victims. They hold onto this belief years later. They are attempting to "move forward" as if they are recovering from abuse. They have tons of sympathetic followers on social media, sending them *hugs* and "I believe you" comments. Meanwhile, their victims suffer in quiet isolation, forced to withdraw from social media and to slowly build up their support networks in person again, until they feel that they can creep back onto social media with fake names or locked down profiles or they keep only their work-related profiles active and hide their more personal activity.

How do we tell the difference from the outside? This is a rhetorical question because I guarantee that any answers anyone attempts to post in spite of the fact that it's rhetorical, I guarantee that those methods can be applied towards the abusers' stories and we can still interpret their side in their favor. I guarantee that because I'm watching it happen with these cases. Their friends lists remain large. Their comments remain sympathetic. People still "hear you" and "believe you" and "sending you sympathies" and "understanding" and "it will get better" at them. And the really ironic part? More than one of them have built a reputation for "ethical relating" and still post about consent and abuse in relationships. From the *victim's* point of view. Some of them have quite large audiences. Some of them even still get media attention for their writing about relationships.

So I see all these "they're a narcissist!" posts and I really want to support the victims and provide safe spaces for them, but all I can think of when I see these posts is "how can I trust that this time, your accusation is the real one and not the abuser calling his victim a narcissist?" Because, without exception, every case I have personally observed, the one who I believe is the real abuser, every one of them really and truly believes that they are the one who was harmed.

And I don't know what to do about it. I have no answers for this. Every bit of advice or research I've managed to dig up or had someone share doesn't help the outside observer like me because of those sincerely held beliefs. They honestly believe they have been wronged. So unless I was there to see the gaslighting happen, or to see them attempt to control another, from the outide or after the fact the stories they tell sound totally believable because *they* believe them. They can *tell* me a list of things that their true victim supposedly did, and it will sound exactly like narcissistic abuse or whatever. And their pain will be real. As I said in that other post, abusers are people in pain and fear. Their feelings are *real*, which is why abuse is not about "feelings" but about the belief that it is OK to address their feelings and fears using the abusive tactics that they employ, and why I strongly dislike the phrase "all feelings are valid" because of the slippery definition of the term "valid".

So I don't know what to do about all this, and that's the problem I have with our communities flinging around terms like "narcissism", "psychopath", "abuse", etc. I can look at all the checklists and I can say "yep, these are horrible things" and I can listen to someone tell me their grievances and I can say "yep, that sounds awful". But, if we stop there, then apparently EVERYONE is the victim, even when they're actually the perpetrators.

And THEN, on the very rare occasion when someone does come forward and admit to mistakes and makes changes or seeks help, since they're the only ones admitting to wrongdoing, that just confirms who the villain is and our collective response to villains is to ban them from community support and remove their platorms. And I'm not even saying this is wrong in all cases. I'm saying that we do not have the answers to handle abuse in our communities now that we are attempting to identify it. Now we know what abuse *is*, but we still have trouble identifying it and we definitely don't know what to do about it.

I don't have any answers and, as I said, the answers people keep giving me don't help with the first step, which is in telling apart two conflicting sides. "Believe the victim" is good advice to support victims, but only after we have identified the victim. I "believed the victim" several times when the "victim" I believed was actually an abuser. I am currently watching several abusers have major community platforms with hordes of fans and friends who believe them as "victims". Even they, themselves, genuinely believe themselves to be victims (or, at least, not in the wrong). So I have a problem with all these posts because, when I see them, all I can think now is "yes, that really sucks, but what if I'm wrong again and your sincerely held belief does not match reality? And all you did is just remove the support from someone who really needs it because the article you shared describes a horrible person and we're all supposed to 'believe' you automatically?"

And that's a terrible environment for everyone to exist in, but especially people who are on the receiving end of abusive behaviours.
joreth: (Bad Computer!)
[ profile] margareta87 shared this website and suggested that everyone read everything on it. So I'm reading the most recent blog post and I want to share it specifically.
"Sometimes he can’t tell the difference between him feeling bad because he hurt somebody, and feeling bad because someone hurt him. ... When Kyle is 20, or 30, or 40, or 60, and harms someone by action or omission, where will the ‘parent’ be who can say “you are good and loved and not shameful, and you did this thing, now stop acting like an ass and go make it right.”?"
I have an abusive ex that I talk about often. I *think* that I've done most of the emotional repair work so that I'm no longer acutely affected by my past relationship with him, but he makes such a good illustration of the messiness of emotional abuse that I continue to talk about him as a tool (heh, pun intended) to teach ethical lessons. This was basically what he was like. He was unable to distinguish between feeling hurt because someone hurt him and feeling hurt because *he* hurt someone and they reacted to it.

As the blogger, Shea Emma Fett phrased it, being victimized by acts of control is different from being victimized by my resistance to your control. In my most recent blog piece about beliefs vs. actions, I phrase it as raising your hand to slap someone and then having your hand hurt when you strike the arm that they raised to block your slap. Where was the grownup for my ex to say "people love you, and you did this thing, now stop acting like an ass and go make it right"? When I, eventually, tried to take that role, I got punished for it. I was lumped right in with the "bad guy" and we were both seen as "attacking" him. I was called "intolerant" and told that I was a One True Wayist because I told him that his method of keeping his partners small for his own comfort was unethical and hurtful and that *he* needed to do the work to let them grow rather than making them stay small on his own timetable.

"If you harm someone and then make it so that they feel afraid to tell you about it, be aware that women are likely coddling you constantly day in and day out in ways that exhaust them and that you take as normal and do not even notice."
He did this too. He made having a difference of opinion to him so intolerable that most of the family just let things go rather than argue. And they didn't make it clear that they were "agreeing to disagree" either. Often, he and I would have an argument, he would go away to complain to the others in the group, then come back and say "I talked to everyone else and we all agree that you're wrong", but then one or more of them would come to me privately to say that they actually agreed with me and disagreed with him but they didn't want to say anything because it was too much trouble to start a fight about it.

People in the group were constantly rearranging things in order to make him feel comforted or to accommodate him. If an argument got too heated, he would shut down, go into a semi-catatonic state, and when things got really tense he even reverted to self-harm and threats of self-harm. People in that group would literally force themselves into situations where they felt physically and emotionally unsafe just to prevent him from having a meltdown. Any attempt to tell him that his actions harmed them was met with said meltdown in which people had to back up and take back what was said. He called it "admitting they were wrong" and "owning their own shit" and he also called it "backtracking" and being "unreliable" which made them afraid because there was no right answer and no way to get out of the quicksand bog of arguing with him. I called it "badgering them into conceding." His victim called it "gaslighting". Whatever it was, he rewrote reality around him so that he was always right and everyone else catered to his "needs".
"Is it possible they have tried to tell you in a nice way, and you have clapped your hands over your ears or made it hard for them, and eventually they lose the capacity to be ‘nice’ while they are getting harmed? If you think back – really think back – how long were they trusting you and quietly asking you for help and empathy and support and compassion and honesty before they lost their buffer of capacity to speak kindly while drowning?"
This is what happens when people "blow up" seemingly "out of nowhere". If it looks like someone is "overreacting", there is a very good chance that they are actually acting appropriately if you add up all the times in the past, instead of taking this one instance in isolation. Regardless of how righteous you feel in your position (and believe me, I've seen plenty of people "blow up" at me on things that I'm dead certain that I'm right about - like gently pointing out something mildly racist and having them explode all out of proportion to what I actually said), embed this in your brain - if someone has lost their shit, there is probably something deeper going on. It is likely that they are reacting to an accumulation of things and your most recent encounter is just the straw that broke the camel's back. Now it's *your* job to step back and see if they are reacting to a lifetime of microaggressions and it's not personal to you or if they added together all the times they tried to talk to you about this and they're fed up with you not hearing them.
" if you make it hard for people around you to let you know you have caused harm, you’re going to invoke survival strategies in your friends and colleagues when you think you’re just having a regular hangout with your friend."
This partially explains when people of some sort of privilege get on their FB soapbox to preach about maintaining friends of different viewpoints. For someone with privilege, it's not a big deal to have a friend who has a different perspective when that person has less privilege because that different perspective doesn't affect the more privileged person directly. Their "debates" are all "academic" and they can take them or leave them. But the less privileged person is *harmed* every time they have that "debate" because, for them, it's not academic, it's personal. So one person thinks they're just having a friendly, spirited debate and the other person experiences it as one more cut in the death of a thousand cuts. So they have to employ fucking *survival strategies* in order to maintain that friendship, and eventually it becomes too much to bear. Think about that - the person you think of as a friend has to treat you like they're handling live plutonium and put on protective emotional "gear" just to be in your presence. I hope that makes you feel uncomfortable. Now sit with that discomfort because I'm not going to provide the coddling to make you feel better about yourself over it.
"I would actually apologize to him for having felt afraid. Because my hurt and fear hurt his feelings."
Being victimized by your control is not the same thing as being victimized by my resistance to your control.
joreth: (Misty in Box)
(If you are seeing white text on a black background and the reverse is more comfortable, you can read the Google doc that I used for my final draft here: The wording is identical.)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And maybe we might both have escaped without breaking first.

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

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

1. Abuse In Poly Relationships by Shea Emma Fett -

2. 10 Things I Wish I’d Known About Gaslighting by Shea Emma Fett -

3. Relationship Rights: Can You Negotiate Them Away by Eve Rickert -

4. Can Polyamorous Hierarchies Be Ethical? Part 2: Influence and Control by Eve Rickert -
joreth: (Misty in Box)
In the course of explaining my quirks to a new partner, it gets bought to my attention just how much emotional labor I perform in my relationships, or at least how many habits I developed from performing this emotional labor and compensating for other people's inabilities to deal with their emotions in the past.

There are all sorts of little things that I do that, by themselves don't really seem like a big deal, but when I'm spending a week with a new partner and nearly every interaction we have involves me saying "so, this thing about me, I do this thing and here's why", the aggregate of all my emotional labor is more apparent.

For example, I cut the bread for the table. I used to sell and demo cutlery and I have always had an affinity for knives. I am also a bread addict - er, I mean, aficionado. I have known a lot of people who do not know how to properly cut bread and it ends up smashed in a lump when they grip it to cut or rip it apart. Instead of light and fluffy and we now have to *chew* it instead of lightly chewing it while it also dissolves on the tongue (for those breads that are soft and do that). I can slice the softest breads and cakes with even a fairly dull knife and still retain most of the integrity of delicate pastries and breads.

But I have learned over the years that some men do not like to be schooled on proper cutting technique. I'm not sure if they don't like to be schooled by women or they just don't like to be schooled in general and it doesn't really matter for this discussion. But I have had some men react harshly to what they perceive as criticism of their manly cutting skills, and still more men who just ignore my corrections entirely and continue to mash the bread. I have never had either reaction from any woman I have had this conversation with.

So, in order to avoid hurting feelings or eating smashed bread for the rest of my life, I now automatically reach for any communal bread on a table and slice off two slices for myself and a few more for whoever else is at the table, without trying to teach anyone anything.  I just kinda do it as if I just happened, by coincidence, to be the first to reach for the bread and oh, by the way, here are some slices for you too, honey.

So, as I said, this is not a big thing in isolation. But when I tell this story and it is the third story I've told that day that involves me changing my own behaviour in order to manage someone else's feelings or to get something that I want without a confrontation or conflict over it, I am reminded at just how often I shoulder the burden for maintaining my relationships.

That's the thing with emotional labor - it's largely invisible to both sides, the side shouldering the burden and the side not carrying the weight. It isn't usually one giant rock weighing us down, it's a sack full of pebbles that grows over time. One person carries a handful of pebbles while another is bent over double from the sack on their back. They didn't notice how heavy the sack got because each pebble only weighs a few ounces and they were added one at a time over a lifetime. But if you try to split the weight and make the other person carry two handfuls, suddenly it seems "unfair" that they're having to take up so much extra work! Why do they have to do these things anyway? It's just a pebble, can't you just keep holding it?

This is why it's important for adults to know how to do their own fucking laundry. This is why it's important for adults to know how to cook a number of meals that provide for their nutritional needs and not just that tastes good, even if they have the money to pay other people to cook for them. This is why it's important for adults to know how to cry. This is why it's important for adults to have a friend and family network of some sort to turn to for emotional support and celebrations, in addition to their romantic partners. This is why it's important for adults to know how to use a calendar system *of some sort*, whether it's Google or paper or whatever. This is why it's important for adults to know about culturally appropriate dress codes, whether they agree with them or not, and how / when to break those codes along with the consequences for doing so. This is why it's important for adults to pay attention to their bodies, eat as healthy as they can under their given circumstances, exercise as they can under their given circumstances, take their damn medication when they can access it, and treat their mental health as seriously as their physical health (which is to say, treat them both seriously) including utilizing mental health professional services when they can access them. This is why it's important to stop calling what fathers do "babysitting" when they watch their own kids or asking them to "help out" around their own house.

This is why feminism is important, particularly the latest wave of non-TERFy feminism that sees the harm of imposed gender roles and binary systems.
joreth: (Misty in Box)
I think I'm zeroing in on why I still get startled when I see people talking at my abusive ex (even though I've blocked him so I can't see his online activity). It's not that I'm upset that people still talk to him - it's more complex than that. It's more like ... I expected that person to be closer to me than to him so I project my own discomfort of him onto those people even though, in many cases, I wasn't actually close enough to that person for them to know enough about the story to choose "me over him".

So, here's what I mean. When he and I broke up, I lost direct contact with that entire branch of my network, even though I was *also* romantically involved with someone in that branch and had what I thought to be some very good friendships from that branch. This was mostly by my action, although I wouldn't go so far as to say it was my "choice". My abusive ex was stalking another one of his exes, with whom I was still in contact, so I and several other people on my side of the network actually blocked his entire side so that "his people" couldn't feed information to him about the ex he was stalking through our contact with that ex.

This sounds like that entire network was in some vast conspiracy to hunt down a single person, but I don't think it was like that. Maybe it was, I dunno. But I still have mixed feelings for some of those people I lost. When I see them some of them in person, I still greet them warmly. But I don't tell them anything personal or intimate about my life now. Someone once questioned me upon witnessing me hug one of them hello why I was still willing to do that but not still date or keep in contact with that person. I said something about how I didn't trust them enough to be intimate with them, but hugging isn't intimate. They thought that was weird, and after I said it, I can understand how someone else might find it odd to hug someone you don't trust.

But, the point is that I knew those people were going to side with him - that's not exactly true, they were going to either side with him on certain specific things or they were going to abstain from taking sides on certain other specific things which *effectively* put them on "his side", given the details of those things. I knew that. I know the dynamic of that group. That's partly why I had to block them too, because I knew that they did not find what happened between us worthy of siding against him. So, when I see one of them out somewhere, it doesn't surprise me or, well, "trigger" used to be an appropriate word but I'm much less effected by his memory now so I don't know if it applies, but it doesn't do that to me when I am reminded that people in that group are still actively in contact with him.

I've long since gotten over my disappointment that they didn't find his behaviour worthy of "breaking up" with him too, and I don't actually feel that abusers need to be left completely isolated and alone. There was an excellent blog post by Shea Emma Fett (whose blog is now taken down but there is a wayback link at about how abusers *need* friends, but they need friends who can hold them accountable, and we need to find a path to reintegrate people back into our communities after accountability has been held. Otherwise, all we do is shove wolves out to find some other flocks to prey on (, only now they're also resentful on top of their entitlement that led them to abuse in the first place.

Please note that "reintegrating back into our communities" is not a statement on what any specific individual victim ought to do with regards to their abuser. I'm not saying that victims can't make their own choices as to who they allow into their lives, but broader communities need to have different standards and tactics (which I am not personally always able to uphold but I still believe in).

So, back to the point - I'm not bothered that my ex has friends, aside from my early disappointment of losing those same people as friends back when it happened. I *am* bothered that they don't seem to be holding him accountable, but the mere act of there existing people who like him isn't what's bothering me when I get that twinge when I see his name @replied to online. That surprise I feel is always "how can you still be friends with him after what he did to other people?", but now I can see that it's more than that. It's that, but ALSO it's "you're supposed to be MY friend!" and it's also "don't you know about this thing?"

The problem is that A) no, they probably don't know that thing because I don't name him when I talk about him publicly. So if they're not one of my in-person, RL friends who I am close enough to confide in about abuse, then there's a good chance that they don't know who I'm referring to when I say "my abusive ex", even though they're also friends with him. And B) because I haven't confided in them, that means that they're not close enough to "take sides", and consequently to take *my* side.

It's true that several of my communities are pretty gung ho on the "always believe the victim" policy right now, but that's much easier to say when all the people in question are internet-friends or famous people or are otherwise not someone one currently thinks of in intimate terms. I'm not even going back on that policy and saying that we shouldn't. But I am saying that personal emotions and social nuances make things complicated in the minds of individuals and it's not fair to tell other people when to stop being friends with someone when there are all these other influences regarding social ties or intimate connections.

So I'm saying that these twinges are a result of a contradiction, of a dissonance in my head between social justice policies and personal expectations. One the one hand, there's the "burn the abuser at the stake!" anger, while on the other hand there's the "hold them accountable and that requires not shunning them out of the community" compassion (that I am still not very good at).  One the one hand there's "how can you still talk to him, I thought you were my friend?" while on the other hand there's "oh, right, we're just acquaintances and you don't know my side of the story".

There's no real point to this. There's no deep lesson to learn from this, no "here's how you can be a better person" morality tale. Just uncovering a little more nuance into my own psyche for my own benefit (hopefully).

* see also
joreth: (Bad Joreth)

If an abuser is a dick 24/7 they'll never actually GET ANYONE TO BE IN A RELATIONSHIP WITH THEM in order TO abuse them.  Thinking about this logically for .5 seconds would make all the "but he's nice to ME" people realize that OF COURSE HE'S NICE TO *YOU*, HE WAS NICE TO HER TOO BEFORE HE WASN'T

I have this problem with one of my exes. All our old mutual friends are still friends with him because he never did any of his abusive shit *to them*. He never did it where they could see it. His victims were the "real abusers". Not one single person left his friendship over his abuse who wasn't already on the victims' side before the abuse was revealed. Not one. It still throws me for a loop when I see people @reply him on social media or when I run into people I used to care about who are still connected to him (who often say that they miss me when we meet in this manner).

Hell, even *I* tried to defend him at first. It took him turning his tactics on me before I could finally see what his victims were saying was true.  He's charming and endearing and so harmless-seeming because he's not attempting to control everyone he meets.  Everyone loves him.  Except those he has harmed.

I just can't trust people who try to play the "neutral party" with abusers anymore, even though I was one of them and even though I adamantly believe a person who has harmed can still redeem themselves if they show a willingness to be held accountable (and I have put my money where my mouth is and given some people a chance when they showed evidence of accountability).

Consequently I remain apart from my old communities because too many people are willing to throw their hands up, say that they weren't there so they don't know and won't "take sides", and continue to socialize with certain people because Zeus forbid they give up access to parties or events in order to take a stance and not implicitly condone or support abusers' unwillingness to be held accountable for their actions.
joreth: (Self-Portrait)

"I know that he's going to convince himself that everything that has happened between us was OK and that he is a good guy. He's going to pursue other women with his enlightened talk about feminism, polyamory, kink, and consent."

"Meanwhile, the person I left is sad that our "relationship failed" and will use my story to gain the sympathy and trust of women he can do this to again"

My ex was not this person. He did different things. He didn't do those things to me, he did them to someone else. When he tried to do his usual thing to me, I didn't react the same way he was used to women reacting so he dumped me instead. My anger and rage and confidence has always saved me from prolonged attempts at gaslighting and manipulation.

But these quoted sentiments - I still feel this way as a result of my last brush with an abuser. On paper, everything about him was "right". He was feminist, poly, kinky, secular, he cared so much for other people both those he loved and in the abstract of humanity. I thought he was safe. Instead, it was harder to detect the subtle misogyny that made him believe his female partners were not capable of making good decisions without his input or control, with the assumption that "good decisions" automatically meant "decisions that benefit him and never make him feel icky". Instead, it was harder to see his forms of gaslighting because he sounded so *reasonable* with his talk of science and brain chemistry and independent verification. Instead it was harder to recognize his need for control with his Warrior Woman Worship - a form of objectification of women related to Goddess Worship but specifically aimed at the "strong independent woman" as opposed to more traditional forms of femininity or womanhood in general or, even worse, "female sexual energy" that is more typical with Goddess Worship. How could he feel the need to control his partners if he was so appreciative of women with minds of their own? How does that even work?

I don't have a solution to this. I don't have some kind of checklist or test to weed out abusers who use whatever social constructs are available as manipulation tools. I don't have a way to fix those constructs that we need such as feminism or social justice or even polyamory and kink so that abusers can't warp them for their own use. I just want to add my voice to those saying that we have reasons to be fearful and distrusting. I try very hard not to let my fears shut me down and to begin my relationships with the winning game strategy of "trust first and only defect if they do", but it's hard. Things like this are why.

Just so it's clear to everyone, I'm not asking any questions or trying to understand something or even still processing bad feelings. Anything that ends with a question mark here is rhetorical. I've already done my personal work on my past experiences. This post was made to share with others the dangers and to help illuminate a problem in our communities. The only thing I've seen so far have even a chance of helping is a personal concern and fear of being "that person" and keeping people close who are willing and able to call us on our shit. My ex *thinks* he has people like that in his circle, but his circle has come to me on many occasions to say that they disagree with him but it was too much effort to contradict him, so they don't. So he is unaware this his circle disagrees with him on things, or even that he is viewed as "too much trouble" to disagree with.
joreth: (Bad Computer!)
I didn't used to understand pictures of food until I started doing 2 things - 1) got back into baking; and 2) started Eating 'Round The World where my friends and I try a restaurant from a different country every month. Then I understood what other people had tried to explain about food pictures - that food is transient, so we take a picture to remember the event where the food was featured and to celebrate the work that went into such a beautiful and / or tasty meal.

That food represents someone's hard work and time to produce something pleasurable for us, and it's going to be gone in a few moments. That food represents a moment of joy that will be gone almost immediately. That food represents time spent with loved ones that will soon be only a memory. So we record that moment in time the only way we know how - with a picture.

So now, when someone makes a post threatening to unfriend people over food pictures, I'm sorely tempted to start posting food pictures just to spite them.

These are often the same people who give people like me shit for unfriending over such silly things as not wanting to share air space with people who want me dead or who think I'm less human than they are or less deserving of being treated as an equal human being, or even just not wanting to see posts anymore from people who dislike me or my friends and can't help reminding me how much they dislike me. But no, posting food pics is totes worth unfriending people over, whereas I just censor people and live in an echo chamber. Gotcha.

Also, Nickelback - totally worth unfriending over pictures of food and different tastes in music. But I'm just mean, apparently.
joreth: (Misty in Box)
It's still jarring for me, years later, to see people on my various social media friends lists who maintain friendly contact with my abusive ex. I see comments directed at him even though I can't see "him" anymore since I blocked him, and I think, "WTF, how can you still be on friendly terms with him after what he did? How can you still promote what he says? How can you not see him for what he is?"

And then I think, "Oh, right, you can't tell for the same reason I couldn't tell when we were just friends - his abuse doesn't show up to people he doesn't have under his control and abusers are often quite charming and friendly in general. Charming is exactly what I thought he was too, right up until the abuse was revealed, several years into the relationship, which was a good decade after meeting him. You also can't tell because I can't talk about it publicly because publicly discussing an abuser harms *his victims*, not him**, so you just don't know."

I have to remind myself that it's not reasonable to judge people on the company they keep if they are unaware of the nature of that company, and that it's a completely expected and normal thing to be unaware of someone's darker nature because people are not one-dimensional cartoon villains so there's no reason for the world to see that side that they save only for their targets.

But it's still jarring when I see people who like me and yet who still maintain friendly ties with him. While I think I've healed from a lot of my experiences with him - he doesn't haunt my memories anymore, I can finally look back and see the good times without pain, and I really only talk about him now when I use him as an example in the same detached sort of way I use most of my past experiences to illustrate points that I'm making and not because he's still at the front of my mind - I wonder when that particular scar will fade and when seeing him referenced will stop being jarring and just be part of the landscape again.

**Plus, I don't want to actually *harm* him, I just want to protect other people from him, which he may feel as harmful as a side effect. I want him to not be abusive anymore, but that's not going to happen whether I talk about him or not, so my priority lies with protecting the victims and hoping that my more general warnings of what abuse looks like without singling him out will suffice to protect future potential victims.

But the reality there is probably not as well. I have a feeling that any future partners of his won't be big fans of mine and therefore won't hear the warnings. This whole culture that protects abusers really pisses me off because I am not the only person I know who is stuck in this position - knowing someone is abusive but not being able to warn people or talk about it publicly because it would hurt others and having to choose between the safety of people who are already vulnerable vs. revealing people who are harmful, and choosing to protect safety.
joreth: (Misty in Box)
This is a thing in my circles (or, it was in the circles I frequented with my abusive ex, so I'm trying to make it a thing in my current circles as well). I called it "being peopled out". Anyone can excuse themselves from a social interaction guilt-free by simply saying they were "peopled out" and either choose to leave entirely or just go somewhere nearby to be left alone for a while.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I've started a massive social project - Eating 'Round The World. I will attempt to find a restaurant of as many different nationalities as the greater Orlando area offers, and have at least one meal there with friends.

I think this is a great way (for those who have enough disposable income to try it) for friends, families, and social groups to organize regular outings with each other. It exposes us to new cultures (even just a little bit), breaks us out of our comfort zones, and gives us an excuse to actually leave our houses (for those of us introverts who need strong motivation to do so). I seem to find more people willing to make it to social meals than to any of the more active physical activities that I do, like dancing. I heartily recommend people find an organizing-type person in your social or family set and try this.

This makes a good plan for friends, families, social groups and organizations that offer socializing as part of the group, and date night suggestions.  If I was still running the local poly group, I'd add this to our social events (along with my poly movie nights, dancing nights, and pub nights).

I've also found that making the goals for an event to be "I want to try something new" and "I want to socialize with awesome people" rather than "I'm hungry and want something good to eat" makes me much more willing to be adventurous and try a restaurant that I've never eaten at before. I can always get a burger afterwards if I didn't find enough food that I liked to eat. If you are hesitant to try new foods, you may find this trick helpful.

I've created a template map / itinerary to help people get started, especially for people who don't know which countries to search for or what order to go in. You will need to create your own account at Traveller's Point if you'd like save a copy of this map and edit it to your local area. Or you can just look at the list and use it to create your own list in your preferred format.

Basically, you go down this list, do a Google search for a restaurant in your area from that country (the best search I've found is "authentic [country] restaurant [your or nearest large city name]"), and when you find one that you want to visit, you can add in the details of that restaurant into the Notes field and add a "date of arrival" for the date you plan to eat at that restaurant.  If you can't find a restaurant that represents a particular country, then you delete that "stop" from the trip's itinerary. *Most* of these countries will not have a restaurant representing them in your area, so don't feel too daunted by the size of the list. I added every nation in the world*, just to cover my bases, but I'll be lucky to find 25% of them with restaurants here in town. At the end, you'll have an interactive map that shows where your group has "been", along with details of the restaurant, pictures if you'd like to add them, etc.

In order to make organizing easier, I have also started a Facebook Group, where I can create Event pages with the restaurant details, get RSVPs, share photos from the meal, chat with others who are interested in going, etc. I recommend doing the same, or using an email list or a Yahoo! Group or whatever platform you prefer that allows you to create an interactive group format with event information.

Happy dining!

I did not include the US, as I am based there.  Followers from other countries, if you add in the US, know that the various regions have their own food specialties that you may want to identify - some broadly regional, some very specific.  Just off the top of my head, I'd recommend the following:

TexMex; Californian; Midwestern; Cajun; New England; Southern; African-Southern; New York-style pizza; Chicago-style pizza; Philly cheesesteaks, Coney Island Hot Dogs;

Any other regional US food styles?

joreth: (Misty in Box)
This was created as a Facebook event worldwide by the rather well-known Lee Harrington (look them up).  Since not everyone has FB, I'm sharing it here.  I wanted to make sure all the details came through even for people who couldn't visit the event page, which of course meant that it's too long for Twitter, so I'm making a public blog post so that I can tweet *that* and anyone can see it (hopefully).

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

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

April 8th
Honesty and Vulnerability Day!

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

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

joreth: (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: (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: (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.

joreth: (being wise)

I'm working on a collaborative project with my ex-sweetie involving breaking up. Tell me your breakup stories and preferences? Good breakups, bad breakups, and why were they good or bad? Did you do the breaking up or did they? How often do you do the breaking up vs. get broken up with? What do you wish you had done differently? What do you wish your ex had done differently? How was overlapping social circles handled?

I don't need to hear any details of the relationship or why the breakups happened or even who was involved other than what the connection between the players was, but the breakup actions and what followed the breakup are relevant. It doesn't even have to be limited to romantic breakups.

No names at all will be used without permission in my project and even most anecdotes will be lumped together to illustrate types and trends rather than specific examples.

Responses can be posted here, privately messaged to me, or even told to me in person if we know each other IRL.

joreth: (Xmas Kitties)
I have a lot of issues surrounding cultural obligations of gift giving. A lot of it is internalized so it's not necessarily that any specific individual is making me feel obligated. But those feelings are there nonetheless.

Many years ago, I made a personal pact not to exchange holiday gifts with anyone except my parents (who still buy me lots of stuff, making my life considerably easier, which is a huge relief to someone living below the poverty line) and my nephews (because they're kids). It has always been my extended family's practice to stop buying gifts for family members when they turn 18, so I had some precedence to mitigate the social pressure to give gifts.

But as I dated, that pressure to exchange gifts grew, the more people I dated. It was always there in monogamy, because it's part of the social expectations wrapped up in being in a relationship and in being female (I just could not get it through my male partners' heads that I did not want them to buy me flowers or jewelry because they could not let go of the cultural trope that women like flowers and jewelry even when one of them says she doesn't). But as I started dating poly people, people who are already deliberately bucking the social conventions, that pressure didn't lessen.

As I said, it wasn't necessarily direct pressure from individuals. Because of my difficulty with gift-giving, I tried to date people who had similar issues, so that I could escape that pressure within my relationships. But when I started building large, multi-adult poly families, certain traditions were held by some people with a ferocity that brought all those social obligations roaring back, whether they intended it or not.

When there would be a holiday party, inevitably someone would bring someone a gift. I get it, it's a wonderful feeling to see someone's face light up with pleasure at something you did for them. I enjoy giving people gifts. But I'm dirt poor and I just can't afford it. So at these poly family and extended poly social gatherings, someone would be really into gift-giving. They might say "I just like giving gifts, no one has to get me anything" and they might even mean it. But some people would feel obligated to return the gesture. And others would likewise enjoy giving things. And sooner or later, we'd have a poly holiday gathering where everyone but me was exchanging gifts, and yet I would still be receiving them.

So I could continue to just accept gifts. Or I could make a fuss and reject all the gifts on principle. Or I could bow to the (usually unintended) pressure to return the gestures. Between socialization as a woman not to make waves, to go along with the crowd, "when in Rome", be polite, etc., and the genuine desire to do nice things for the people I love, as well as feeling left out that can be such a danger in polyamory in general, eventually that pressure builds, regardless of the well-meaning intentions of everyone else.

And forget giving gifts to just some people and not others. In a family where "honey, what's for dinner" can lead to a week of relationship triage emails and a panicky group IM chat, deliberately leaving someone out of what is supposed to be a beloved tradition expressing love and happiness is a social minefield.

So now, although I still have a poly family and I still have core partners (my replacement word for "primary" because I refuse the hierarchical power structure but still have emotionally intimate connections and long-term commitments), being a solo poly, I am missing that sense of obligation with regards to gift giving. I feel a huge relief as I look at my meager checking account and tally up all the bills and eye my empty work calendar and I realize that I don't have a dozen other people to buy gifts for in the next two weeks and I don't have to deal with the crazy, hectic consumerist shopping trauma that my life always entails because I'm always too busy with work in the months leading up to December so I only have a couple of weeks before the holidays to even start thinking of gifts. And I know I could make gifts that would be cheaper, but then I have that whole time issue thing.

So, I'm thankful that I can build deep, intimate, loving connections with my partners, and even to create our own traditions, but can also have the kind of structure that makes it *look* like I'm a single person, which allows me to discard certain other traditions that don't work for me without hurting people's feelings or raising too many eyebrows.

I deal enough with poly education of my monogamous circles, that sometimes it's a relief to do something that I don't have to explain or justify, even if they accept it for the wrong reasons. They all think it's totally reasonable that I wouldn't have anyone to buy gifts for because I'm "just dating around" or "single", but when I have a partner that passes for an escalator relationship partner, and I talk about how stressful gift-giving is, that's one more battle I have to fight to make people understand alternative relationship options.

There are a lot of obligations and expectations that I feel free of by identifying as a solo poly. There are other things I struggle with, other downsides, other expectations. But this is one I am happy to be free of. And it doesn't mean that I dislike receiving gifts, or giving them for that matter. It just means that I feel some relief of this particular pressure to give, that really comes from several places and is a very complex issue for me.
joreth: (Silent Bob Headbang)
For the last several years, I've maintained a Group Me for conventions.  This is a web-based service that allows you to enter your phone number, join a particular Group Me (or be added by the moderator), and then send a regular SMS text message to the Group Me phone number that will then be relayed to everyone else in the group.  They have the option to do the same.  This has come in handy for sending a single message out to everyone to say "I'm going to eat at the hotel restaurant, anyone else free and want to share a meal?" and "Party tonight is in room 465!" and "Sorry, have to cancel the party - roommate is sick.  Please don't show up tonight!"  I send one message to one phone number and reach everyone who needs that information.  Everyone else can send a message or reply to mine and everyone else gets to see it too.

Some people have suggested that Facebook or Twitter is the same thing, or good enough, for this purpose.  But I don't agree.  For one thing, it requires that everyone whom you wish to speak to has a FB or Twitter account.  Second, it requires that you be friends with those people.  Third, it requires that you have the ability to access FB or Twitter whenever you want to send that message.   For some people, this is all true.

But not for me. And here's why... )

Group Me allows you to join yourself or have the moderator add you to the group.  No one else will see your phone number unless they already have your phone number in their phone's address book, so it protects your privacy.  It allows you to choose your display name so you can use the name that people can use to find you online or not, as you prefer.  It removes me as the central organizing point and gives everyone else on the list some degree of control or participation.  It works for all phones that have SMS capabilities (and if my ancient clam-shell dumb phone can do it, then every cell phone can do it).  It does not cost anything except whatever your current text messaging plan is.  If you have limited text messages, you can turn it on and off, and you can also check messages at the website with a computer or other device with internet access.

If you have no internet access and no or limited texting capabilities, then it's true, this service will not work for you.  But I'm also at a loss as to how to include you on con' plan coordination at all in this case if I can't text or send you internet messages.  So, sorry.

Here are specifics on how to join & use the GroupMe... )
joreth: (Bad Computer!)
So there's a guy who pissed me off recently and I want to delve into it to process the incident. As ya'll know, I do a form of ballroom dancing that's called "social dancing". It's basically people who have learned at least a little bit of formal ballroom, Latin, and/or swing dancing who then go out either to public venues or to ballroom dance studios and other dance spaces and just do what they do. Sometimes we learn something new, but mostly it's about having a good time and practicing or expressing whatever amount we *have* learned. Social dancing tends to focus on being good leaders and followers - on good communication - rather than perfect form or memorizing a lot of patterns (specific dance steps within a dance style). Many people only know a handful of patterns for each dance style that they've learned. It's about communication and connection and physical activity more than excelling at a physical art or sport. Perhaps not coincidentally, that also sounds like romantic relationships - being about communication and connection and physical activity.

Some background on the kind of dancing that's related to the incident. )

So back to the incident... )

Now I have some things to say about that... )

Video of the dance )

You Owe Me

May. 6th, 2013 01:10 am
joreth: (Bad Computer!)

I appreciate all the ways that technology has made our lives easier, safer, all-around-better.  But there are some social trends that have resulted from some technologies that I'm really not a fan of.  The cell phone is my main bugaboo.

I've never liked cell phones.  Oh, don't get me wrong, I find them terribly convenient.  Being able to call my boss when I'm stuck in traffic to say I'm running late has been awesome.  Sending a text to find someone at a theme park when we otherwise would have wandered around for hours and *still* may never have found each other - wonderful.  Getting a short message in the middle of the day from my sweetie to say he's thinking of me can often make my day.  I still don't like cell phones.

The problem I have with cell phones is the immediacy of them and what that does to the people around me.  Because everything and everyone is available right now and right here, I find I have a strong dislike of cell phones, primarily because of what they represent.

First is getting people to stay present with me.  Thanks to smartphones, everyone around me is constantly tweeting and facebooking and googling all the time.  It was bad enough when the phone could ring at any time.  Then it got worse when text messages started getting sent all the time and no one could resist checking their text messages and immediately responding.  But now with smartphones, it seems as though I can't have a one-on-one conversation with someone without them being distracted by the internet.  I don't mean the occasional looking up a fact in question during a conversation - I actually kind of like that.  I mean sitting across the table from someone, looking them in the eye, talking to them, and having the conversation interrupted because a text, then a tweet, then a Facebook update, then another tweet, then a slew of texts, then a need to post a picture RIGHT NOW about the food on the table, all happen and the conversation is lost.  Nobody is really present anymore.  I miss that contact.  I miss that kind of contact so much that I find myself becoming very resentful of my partners' phones.  I try to cover it by always carrying a book with me, so that I can at least have something of my own to do when they are no longer being present with me.  But it irritates me all the same.  If I had wanted to read, I would have stayed home and read.  The book is just to keep me from staring off into space when my companion finds something else more interesting than me.

The other thing is the expectation that comes with all this availability.  When I was in high school (the last time average people weren't easily reached, before even pagers became popular), people had to call the house.  If you weren't home, they left a message on your answering machine, and then they waited for you to call them back.  Leaving multiple messages in a short span of time was considered very rude.  Then I convinced my mom to let me have a pager.  I wanted one so my boyfriend could send me numeric messages while I was at school, but I convinced my mom by telling her she could reach *me* when I was out with my friends.  So she would page me in the middle of the night to find out where I was.  And then she would page me again.  And again.  And again.  I had to explain to her that she needed to give me a minimum of 30 minutes to answer a page because I could be on the road.  30 minutes was the average time to get anywhere in my hometown.  If my mom didn't give me time to arrive at my destination, then I would have to pull over and try to find a payphone.  Since she was paging me late at night, that meant being a teenage girl getting out of the car at some gas station in the middle of the night - the exact kind of situation my mother was worried about that finally convinced her that me having a pager was a good idea in the first place.

This is the sort of thing I see now, only it's not restricted to worried calls from my mother.  If I don't answer an email fast enough, if I don't respond to a Facebook post fast enough, if I don't answer a tweet, if I don't respond to a text in an amount of time that the other person thinks is "appropriate", people get really testy about that.  Never mind that I could be hanging from a steel beam holding something very heavy over other people's heads.  Never mind that I could actually be out of the house and my computer is still at home and still logged on.  Never mind that I could be having one of those intimate conversations where I'm trying to give someone my undivided attention.  Never mind that I could be sleeping, or showering, or fucking, or pooping.  I have to respond RIGHT NOW.

I'm waiting for some repairs to happen in my bathroom.  It will take my shower offline for 3 days, so I've requested that the repairman schedule the repairs so that I can make alternative accommodations for this.  Last week, the repairman showed up at my house first thing in the morning.  I was still sleeping, having had a late night and still having company.  So I didn't answer the door (I didn't know it was the repairman at the time).  About an hour later, while I was occupied, there was another knock at the door.  20 minutes after that, I got a phone call that I let go to voicemail from the building manager telling me they wanted to schedule the repairs.  5 minutes after that, my dad texted me, asking if I was OK.  Since it was my dad, I texted back that I was fine, and he said that the landlord had called the emergency number to find out where I was.  Then I got in the shower.  Then there was another knock at the door while I was in the shower (the shower window, by the way, is on the same wall as the door and since the window was open, anyone at my door could tell I was in the shower).  Then my dad texted again that the landlord called back!

A mere 2 hours after the first knock, when I was awake and dressed and ready to deal with business matters, I finally called the landlord and chewed her out for coming by a total of 4 times, calling 3 times, and calling my dad twice, all without previously scheduling the repairs as requested.  This is what I'm talking about.  People expect other people to be available all the time, even without making any arrangements for it.  I have an OKC inbox filled with first-contact emails and a second, follow-up email of guys pissed off or hurt that I haven't responded to them.  No "I'm sure you're probably busy", no "is everything OK?" - it's all "fine, I can take a hint, the least you could do is tell me that you're not interested and not just ignore me!"  Entitlement.

You are not entitled to my response.  You are not entitled to my availability.  Also, there is nothing about me that is passive-aggressive and even a cursory look at my profile would tell those guys that if I wasn't interested, I wouldn't just *ignore* him.  Plus, if I was ignoring him, whining about it isn't likely to end well regardless.

The latest incident was an ex-mistake of mine.  I call him my stalker, and it's a long and convoluted story how a stalker is also an ex.  The "short" story is that we've known each other since we were 12 and he decided the moment I walked in the classroom door that I would be the girl he married.  He spent the next decade putting himself in the friendzone, i.e. a friend with ulterior motives.  He was my friend for the purpose of getting close to me in the hopes that I would one day realize that he was my soulmate.  I didn't know this at the time.  This is the antithesis of being a nice guy, although every single guy who does this calls himself a Nice Guy for doing it.  He tried every juvenile trick in the book to get me to date him.  Eventually, in college, I did date him, and very quickly learned what a bad idea that was.  After we broke up, he put himself back in the friendzone.  I genuinely prefer to be friends, or at least friendly, with my exes if we broke up simply because we were incompatible & not because he did something unforgivable, so I didn't see a problem with him trying to be friends with me ... at the time.  That took me another 6 years to learn.

By that point, I had discovered polyamory and had moved across the country, so my interaction with him was limited to phone calls.  We'd have very pleasant multi-hour-long conversations, until he'd point out how well we were getting along and wasn't that enough proof that we were destined to be together?  We'd have an argument, and I mean an ARGUMENT complete with shouting where he tried to convince me that we were two halves of the same whole, that I was doing this poly thing only because I was still searching for Mr. Right and I should stop searching because he was right there and I would yell back that I was not interested, that I loved my then-boyfriends, that I was not happy being monogamous, and that our dating was a mistake I never wanted to repeat.

This is more backstory than necessary (and yet only a fraction of the story), but the point is that I spent the majority of my life being hounded by this guy to marry him (complete with him sabotaging the condoms in the hopes that I'd get pregnant, as I learned later) and yelling at him that I didn't want to be with him.  I had finally had enough.  In a phone conversation while I was at my then-boyfriend's house (so I have a witness to it), my stalker started in again on being soulmates and I told him that I was never going to have that argument again.  I told him that I was not going to contact him ever again, and he could not contact me unless he could refrain from starting that argument, and if he ever DID bring it up again, I was going to change my number so he couldn't ever call me again.

About 6 years has passed and I have not contacted him.  He has sent me 2 emails and friended me on Facebook (but not actually contacted me there).  The first email was an essay he wrote for his creative writing class where he described our 2-decade relationship from his perspective.  I've written about that before and how shocked I was to learn that someone who had known me for years & claimed to love me could know me so little (he still believed that my poly relationships were casual sex and that I only did poly because I was "promiscuous" and wanted to have lots of sex with lots of guys ... how he could miss my regular months-long spans of no sex drive is beyond me, but I digress).  His second email was to tell me that his brother had been convicted of murdering his own wife & child, and how my stalker felt his life was falling apart.  That's another long story I won't go into here, but let's just say I wasn't the least bit surprised to hear the news.  For both emails, I did not respond, since he explicitly said "you don't have to respond, I just need someone to listen".  He then promptly emailed me back after both to whine about getting "the hint" from my silence.  Both of those I responded in the same way, to remind him of our last conversation and that he said I didn't have to respond.

Yesterday, after I had publicly posted on my timeline that I was unplugging for a while to go be productive, he sent me a message on Facebook.  Naturally, I didn't respond, as I had walked away from my computer.  He sent me 2 more passive-aggressive messages about getting "the hint" from my not responding.  I got the messages this morning and sent him yet another reminder that I wasn't interested in speaking to him, however my "silence" was because I was not at my computer and that I didn't owe him a response according to his time table.  It's a funny little quirk I have, not prioritizing responses to guys who treat me as an object, who put me on a pedestal and ignore my own wishes for my life, and who think that arguing with me about dating is a good strategy for winning me over.

So, I am increasingly disturbed by the sense of entitlement people seem to have over other people's time.  Maybe people always felt that entitled and the cell phones are merely a new tool to facilitate that entitlement, and I shouldn't blame the cell phone or turn it into a symbol of that entitlement.  All I know is that people seem to demand other people's attention, and other people's responses, and any irritation at being so demanded is met with a counter accusation that it's somehow the other person's fault for not being available and the other person is an asshole for having a problem with the demand.  It feels as though nothing can wait for more convenient times, everything has to be done now and if you don't want to do it now or, Zeus forbid, you're busy with something else, well then you're a jerk.  If you don't want to answer your phone because you're at work, or otherwise occupied with someone else, you're a dick.  If you want your partner to actually finish the conversation, or the date, before surfing Facebook, you're selfish.  If you dare to walk away from the computer while it's still logged on to email or social networking sites, you're inconsiderate.  And if you have the nerve to actually tell people that you have other things to do and can't respond right away, then somehow you are the self-centered prick who thinks the world revolves around you.

So if I don't respond to something you've said to me, or emailed me, or posted to me, or texted me, or called me, it's because I'm fucking busy with other things to do.  I'll get to you when I get to you, as I expect you would for me.  If what I'm contacting you about is urgent, I'll make sure you know it's urgent.  Otherwise, if you don't answer me back, I'll assume that sitting with your phone in your hands waiting for my message was not at the top of your priority list and something else was, something like eating, or sleeping, or any of the dozens of people in your life who are closer to you than I am, or work, or pets, or an emergency, or it was a pretty day outside so you just left the damn phone in your pocket for a while, and NOT that you're sending me some coded signal that you don't like me.  Whatever, respond when you have the time and if you feel like it.  You don't owe your time to me, but I'll appreciate whatever time of yours you're willing and able to share with me.

joreth: (Bad Computer!)
There's this thing that otherwise reasonable, intelligent people do that just really pisses me off. I've started calling it Missing The Point Pedantry. This is when someone who is a generally intelligent person with a reasonable amount of social skills decides to argue some pedantic, specific little detail that someone, who is also fairly intelligent with social skills, said in a conversation or online post that completely misses the point of what was being said. It requires the pedant to overlook context, any knowledge of the person speaking and/or their past track record or tendencies regarding either the subject or their conversation/speaking/writing style, and any social conventions involved in speaking/writing.

So, for example: let's take Devon. Devon is a college graduate with an interest in the hard sciences but a vast experience with the arts and pop culture. Devon can use "totes" and "adorbs" in conversation and not sound like my dad sounded in the '80s when he tried to say "that's totally radical dude!" in an effort to connect with "the kids these days". Devon is well-read in popular fiction, the classics, and non-fiction in some specialty areas of interest. Devon is sex-positive and active in alternative communities like the Ren Faire and the local indie club scene. In other words, Devon is a well-rounded person with general knowledge, some specific expertise, and social skills like current slang and local/cultural body language.

Now let's take Quinn. Other than the specific areas of specialty that Quinn focuses on or hobbies and interests that Quinn has, Quinn is basically the same as Devon - well-read, intelligent, average size social group, etc. Maybe Quinn is a sci-fi geek instead of a Renny or maybe Quinn listens to goth instead of industrial music, but otherwise, they are fairly well-matched people. They also know each other through overlapping social circles and have had direct interactions with each other, but maybe they don't know each other quite well enough to call each other "friend" in the can-call-each-other-up-in-the-middle-of-the-night-to-rescue sense. They probably show up at some of the same parties if they're in the same area and they are probably friends on Facebook or something.

So Devon and Quinn are at a party one night and Devon is speaking with some people on a subject that most of the people mostly agree on. Maybe it's the conflict in the Middle East, maybe it's about immigration, maybe it's about pc vs. mac, maybe it's on the inherent privilege that blondes face in this country at the expense of redheads. Whatever, Devon is reasonably certain that most of the people have similar, if not identical, views on the subject and that there are probably people at the party who disagree, but that's not who Devon is talking to right now, although Devon is aware that those people could probably overhear the conversation. Quinn is at the party and generally agrees on the subject, but has different personal experiences of the subject so might have a slightly different perspective, although they both agree on the important points.

Devon starts relating a story about a study on the subject that suggests some really interesting and suggestive trends among, oh, I dunno, blondes. It turns out that when you prime blondes by having them read pro-blonde jokes, they have a tendency to become more hostile towards non-blondes. They answer questions about crime committed by redheads with harsher penalties than blondes, and they want harsher penalties than the blondes who weren't primed for it. The study, and a series of related studies, show some shocking revelations about the privilege of blondes in our country that lend weight to the redhead accusation that hair-colorism is not yet over, it just moved to a more subtle form. Blondes aren't burning redheads at the stake for being witches anymore, but they still aren't given exactly the same treatement as blondes in society, and the redheads aren't just being "overly sensitive" about "seeing hair-colorism everywhere".

Since Devon is not a research scientist, was not personally involved in this study, and is speaking at a party and not a science forum, Devon is playing a little loose with the language. Devon sums up the study instead of quotes it, uses anecdote as illustration to connect with the audience, speaks in the common vernacular and not necessarily precise, scientific language, sometimes uses humor to relieve the tension, sometimes gets a little angry at the injustice of it all and the anger seeps into the tone every so often. But Devon is speaking to peers, who understand the same common vernacular, who are swayed by anecdotal illustrations and have not spent their life-long careers training themselves to recognize personal bias (although some do it as a hobby, they all still understand that they're all at a party and not being hired to review this study), who are also there to just converse with people they like and if they happen to learn an interesting new tip, even better.

As Devon finishes with an anecdote that supports the study's conclusion, in an effort to better connect the audience to the dry data and to illustrate the point and maybe to connect the study to something that was said previously that is related but not necessarily the exact same thing, Quinn jumps in with "well, I'm blonde and I like anti-redhead jokes, but *I* certainly have no problem with redheads! Therefore you can't say that blondes are anti-redhead. If I were to follow your logic where you used a personal anecdote to support hair-colorism, then my experience as a blonde who had a hair-colorist redhead father should lead me to make sweeping generalizations that all redheads were anti-blonde!"

This, ladies and gentlemen, is what we call Missing The Point.

Of course we shouldn't take our personal experiences and use them to make sweeping generalizations. That's not what Devon did. Devon used a personal anecdote to illustrate a trend that a scientific study suggested. The point of using anecdotes in this context is to make the subject matter relatable to the general audience. People use analogies, similes, hyperbole, alliteration, allusion, and other literary tools to create an emotional response in the audience. That's what people do. The scientific and the skeptics communities are both terrible about not utilizing these tools, and it's one of the reasons why we have a culture of anti-intellectualism. The religious and the woo crowds are experts at these tools and they use them liberally to sway the public away from science, away from reason, away from critical thinking. Science, critical thinking, and reason are hard for humans, in general (don't anyone fucking dare comment about how easy it is for you, personally - that's exactly what I'm talking about). But tell people there's a quantum flux theory that totally explains why hospitals fill up on nights with a full moon because your sister once had a dream about a peanut butter and jelly sandwich at exactly the same time you were making one, therefore water that remembers the medicine you filtered out of it but not the poop totally cured your autism, and they'll think you're making absolute sense.

When an individual makes a claim, such as "women are just naturally more nurturing than men" and backs it up with a story about how "every single" woman they know is better with children than "every single" man they know, and has been that way since birth, therefore they can make the claim that women in general, or all women, are naturally more nurturing than men - that's a logical fallacy. The counter to that is a combination of actual science research that says otherwise as well as any examples that do not fit the claim. If the claim is that "all people of X group", then only 1 counter example is sufficient to falsify the claim. If the claim is "generally people of X group", then anyone whose personal experience is that most people of that group do *not* is sufficient to falsify the claim - especially when either case is backed up with scientific data.

In other words, if you say "all dogs have 4 legs", then all I have to do is produce 1 dog without 4 legs and the claim is bunk. If you say "dogs are generally mean and vicious animals", then all I have to do is say that I've worked with thousands of animals in an animal shelter and the vast majority of dogs I've worked with were lovable and sweet, and that the only mean and vicious dogs I encountered were raised by asshole owners who trained them specifically to be mean and vicious to counter the claim that meanness is a species-wide trend.

But when the scientific evidence suggests a particular trend, and a person shares an anecdote to illustrate what the trend is, or to help the audience connect or relate to the conclusion, or to say "I can believe that because this thing that supports the conclusion happened to me", that is not a logical fallacy. That's called being a part of a social species that uses complex language filled with nuance and social context to share ideas with each other.

Most of the time, this Missing The Point Pedantry takes the form of a strawman argument. I have an ex who did this constantly. He once got interested in dating someone that I felt would be problematic because she was opposed to polyamory. I was concerned that she would do typical cowboy or cuckoo things to break us up or drive me away so that she could have him all to herself. I was concerned because she exhibited such behaviour in the past. His reaction was to scoff at me and tell me that he was anti-marriage, so I shouldn't worry because it's not like he was going to run off to Vegas and marry her, he just wanted to fuck her.

Well, no shit Sherlock, I didn't think he was going to run off to Vegas and marry her and that's not at all what I was concerned about. It doesn't take something as drastic as a vehemently anti-marriage man completely 180-ing on his lifelong, somewhat pathological, anger at the institution of marriage to make me concerned about how a new partner is going to affect my existing relationship. Things like refusing to be in the same room with me even at parties forcing him to routinely "choose" between us, calling in the middle of our date night for her weekly emotional "crisis" to have a 2-hour long argument about whether or not he should come home *again* to take care of her, showing up at my house at exactly midnight because "my night" with him is now *technically* the next day, which isn't my night, so he has to come home with her right now, spinning private stories in a negative way to mutual friends to gradually turn those mutual friends away from me and onto "her side" - these are the kinds of things that I'm afraid of. These, by the way, are all things that have actually happened to me and not hyperbole, exaggeration, or strawmen or pulled out of my ass. I don't need to be worried that she's going to kidnap my boyfriend at gunpoint, force him to marry her, and never see me again to be concerned that my life is about to be unpleasantly disrupted by someone with a history of being disruptive.

So sometimes the pedantry is used to pick on a specific detail or pull a loose form of speech to focus on at the expense of all the rest of what was said - the context, the cultural influences, the history of the speaker, and even the non-spoken implications revealed by the language used - to pick out that detail and blow it up to exaggerated proportions so that the original speaker would have to backtrack or renege the point in order to not be associated with the caricature now presented.

But sometimes it's another logical fallacy, and I don't particularly want to attempt to cover every possible fallacy that someone could make in these circumstances. The point is I really hate Missing The Point Pedantry because I have to explain, in great detail and at great length, why this is a misdirection in order to get back on track, which, in effect, is exactly what I'm trying to avoid - being misdirected. Instead of discussing the topic, we get sidetracked onto this other niggling little detail. There's no good way to handle this problem that I am aware of. If you don't address it, a falsehood or a fallacy goes unchallenged, and all that results from that. If you do address it directly, you get off the main topic and start arguing something that wasn't your point in the first place. If you address the fact that it's missing the point, you still get off the main topic and start arguing something else that wasn't your main point, only now you're arguing about arguing.

The people I know are intelligent, reasonable people, for the most part, and, contrary to the mainstream perception of intelligent people, are not actually all socially maladapted misfits like Sheldon Cooper. They are people who understand humor, sarcasm, double entendre, can tell when someone shouts "fine, whatever!" and storms out of a room that she's probably not actually fine and is likely pissed off, can identify "I'd love to but..." as a polite rejection even if the word "no" was never spoken, and a whole host of other social interactions. But, for some reason, all of those interaction skills go right out the window when they seize on a detail that might not be an absolutely, literal, 100% in all cases down to the fractal level, perfect phrase or example.

When most people say "I'm going down to Miami for the weekend", most other people understand that "down" is a cultural slang term that means "south-ish from this point", not that the speaker is literally moving in a downward direction into the planet and pretty much no one tries to correct the speaker. Even when someone says "I'm going down to New York for the weekend", and we all know that "down" means "south-ish" but the speaker will be traveling "north-ish" or "east-ish", most of the time people still don't try to correct the speaker because we grasped, from the context, what the important point was - that the speaker is going somewhere for the weekend. But when Missing The Point Pedantry happens, suddenly I'm faced with, for example, anti-sexist men who want to argue that "she didn't say the word no so it's not rape" or "but men have bad stuff that happens too" or "what's wrong with wanting to protect my primary relationship?" or "if she just knew self-defense, she wouldn't be a target" or "I agree that religion is actively harmful, but do you have to be so aggressive about it?" or "you know that aspirin comes from willow trees, right, so don't do the opposite and assume everything that's natural is harmful" or a million other wacky things that completely miss the point.

No, I haven't actually counted out one million examples. That's a figure of speech and is intended to convey "a lot" in a way that impresses the reader with "really a lot". And that's exactly what I'm talking about - Missing The Point Pedantry. Everyone knows that "a million other things" doesn't literally mean exactly one million other things, and "everyone knows" doesn't literally mean that every person on the entire planet that has ever or will ever live understands that figure of speech. And you, who is doing this, also understand that, in most contexts except for whatever it is about this one that prompted you to point this out. I'm not speaking to Rain Man here, or Sheldon, I'm not speaking to or about anyone who has any kind of actual neurological condition or complication that makes them actually have trouble with abstract thought. I'm talking to and about people who, in most cases, get this, but couldn't refrain from "not getting it" now. I know you're not stupid and I know you're not an asshole, but for fuck's sake, stop acting like it and, by implication, stop acting like I'm stupid by ignoring all the context around whatever detail you picked out to focus on.
joreth: (Misty in Box)
Once upon a time, I refused to delete a person's post in the group I moderated when that person's partner demanded I do so, because I had already spoken to the person in question who merely asked me to amend the post for her, which I did immediately.

The partner got obnoxiously offended that I wouldn't just do what he said to his partner's post, just because he was the partner. My response was incredulity that anyone couldn't see why it was a horrible idea to just take someone's word on making changes to another person's presence in the group. 1) I don't know who is dating who - it's the poly community and I can barely keep up with my own network, let alone everyone else's; 2) I don't know the status of each relationship and don't know if someone might be abusing the position - worst case scenario could have some psycho deleting profiles or setting their partner up for trouble like with child protective services or something. But *especially* when I had gotten contradictory instructions from the person in question directly, that was a horrible idea.  Anyway, I said as much and the partner has been telling everyone what I bully I am ever since.

I saw early signs of him having an abusive personality, but no evidence to actually act on it. When asked, I would admit that I didn't like him and that he struck me as being "wrong", or the kind of domly-dom that I usually associate with abusers who hide their abuse under the BDSM label. But, with nothing more than a feeling and an association, I just did my best to avoid him, except when he directly challenged me online.

Tonight I find out that he has, in fact, been accused of multiple accounts of domestic violence and sexual assault against multiple people. My local area has *finally* barred him from social events, and he is, I hear, moving on to neighboring cities.

It's times like this when I don't like being right.

I have a long history of exposure to domestic violence and sexual assault. I know the signs. I am too much of a skeptic to just start willy-nilly accusing people based on a "feeling" or my intuition, and certainly I can miss people who are good at hiding it. But having to rescue my best friend in high school, literally kidnapping her out from under her rapist father who was about to take her to Canada to escape the charges brought against him, and my subsequent work with sexual assault and domestic violence has made me sensitive to those traits associated with abusers.

I do wish people would take me more seriously when I say someone is bad news, even if I don't have police reports to back me up. I listen to what people close to them say about them, and I watch how people behave around them, and I filter it with an understanding of consensual BDSM relationships so as to not confuse the two, and I connect patterns. When I say someone is trouble, it's not because we had a disagreement once. It's because I think they're trouble.
joreth: (Misty in Box)
My life has been filled with change these last couple of weeks.  Most people have gotten only bits and pieces and very few people have heard all of what has been going on with me.  But I'm told that those bits and pieces have seemed, to many, cryptic or even out of character, and upsetting.  So I'm going to elaborate on one of the more disturbing bits I've tweeted about, because people are worried and even more people have completely the wrong idea about what happened.

A few months ago, my landlord decided to sell the house and, thanks to an irritating bit of law, left me with very little time to find alternate housing.  So a friend took me in under extremely charitable conditions, only to very quickly make that situation intolerable to me, so I had to move again a few months later.  Here is my perspective of the worst of what happened.

I have a terminally sick cat.  She has an illness that leaves her underweight, malnourished, and at risk for dehydration.  She is on daily medication to try to control her appetite and water consumption, and her ability to digest it, but the medication will not cure her.  She will die of this illness, today, tomorrow, 5 years from now, we don't know.  Her medication is merely to improve the quality of her life, thereby prolonging it, for a while.  She has been sick for over 2 years now, and this worry has taken a toll on my own quality of life.

Right about the time the owner of the house where I was living, and I seemed to reach the same conclusion that our living arrangement wasn't working out, but before I had secured another place to live (or even told him that I planned to move out), my work picked up.  I began working 8-14 hour days in 10-15 day streaks (with at least one day that reached nearly 24 hours at work).  Now, at this time, the house-owner appeared to cease direct communication with me, so I can only guess at his motivations based on his behaviour, but he appeared to decide that chasing me out of the house by making me uncomfortable was preferable to actually speaking to me directly and asking me to leave.  I make this guess on his motivations because of what happened next.

The house had an air conditioning system that actually assigned certain rooms in the house to zones, which were independently controlled.  So the master bedroom, for example, could be maintained at a separate temperature from the living room.  The room I was staying in had its own zone.  The house-owner first started by turning off the air conditioner entirely to my zone.  The first time that happened, I thought maybe there was a glitch or a mistake.  So I turned it back on and went to bed.

When I woke up in the morning, the room was sweltering.  It was so hot that I was actually having trouble waking up and moving, as I do when I get overheated.  I had heatstroke several years ago and one of the side effects is being increasingly more prone to heat stroke again with each successive heat attack.  So when I overheat, I tend to get sluggish and have trouble with cognitive functions, until I eventually just collapse in a faint.  If I overheat while sleeping, I'll just not be able to wake up.  That's why I'm always wearing tank tops - I have to have the ability to shed layers at any moment when I start to get too warm.  Later, when I did finally get up and moving, as I passed by the A/C control, on a hunch, I checked it and, sure enough, it was turned off again.  This happened a couple of times and I noticed that the warming of my room would coincide with his movements downstairs where the A/C control was located.

After a few times of that, the speed at which the room would start to get warm increased while the sound of air coming through the vents was still running.  So I checked and discovered that he was no longer just turning off the air, he was turning on the heat.  I know this was in February, but this is also Florida.  I was leaving for work before he woke up in the morning and not returning until many hours later.  He left for work after I did, but he also got home from work after I had gone to bed.  So he would turn off the air or turn on the heat after I went to bed and again after I left for the day.  The room was also on the second story of the house, with windows facing both the rising and setting sun, so the room baked all day.

This would be merely annoying, even with my own health issues regarding heat, except for my sick cat.  You see, I would come home to find the cat's water bowl empty because it had evaporated while I was gone.  In the temperature I normally kept the room, the bowl would hold water for more than 2 full days before going empty, but now the bowl was drying out between the time I left for work and the time I got home from work.  I would come home to find my cat sitting by her water bowl, meowing in distress.  Remember her illness and her dehydration risk?  Yeah, she got dehydrated and I had to take her to the vet.

The cat started losing weight again and her diarrhea got worse, and she dehydrated.  She had to have a pocket of fluid inserted under her skin, between her shoulder blades, to immediately hydrate her and get her out of danger.  The vet was horrified and wanted to call the animal cruelty authorities, except there is no tangible evidence for "he turned off the A/C while I was gone" accusations, and I had finally moved out.  Since the cat was already sick, all it would take is a counter-accusation that it was my own care of her that led to her condition, or hell, that it was the condition itself, to result in possibly a lengthy and costly court battle, or more likely, no action taken at all.  All my emotional and financial resources are tied up in caring for the cat, so I didn't pursue any probably-futile legal action.  Anyway, the room was actually so hot before I found a new place, that I started taking the cats to work with me because it was cooler to leave them in my car in the parking garage than it was in the room, and I could get out to the car every 2 hours (on my breaks) to make sure they had enough water.  The thermometer in my room said that my room was reaching triple digits.

So, those of you who read my tweets about "torturing my cat", it wasn't hyperbole.  My terminally sick cat was actually being tortured by the deliberate actions of the house-owner. A healthy cat might have been merely discomforted, but a sick cat who is prone to dehydration was actually in a life-threatening situation.  Not to mention my own danger with my history of heat stroke.  I have trouble reconciling these actions with the self-assigned description of "extremely nice guy" he likes to tell people he is.  He also has his own cats, and he's quite emotionally attached to them, so I just can't fathom what could have prompted him to take out his feelings for me on my pets.  It doesn't matter how angry I get at someone, or what terrible things someone might have done - I would NEVER do anything to deliberately hurt their animals.  The worst I ever do is yell at people on the internet.  Hell, I cry at movies where even the "bad" animals get killed, I couldn't do anything that would hurt someone's pet no matter what I felt about that person.

My cat is still not fully recovered, and she may never.  And, by that I mean, she may never even recover to the point where she was sick but stable, since I know she'll never actually be healthy again.  I have been accused of lying about this whole incident, and of making a big deal out of nothing, since most people would find a Floridian house without the air turned on in February to be quite comfortable.  But I have a medical condition where I can't handle extremes of heat (or cold, for that matter, but that's a different story) and I have to look at my cat every day and see her illness in her extremely low weight and the signs of her dehydration in her fur, skin elasticity, and gums.  To me and my cat, this was decidedly not much ado about "nothing".  This was something very serious, indeed.

The toll of caring for a sick cat these last couple of years has affected me deeply and has changed a lot of my priorities.  My ex, who works with the MBTI and other personality systems, has shown me books on how the various personality types react to stress.  To people who are not familiar with that specific research - types and stress - many usually think that people under stress behave in unpredictable or contrary ways.  The MBTI system actually can predict how each of the types will behave under stress, but the relevant point is that the behaviour is often interpreted as "contrary" or "unusual" or "out of character" to those around them, even though it's not unpredictable at all, if one understands the patterns.

I have been under an awful lot of stress in the last couple of years, with the stress factors piling on in the last couple of months.  And I've been handling them pretty much alone.  I don't tend to speak out publicly when I'm under stress because I was taught not to "whine" as a kid and not to "air dirty laundry".  A neighbor kid once pushed me down a flight of stairs and broke my ankle, and I had to walk on that ankle for a week before anyone took me to a doctor for a cast because I should just "toughen up" and "stop complaining" and don't "make up stories to get out of P.E. class".  The only reason I was taken to the doctor at all is because my next door neighbor was a First Aid instructor and, after seeing me limp for a week, asked to see my ankle.  He determined I needed medical attention and it was only when he said so, did my parents take my complaints seriously.

So I prefer to handle my stresses privately, and then use the situations to illustrate growth opportunities or lessons after the event has passed.  Which is why many people who follow me online may be confused when I explode with something that seems out of context or that didn't appear to have any build-up to it.  Things looked pretty fine, until I started tweeting about the house-owner "torturing" my cats.  Naturally, several people who knew the house-owner just outright didn't believe it and accused me of lying about it or exaggerating the severity.  But it's the nature of Twitter to not have much depth or allow for nuance and detail.

So I'm giving the details here.  Things were far worse than just "turning off the air conditioning" in the end of a Floridian winter.  The room my sick cat was staying in got so hot that the water in her bowl evaporated, and it was during a time that I was out of the house for many hours at a time and could not refill her bowl regularly.  Her condition makes her specifically at risk for dehydration, and the heat and lack of water actually did cause her condition to worsen.  She may recover, she may not.

Ever since we moved, she has taken to attaching herself to me the way she did when she first got sick.  She was always my little shadow, moving from room to room with me in order to stay near me, but now it's so much more.  She doesn't just move from room to room, she actually moves around the room with me.  Tonight, I went into the kitchen, drained a bowl of soup in the sink, walked to the trash can to dump out the solid food, and then walked back to the sink to wash it.  She actually walked back and forth from the sink to the trash and back again with me.  And I don't have a large kitchen - 3 or 4 steps at most between the two stations.  She tries to time her litter usage with my own bathroom use, now that the litter box is in the bathroom, presumably because she doesn't want to be separated from me even long enough to use the litter box.

So hopefully that clears up some of the strangeness going on around me lately and hopefully that adds more context to my outraged tweets.  If I seem out of sorts, or touchy, these days, perhaps understanding some of the stress I'm going through will help things make more sense.  Also, keep in mind that the issue of my sick cat is only one of the major stressors I'm going through and there are several that I'm not speaking about, at least not publicly.  Some stressors involve personal, intimate details - some of which are my personal details that I don't particularly want made public and some of which belong to other people and it's not my place to speak of them publicly.  If something I say or do seems odd or out of place, chances are that there are other things going on below the surface or other details to the story that you don't know about that would probably explain everything.  
joreth: (::headdesk::)
Apparently, today's theme on Facebook is "FUCKING READ SNOPES BEFORE YOU POST, BITCHES!"  After the 4th post in a row where I was compelled to respond by posting a Snopes URL, I posted the following to my own timeline - feel free to copy & paste (or edit & personalize) on your own social networking sites or in response to emails:

Before you post a link, or worse, a picture with a sob story attached, about evil corporations trying to screw us over, mad scientists trying to poison our food supply, evil strangers trying kill babies or rape women or steal money, hidden needles in food or gas pumps, dead rodents or insects in famous restaurant chains, or strangely generous famous people willing to pay you money for forwarding pictures to all your friends, check it out on Snopes:

If you don't like Snopes, use Both link to the original sources where they get their information so you can verify their conclusions.

If the story does not give VERIFIABLE information - first & last name, city/state/country, date, etc. - then it's probably fake. If the story does give that information, Google it first to make sure those people actually exist and the incident actually happened in the place and on the date the story claims.

More often than not, Michigan University never had a professor named Dr. Miles Pendergrast, so he certainly could not have bioengineered a potent virus that the government bought to implant in our water supply, little Lisa Snodgrass doesn't exist and doesn't have cancer or stayed at the non-existent Our Lady Of Perpetual Fraud hospital, and that scary chemical, dihydrogen monoxide, that kills millions of people every year and is in our FDA-approved food really does exist but it's not what you think it is (hint: dihydrogen monoxide is water).

*The title comes from a TV commercial currently playing on local television stations:

If you don't want to watch the video, the premise is that a girl makes a wild claim to a guy she knows.  He asked where she heard it, and she says "the internet".  She then says the the line in the title.  He asks where she heard *that* and they both say together "the internet", the guy clearly thinking "I should have known!"  Then an unkempt guy approaches and she says something along the lines of "excuse me, I have to go, my date is here.  I met him on the internet.  He's a French model!"  The unkempt guy glares at the guy and says, in an obviously American accent with no attempt to hide his lack of familiarity with the French language, "Bonjour!" and smiles contemptuously and lecherously at the pretty, dumb, girl he snookered while she looks back at the first guy with a sickeningly trusting & triumphant smile and walks off with the jackass.  The line that I used for the title has recently come, among one of my circles, to be shorthand for the brand of naivete that results in being taken advantage of by unscrupulous hoaxers and simple internet urban legends and is frequently trotted out to reference both this commercial and this phenomenon.

joreth: (Bad Joreth)
So, we're all 13-year old boys at work and sexual innuendo is endlessly amusing.  As our boss said today, sex jokes makes the day go faster.  Today, we decided to formalize it after I said something that could particularly be confused for something said at an orgy.  So now, we are making legitimate backstage phrases that could mistaken* for being heard at an orgy.  Here's what I've collected so far:

  • Everyone grab one and pull!

  • I need a male to female turn-around.

  • How many slots are empty over there?

  • There's room for one more!

  • Someone help me tie this up!

  • It's too tight!

  • Can I use your tool?

  • Which tool do you need?

  • I'm getting to old to be working on my knees.

  • Rub the kinks out of it

  • This one's not kinked up yet!

  • My boss just fucked me

  • Bring it on in! No, wait! Take it out!

  • Aw, man, who did THAT?

  • Fuck that shit

  • Used condoms right here!

  • Here comes the head!

  • I need skinny shit to shove in here!

  • Shove it in the hole!

  • Bring it!

  • He's in the right pile.

  • Gimme the black one

  • Gotta twist it in.

  • There's a trick to it. Just remember "twist & jiggle"

  • I dunno about that, it looks dirty

  • No, not that one, it's too small. I need the horse cock.

  • Is that box full?

  • You just start breaking them and I'll come behind you.

  • I'm gonna need gak to fill the hole

  • Fine! Make me bend over!

  • You sure you can handle all that?

  • How many holes you got left?

  • Gonna need 3 guys to grab this fuzzy bitch and flip her on her back.

  • This floor ain't exactly clean.  It's kinda chunky.

  • I get excited when I see the little ones!

  • I can handle the little ones all by myself!

  • Non-lubricated Trojan condoms are the best. (Yes, it's legitimately used backstage for backstage stuff)

  • My side's in, how about yours?

  • Need a little more ass on this!

  • I'm gonna go help her with her fuzzy.

  • I love doing the movers!

  • I need more 8-ways.

  • I can finish this by myself.

  • Get your fuzzy over there in line.

  • Make a hole!

  • Don't forget the nipples.

  • That's a tight pack right there!

  • Are you pulling out or staying here?

  • Watch your back, I'm coming behind you!

  • Up against the wall!

  • More subs!

  • Can I ride on the back?

  • When you come, go through the rear.

  • "How'd he get out of that harness so quickly?"  "He just slid out."  "I'm surprised he's not naked already!"

  • Now THAT'S well hung!

  • Are you sure that's rated for that kind of weight?

  • Just put that anywhere

  • Goddamn these condoms are tight! Don't we have any bigger ones? They hurt!

  • "They're all fresh & tight." "We don't get many fresh, tight ones around here."

  • The blacks are hung.

  • I could use a snatch block.

  • Look at all the people leaving their condoms lying all over!

  • C'mon, hurry up, we got a bunch of guys standing around with their dicks in their hands!

  • Him: Just get me close.
    Me: Oh I'll get you close. I'll get you right there.
    Him: Perfect, you're right on the edge.
    Me: Didn't I say I'd get you close?

  • Hey Joreth, your spreader bar will be delivered after lunch. #OrgyOrBackstage #backstage #CameraOp

  • I'll put it where I can find it. #OrgyOrBackstage #backstage #CableManagement

  • Him: Sorry, I don't have my Magnum today.
    Me: [pats shoulder] That's OK, not everyone needs one.

  • We need some female on female here. #OrgyOrBackstage #backstage #lighting

  • Her: I need just a couple more inches.
    Me: I got you! #ThatsWhatSheSaid #OrgyOrBackstage #backstage #LeaveItToTheWomen

  • Him 1: "He needs another 6 inches"
    Me: "Don't we all?"
    Him 2: "That's what she said" #OrgyOrBackstage #backstage

  • "Here, let me put it in your pocket." "What is that? The tip?"

  • Hey Joreth, you got an 8 inch? My six inch isn't big enough.

  • Hey can I slide my big black pipe into your slot before you go?

  • Andy can give lessons on how to wrap a dongle. #OrgyOrBackstage #backstage #video #vidiot

  • "Woody, I need you on my back end"

  • "I just haven't pulled mine out yet"

  • "Laura, go ahead and work the corner"

  • Sometimes size is important, boys.

  • Hey Eric stop ramming it up my ass. #OrgyOrBackstage #backstage #strike #LoadOut

  • Who grabbed my bit?

  • She'll start out tight, you just gotta work 'er a little, she'll loosen up. #OrgyOrBackstage #StretchingScreens #video #backstage

  • "Give yourself some room to rock off."

  • "You gotta stack them back up at the end." "How about I just give you a handjob instead?" #OrgyOrBackstage #negotiation

  • "So grab the nipples, got it."

  • That hole's too big, it won't fit snugly. I've never seen one w/a 3-inch diameter.

  • Nah, I don't think we need any condoms. We're doing it on pipe.

  • "you need a gender bender? What kind?" "I need 2 double headed dildos." #OrgyOrBackstage #backstage #stagehand #lighting

  • So we barebacking it today? No condoms? #OrgyOrBackstage #backstage #stagehand #lighting

  • Feel it with your finger before you nail it.

  • Slide it in now! Nice and easy, just like that.

  • Hold on! I'm coming! Don't drop it! I'm coming!

  • "Hey, that's a big one!" "You're not helping!"

  • So John's working Mike's strap-on?

  • Mike, your strap-on is too big, it doesn't fit!

  • He's in the right pile.

  • Grab that box of rubbers and meet me outside.

  • I'm getting too old to do this much work on my knees.

  • Watch who you're banging there!

  • Four in the front, two in the back!

  • "Can you spin me?" "U gotta go down on it." "Just reach around." "Let the girl show you how it's done"

  • Sorry, I didn't know you were going down, there.

  • Look out! Heads comin' in!

*And by "mistaken", we don't necessarily mean that, literally, these phrases are common at all orgies (although I have actually heard quite a frew on this list at real orgies).  As a person who is part of the poly and kink communities, I, and many of my fellow stagehands, are quite aware that much of what is said at an orgy can be commonplace, blasé, or even totally unusual and not something that one would expect to be said at an orgy at all.  That's not the point.  Re-read the part at the very beginning about "sexual innuendo" and "sex jokes".  Re-read the part a third time about "jokes".  It's supposed to be funny, not literal.
joreth: (dance)

Hey guys, we're putting on a show just for our friends!  If you saw us perform at the 2011 Holiday Party, this will be a bigger show with more numbers!  If you missed us at the Holiday Party, this is your chance to see us!

This performance will take place at the Ventura Country Club ballroom.  This means that RSVPs are *required* because we have to put your name on a list so that the gate guards will let you in.  But it's free!

Please RSVP at the official event page:
joreth: (boxed in)

I've heard from a few people, none of them connected, but all of them in the very recent past, who have noticed some politicking in their social groups. Since this subject has come up coincidentally clustered, I thought the topic should be re-addressed. So I would like to write a letter on behalf of them to anyone with a social group to pay attention to this situation. Many of these people do not feel that they can bring it up because they want to avoid a confrontation or adding more drama, but it is something that hurts people. I will be writing this in first person, as I often do to make it more personal, so that people will hopefully take a look at their own actions to see if they might be guilty, even accidentally, of this or if they might be misperceived as having been in this position.

Dear Friend,

I assume we are still friends, anyway. You still seem to greet me warmly when we meet at social gatherings, and we still seem to have personal exchanges between us with no indication that there is anything amiss. But I've been hearing things lately that kind of upset me. I've been hearing about parties and events happening that I was not invited to.

Now, I don't want to make anyone feel bad or pressured to invite me to things that they don't want me at. But I'm just a little bit confused because you don't seem to not-want me around, at least not to my face. If there is a problem, I hope you would come to me to discuss it so that we can work it out. If it's something that you feel that we cannot overcome, then I hope you will take this opportunity to let me know that there are just some limitations or boundaries to our friendship and that's just how it is. I won't promise that I won't be hurt, but I do promise to accept your answer as an honest expression of your feelings and to try not to make it any more difficult for you to be honest than it already is to tell someone something unpleasant or difficult.

The reason I bring this up is because I noticed something else besides just not being invited to things. I get that I won't be invited to everything that every one of my friends hosts, just like I can't invite all of my friends to my every gatherings. Maybe I'm seeing things that aren't there, but I noticed that this lack of invitations started around the time I broke up with my partner. And I noticed that my former partner is still getting invitations.

I hope that this is just coincidence and that I am being paranoid and silly. I hope that this is an extension of my own insecurities and that you can set me straight. I hope that none of my friends are the types of people who would give up spending time with someone they like just because someone else no longer likes them. I hope that none of my friends would be willing to continue inviting the person who cannot maintain social cohesion while they stop inviting the person who is willing and interested in fostering pleasant, civil, friendly relationships with all involved. If I have done anything to make you think that I might cause any amount of awkwardness or strife at your parties over my former partner, please let me know so that I can correct either your misassumption or my behaviour.

I genuinely wish to remain on friendly terms with everyone involved and I feel hurt when I think that my friends may be willing to strain our relationship without even giving an explanation for it. I also genuinely wish to be disabused of this notion if it is false because I do not like assuming negative intent of my friends.

Thank you for taking the time to hear me out. I hope that we can move forward from here.

Many communities (especially the poly community) are too small to allow former relationship partners to start influencing who our friends should be. We should discourage those we care about from being unable to move past breakups and refusing to coexist with former partners in our social circle by not taking sides in relationship strife that we were not a part of, and by refusing to abandon our friendships and acquaintanceships so that our other friends won't have to deal with the discomfort of facing their former partners socially.

In other words, we shouldn't reward bad behaviour and punish good behaviour. If you know of individuals who have recently broken up a romantic relationship, and you were ever on friendly terms with both/all members of the relationship and no one has done anything related to the breakup that is so heinous that you are willing to stop being friends with that person, please consider having a general policy to always invite everyone who ever normally gets invitations and let those in the former-relationship decide whether they can handle being in the same room with their ex or not.

If one of the people in the former relationship is unable to maintain civility at social functions or to remove themselves when they know that they can't, or makes others uncomfortable with their own discomfort about being around their ex, I would like to suggest that, if anyone should stop getting invited to social functions, it be that person, not the other, even if "that person" is the one you are closer friends with. At the very least, that person should be given a talking-to about their party-fouls.

I would also like to suggest that, if this is happening, that we all bring it to the attention of those involved. Much like the Disappearing Act in my earlier breakup post, the passive-aggressive fade-from-friendship act when a friend starts taking sides in a breakup can be just as emotionally hurtful to the friend being left behind. It can also reinforce the behavior of someone who tries to edge out former partners from social circles after a breakup, sometimes unknowingly when they don't realize that they are doing anything wrong, but that those around them are made uncomfortable because the friend in question can't be polite, leaves the room, gives the silent treatment, makes jokes at the other person's expense, or generally creates a tense atmosphere that we can all feel.

I remember once being new to a social group and befriending two people who were in a relationship.  Then the relationship ended, and as my friendship with them was new, I was not privy to the details of their breakup, only that they did break up.  Well, I spent time with one half of the couple one day in a social event.  A few days later, I was at another social event where that half of the couple was not present, but the other half was.  In the course of conversation, something was mentioned that reminded me of something that happened the other day with the first half of the couple.  So I related the story, as it seemed appropriate.  As soon as I said that person's name, the entire room fell silent, everyone started making shifty-eyes at the other half of the former couple, and the tension got so thick that I literally started to feel as though it was more effort to breathe.  There was an awkward pause when I finished, that dragged out until someone came up with something to say that was completely off the topic entirely.  Former relationship partners should NOT make their friends feel this way or put them in this situation, and those who do should not be rewarded by continuing to be invited to events & having the other party not be invited and therefore losing out on valuable social relationships.

Take a look around your social circle. If you notice that people who recently broke up are rarely at the same social functions as each other in spite of having all the same friends, if these are your social functions, you might want to take a closer look at how and why this happens, but if these are other people's social functions, you might want to mention the trend to the hosts who seem to be doing this that it might be causing some hurt feelings, whether accidentally or intentionally. Especially in the poly community, but for any close-knit social community, we really need to learn to be mature about our breakups and set the goal for ourselves to move, to the very, very least, in the direction of polite civility with our exes and not putting our mutual friends in the decidedly uncomfortable position of being in the middle of a tug-o-war.

joreth: (Purple Mobius)
This is a slight departure from my usual movie reviews, and I plan to do a few of them in the future. This is not about poly movies, but about poly analogues for monogamous people. It has always been my opinion that polyamory is really not any different than monogamy, only with more people.

And by that, I mean that there is a wide variation among relationships that fit under the heading "monogamy" and a wide variation among relationships that fit under the heading "polyamory", and the vast majority of questions about "how do you do this in poly?" are answered with "the same way you do it in monogamy," partly because of that variation, so there is no single answer, and partly because the questions are not usually poly-specific.

For instance, whenever someone asks me how to deal with schools handling the issue of multiple parents, I answer "the same way my monogamous, hetero sister deals with them as a single parent." I then go on to explain that, on her In Case Of Emergency sheet, and the list of adults that have permission to pick up her children, she has about 5 or 6 different names, many of which do not have her child's last name and/or are not blood-related to the children. She doesn't explain that Joreth is the auntie and Sally is the babysitter and Jason is the boyfriend even though he's not the father of one kid, but is the father of the other kid, or that Larry is the grandfather and John is the godfather and Crystal is the 2nd cousin and that Sarah is mommy's best friend from high school. She just put those names down on the lists. When asked for familial relation to the child, she just circles something like "family friend" or "uncle" or whatever.

My point is that "how do you deal with schools" is not a poly-specific problem and monogamous people have to deal with that same issue all the time, thanks to single parenthood and blended families. There isn't a single answer, and there isn't a different way that poly people do it from mono people, who find themselves in the same or similar situations.

Same thing goes for issues like "how do the children know who their parents are?" and "how do you keep track of everyone?" and "how do you schedule things?" The same way non-poly folk do. Being adopted, I didn't have any difficulty understanding who my "real" parents were. Kids of blended homes (meaning, divorced parents & step-parents) don't have any difficulty understanding who their "real" parents are. And so on.

Much about polyamory is not actually very unique to polyamory, and even those issues that are unique to polyamory have similar situations, if not exactly the same, in monogamous society. One of the things I like to do is try to find these poly analogues to use as bridge-building stories, in an attempt to help monogamous people better understand polyamory.

The first one I ever noticed was Sex And The City. I originally started watching the show because I have a tendency to feel alien among "normal" women. I don't understand those things that I'm told women are supposed to understand. Now, of course, I understand that there is no such thing as "normal women", just that there is a collection of criteria that various people are told is "normal" and everyone else is therefore abnormal when they don't have all the criteria, even if some of those criteria are contradictory or even mutually exclusive, all with complete disregard to the actual numbers of people who fit or don't fit any given set of criteria.

But, the point is that I never felt as though I really fit in or that I understood women very well because I didn't match what I was told I should match. So I watched the show to get an idea of what this hypothetical "normal woman" was thinking.

SATC is a show with 4 main characters that follows their romantic lives for about 6 years. Each of the women are archetypes, basically a model or an epitome of a personality type that has been repeatedly observed in US culture. By coincidence, the four women also happen to fall into the 4 main MBTI categories - NT, SP, NF, SJ - although they weren't deliberately written that way. That's what made it so popular, though. No matter what kind of person you are, almost everyone could see a little of themselves in at least one of the characters, which is why it was considered such a great examination of "the normal woman". Even men could see a little of themselves in one or more of the male side characters (and yes, the show was very gender binary - that's a complaint for another journal entry).

The show also had witty dialogue, even if you didn't like the topics. But one topic is what brings me here to this review. And that's the idea of multiple loves and intentional family.

This is a recurring theme throughout the entire 6-year lifespan. We do not see much of the girls' biological families, and what we do see is largely negative. The characters have, more or less, left their families and created their own intentional family of each other. They are there for each other in good times and bad, they support each other, they occasionally condemn each other, they squabble and hug, and they build lives around each other. It's true that all the women are heterosexual (except for one 3-episode story arc), so they are not romantically involved with each other (even for that story arc), and if there is any criticism of this as a poly analogue, that is it.

But anyone who has ever had one or more of *those* friends - y'know, the ones you think to call from the hospital before you call your boyfriend, the ones you go to confide in about your wife, the ones who were the first to stand up with you at your wedding and the ones who were first to get you drunk & let you cry after your divorce, the ones who have seen you without your makeup on and still love you, the ones who were there to bail you out of jail after that little misunderstanding and kept it from your spouse, the ones who were there long before you met the love of your life and, just like the love of your life, will be there until death do you part - if you've ever had *those* friends, then you understand just how unimportant sex is as a defining element in what makes a relationship *important* and *meaningful* in your life. Not that sex isn't important, but that there are so many other aspects to what makes a relationship meaningful, some of which matter much more.

When people ask me how I can love more than one person at a time, the answer is because we all love more than one person at a time. Our spouses are not the only people in our lives for whom we feel that deep commitment, that connection as if our very souls have found their mates, that trust that there are people we can count on for anything, that sense of elation at the idea of being with them or that sense of despair at the thought of losing them. The only difference between me and them is that I am physically attracted to more than one of the people for whom I feel that way, and occasionally I act on it.

Sex And The City highlights one of the many ways in which people form lasting emotional bonds with other people. Their friendship is closer than most of their romantic relationships, and has certainly outlasted all of their romantic relationships. They are closer to each other than they are to their biological families, and the men in their life are required to make room in their relationships for the other women.

When the women do find serious romantic partners, each of the men understand that he will have to "share" his partner with the other three women. Each of those men turn to the other three women for help when his partner is going through a particularly rough time and the man is not enough to help on his own. One asks the other three for communication help to patch up an argument with his girlfriend, another asks the other three to console his wife when she has a miscarriage - the men are not in an isolated, monogamous relationship, apart from any other relationships; they are in poly-ish relationships where they "share" their women with three other women, who have been there longer, know each other better, and can often provide a type of support that the men just can't. Any man who sticks around long enough has to accept it, and the good men embrace it.

Long before I ever heard of polyamory, I had friends like this. I had friends who were so close, we gave ourselves our own family name. I had friends who were so important, we made long-term, life-altering plans around each other, like where to go to college, where to live after college, and even sometimes who to date or marry. I had friendships that were so meaningful, that losing those friendships didn't feel any less devastating than losing a boyfriend. I cried for weeks after my best friend stopped talking to me. I felt like I lost a part of myself when we all went our separate ways.

I even felt as though I didn't have any real identity when some of those friendships ended, the same way I sometimes had to re-evaluate who I was and what I wanted out of life when I lost a serious boyfriend and all our future plans were scrapped. It didn't matter that we weren't having sex, those relationships were *important* in the same way my romantic relationships were important - simultaneously equally as important and too unique to be compared to each other.

Not all monogamous people have had these kinds of friendships, of course. One of the wonderful things about the human species is its diversity. But a very common trend, especially among women, is to develop close emotional bonds with other people, or to want to. And for many people, those close, emotional bonds are not restricted to a single bond with one person, ever, throughout the entire lifespan.

Each relationship, and each emotional bond, is different, unique, individual. Even if we had a best friend in high school, and then switched to another best friend in college, those friendships are as non-interchangeable as the romantic relationships are. And if people can just wrap their heads around the idea that sex is not the single defining element in complex emotional relationships, they can see the parallels between monogamous Sex And The City intentional families, and my poly family.
joreth: (Default) - Netflix - Amazon - IMDB

I swear I'm not going to review every single movie I see.  But I did see a movie that has nothing to do with polyamory that I wanted to mention.  I saw the movie Adam.  Technically, it falls under the "romantic comedy" genre, but it's not like any other romantic comedy you've ever seen.  Trust me.

Adam is the story of a 29 year old man with severe Asperger's Syndrome who falls in love with the woman who lives down the hall from him in his apartment building.  Beth is "normal", or neurotypical (known as NT to Aspies), who nevertheless finds Adam interesting.  I watched this movie with two friends who have AS, and although I don't have AS, I am borderline enough that I get along better with Aspies than with "regular" people.  Of course, I don't know anyone who has AS as severely as Adam, so that may not be a true statement.  But I do find it easier to understand them than most other people, based just on those I have interacted with, and I find I have less tension dealing with my various Aspie friends because it requires less effort for me to think about how to behave.

The three of us laughed throughout most of the movie, not because it was funny (although it was) but because we could see ourselves and each other in the story.  We all groaned out loud when Adam did a typically Aspie thing that we all know leads to disaster, even if we can't help it when we do it ourselves.  There was much finger-pointing and jabbing and mock glares throughout the movie.  For a writer who does not have AS and an actor who did not know anyone with AS, the movie was frighteningly realistic.  The writing was spot-on and the acting and direction was absolutely brilliant.  My heart went out to Adam, knowing the kind of challenges he faced, and to Beth, knowing how difficult it can be to deal with an Aspie.

I saw an interview with the actor who played Adam, and I could almost swear that they were different people.  His mannerisms and vocal inflections were so different that they even altered his appearance (the hip clothing and extra mousse in the actor's hair was not enough on their own to change his looks that much).  His portrayal of a person with AS was so realistic, so touching, so achingly sympathetic, that I fell in love with Adam myself.

Adam is available on Netflix, but not streaming.  I highly recommend watching this movie, especially if you have any sort of ties to geek culture or any of its sub-genres, since that's most likely where you'll encounter Aspies in social settings.  Yes, it's a "romantic comedy", but it's really more about how we relate to each other as humans, and how a certain group of us humans relate, or can't relate, to everyone else.  It's the only movie I've ever heard of with a protagonist with this particular challenge (AS is technically classified as being on the Autism spectrum, but it's actually quite distinct from Autism in many ways), and, unlike Big Bang Theory (which I happen to love), Adam's AS is not the object of comedy, but a truly compelling story about the nature of human interaction and human emotion.

If you get the disc, watch the deleted scenes and the alternate ending.  The alternate ending is the ending shown at Sundance, but they changed it for the theaters and the DVD.  I like the new ending better, but my Aspie friends preferred the original ending.
joreth: (boxed in)
 Very recently, I flew off the handle with little provocation because someone managed to hit 2 of my buttons at once and, when I said they were sore spots, kept pushing his position.  I recognize that I'm unusually touchy about these issues, so it's really better just to let the matter lie if you have nothing invested in the outcome (like a stranger on the internet).  He has since blocked me so I can't even tell him about this post or that I'm sorry for my overreaction (although I do stand firm on my position - I didn't need to get so bitchy about it, I could have let the subject drop).  Not only were these 2 issues I'm particularly sensitive about that got pushed at the exact same time, they came about when I was already pissed about something else, AND when I had to deal with these exact same issues with other people in unrelated disagreements in the very recent past and was still sore about THOSE encounters.

And the reason I'm making this post is actually because both of these issues are communication problems that I see happening around me all the time, with all sorts of people.  Namely, that there are 2 kinds of people - those who do this thing that's annoying to others, and those who have to deal with the people doing this thing that's annoying to others.  

As one of the people who does those things that are annoying to others that I'm about to mention, I thought it might be beneficial to address those people who do those things that are annoying to others to explain why it's annoying and what you (we) can do on your (our) part to avoid these kinds of conflicts with your loved ones in the future.  Even as the person writing this post, I am certainly not exempt from making these same mistakes myself, so I think it bears mentioning.

As I said, there are 2 issues that are unrelated, they just happened to crop up in the same disagreement, although they do have a common element.  They are "people who have embraced a particular product/service and want the rest of the world to benefit as they have" and "people who want to help others and therefore try to fix things when others are struggling".  Both issues are people trying to be helpful, but who are not getting the message that they are not being helpful.

One at a time...

The Fanboys )

So, by all means, share with your friends and family your wisdom and expertise, but if your position has been rejected, and if you value your relationship with that person, just let it go.

This is, of course, not applicable to people who are actually harming themselves.  I'm in favor of continued attempts to get people to stop smoking or to visit a doctor instead of a homeopath, but you do have to accept that continued pushing on these kinds of subjects carries with it a high risk of damaging the relationship - one which I assume means something to you or you wouldn't keep trying to convince the other person of something you think is good for them.

Now, for the other category.  Yes, I realize this post is already long and no, I'm not done yet.  

The Fixers )

If someone did not explicitly ask for your opinion or advice on how to fix whatever their problem is, get in the habit of asking them first if they would welcome your suggestion.  If you forget and offer anyway, then when they get pissed off, even if they're being unreasonable or disproportionately angry, apologize for offering the help - don't keep insisting that your advice ought to be taken.  Again, the same tactic as above applies here.  Offer it once, and if they don't want to hear it, then let it go.  If they're being particularly unreasonable, walk away and find your own person to complain to who will listen to what you have to say about that horrible bitch who jumped down your throat for no reason at all when you were just trying to be helpful, and you can then explain to *that* person why you don't need advice on how to manage your relationships, you just wanted to vent a little.
joreth: (Xmas Kitties)
I have trouble remembering things, and I especially have trouble remembering things in temporal order, so it helps me to do a year in review every year. And since my extended family likes it when I send them a holiday letter telling them about my life in exotic Florida, it's convenient to write one in time for Christmas. I try to keep it to a single printed page, since my mother not-so-subtly hinted that she thinks it's inconsiderate to burden people with multiple pages of information about my life that people might not care about (and people online wonder why I don't give a lot of personal anecdotes in the forums!) in spite of the fact that all my relatives tell me they enjoy my letter. Mom thinks they're just being polite - I'd like to think people just wouldn't say anything at all about the letter if they're too "polite" to tell me they don't like it, rather than lie about it. Anyway, now I'm starting to rant. Here's this year's letter:

This year was quite a busy year for me! Last year I sat in on a timeshare lecture because they promised us free stuff. What I didn’t expect was for that free stuff to be a free trip to the Bahamas. So, for my birthday this year in January, I cashed in my trip and set sail for the islands. I had a great time, and the hotel and the island were just beautiful. I am planning to go back again next year. All the pictures and the story of my trip can be found on my website at

Work is slow, but I am still working, so things could be a lot worse on that front. My biggest client of this year has already confirmed me for next year, and I hear that the industry expects to improve after the New Year, so things aren’t too bad there.

Last December, [ profile] zen_shooter and I broke up only days before Christmas, and after I sent out last year’s letter. But [ profile] tacit and I celebrated our 5 year anniversary this October, and this summer saw the beginning of a new relationship with a very good friend of mine, whom I have known for as long as I’ve known [ profile] tacit. [ profile] datan0de and I met at the same poly meeting where I met [ profile] tacit, and is actually very good friends with him. So we’ve had some time to build up a solid friendship, and so far things are going wonderfully. In September, many in the network went to our annual sci-fi convention, Dragoncon, and I got to spend some quality time with [ profile] datan0de, [ profile] tacit, & many of the metamours.

I also have a new costume for Dragoncon! Meet Laurie Jupiter aka Silk Spectre II from the movie Watchmen. Once again, I decided to work with liquid latex, and this was my most ambitious project so far, having 4 separate layers & being true to the movie. I also completed the chain mail skirt for my Fire Elf costume, making that one now complete. I have several more costumes in the pipeline for next year.

The cats are doing well, & Onyx finally has her cone off. She’s still scratching herself, but the worst of it is under control. Misty is still just Misty, a big ball of grey fluff who is inquiring at this moment why I am sitting here playing with the big clacky thing & not paying attention to her.

This year I got a holiday treat - my parents and nephew came for Thanksgiving! We had quite the full week, visiting Universal Studios, Islands of Adventure, Disney’s Hollywood Studios & Epcot, and Kennedy Space Center. We took lots of great pictures and had a wonderful time. It was nice being able to show my family where I live. I will have all the pictures up on my website when the data from the hard drive that crashed while my family was in town gets recovered.

This year I will be spending the holidays with [ profile] datan0de and his wife [ profile] femetal and making my usual Skype video chat calls to everyone who is too far to visit.

As usual, I have more pictures up at

Happy Holidays everyone!
joreth: (Xmas Kitties)
So there are all sorts of wacky expectations and obligations around this time of year that really make things like holiday gift exchange a terribly complicated and incomprehensible tradition for me.

You're supposed to exchange gifts, but you're not supposed to give away the surprise, but you're supposed to get the "right gift", but you're not supposed to ask what the "right gift" is, and you're supposed to buy for some people and not others, but you're not supposed to discuss beforehand if any individual you know is one of those you're supposed to buy for or not buy for ... my head hurts just writing this post.

It starts to sound an awful lot like "I shouldn't have to say what I like, if he loved me, he'd just know" - no, all I know when someone says that is that I have a high probability of screwing it up and doing something wrong because you can't be clear about your needs and expectations and all my years reading Tarot cards and palms and studying horoscopes and wishful thinking STILL hasn't given me the ability to read your mind. It's not selfish to be clear on the things you want in life, it's selfish to try and get them to the detriment of others, and this is clearly not what we're talking about when someone asks "what do you want for Christmas?"

So, I'd like to make a request that I make every year on behalf of all the people who have trouble wandering the maze of holiday expectations, that everyone who reads this and takes pity on the rest of us make a post about what they want for the holidays.

This can be a link to an online wishlist (please, if you have an online wishlist, post it!), this can be a desire for holiday activities, this can be a charity you want people to donate in your name, this can be a set of guidelines for how to shop for you, this can be a request to be left alone and drop all the damn holiday requests already! Although I would like to add that, if you list a charity to donate to as your holiday wish, please offer a non-charity alternative for those who, either disagree with that charity or really want to give *you* something.

A nice mix of cheap/free options, actions, and easy-to-find consumer products really help a variety of people find something they can do for you that still makes *them* feel as though they're doing something that adequately conveys their feelings for you (read The Five Love Languages by Dr. Gary Chapman - different people have different ways of expressing their love and even if *you* aren't all hung up on the Capitalist Regime, some people best express their feelings by giving gifts, while others feel best performing a service - remember, even though posting a holiday wishlist is for other people to do stuff for you, my request that you post it is supposed to be something nice that YOU can do for US, so help us to feel as though we're doing something nice for you by actually telling us what we can do).

I only ask that everyone make it clear what it is they want in a sort of public manner (a locked, friends-list post suffices, since it's the friends who are most likely to want to do something for you for the holidays) so that no one else has to go through the awkward "what do you want for xmas - oh, you don't have to get me anything - I know I don't HAVE to, but I want to - it's the thought that counts - yes, but my thought is to get you something you would like" conversation or the even-worse underlying "I actually do want these things, but I'm afraid to sound greedy by admitting to anyone that I want stuff even if they ask me outright" feelings of guilt.

So, please post your holiday wishlist, whether it's an online link, things you want to do, general guidelines, or what-have-you, not because you're being greedy and selfish, but because you genuinely want to help your loved ones who genuinely want to do something nice for you, some of whom have a little difficulty with hints and reading cues.

I'll start. My wishes for the holidays are to spend time with my loved ones, if not in person, then by Skype; to have more people in marginalized social categories stand up and be counted; to give money or time to science- and evidence-based educational programs, even if it's not "in my name", such as JREF, CFI, and even Planned Parenthood; and a whole shitload of "toys" and gadgets, most of which are completely unreasonable for someone else to purchase for me, (although you must have your own account in order for me to give you Guest Access to my adult wishlist - the only way I could keep my adult toys from showing up on a keyword search of my wishlist when non-Guests, i.e. my parents, read it). I like being surprised and don't want to know about my gift until it's offered to me. I don't particularly care if it's wrapped up prettily or not - if you like making a presentation of the gift, then I appreciate it the work you put into it, but if you can't wrap for shit, that doesn't diminish my enjoyment of the process in the slightest.

The posting of this link in no way assumes that anyone reading this will want to buy something for me, but it is made available in case someone *does*. I do not expect gifts, I do not require gifts, and I'm pretty sure that no one here is even considering getting me a gift, which is totally OK with me, even if you are someone for whom I happen to buy a gift. No, really, when I say something is OK, I actually mean it!

But I have hinted and asked outright for what other people want, only to go through that conversation I paraphrased above, and I've been in some situations where I wasn't sure if I had the kind of relationship with someone that warranted a gift or felt awkward about asking, so it would have been a HUGE help if everyone just accepted that sometimes people want to give gifts to other people and to make it simple to figure out what kind of gift to give. And it stops sounding like a nice gesture when you blurt out "goddamn it, I know you want to be seen as a nice and unselfish person and all, but I have money and/or time and/or skills to spend and I enjoy spending it/them on you but I want to make sure I spend it well so will you stop fucking whining about how it's the thought that counts and tell me what the fuck you'd like already?"

Some people like actual gifts, some people are very picky, some people already have a bunch of stuff so it's hard to guess what they don't have, some people prefer homemade to consumer products, some people like surprise better than the content of the surprise, some people prefer actions instead of objects, some people want to actively avoid exchanging gifts entirely and prefer just to spend time with loved ones ... and it's a damn maze trying to figure everyone out when you add in all this other holiday game playing.

So, for everyone else's sake, please do your loved ones a favor and don't think of it as being greedy or setting up the expectation that people should get you stuff. Think of it as not complicating or inhibiting something that is supposed to be a nice gesture from someone who loves you. Think of it as a grown-up version of a letter to Santa Claus. He actively wants to bring you something nice for the holidays so you write him a letter to help him out, but, in reality, it's your parents, and maybe your grandparents, who are reading it so they know what the heck to get you because the joy when you open a gift that you truly like means something to the ones who gave you the gift.
joreth: (Nude Drawing)
If you don't listen to Poly Weekly yet, you should. Adam And Eve online adult store was a sponsor for Poly Weekly for a while, and [ profile] cunningminx was reviewing some of their products. She was sent a Clone-A-Willy kit, which is a mold-making kit that allows one to make an exact vibrating replica of one's own penis. At the time, [ profile] cunningminx was not interested in the product (and I forget the reason why), but during a conversation with her over dinner one night, the subject was brought up and I mentioned how I have always wanted to try it.

In fact, I always wanted to have a Clone-A-Willy party, where I could purchase the mold-making materials in bulk and pass along the savings to my friends. A private room could be made available for those who wish to make the mold without an audience, but at the end, everyone could leave with copies of the penii they so desired.

But party aside, I have always had a fascination with life-like replicas, particularly of people I know personally. So when I mentioned how much I always wanted to try the kit, [ profile] cunningminx said she'd send the kit to me so I could review it for her.

Now, I didn't really expect it to happen - after all, there are so many more important things than for [ profile] cunningminx to remember to send me the kit. But one day, I got home to find a package waiting for me. And, lo and behold, it was the Clone-A-Willy kit from [ profile] cunningminx!

Read all about my Human Cloning Experiment )

Hopefully next up ... Clone-A-Pussy for a copy of myself, clones of my other sweeites, and a Clone-A-Willy party for my friends! They also sell a glow-in-the-dark kit, a Lover's Kit (both Willy & Pussy kits at a discount), and a Chocolate Clone-A-Willy kit. The girl's mold claims to be reusable and safe to use as a Jello Mold!

Oh, OK

Jul. 15th, 2009 03:52 am
joreth: (Nude Drawing)
"If there is someone on your friends list you would like to take, strip naked with, let them tie you to a bed post, have them lick you until you scream, then fuck until both of you are senseless and unable to fuck anymore, then wait about five minutes and do it all over again, post this exact sentence in your journal."

As [ profile] tacit says, there are several people on my friends list that I have done this (or similar) with and several more that I haven't but would like to ... plus a good number of people I wouldn't mind doing this with all at once!  But I'm finding this particularly amusing right now in light of my recent party activities (along with a coincidental Twitter Astronomy Survey) so I'm joining the meme.

And for those of you on my friends list who are reasonably or even just pretty sure that this statement applies to you ... it probably does ;-)


Feb. 14th, 2009 06:25 pm
joreth: (Rock Climbing)
Jesus fucking christ I hurt!  My thighs are burning, my knees hurt, and I have limited range of motion in my arms and neck.  I can't remember the last time I was in this much physical pain!

And I can't wait to do it again!!!!

[ profile] femetal , [ profile] datan0de , [ profile] sterlingsilver9  and I went to Rebounderz, an indoor trampoline gym, last night.  We only bought an hour of bounce time and I'm pretty sure I sat, gasping, for more than half of it.  I am depressingly out of shape, but last night ranks up there at the top of Most Funnest Times Ever (with my clothes on). 

I eventually got the hang of jumping off the floor-trampoline to bounce off the wall and landing back on the floor-trampoline on my feet, but I never did quite master the bounce-off-the-wall maneuver on my back.  Landing on the wall on my hands and feet, looking like a 4-legged spider and bouncing off was about all I could manage.  Major envy for the guys who could flip off the walls!  And [ profile] sterlingsilver9  got pretty good at bouncing off one wall, hitting the floor-tramp in one jump, and bouncing off the opposite wall.  Me, not so much.

Seriously gotta do that again!

(as soon as I can lift myself out of this chair)
joreth: (Nude Drawing)
I noticed something interesting today.

So, as many of you might know by now, I am showing one of my photographs at Nude Nite, an annual art show that celebrates the human nude. 

But, what seems to escape many people, is that I am showing a picture I took as a photographer, not a photo *of* me nude.

Is it just me?  When one of my friends says their art will be displayed somewhere, I automatically assume they mean that they are the artist, not the subject, especially if they have a history of creating art in the first place.  But, most of my friends are men.

So, I emailed and texted everyone I could think of who might be interested to let everyone know about the showing this weekend.  I said "one of my photos will be shown at Nude Nite" followed by time/location details.  I work as a camera operator for a living.  I used to work as a portrait photographer for a living.  I currently sell stock photography and I am almost never without my camera on my hip.  I also carry samples of my work with me on my iPod and I have shown this particular photo before to most of my coworkers and friends, as well as several other nudes I've taken in the past, and non-nude photos too.  You'd think this would make people assume that I'm the photographer, not the subject. 

Now, it's true that I'm very open and explicit about my sex life, and I'm very honest about posing for [ profile] tacit's symtoys site.  So that *could* be causing some of the confusion.  But when I show pictures of parties to my co-workers, I'm never in them because I'm always the one taking them.  On the rare occasion that I am in the pic, I'm never nude.  I make this very clear when my coworkers/friends teasingly ask me to skip ahead in the party pics to the ones of me naked.

If [ profile] bonedaddybruce  or [ profile] james_the_evil1  told me that one of their photos was being shown somewhere, I'd assume they were the photographers, even though I actually *have* some photos of one of them nude from a party (and no, I won't share, I was asked not to).  I believe that anyone else I know who heard from them that "one of my photos is being shown" would also make the same assumption.  So, is it because they're male and I'm female?  All 3 of us make money from our photography in some way (or try to) and all 3 of us are known amongst our friends for always having a camera with us.  And all 3 of us have shown up in party pics in various states of disrobement and/or sexual content, and all 3 of us have been known to participate in openly explicit sexual conversations (among other things).  Now, perhaps the two of them do not discuss their sexuality with their coworkers like I do, but many of my coworkers are also friends and my employers are not prohibitive with regards to personal lives and discussion content.

So I'm finding myself peeved at all the responses coming in that assume that I am the model in the nude photo.  I'm annoyed because, although it can sometimes be flattering to hear that someone desires me, I really prefer to be admired for my accomplishments, and photography is one of the skills that I work at and I'm rather proud of.  I want to be known for my camera skills.  I may not be great, but I am good (and I'm better at video and film camera skills).  So it irritates me that, when I mention "one of my photos", the first thing people think of is a naked picture of me, not a photo I took as a photographer.  I make the assumption that it's because I'm a girl, and the very "common" minded guys I work with think that only women pose nude and men take the pictures.  That is my bias showing through, but I can't help wondering if my bias is really that far from reality?

Why would everyone assume that a professional camera operator and hobby photographer who happens to be a decent-looking female is the subject of a Nude Nite submission and not the artist?  Is it really just because I'm a girl?  Or does my open sexuality and sex-positive attitude really completely overshadow my job skills even to my coworkers who work with me and see me running a camera on a daily basis?
joreth: (Polydragon)

Go read this:

Seriously.  Everyone.  Go read now.  Everything I rant about in relationships all neatly summed up in one livejournal post.  [ profile] tacit  is just too awesome.
joreth: (Xmas Kitties)

I'm starting to get the usual requests for what I want for xmas gifts, so that must mean it's time to make my Public Service Announcement about The Things I Want.

And no, this isn't a shameless plug for gifts.  I'm talking about the online wishlist.  Most people I know have an Amazon wishlist, but a few people also have a Best Buy wishlist or a DVD wislist, or a paper wishlist, or even no real wishlist at all.  The Things I Want is a service that allows you to compile into one convenient location, anything you might want from anywhere - even if you can't find it on the web at all, like hugs and backrubs or someone to do the dishes.

Rather than attempting to maintain multiple wishlists at Amazon and X-Treme Geek and NewEgg and Blockbuster and Barnes & Nobles and the dozens of online clothing and shoe stores that I shop at, The Things I Want uses a little browser plugin that gathers the data of items I want into a single online wishlist.  I can then choose to make it public, or private, separate them into several lists like my General Wishlist and my Adult Wishlist (which is private to avoid my parents accidentally seeing the porn or vibrator type items - if you want to see it, you have to create an account and request "guest access" from me), or even password protect my lists.  Some people I know have family accounts, with a separate wishlist for each of the adults and each of the kids.

Plus, The Things I Want lets me put in items that aren't available for purchase on the internet, and I can prioritize from "I Must Have" all the way down to "Don't Buy This For Me" and request several of the same item, such as multiple packs of rechargable batteries.  When people purchase something from my list, they have the option to enter into the list that the item has been purchased, either anonymously or by signing their name.  This way, much like a wedding gift registry, no one else will buy the same item.

I use this list year-round to keep track of things that I might purchase for myself when I get a spare bit of cash.  I don't have to bookmark dozens of websites, or try to remember where I saw that thing last month that looked cool but now I can't remember where I saw it.  I can also attach tags to the items, so I or my guests can look only at movies, or clothing or computer parts that I want. 

When other people I know create their own account, I can give them "guest access", which allows them to see any private lists I might make, and it lists their wishlists in my Friends sidebar, so I can refer to their lists easily without bookmarking or trying to remember profile names.

I'm a big fan of the wishlist, even for adults.  I always hated receiving gifts from family whom I knew meant well, but who didn't seem to know me very well, and I had to pretend I loved it while surreptitiously trying to find out where they bought it so I could return it.  I also don't like asking outright what someone wants as a gift because very few people will actually tell me.  It's considered rude, or something, to just honestly admit that you are desiring this particular item and hope someone buys it for you, even when someone is asking because he actively desires to buy you something.  So we get into this annoying little "oh, you don't have to buy me anything" game.  Now, when someone really does not want me to buy them something, that's one thing, but the whole gift-giving-obligation thing means that, when my family buys me a holiday gift, I'm expected to get them one in return.

I'm not going to get into the whole obligation issue here, or whether or not I (or anyone) should buy or refuse to buy holiday gifts.  That's another rant.  Suffice to say that there are times when everyone really does want to buy a gift for someone else and there are times when everyone sees or hears about a product and desires to have one for themselves.  The Things I Want is a pretty good service for keeping track of items that I want to own someday and telling me what other people want to own someday.  And if someone just happens to want to buy me something, they have a way to get me exactly what I want.  And if I just happen to want to buy a gift for someone else, I can turn to a list and get exactly what they want.
joreth: (::headdesk::)
OK, this has come up several times recently by several people regarding several different exes, so I'm going to make a public announcement because this is one of my pet peeves.


 I am friends with or friendly with almost all of my ex-partners, including that asshole who couldn't figure out how to quit the Freaks list a couple years ago.  Anyone not actively in my life is only not there because we lost touch over the years, but I would be friendly or polite towards if I ran into them again.

At the very worst, I mean absolutely the most disliked ex-partner ever, I am still capable of remaining politely civil and treating such a person as merely a stranger I haven't met yet and have no interest in outside of polite social conversation within the context of that event.

I've never really understood the inability to get along with exes after a breakup (in fact, I have a whole journal entry planned on this topic, I just haven't gotten around to posting it yet).  I do understand having emotional upset immediately after a change in status, but it has never affected my ability to be polite or enjoy a social function at which they just happen to be present.  The fact that someone else is breathing the same air somewhere near me doesn't affect my enjoyment of the event in the least.  And my goal with all my relationships is to become a friendly ex, so it's pretty rare that I'm just "polite".  I want to be genuinely warm and affectionate towards my exes and I work on my issues as quickly as possible to reach that level of friendship.  Two of my exes involved me sharing sleeping space that night after our breakup, so, really, I'm good with the exes!  Metamours, ex-metamours, and the ex's new girlfriends fall under the same treatment.

It has always driven me nuts to see people breakup and then fight custody battles over the mutual friends, dragging them into the fight, forcing them to choose which one to invite to which gathering or to take sides in the breakup.  I absolutely hate that and I think it's totally unfair to the mutual friends.  

So it is particularly irritating to me when friends self-regulate their guest list out of imagined fear of awkwardness or drama or, worse, self-censor their discussion out of fear of even mentioning the other person that might cause some angst.  Because *I* certainly didn't put them in that position, so it must mean that it's happen enough times with other people that my friends now do this automatically, as the default position and I have to suffer for it, because it hurts my feelings to find that one of us was not invited to a social gathering when the other was.  I hate feeling left out and I actively enjoy spending time with many of my exes, particularly in social gatherings with all our mutual friends around.

So, for the record, if anyone happens to have any of my exes in their social circle, I am more than just comfortable with my exes being present, I actively enjoy social gatherings that happen to have my exes present because I am still FRIENDS with them.  The few people in my past that I am not friends with do not have overlapping social circles which would cause them to be invited to the same gatherings as I am, but should that happen, I am perfectly capable of being polite, of avoiding drama or big scenes, and of minimizing any awkward tension others might feel with having both of us in the same room.

And while we're at it, I will not play this game either.  I do not have the memory or the attention span to remember who is not talking to whom.  I make my guest lists public and it is up to each of you to decide if your attendance is dependent upon the presence of any other guest.  If you're unsure because you can't see the guest list for any reason, ask me.  I do not consider that rude, I understand some people are *not* friendly exes.  Also, unless specifically stated, all "partners" (for whatever definition of "partner" you use) are automatically invited to my events when you are.

And no, this post was not sparked by *you* (if any of you think it was), this was sparked by a pattern I've seen emerge and a recent rash of social engagements where various hosts made mention or question of some ex who might or might not be there affecting my desire to attend.  Several people, several events, several exes. 

*EDIT* - See?  This really is a pattern.  I totally forgot that I already posted about this very subject a few months ago:  That one was a little more generic about me being friendly exes and this one is a little more of a Public Service Announcement that people don't have to be careful about inviting me and my exes or talking about them to me, but I was serious when I said this was not because of *you* - that this keeps coming up over and over again and it's pissing me off.
joreth: (Bad Computer!)
Many (I'm willing to bet most) of you who read my journal do not need these instructions and can probably even list out the more common (and more efficient) ways for spammers to get your email address. 

This is not for you. 

This is for those few who do not know this very simple message and for the more knowledgeable among you to steal as a template to send to those less-knowledgeable friends and family you have (I know you have them!) if it strikes your fancy.  

I get emails all the time with hoaxes, urban legends, chain letters and glurge (which are bad enough in their own right) that have 5 pages of headers on them listing every email address known to man as my family blissfully forwards out yet another story about a young child dying of cancer and how Microsoft will donate $5 for every name signed down below or how this really cool thing will pop up on your screen if you just send it to 500 people (seriously, it works, I just did it and you HAVE to see it!). 

And it drives me nuts.  Not just for the bullshit that gets passed around as "fact".  But this isn't about the content of those emails, it's about not using the very simple BCC field to hide the email addresses to those dozens of family members that absolutely have to know that you can't tell the difference between an internet hoax and a real issue. 

Send these instructions to those who desperately need it:

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