joreth: (feminism)
Having one of those nights where I have several really complex and long blog posts brewing in my head, but not enough concentration to sit down and write them.

One of them is about the portrayal of abortion in pop culture and my own story about it. There was one show where one person asked another to procure some abortion pills for her because she didn't have access to them. The other person did, but lectured her about "now make sure this is *really* what you want to do, because there's no coming back from this..."

And the first person interrupted her by grabbing the pill and dry-swallowing it, whispering "please act soon, please act soon, please act soon".

I want to see more representation like this. And not all by women who have gotten pregnant through rape. Not everyone who has an abortion makes a "hard choice", or has to "live with it" forever after. For some of us, it was the easiest choice we've ever made and we are grateful for having had the choice more and more as time passes.

I wish I could concentrate, because my own story is struggling to get out, and I have so much to say in support of people for whom this is not something to be agonized over. And the deep sorrow for those who feel that way but are not given the option to make their own choice.

Another blog post was bumping around my head earlier today, triggered by, I think, a podcast I was listening to. But I can't remember which one and now it's buried under the abortion post's noise. Hopefully I'll remember it when I have some time to write soon.
joreth: (being wise)
Y'know one of the reasons why I like the Deadpool movie? Because most of the time, I can't figure out why the female love interest is interested in the male lead.

Her character isn't usually a character, it's a placeholder. She's just this generic sort of "woman shape", with generic sort of "woman attributes" that male writers think all women have - pleasant, loving, nurturing, capable yet needy, wants to save her man, shows him the light, keeps him on the right path, likes flowers and sparkly jewelry (but not too much), and is sensual without being dirty. And maybe a little clumsy, because, y'know, that's relatable.

The male leads are diverse and flawed and colorful. Exactly the sort of men that a boring, vanilla, "blank" woman would not be interested in.

But Vanessa has the same sense of humor as Wade (Deadpool), which, let's be honest, is a little over the top, if I'm being generous. Outside of a comic book movie, he's fucking annoying. Nobody who doesn't share his sense of humor is going to spend years with him smiling tolerantly while he goes through life totally incapable of having a serious conversation. But she's his match.

I like Deadpool because I *get* why the romantic couple is together. She's not a carbon copy of Wade. She compliments him. She has strengths where he does not. But she also isn't his Manic Pixie Dream Girl. She's just as fucked up as he is. As the character says right in the film "your crazy matches my crazy".

I like Deadpool because it's probably the healthiest, most compatible relationship I've ever seen on screen. It's at least up there in the top 10.
joreth: (sex)
https://theestablishment.co/a-womans-orgasm-shouldn-t-be-the-goal-of-sex-b0c15cc38c03

This is why I, not only disbelieve any man who claims to be "good" at getting women off (or who offers to get me off), but I actively am repelled by the claim. A woman's orgasm becomes just one more trophy for which men compete, not an experience for the woman. The woman as a person and her pleasure is incidental to the fact that *the man got her off*.

Fuck that shit.

A man who is genuinely interested in a woman's pleasure because he cares about her experience, not his own score card, does not generally feel the need to proclaim his prowess, either publicly or in private conversation as part of a proposal to talk a woman into sex with him.

"A new study published in the Journal of Sex Research has found that men derive a sense of “achievement” by bringing women to orgasm. But not just any achievement — not the sense of satisfaction that comes from giving someone else pleasure — but the kind that comes from self-validation"

"That’s right — a woman’s orgasm and pleasure have become about reassuring insecure dudes that they’re real men"

"Being treated like a project is exhausting." - Suddenly, not only do I now *have* to orgasm (even if my body or mind doesn't really feel like it), but I also have to do emotional labor whether I orgasm or not. If I'm the one who just had sex without an orgasm, I have to spend my time consoling THE GUY for "failing". If I did manage to have an orgasm, I have to put my own afterglow on hold while the guy celebrates HIS accomplishment and I have to properly thank and reward him for receiving the benefits of his hard work.

"Because of this, reaching orgasm can feel like work and often is. It’s tiresome enough, the constant self-objectification and pressure to perform like a pornstar, without the added pressure to “come” to validate the man."

MY ORGASM IS NOT ABOUT YOU. IT IS NEVER ABOUT YOU. MY ORGASM IS COMPLETELY AND SOLELY ABOUT ME, MY BODY, AND MY FEELINGS. YOU'RE FUCKING LUCKY THAT I ALLOW YOU TO WITNESS IT AT ALL.
joreth: (::headdesk::)
Hetero men, your profile pictures on dating sites suck. While you want to portray a realistic version of yourself in pictures, you also don't want to *start* with you at your worst.  Fuzzy, blurry shots of you being sloppy drunk, pictures of you glowering at the camera, and topless bathroom selfies are not good choices for your top profile photo.

Look straight at the camera from eye level or slightly above, have some kind of pleasant expression on your face that isn't intended to intimidate, and look like you *can* give a shit about your appearance when you want to. Especially if you have any expectations that the people you want to date give a shit about their appearances.

It doesn't have to be a suit and tie professional headshot, especially if that's not "you". Just don't look like you're an angry asshole or a fucking loser that your future partner will have to spend the rest of their relationship with you cleaning up after you and tucking you in.

Because I *know* that y'all don't like the kinds of relationships you end up with when your partners are attracted to exactly that sort of mate.

All y'all have the same shitty pictures. If you want to stand out among the crowd, put a decent picture on your profile and don't be an asshole. Seriously, like the BARE MINIMUM of being a decent human being with a decent picture will improve your chances worlds beyond your "competition".
joreth: (feminism)
I remember expecting my mom to have dinner ready at night, and of Super Bowl parties where dad and the guests sat in the living room while Mom (and some of her friends more interested in friendship than sports) worked in the kitchen.

I remember my mom getting so angry that I didn't want what she cooked for dinner or that I whined about being hungry because food wasn't ready yet that she told me to make my own damn dinner. And I remember her getting upset when I started doing exactly that, because I was now eating at different times and not having our family meal together.

Because she was first unappreciated and then a failure for not keeping her family "together". And I didn't understand at the time the external and internalized pressures she had on her to do it all, to be it all, and how my separation from the dinner table played into all of that.

I don't live with my partners because I can't deal with exactly this kind of default separation of roles that *everyone* I have ever been with falls into, even if they happen to make some kind of exception somewhere (maybe he cooks, but I'm still the household manager, or something).

But even living separately, I still have to remind partners that I need to eat, I still have to *ask* for their help instead of them offering to help with anything that isn't a "manly" chore, I still have to remind them when we haven't spent time together or we haven't had "romantic" time together like dates, and I often have to plan the dates.

And forget "vacations" together - I am the travel agent every single time or nothing gets planned and I don't get to do things that I want to do because it doesn't occur to them to plan anything or ask for my input. I've had exactly one partner who did this - who asked me if he could plan something for me, to take some of the responsibility off of my shoulders, who asked for my parameters and then just ran with it.

One.

I'm told that they're just so easy-going that they don't really care what we do, as long as we're together. And THAT'S PART OF THE PROBLEM. They can't see how the responsibility falls on their women partners by default, or that we might have different priorities so that we *need* them to start caring about what we do together.

That's great that you don't care. However, *I* might want to do something with the fact that we're in a town I've never been in and I'm spending a lot of money to be here, so seeing nothing but the inside of a hotel room kinda defeats the purpose of taking *this* trip to *this* place.

So maybe y'all can do the Googling to see what there is to do around here, and maybe y'all can suggest some activities that you think I might enjoy, and maybe y'all can pay attention to the clock instead of me having to wake up early enough to get y'all out of bed, fed, dressed, and out the door in time to do the activities when they start?

And, again, maybe some people don't do *all* of the things - really only one of my partners is actually less of a morning person than I am, but somehow I still have to get myself up in time to make sure that they aren't distracted by something else and we leave late when that's one of my own weakest areas and maybe I need someone else keeping *me* on track for a change?

Anyway, now I'm rambling. Point is, even among "enlightened", "feminist" men, this is still a problem.

https://www.facebook.com/NewWorldMom/photos/a.723915847641604/1827440620622449/
I was a young girl when I realized there was a hierarchy in my home. Chores were designated by gender. Blue jobs for my brother, and pink jobs for me. Mom did the cleaning, cooking, and most everything needed to make our house a home. Dad mowed the lawn, fixed the cars, and played with my brother and I until he could barely keep his eyes open. An amazing Father.

It took me a long time to understand why my Mother scowled at my Dad when the three of us entered the house after an incredible summer night digging in the sandbox.

That realization came fast and furious once I had kids and a marriage of my own.

As latchkey kids raised in the seventies and eighties, my brother and I were expected to do our chores and start dinner before our parents got home from work. Every day it was the same. I spent my time tidying up the house, cleaning the kitchen, and starting dinner. Usually, spaghetti, because it was the easiest thing for me to cook without burning the house down. Okay, so this one time I almost burned the house down, everyone makes mistakes. Lesson learned.

While I domesticated myself, my brother would either mow the lawn, take out the garbage, or... come to think of it, there weren't a lot of blue jobs that needed daily attention. I noticed my workload was different, perhaps even harder at times, but I was the girl, and it was what was expected of me. There were multiple days I spent bickering with my brother because I was having trouble handling my workload. I still remember thinking, I just want his help. I felt like I was drowning and couldn't do it all on my own before our Mom got home. Why was this my responsibility just because I am the girl?

This same scenario played out in my marriage many years later.

It was in those moments I realized his chore list seemed a little heavier in physical weight but much lighter in actual duties.

Nevertheless, I didn't rebel. I didn't speak out, complain, or say anything. I didn't know it to be different, or wrong. But I did know without a doubt if I did complain I would be met with resistance. I might indeed be labelled, crazy. A nag. I had heard it all before. The word 'nagging-bitch' had no trouble spilling from my Grandfather's lips while my Grandmother waited on him hand and foot.

I had spent my whole life watching the women in my life carry the weight of the entire house on their backs while men sat back and watched them do it. It was normal, expected.

A Grey Cup party filled with food my Mother made became the norm, while the men sat in front of a football game expecting more. More beer, more food, more work. More take, more take, more take. No give.

My Mom was a goddess, and in my mind's eye, she could run the world. She was already running my world, beautifully.

Somehow, I knew at that young age, I wanted to be just like my Mom. She was spectacular to watch. She could do/and did everything to keep our house afloat. My Dad by her side, supporting her every step of the way, but mostly from the couch.

From my Father's spot on the sofa, tangled in his legs I would watch my Mother drudge over the dinner I'd half-prepared. Still dressed in her silk jumper, her purse barely placed on the kitchen table, she stood over a chocolate brown stove while the three of us indulged in the newest episode of M*A*S*H.

Every once in awhile I would notice her glance through the butler's window in our kitchen to catch a glimpse of her family. Sometimes she would yell, and I would wonder why she seemed so angry. Sometimes she would pour a glass of wine and drown us out. Sometimes she would smile so big her eyes would fill with tears stained by love. All the time. Every single damn time -- she made my entire family a sit down dinner fit for a King. Not a night went by that woman didn't feed our family whole real food. She is my super-hero.

I have an amazing Father. I do. He is strong, forgiving, loving, accepting, and, what has always stood out about my astounding Dad; is he speaks of equality, freedom, and humanity in almost every sentence that leaves his prophetic mouth. However, he was brought up in a generation filled with misogynistic values. Taught to be served by his wife. Doesn't that sound stupid -- "served by his wife". I am literally shaking my head as I am writing the words. He learned it from his Dad, my Grandpa.

It's no one's fault, except maybe the patriarchy, I grew up in a misogynist's world. Back in those days, things were different. My parents were instruments of their generations belief systems, and the belief systems of generations before them.

We can, and need to change this. The mentality of women "doing it all" is not only propagated by males, but females alike. Our belief systems insinuate that the Mom should endure the burden of household chores. This is wrong and unfair.

When I was growing up, both of my parents had full-time jobs. Careers, in fact. My Mother was a successful Bank Manager, yet when she arrived home she still cooked and plated my Father's meal. No one did that for her. She did it with love, she wanted to take care of him, but regularly she was exhausted. No less tired than any man in her position. Yet she was assumed to come home and feed her family. Expected to clean "her" house, only to be told she wasn't worthy of the title on the deed. Sometimes she wanted her husband to take care of her. To plate her meal, or fold her laundry. Most times she wanted to be respected and appreciated. This I know because I have lived my Mother's life. I have catered to the men I love. Not with regret, but often with repugnance.

I now know why my Mom grimaced at my Father when he spent "his" time playing in the dirt with us, especially after a hard days work in uncomfortable heels and constricting skirts. It was her time too. Perhaps she wanted to be the good guy. The "Dad" out in the yard getting dirty. Maybe, she didn't want to cook another meal. Instead, play catch with her babies on a soft summer evening. Maybe she didn't want to do anything at all but simply sit on the couch with her babies tangled in her legs.

I want to smash the patriarchy for allowing me, my mother, and all women to believe were not capable of doing it all, without being labelled. That we were and are crazy for resisting our overburdened and under appreciated workloads. When in fact we were and often still are, doing everything, to keep our houses afloat. Making homes.

We can change our world for the better if we allow our preconceived notions to change. Not just for women and men, families. Marriages. And, most importantly our children, and our children's children.

It is time men stop telling the women in their lives they are crazy. It's not crazy to be exhausted. It's not crazy to voice fatigue. It is not crazy to ask for help. It isn't nagging when a woman pleads with her husband to clean the toilet or help around the house. She shouldn't have had to beg him to clean his mess in the first place.

Women aren't crazy; they are tired. They are tired of picking up after everyone in their lives. Women are angry they have gone unappreciated for so long. Women aren't assholes because they are finally using their voice.

No.

Stop calling women nags and bitches. Start doing your job as their partner so they don't have to complain about the shit you don't want to do. This isn't about men helping women to run the house, it's about men actually seeing that it isn't only a woman's job.

If I learned anything from my superhuman Mother, it is:

"I can do it all, but all of it is not mine to do.”

Darla Halyk
joreth: (polyamory)
I'm considering two new poly terms for the glossary. This is the definition:
a cishet person (usually male) who fetishizes his partner's bi/queer sexual orientation and who uses said partner to obtain new partners to fulfill his fantasy of group sex with people of the genders/orientations he is fetishizing.
Which do y'all like?

Fisherman / Fishing (he uses his queer/bi partner for "bait" to "fish" for another woman for FMF threesomes)

Muskratting (from Elon Musk and his creepy partnership with Grimes, particularly the weird unicorn hunting attempt with Azeala Banks)

I think Muskratting is funnier / more clever, but I also think it's less intuitive because it relies on a knowledge of current events and is basically a fad, so in the future (and not that far off), people won't really understand why it's called that. So I'm not sure which direction I want to push this in.

Thoughts?

(P.S. - I didn't come up with either of these terms so I have no emotional connection to them. I saw them in a poly forum and I think it's a useful concept to include in a glossary - I mean, since I have terms like "cowboy", "cuckoo", "polywog", and "french kiss" in there)
joreth: (anger)
Alright, let's get this down on "paper", so to speak, so that I don't have to keep retyping it several times every December.  It's the time of year for That Song.  You know the one.  The creepy date rape song.  "But it's not rapey!   It's about feminine empowerment!  Historical context!  It gave women an excuse in a time when they couldn't be openly sexual and needed an excuse to do what they wanted to do!"

Bullshit.

Basically all these "but historical context!" defenses are not exactly true.  They're a retcon justification because people feel guilty about liking a holiday song about date rape (and one that actually has abso-fucking-lutely nothing to do with Christmas).
ret·con
/ˈretkän/
noun
1. (in a film, television series, or other fictional work) a piece of new information that imposes a different interpretation on previously described events, typically used to facilitate a dramatic plot shift or account for an inconsistency.

verb
1. revise (an aspect of a fictional work) retrospectively, typically by introducing a piece of new information that imposes a different interpretation on previously described events.
Let's talk context then if you want to talk context.

Sure, in the 1940s, women did not have the freedom to openly desire sex and (I'm told - I did not verify it but I will concede that this is probably true because it doesn't matter for my point) some people used to use the line "hey, what's in this drink?" wink wink nudge nudge know-what-I-mean? to absolve themselves of responsibility or accountability for the sex that they were about to have.  That was a thing.

But that was not a thing *in this song*.

Let's start with the background.  The song was co-written by a husband and wife team, Frank Loesser and Lynn Garland.  In their social set, in the '40s in Hollywood, there was, apparently, very stiff competition for who could throw the best parties.  Hosts were expected to, not only provide the location and refreshments for said party, but actually *be* the entertainment, with singing, dancing, performing, whatever.  Whoever was the best entertainment got invited to all the other best parties.  And in Hollywood, who you knew was of paramount importance.  It not only determined your spot in the social scene, but also got you employment, which affected your livelihood.  So this was a Big Fucking Deal.

So the husband and wife duo wrote the song as the climax to their party, hoping it would make them popular.  And it did.  They literally moved up in social class because of that song.  "It was their ticket to caviar and truffles", Garland once said.  It made them so popular that MGM offered to buy the rights to it 4 years later and Loesser went on to write several other popular songs for movies and this one in particular even won an Academy Award.

The song is a call-and-response type song, with the characters in the song being named Wolf and Mouse, i.e. Predator and Prey.  Loesser even introduced himself as "the evil of two Loessers" BECAUSE OF THE ROLE HE PLAYED IN THE SONG.   Loesser would probably defend his line about "evil of two Loessers" as being witty, a play on words.  Shakespeare played with words all the time!   He certainly didn't *mean* that he was really evil, right?  It's just a joke!  Don't take everything so seriously!

Except that Schrodinger's Douchebag says that too.  Schrodinger's Douchebag is the guy who makes assholey statements, and only after his comments are not received well, tries to excuse them as "just a joke".  You don't know if he's seriously a rapist / racist / bigot / other asshole or just a dude with a bad sense of "humor" - he's both! - until you call him on it.

So, OK, that's a little ... weird, but a bad "joke" is just one thing, right?  Well, the next thing that happened was Garland did not want to sell the song.  She thought of it as "their" song.  But Loesser sold it out from under her anyway.  Garland felt so betrayed by this, she describes the betrayal as akin to being cheated on.  I believe the specific quote was something about her feeling as though she had actually walked in on her husband having sex with another woman.

This led to a huge fight which, by some accounts, contributed to the downfall of their marriage and they eventually divorced.  So here we have a man who puts his own wants above his wife's needs (or strongly felt wants).  Why is it so difficult to believe that he would write a song about pressuring a woman and not even understand that it was bad or why?  It shouldn't be so difficult to accept that a man who would do this to his own wife probably has no problem with "wearing her down" and doesn't think his song represents straight up assault.  

We have here a pattern where a man just, like many straight men, didn't think about what he was saying or how it would affect women, particularly the women in his life, and he, like everyone else that year, was merely a product of his time and not able to foresee 70 years later where we now recognize the deeply disturbing "boys will be boys" patriarchal reinforcement of the "what's in this drink wink wink" joke.

Frankly, I don't think he thought about his lyrics all that much at all, let alone tried to write some weird, backwards, 1940s female "empowerment" anthem.   I don't think he deliberately set out to be an evil villain writing an ode to date rape either, I think he just flat out didn't consider all the implications of a bubbly song where one person keeps pushing for sex and the other keeps rejecting but eventually capitulates.  Y'know, like the Blurred Lines song - it's bubbly, it's cute, it's got a catchy hook, but ultimately it's about street harassment, like, he literally said that he wrote the song by imagining a dirty old man yelling things out to hot chicks as they passed by on the street.  But people love it because it's bubble-gum pop.  Same as this song.

Only with this one, we're *defending* it as a "joke" people used to use because women couldn't be openly sexual.  THAT'S PART OF THE PROBLEM.  Women needed that kind of excuse because they were not allowed to have their own agency.  So romanticizing this song only reinforces the message that a woman's "no" is really just her needing a better excuse, so if you keep "offering" her excuses (i.e. pushing her), eventually she'll find one she can use and give in.  Keep pressuring her!  She wants it!  It's for her own good!  It's empowering!

That's some fucked up shit.

But back in the '40s, they didn't really know better, apparently.   Women used what avenues they had for expressing their sexuality, and at the time, "what's in this drink?" was what they had.  They, and Frank Loesser, were not thinking how, in the next century, women who had taken back some of their agency would be constantly fighting to keep what we have managed to wrestle back precisely because of this line of reasoning - that "no" doesn't mean "no", it means "try harder" because we just need to be given the right push in the right direction.

But as the saying goes, when we know better, we do better.  Not knowing any better back then isn't a good enough excuse to keep it around now.  It may have been considered "innocent" in the '40s or even "necessary" because of the restrictions that women had, but now we know better.  We know both the legitimately terrifying implications of the lyrics in this song as sung straight and we know the patriarchal implications of the lyrics in this song as sung "flirty".  He didn't know any better back then, but we know better now.

So now let's get to the context of the song itself.

When Loesser and Garland were performing this song at parties, it was a huge hit ... but only within their social circle.  It didn't reach mainstream attention until it appeared in the movie Neptune's Daughter, which is a really odd movie for this song, only partly because the movie takes place in the summer, not the winter.   The movie is about an "aquatic ballet dancer" and swim suit designer who mistakenly believes that a South American polo team captain is pursuing her sister but who really wants to date her, and who accepts a date with the team captain just to keep him from dating her sister.

Got that?  Swimmer lady thinks polo captain is putting the moves on her sister.  Polo captain is not, and wants to date swimmer lady.  So polo captain asks swimmer lady out on a date.  Swimmer lady agrees to a date with polo captain in order to keep a guy she thinks is a predator away from her sister, but she doesn't like him.  She ends up liking him later though, because it's a rom-com musical from the '40s.

Actually, I could have just said "because it's a rom-com" and stopped there, because "two people who don't like each other and don't communicate with each other end up married and we're supposed to think this is a good thing" is basically the entire motivation for the rom-com genre.

Meanwhile, her sister is pursuing some other guy who she mistakes for this polo team captain, and since he usually has poor luck with women, he lets her believe in his mistaken identity.   What follows is a comedy of errors and mistaken identity that somehow manages to go from two women who go on a date with two men, get mad at them for things they did not do, learn the truth eventually, and go from being mad at them to marrying them.  After one date.   Because the movie was written by men in the '40s who followed formulaic story-writing to sell more movie tickets.

This film clearly does not show a woman looking for an excuse to stay.  The scene is played as a woman legitimately trying to leave.  So, on this date where the swimmer is grudgingly spending time with the polo captain, he puts the moves on her.  But she still thinks he's a disreputable jerk who is courting her sister and she is only out with him to protect her sister from him.  She is NOT into him (yet).

She grimaces when she tastes the drink ("what's in this drink?") and it's NOT storming outside - the Wolf is lying to her about the weather to get her to stay.  It's summer in California, the entire premise of the song is a manipulation to get someone to stay against their will.  She is playing the character as annoyed and legitimately trying to leave.

The Mouse is not trying to save her reputation, she is trying to give him a soft rejection, as women were (and still are) trained to do, to avoid punishment for rejection by passing the responsibility onto someone the aggressor would have more respect for (her parents, the neighbors, etc.).  It's just another variation on "I have a boyfriend" - she is trying to give excuses that he will find valid without saying she's not interested and risking making him feel rejected and hurt by her disinterest.

The reverse gender scene in the same movie is even worse.  Later, the sister is on the date with the pretend polo captain and she is obviously, aggressively, and annoyingly pursuing him.  The man is visibly angry at her and trying to leave, and she is physically forceful with him to get him to stay.  Apparently, because it's a woman assaulting a man, that makes it funny.  But it's not any less rapey when a woman does it to a man, and sometimes it's worse because patriarchy.

Very shortly afterwards, each of the couples apparently gets over all of this harassment and mistaken assumptions and they get married.   Which is exactly the sort of narrative that "what's in this drink wink wink" promotes.  So even if it *was* the joke-excuse, it's *still* harmful to idolize it *today* because the lesson is that when a woman says "no", she means "keep trying until we find a loophole" and that eventually the man will wear her down and win the girl for himself.

Sure, maybe some women did have to find some kind of "excuse" to save her reputation because she didn't have the freedom to say yes back then.  BUT THAT'S ALSO PART OF THE PROBLEM, and also not the point. 1) That merely perpetuates the myth today that a woman's "no" can't be trusted because men just need to give her an "excuse" to say yes; and 2) that is clearly not the context *of this song*.

That is retconning the song to assuage our modern consciences for liking it.

The writer here is not a man concerned with either protecting a woman's virtue or subverting sexual mores for women's freedom.  He did not write some female empowerment anthem in which a sexually active woman gets to have the sex she wants by justifying it with the right excuse.

He is just what the Wolf appears to be - a selfish, egotistical man more interested in what he gets out of things than in how it affects the women around him, and fully believing he is entitled to whatever he wants at the expense of what the women around him, particularly his own wife, want.  Which was absolutely status quo then and still is today.

And the producers who bought the song and the director who directed the scenes did not feel that the message was "no, really, I want to have sex, just give me an excuse".  They very clearly saw the song as someone legitimately rejecting another person because that's how they directed the actors to play the scene.

AND THAT'S HOW THE REST OF THE WORLD SAW AND HEARD THIS SONG FOR THE VERY FIRST TIME

How's that for context?

Just admit you like the song even though it's problematic.  Own that shit!  Have y'all heard the music I listen to?  I listen to pop country for fuck's sake!  You like that song, the lyrics are disturbing but the tune is catchy. Just accept it.

joreth: (polyamory)
We have this damn argument constantly in poly forums.  Somebody calls someone a "unicorn hunter", somebody gets upset at the insult, someone else demands that there's nothing wrong with being a unicorn hunter, someone chimes in that they're a unicorn and proud of it, someone else tries to explain what the term means and where it came from, and then everyone yells "language evolves!" and "language police!" to justify whichever position they happen to hold.

And I'm fucking sick of it.

The history of this term is hard to cite sources for, because nobody really documented it at the time.   I mean, all our conversations were in text on the internet, but in old BBS boards and email lists and geocities websites that are all defunct now.

So basically it's left up to the old-timers like me who were around back then to try and explain things, and then the young'ins come along with no understanding of our cultural history and how that shapes our cultural present, insisting that things aren't the way that we experienced.  Most don't even realize that we *have* a "cultural history".   But the word "polyamory" was coined in 1992, and it was coined because people were already doing this thing that we wanted to name.  26 years is long enough to create a sense of culture, to create art and history.  It's long enough that we are now multi-generational.

So let me tell you a little story about How Things Used To Be.

The polyamorous community did not invent the term "unicorn" for a bisexual woman.   That came a long time ago, at least from the 1970s, back in the disco swingers' era.  It might even have origins earlier than that (as the wife-swapping version of swinging is said to have evolved out of WWII with soldiers on deployment, so swinging has been around even longer but it may or may not have been applicable to have "unicorns" in other iterations of the Lifestyle) , but since I was never part of the swinger community, I am not as up on swinger history as I am on poly history.  I only know it as tangential to poly history.

So, anyway, in the '70s swinger communities, a "unicorn" was a bisexual woman willing to have threesomes with a straight MF couple, and then go away again without causing any complications like coming between the primary couple or trying to "steal" anyone.  I'll be honest, I don't know if there is any subtext or any implications in that context.  I don't know if it was considered an insult or a compliment or if it was neutral.   Again, I wasn't part of that community, I just know that this is where I first heard the term to refer specifically to a bisexual woman.

However, when the poly community adopted it, the term was definitely used derisively.  When we used the term, we weren't actually calling bisexual women "unicorns", like we were complimenting them as magical beings.  We were insulting the people who were using women as breathing sex toys by accusing them of "hunting" for a mythological creature who didn't exist anywhere except in their own imaginations, to fulfill their own fantasies of capturing such a wondrous creature.

Back when the term first started getting widespread use, those of us who used it were not calling bisexual women "unicorns".  Bisexual polyamorous women were "bipoly" women.   That was our term for them back then.  We liked portmanteaus back then more than the slang today that prefers metaphor or pop culture references.  We used to say that you couldn't go to a poly potluck (because back then we didn't have "discussion meetings" or conferences, we had potlucks) and swing a stuffed parrot (because that was the symbol we used in public for people to find our gatherings) without hitting a bipoly woman.

We weren't calling anyone "unicorns".  Unicorns don't exist.  That was the whole point of using that term.  A "unicorn" was symbolic, not a real person.   It was symbolic of all the hopes and dreams and naiveté from monogamous couples curious about "opening up" their marriages.  As the unicorn has always been symbolic of hopes and dreams and naiveté.

And power.

The unicorn has also always been a symbol of power.   The brave and courageous hunter or prince or knight charges into the forest, seeking that symbol of purity and beauty and grace, hoping to overpower such a powerful beast, kill it, and tear its horn from its head to drink from and steal its magical properties for himself.  There are actual, real thrones made out of narwhal horns and billed as unicorn horns.  Ground "unicorn" horn powder was sold as medicine and magic.

Or perhaps the hero sought the unicorn be found worthy by the magical creature who only appears to the pure of heart to bestow its blessing.   Every myth and legend about the unicorn says something about how the men see themselves, or how they see their gods (which are further reflections of themselves).  Even the legends about unicorns being irresistibly drawn to virgins to lay their heads in the young maidens' laps and sleep (so leaving a young girl alone in a forest as a trap for a unicorn was a thing) says something about powerful men and their values.

The unicorn has never been about the animal.  It has always been about the ones seeking it.

So when the poly community adopted the term "unicorn hunter", we used it in this manner.  A lot of our early lexicon-creators liked literary allusion and historical references (some a little more "pseudo" than others).  The arrogance and ignorance and entitlement of the wealthy white fictional and real historical men who hunted unicorns was more than applicable to what we saw happening in our own communities, with hetero couples trading on their couple privilege to maintain an uneven power distribution in their relationships.

Back then, we didn't have the language of "disempowerment" and "privilege" ... not that this language didn't exist, but it hadn't made it into widespread social use as it is now.   A lot of us made a lot of semantics mistakes back in the '90s and early Naughties because we didn't have this language.  But we were talking about the same things we continue to talk about today - power.

I came into the poly community as a single, bi-curious woman back in the '90s.  I did not start out "opening up" a monogamous relationship.  I wasn't introduced to poly society as part of a "couple".  I didn't have the safety net of an existing relationship to fall back on if this "poly thing" didn't work out.  If my relationships ended, I didn't have an "existing primary" that I could "close up" with and try to go back to being monogamous, or who would stick by me as we tried again as a single unit, I was left alone to mourn the loss of my relationships, and possibly the loss of several relationships if I also lost my metamours in the breakup.  Unlike those couples who only lost a girlfriend, I lost an entire  *family* when a couple decided to dump me for not living up to their magical unicorn standards. 

From my perspective, the community was made up of two kinds of people - hetero couples and Free Agents.  Long before we had the term "solo poly", we had Free Agents - people who dated and who had partners but who always operated as individuals whether they had many partners, one, or none.   The men who were Free Agents were routinely looked upon with contempt for their callousness, lack of empathy, and selfishness.  Even by women who were also Free Agents.

But the women who were Free Agents... I did not identify with that term.   I had known too many men who treated polyamory as a way to have lots of sex without doing any emotional labor in their relationships (not that we had *that* term either).  What I wanted was to build intentional family.  So I didn't identify with the Free Agents.  But because I always maintained my own identity and independence whether I was partnered or not, I was seen, essentially, as a Free Agent by the hetero couples, who almost exclusively did hierarchical polyamory.  The fact that I wanted a "family" but was "unattached" made me extremely attractive to hierarchical polys looking for a bipoly woman to "add to their relationship".

So let me tell you how people treated me.  I have a whole inbox from an old poly dating forum filled with nothing but straight men asking me to join their households either as an equal threesome or as "sister-wives", raise the children, keep the house, and manage the chicken farm.

No, seriously, there was one in particular that actually opened up correspondence with me looking for a co-wife to raise chickens in Montana.  Or, South Dakota, or something.  And when I complained about his email online, a half dozen other women responded that he had sent them the exact same email, verbatim.   A form letter seeking a co-wife to run his chicken farm.

Many of them didn't start right out the gate like this guy, asking if I'd be interested in becoming a wife.  Most of them went through the motions of pretending to want to get to know me first, but really, all of these meetings and correspondences were interviews.  They had a job position to fill - co-wife - and they wanted to see if I could fit into that position.

The first couple of emails from the first couple of guys ... it's easy to overlook the feeling of being "hunted" at first.  Especially if you're in a category of person who, statistically speaking, never gets hunted and is expected to be the hunter.  Complain about catcalls to a lot of men, for instance, and many of them will respond with "I *never* get complimented!  I would *love* it if women would just yell out a compliment on the street sometime!"

When you're in a category of person who has a lot of social capital and a lot of cultural power, even if you, personally, have setbacks and challenges in your life, it's really difficult to understand how someone without that capital and power might feel on the receiving end of attention from people who have it.  Because part of the advantage of all that capital and power is the freedom from experiencing life without it and not ever needing to even notice what life is like without it.

So, the first few emails just sound like ... dating app messages.   But the next few emails, and the next dozen emails, and the next hundred emails, over years and years and years of them all being the same thing - hetero couples not listening to me, not seeing me, not getting to know me, all of them looking for what I can do for them and not really caring about who I am or what *I* may be getting out of the deal...

It's predatory, it's demoralizing, it's depressing, and it's dehumanizing.

Hence, "unicorn hunters".

So, before our history is lost to ... well, history, I wanted to make a record of what it was like back then.  I wanted to put in black and white what our intentions were when we were still coming up with the terms that people throw around, and away, these days with careless abandon.

Sure, "language evolves" and words change meaning.  But a word's *origins* are important. Words, out of context, might have just a simple definition. But within context, the word can say a whole lot more than just a line in a dictionary.  The origins of a word can tell you what a culture's *atmosphere* was like when the word was coined.   It can show you insight into how we got to any given point and when we turned a corner and where the culture was destined to go from there.  It can explain the subjective experience of the participants of being in that culture.

Words have power.   We started using the phrase "unicorn hunters" to describe a very specific set of circumstances and a very specific type of people.  We needed that term because we needed to be able to discuss a very big and very real problem we were having.  If we couldn't discuss it, we couldn't address it.

And now we have people entering the community who were in diapers back when the term was first being coined, arguing about "evolving language" and "taking it back" and being "proud" to be unicorns, as if all our history doesn't matter.  We still need to talk about disempowerment in relationships and predatory behaviour in our community.  The need for the term still exists, whether that specific term has "evolved" or not.  But we don't have a replacement for a term that is still incredibly accurate.  And the words we *do* use to describe what we mean when we say "unicorn hunter" are received with even more offense.

Because that term is meant to be offensive.  It's meant to describe offensive behaviour.  That's what we always meant when we started using that term nearly three decades ago and that's what many of us still mean when we use it now.  People might want to erase all the subtext and context that comes with the term "unicorn hunter", but I want to make sure that we at least don't erase the history.  That history will tell us where we came from, and show us where we're going.  


For reference:
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: (anger)
www.wcnc.com/article/news/crime/4-york-co-law-enforcement-officers-shot-overnight-officials-say/275-508364146

Now *this* would be some irony - domestic violence offenders, bolstered by all the mass shootings and becoming more panicked and fearful of the cultural change of metoo, etc., stop turning on the charm when cops arrive (gaslighting their victims and getting away with assault) but instead start turning on the cops.

Then the over-militarized cops have to start seeing straight white men on domestic violence calls as a default threat and turn their own "shoot first, ask questions later" policy on them, possibly even supporting better gun control laws instead of doing the mental gymnastics required to be both law enforcement *and* 2nd Amendment extremists who derail the debate with arguments of "mental health".

Pretty soon, the cops and the straight white abuser men turn this into their own turf war, while the rest of us take a quick breath from the relief of the chokehold on us for a moment, regroup, and make backup plans for whichever side wins.

"A neighbor of the suspect described McCall as a friendly man and said their street is a quiet one. The neighbor also noted that McCall and his wife have children."

Because they're always friendly and quiet - that's how they gaslight their victims into thinking that the abuse isn't happening and that it's the victim's fault. This will be the most dangerous time in those children's lives - when the "friendly, quiet" white man pretends to show remorse and he gets off with a slap on the wrist and returned access to his children because "children need their daddy" even though he's a domestic abuser who fucking tried to shoot down a police chopper. This is when the kids and the wife will be the most vulnerable to retaliation.

Meanwhile, this asshole was *taken alive* (injured, but not killed) after shooting 4 fucking cops and hitting a goddamn helicopter while black men who sold cigarettes and reached for their legal gun permits upon request are dead.

I'd bet money that if we did a Google Alert for this guy, we'll be getting notices in a few months or a few years that he shot and killed his wife and kids, somehow obtaining a gun post-felony "legally" or some shit.

#BlackPeopleAreNotTheProblem #StraightWhiteMenWitihGunsAndEntitlementAreTheProblem #MaybeIfYouHadBelievedWomenFromTheStartGuysLikeThisWouldNotGetTheDropOnYou
joreth: (feminism)
I noticed how few men are really disturbed at the idea of female sex robots - some might be bothered or a little disgusted (the same way they are disgusted by the idea of prostitution), but they're not really *disturbed* at the concept of men preferring literal sex objects over real women and what it means in terms of psychology and culture...

But come out with MALE sex robots with bionic penises and men lose their fucking shit over possibly being "replaced" by electronics. They're all "female sexbots are no more worrisome than fleshlights, but male sexbots are clearly the downfall of society, will result in the end of humanity when procreation stops, and a sign that women just can't see a Nice Guy right in front of her."

I, however, am all "holy fucking shit, bring on the mascbots so I can have all the straight sex without having to actually deal WITH MEN in a romantic context! Make them dancing robots too and I may officially change my orientation." That way I can just deal with men in a totally platonic, sex-is-off-the-table-so-if-you-want-to-be-in-my-life-it-has-to-be-because-you-actually-like-me-as-a-person-not-as-a-potential-sex-dispensing-machine way, which will weed out most men except my existing partners, some of y'all, and the coworkers who have to work with me and know they aren't getting any anyway.

Does it fall under the ace spectrum if I don't want to have sex anymore with actual people but a person-shaped electric sex toy is totes cool? Asking for a friend.
"These straight women, they want your dicks, they absolutely want your dicks, they are just SO TIRED of everything else attached to it, guys," ~ DeAnne Smith
#hermitsexual #LoveMyExistingGuysButNotReallySoIntoDatingAnymore

So, someone posted an article about male sex bots (which spawned this post). Some manchild got snarky, saying something like "because it's so hard for women to find dick" - as if inanimate sex toys are only used by people who can't find live partners. Couple other people popped in to point out that it's not the dick that's hard to find, it's the quality of the person attached to it that's so sparse on the ground.

So I quoted that DeAnne Smith quote above. That should have been the end of it. It was a joke, intended to match the jokey tone of the original comment. So this douchebag decides to respond totally seriously that I shouldn't get down, there are good and decent men out there if I just keep looking.

*Sigh* poopsie, you really don't know to whom you speak. So I responded back with something along the lines of him totally missing the point, it was a joke, and just let it go, with a hashtag about having 2 male partners so I really don't need any dating advice. Naturally, he didn't listen to me telling him to let it go, so he sealioned up and condescendingly asked me to "explain" because he was listening.

So I blocked him. Because he's the reason why I want a male sexbot.
joreth: (being wise)
Reminder:  Abuse makes people "crazy", so if you date someone who has an abusive ex, and you later discover that the person you're dating is "crazy" themselves, the proper response isn't to then doubt just how "abusive" their exes really were (particularly when *you saw them* be abusive with your own eyes), but to feel saddened that abuse is so ubiquitous, that your partner has been that badly hurt, and that society's first reaction to your partner's behaviour is to dismiss them as being "crazy" rather than condemn the abuse that makes them behave so irrationally.

Not that people never lie about abusive exes - my abusive ex is sticking to his story that it was his *victim* who was the one who abused *him*.  So I don't mean to say you should never question someone's one-sided story after new evidence comes to light.

I'm just saying that most of the time, when we call an ex "crazy", because of the social convention for the use of that word, it's often for behaviour that they picked up as a direct result of someone harming them.  It's either a survival strategy that no longer works when they're not being harmed, or it's contrary to reality because they no longer have a terrific grasp of reality thanks to someone rewriting their reality for them.

The things that we tend to call "crazy" (as in, "my crazy ex") are not usually the same sorts of things that abusers who flip the script and accuse their victims of being "abusive" tend to do.  If you're dating someone that you start to suspect might have lied about their ex being abusive, there's a good chance that what they're doing to make you suspect this is not behaviour that we culturally refer to as "crazy" from "my crazy ex", generally speaking.  They're probably being more gaslighty and / or controlling, than the sorts of things that we tend to label as "crazy".

Abusers who try to convince people that their former victims are the "real" abusers tend to do other things, like the things found on the Wheel of Abuse, such as gaslighting, manipulating, and other controlling behaviour.  Erratic and "emotional" behaviour and being out of touch with reality is actually more likely to be *confirmation* that the abuse was probably real.  Cool controlling or explosive anger controlling and using your fear to direct your own behaviour is more likely to be the signs that their story of past abuse may not be accurate.

If someone you're dating starts acting in a way that might tempt you to call them "crazy" (because of how we generally use that term), which then prompts you to reevaluate their claims of an abusive ex (even though you may have even seen the abusive behaviour first-hand) just because they're acting irrationally and you think this is reason enough to doubt everything they've ever told you including their abusive past even though their irrational behaviour isn't really related to lying about victimization, then they're probably not "crazy", they're still struggling with their abuse.

You don't have to stick around in that relationship if their response to their trauma is too hard for you to deal with.  Just don't call them "crazy" for it.  They're traumatized.  They're not immune from acting out in harmful ways just because they were a victim themselves, but they are traumatized, not "crazy".
joreth: (feminism)
I wish that, for 2 years, all young women everywhere would just all simultaneously refuse to pose for men photographers, for 3 reasons:
  • All the young girls who like posing would have to sit for women and anyone else who isn't a man, and they could maybe learn what a non-predatory shoot is like (not that women can't be predatory, but for the most part, women photographers aren't the problem, and WAY too many men use photography as their tool for being predatory, a significant subset of them aren't even bothering to be real photographers, they're just setting up "shoots" to creep on young women);

  • Women / enby photographers would finally have their work be in demand and their talent accepted;

  • All the male photographers would finally have to learn how to shoot anything other than conventionally pretty, young, thin, white girls and women. Those who already do shoot anything other than that won't even be affected by the spontaneous ban. But everyone else will have to learn how to see beauty in subjects other than young, thin, white women, or else have nothing left to photograph.
To address anyone who thinks ""but if I can't look at women photographed by predators all the sexy ladies will be gone!":
  1. I said for 2 years, not forever. I think you'll survive. And there is always the bajillions of predatory porn that already exists.

  2. Being photographed by women does not mean there will not be any sexualized photography of women. Women photographers are perfectly capable of photographing erotic or sexualized photography of other women. As both a photographer and a model myself (professional for both), I can say this with certainty.

    In fact, that was my second point above.

  3. This is never going to happen. This is an expressed desire for teaching people a lesson. Don't treat it as a serious suggestion, listen to the moral lesson behind it.

  4. I'm not terribly interested in catering to, nor providing space in my comments for, the desires of people who "wouldn't want to live without" the products of abuse and predation and are willing to trade the lives and mental health of vulnerable young women just to avoid the inconvenience of not having a product available to them for a short period of time. So I just don't care if some people have to "live without".
joreth: (anger)
Filmmakers: If your female character is trying to "pass" as a man, and especially if she is from a historical era, don't give her the modern Hollywood "no, I totally woke up with perfect lashes and cheekbones" makeup.
  1. She wouldn't have worn that makeup anyway, but I've given up on expecting period pieces to faithfully recreate period makeup; and

  2. Nobody in their right mind would believe this person with big doe eyes and pouty lips and hair obviously upswept into a cap is a man. Since there are dire consequences for women "passing" as men in previous eras, she especially would not have been wearing feminine makeup. If anything, she *might* have tried to roughen her face to look more masculine with makeup, but likely she wouldn't have had to wear makeup at all.
Women do not need to constantly have "no makeup" makeup on to be in front of the camera. It doesn't really look "natural" anyway, and if a woman tried to get away with it in the real world while pretending to be a man, she'd never succeed.  Actual men can't "pass" as "real men" if they're "too feminine", what makes you think that merely putting a woman in man's clothing but with women's makeup would?

All it does is make your film look completely unrealistic when people have no idea that she's a woman. It makes the other characters look oblivious and unobservant and clueless when nobody recognizes her as a woman while dressed as a man with eyeliner and lipstick on.  Nobody is buying that this short, very slender person (yet suspiciously bulky in certain places) with long hair tucked into a cap and lined & shadowed eyes is male. Women do not need to look "pretty" 100% of the time, even in movies.
joreth: (feminism)
At work a few months back, I passed by a couple of dudes arguing. One guy stopped me and said, "I'm pretty sure JORETH doesn't need a man for anything!"

Without knowing the rest of their conversation, I said "nope! I don't need a man for anything!"

The other guy started rattling off things that people, being part of a social species, need, like companionship, physical touch, love, etc.

I said, "sure, but I don't need to get any of those things FROM A MAN."

He just stopped and blinked at me, like it had never crossed his mind that "companionship", "physical touch", "a support network" are things that A) have nothing to do with penises and B) are not synonymous with heterosexual romantic relationships.

His mouth opened and closed a few times, as he tried to work out how this was possible. Then he just asked me how else I would get them.

So I pointed out that some women are not straight and they seem to get those things from not-men all the time. And some of us have these things called "friends" and "family" who not only provide "companionship", "physical touch", and "support network", but who often provide it better, and with more stability.

As a last ditch effort, he asked about sex, as he learned that I was straight. That's always a sign that someone doesn't know me, when they think they can "gotcha" me on any topic related to sex.

So I said, "honey, I can do it faster and better by myself than any man can do it for me. Out of all those things, that's the LAST thing I need a man for."

He conceded the argument.

(The first guy who roped me into this later came up and apologized for pulling me in - he's a feminist who was trying to make this guy understand but wasn't succeeding and had reached the end of his rope, and since I happened to be walking by, he knew that I'd have some good responses handy)

joreth: (feminism)
I just made a connection that I've been dancing around for years but I don't think I ever drew such a bold line between before.   Most people who have heard of the word "limerence" confuse it or use it interchangeably with NRE, and they are not synonyms.

NRE is that giddy feeling of being "in love" that you have at the beginning of a relationship.  It has some characteristics in common with limerence, but it also has some very important distinctions.  For instance, what it has in common is that, during NRE, you may think about the other person to the extent that you have trouble concentrating on other things. That can be characterized as "intrusive thoughts".  But limerence is *really* about "intrusive thoughts", more like a mental illness has "intrusive thoughts". Those thoughts become downright obsessive.

Limerence also does not require any relationship to actually exist.  It requires the right combination of Hope and Fear - hope for the "limerent object" (i.e. the person you're limerent about, and "object" is really a very accurate term here because they are often objectifying the other person) to reciprocate your feelings and fear that they won't.  People can be limerent about strangers they have never spoken to (like the cute bank teller that you see every payday or the person who always sits 3 seats behind the driver on your bus commute home), and even people they have never come in contact with like celebrities.  In fact, the scary kind of celebrity stalking has all the hallmarks of limerence.

Once you're actually *in* a relationship, limerence is more likely to fade because, now that you've "secured" the relationship, the amount of fear that they don't reciprocate drops (for most people, anyway).  But having a crush on someone who is also willing to be your friend? That's a recipe for maintaining limerence indefinitely because the friendship keeps feeding the hope and the continued not-dating keeps feeding the fear.

One of the hallmark symptoms of limerence is in a particular daydream.  The daydream involves the limerent person in a situation requiring them to save the limerent object's life.  This act of saving them is what finally brings them to the attention of their L.O.  The L.O. falls for them because this selfless act pulls the scales from their eyes and they finally see them as worthy of love.

Many times, this daydream actually results in the limerent person's death, because if they were to actually achieve their goal of obtaining a relationship with the L.O., they would have to live with the reality of relating to another human being, not the perfect angel casing they have constructed around their L.O.  So their "love" remains "pure" and "unsullied" because it is only a moment of sacrifice and recognition, perfect in its transitory nature.

To give an example, a very common daydream for someone suffering limerence is to imagine that they are walking down the street one day, and they pass their L.O. on the street.  Sometimes they come up with elaborate reasons for why the L.O. is in that particular place and time or why they are (mine as a kid was that I finally convinced my parents to take me to this touristy island near where I grew up, where I heard my teeny-bopper celebrity crush liked to hang out).  But regardless, they are both there, on the sidewalk.

Suddenly, a bus comes careening around the corner.  It has no brakes!  It's barreling down, heading right for the L.O.!  They dash across the street, or down the sidewalk, or wherever they are, and make it to their L.O. in the nick of time, pushing them out of the way to save them from the bus, but not quite fast enough to jump to safety themselves.

The L.O. picks themselves up and runs over to where they lay, broken and bloody.  The L.O. cradles their head in their lap and cries.  The L.O. thanks them and profess undying love to them, begging them to please hold on, help will be there soon.  They stare up into the beautiful eyes of their L.O., they smile through the pain, they say it was nothing, that the L.O. deserves to live because the world will be better by having the L.O. in it.  And then they die, held in the arms of the one they love who literally loved them until death did they part.

The daydream does not *need* to have death at the end of it to be a limerence daydream, but it's common. Sometimes, the daydream ends with the saving, but instead of the hero winning the victim, the hero graciously, magnanimously accepts no reward and walks off into the sunset, leaving the L.O. staring wistfully after them.

And this is the connection I just made. This is basically every MRA, incel fantasy (incel = "involuntary celibate"). The reason they are the way that they are is because they have a toxic dose of misogyny mixed with limerence. The whole incel subculture exists for misogynists who are also limerent-prone.

This makes everything make more sense now.

This realization comes because of a story I just read about some dorky dude who saves his L.O. from a would-be mugger while her jock boyfriend freezes, and he saves them all by pulling out a "judo katana" (I shit you not) in the face of a gun and calmly lectures the mugger into fright.  Then his L.O. kisses him in thanks, but he doesn't even smile, he's just "doing his duty".

When I read this story, my first thought was horror at limerence, as it is every time I cross paths with it.  I've always found this obsessive state to be a terrible thing.  But the comments kept mocking this story for the MRA drivel that it is, which I initially overlooked.  So, I was hit by a connection. This entire subculture is completely fueled by limerence and tainted by misogyny, like a particularly potent and noxious gasoline additive. That combination leads to exactly this group of people.

I don't know what to do with this connection that I always kinda knew but never really had it out in front of me before.  But as someone who thinks of limerence as almost a mental disorder, like any other obsessive disorder (disclaimer: I have at least 2 of them myself), I feel that this connection Means Something.

In the book, Love and Limerence by Dorothy Tennov, the author goes on to explain that there are people who are prone to limerence and people who are not prone to limerence (although people not "prone" to it can still have experienced it, just not regularly). And the people who are not prone to it have a very difficult time understanding exactly what it is, but when they do seem to understand it, they all think it sounds like the worst mental state ever to be in. It doesn't sound pleasant at all, it sounds like torture. If they do have a brush with it, they all universally hate the experience and take steps to avoid it in the future.

People who are prone to limerence can range from people who think it's awful to people who think it's fun, much like those who are prone to NRE. It's an emotional roller coaster, and some people enjoy roller coasters while some people don't.

But people who are not prone to limerence have more trouble understanding it. When you read the book, if you think "OMG that's totally me!", then you are probably prone to limerence.  If you read it and say "well, I experience some of these things too, have I ever had limerence?" but then get to the chapter describing what not-limerence is and then give a sigh of relief, you're probably not prone to limerence.

I am *not* prone to limerence, in spite of a brief visit to Limerenceville in my hormonal puberty stage for a handful of teen actors.  To me, I think it sounds like the most horrible awful thing a person can go thorough, but I also really dislike NRE, which is much less ... just less.  Toxic maybe? It'll make you make bad decisions, kinda like being drunk, but I don't think it's *inherently* an objectifying, brain-fucking, selfish mental state to be in, which I think of limerence as.

And to suddenly realize that this is what incels are going through, and the fact that nobody outside of a few narrow "relationship and the brain" communities know about it, means that we have no structures in place for building up defenses for it or treating it once limerence has taken root.  We even have rom-coms ('80s movies are lousy with limerence!) celebrating and rewarding it!  Throw in systemic support for misogyny and boom!  A culture ready-made to create MRA incels.
joreth: (strong)
www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/what-its-like-to-win-the-lottery-as-a-woman/2017/11/24/c90f67ea-cd69-11e7-9d3a-bcbe2af58c3a_story.html

When I was in junior high and high school, my teachers and administration were all very good about telling us what domestic violence looked like. I vowed at an early age that if anyone ever so much as raised a hand to me, whether he followed through or not, whether he expressed remorse afterwards or not, there would be no second chances. I was vocal about this vow. I told everyone how I felt about anger and violence. I didn't even allow anyone to touch me in any manner if they were angry. And I have never been in a physically violent relationship.

But what my schools were not good about was explaining the more subtle forms of violence - emotional and sexual abuse. Sure, we knew that "no means no", but nobody ever mentioned what it meant to have him keep you up all night, every night, begging for sex, so that you suffered chronic sleep deprivation over a series of weeks, and what that sleep deprivation does to you emotionally and physically, so that eventually you say yes just to get a full 6 hours of uninterrupted sleep. Nobody explained when yes means no.

So by the time I reached my mid 30s, I believed I had only been in one abusive relationship, and that it didn't "stick" because I got myself out relatively quickly and easily. And even that relationship I didn't recognize as abusive until years afterwards. I just thought he was a dick.

The thing with emotional abuse is that it tears down your sense of self, of who you are, right to your core, so that you end up hollow and empty, not a real person anymore. And that's something that, for some reason, I have never had taken away from me. So, in a sense, I was correct that abuse aimed at me doesn't "stick". In that sense, I am a lottery winner.

But the author of this piece talks of being stalked, but never touched. That's what makes her a lottery winner. I, however, was "touched", many times by many abusers. I just didn't recognize it, so I could turn my back and walk away.

I dated someone whose victim tried to tell me in that incomprehensible way that victims call out for help but that nobody can understand. He didn't touch me, so I didn't see it. Until he did try to touch me. And even then, I still averted my eyes. I tried to reassure him, certain that his unreasonable behaviour was merely insecurity that, if I could just reassure him enough, he'd learn to move past.

But he didn't want reassurance, he wanted control. So when I reassured but didn't bend to his control (it didn't stick), *he* dumped *me*, to the shock of everyone closest to us. To everyone who was close enough to know, I was his healthiest and most stable relationship at that time. Literally every other relationship in his life was falling apart at the seams. Nobody anticipated our break, or that he would be the one to initiate.

I won the lottery. I saw what happened to those for whom his abuse did "stick".

Abusive tactics are taught as a matter of course in this culture. They are celebrated in pop culture, they are modeled in our parents, they are accepted by all as The Way Things Should Be. Everyone has picked up some of these tactics somewhere along the line and everyone has used them or excused them in their own behaviour and on behalf of others.

But the vast majority of that time, they are not in "abusive relationships". They are not performed as a foundational part of an overarching goal to dominate and control another. They are often used as ... time savers. Someone wants a certain outcome, manipulating the flow of information just a little is easier. A child won't eat her brussel sprouts, says she doesn't like them. Mom gaslight her "yes you do" because it's just too much effort to have a reasonable conversation with a finicky 3 year old and because her mom told her the same thing so it obviously can't be all that bad of a tactic.

In my relationships, however, it has taken me until nearly middle age to recognize that a harried mom trying to get her kid to eat healthy is not the same kind of disempowering, entitled sense of possession the gaslighting, coercion, manipulation, and controlling that most of my exes have done to me - that what my exes did to me isn't as dismissable as what that exhausted mom does to her child even though it's the same *tactic*. I just didn't recognize what my exes did to me as abuse at the time because nobody told me what it looked like and it didn't "stick".

I won the lottery. I've bedded down with wolves and didn't get eaten, although I got nicked a bit here and there. I won the lottery. So far.
joreth: (polyamory)
I have, on occasion, offered to host "guest posts" for people I know who wanted to write something they felt was important but didn't feel like their own platform was the appropriate place for it, for whatever reason. I'm not really known as a blogger with a large audience, but I figure with my history of topics I can probably afford to host certain posts when others can't or would rather not.

So, today I'm providing a platform for Leni Hester on Facebook, who wrote the following post in a group that I and others felt would make an excellent public resource and reference article. They asked for name attribution only, no link-backs. Linked references and commentary at the bottom added by me.



A PSA for Unicorn Hunters! For those of us who enjoy playing with couples, here are some things I wish you would keep in mind:
  1. I'm HUMAN. Unicorn hunting sounds really icky and violent.

  2. The risk is ALL mine. If anything goes wrong between us, I mean ANYTHING--she gets insecure, he loses his 'momentum', indigestion, I tell a joke you don't find funny, you name it--I'm the one who pays. It'll be "okay, party's over, please get dressed and get out" and no matter how I feel, i get to drive home in tears while you two do self-care and cuddle.

  3. Couple Privilege. Yes I know your relationship is the center of your lives. It is not the center of MINE. If protecting the "sanctity" of your relationship supersedes my physical health, my safety, my feelings, and my time--it's obvious y'all don't want a lover. Y'all want a sextoy. Please check out Babes in Toyland for an inanimate object, and leave the actual human beings alone.

  4. One Penis Policy. Hahahahahahaha! You're hilarious, bro.

  5. Babysitting and House chores. No, I will not watch Chad Jr. and Becky Marie while you have date night. I know for a fact, you will NOT pay me for that time. You want me to help clean up before we have a date? Sure! Then I expect YOU BOTH to come over and help me paint or help me move. Not holding my breath.

  6. Ghosting. Eventually you two will meet someone cuter, hotter or less intimidating to the wife, at which point I will be expected to have the good manners to just disappear. My hurt feelings will be proof that I'm crazy, my anger will be proof I'm a bitch, and the fact that I had sex with you will be used against me.

  7. Offended by this? If y'all can't behave courteously, that's not on me. Maybe look into why these simple boundaries feel unreasonable, and be honest: do you really want to be poly? If you want the sex but hate having to care for another person, maybe poly is not for you. Figure this out before you pull another person into your drama.


And this shouldn't need to be said, but it does:  This is not the place for #NotAllUnicornHunters.  We already know that there are people out there who happen to already be partnered and who happen to like threesomes and triads but who aren't doing these kinds of things.  Congratulations, you don't suck.  But instead of centering yourselves yet again by reminding everyone here that you're Not One Of THOSE Couples, you could instead talk to *other couples* and tell them not to be like this. 

People who are technically part of a privileged group but who consciously and conscientiously object to a stratified privileged society don't tend to feel offended or insulted or even guilty when people who are part of a disenfranchised group talk about the problems between the groups.  They already know that they're not the targets or the objects of the criticism, so they don't take it personally and they can really hear the criticism without feeling attacked.  And they can feel secure in turning to others in their group to say "see this?  This is a problem that our group contributes to.  As a member of this group, I think we can do better."

So if you're not one of Those Couples, then be one of these other kinds of couples instead.  *We* are not the ones who need to know, in this space, that you are an exception to the rule.  It's your brethren who need to know that you are not one of Those Couples and you disapprove of those who are, that you will not defend them or hide them, that you will stand up to them and help us make our communities less welcoming to their toxicity.

We don't need to hear yet again that #NotAllCouples.  We need to see it by your actions, which includes not centering yourselves in our discussions, but signal-boosting and supporting us in the spaces where we aren't normally heard.
joreth: (feminism)
Women aren't "more complicated". Women actually have very simple needs - safety, love, companionship; mostly safety. But the world we live in is complicated.  We have to do a lot of mental calculus to try and stay safe. Sometimes, it takes Rube Goldbergian levels of precautions to maintain our safety.  So, when you think that "women are complicated", what you're actually seeing is "men make women do complicated things to protect themselves".

And that's why you can't "figure women out" - there isn't a single formula to "what women want" because 1) women are not all the same person, and 2) if we were that easy to "figure out", then we'd lose our safety net.  If those men who are dangerous figured out how we were protecting ourselves from them, we'd lose our protection. So we are invested in maintaining the illusion that everything is OK, that we like you, and that you're wonderful.

But since that's clearly a lie, you may occasionally see the cracks in our stories. We're not "complicated", keeping men placated is a complicated job. Sometimes we're not always seamless about it.

If you want women to not be "complicated" with you, then YOU have to put in the effort to prove that you're trustworthy enough for the women in your life to put away the survival tactics. That will take time and patience on your part.  And even then, some women may never put away the tactics. And they don't have to. They don't owe you their trust. Feeling entitled to that trust because you're "one of the good guys" pretty much makes you one of those guys they need the safety tactics for in the first place.

That's how complicated you guys make it.



This rant follows up my previous rant on Women As Feral Cats and inspired by the following collection of tweets:
"Seeing some folks I follow circulating a point that's worth drawing a bit of attention to. One of the oldest canards in low-denominator comedy is that women are inscrutable and men can't understand them. There's a reason for this and it ain't funny.

By the time a man reaches adulthood he has probably heard that women constantly say one thing and mean another, and that they are impossible to understand at least a thousand times. To some extent he probably believes this to be true.

And to a degree it is. Women VERY frequently say one thing and mean another, display expressions or reactions that don't jibe with their feelings, and so on. But it's actually really easy to decode once you understand why it happens. It is survival behavior.

While some men choose to become skilled dissemblers, men are not -required- to learn very much subterfuge at all -- looking calm while you'd like to strangle your boss is the biggie. Women face a completely different situation.

Women spend their lives surrounded by people who are, on average, bigger than they are, socially privileged over them, both more inclined to immediate anger (testosterone is a hell of a thing) AND more socially encouraged to express it, and best of all? Cherry on top?

Some of these dudes around them are extremely dangerous, others are not, and most of the time it is impossible to tell the two apart on sight, or even from extended contact. Often the only way to find out is to say or do something that might make a man blow up and see if he does.

This is not a great way of finding out what kind of guy a woman is dealing with for the same reason we don't use pogo sticks to test for buried land mines. It's often th eonly one available, though. So, VERY SENSIBLY, women will generally just opt not to run the test.

What that means is smiling at a man's flirting in a closed or isolated space, or laughing at an uncomfortable joke because the room is full of men and all of them are laughing.

Men are not only -not- required to learn dissembling, they -are- taught to seek affirmation of self-worth from women. They take these reactions at face value because they very much want to. And this can build uncomfortable or dangerous cycles and relationships.

Lemme be real clear on this point: Women do this because the way our society is currently set up, they have absolutely no better option available to them. They quite rightly value their safety over offering legibility to people who might seriously hurt or even kill them.

So while this may be frustrating to guys, it is not on women to behave differently as long as the social baseline for masculine behaviour is a toxic stew of lionized violence and anger. They're gonna smile and laugh as long as a huge % of men present a serious potential threat.

But let's say that you weren't raised by fucking spiders and your reaction to this isn't annoyance but instead serious concern, because you DON'T want to freak women out but now you realize you might have been reading "oh god go away" as "yes chat me up more in this elevator."

A few simple tells that you're doing something that's putting a woman's hackles up, which will follow outward affirmative signals: She leaves the area; she changes the subject; she moves herself or the two of you toward other people, esp. other women; she doesn't flirt/joke back; or, her rejoinder doesn't match what you put out there-- a compliment, for example, eliciting "thanks" or "haha" rather than a return compliment. All of these have a good chance of translating to "you are overstepping my boundaries but I don't feel safe saying so."

There's a good chance that when you spot this, your frist instinct is going to be to say something like "Am I making you uncomfortable?" or "Did I say something wrong?" That's what a good dude would ask, right? Welllll it's not the worst response but it's not a good one, either.

Those questions have a very good chance of getting back a response calculated to calm you down rather than an honest answer, because you have STILL offered no real indication you won't blow up when rebuffed. You see, those are also questions an irritated dude would ask.

It puts the woman on the spot and makes her pull off an immediate calculation-- is this guy actually concerned or is he feeling offended because he realized that wasn't a real laugh? Am I in more danger now, or less?

If you are in doubt it's usually best to back off, provide some breathing room, and then once the situation has a low threat index (non-confined space, potentially supportive people nearby), boot up honesty.exe:

"Hey, if the jokes about clown dicks are over the line, please let me know and I'll cut that out." Not just interrogation about her real feelings, but proactive information about the reaction that an honest response will provoke from you.

That's not some kind of cheat-code to human interaction, mind. People are complicated as fuck and women don't come off an assembly line at a factory.

But it's generally a better base-line set of guidelines for social navigation than either taking everything at face value or assuming the female mind was forged from the same inscrutable mystic bullshit as Harry Potter's wand.

Oh and this should go without saying but if you put forward the promise that you're not going to blow up, for the love of fuck, STICK TO IT. Offering a guy candor is an act of trust, be worthy of it.

tl;dr: Women have simple needs (safety) and live in a more dangerous world than men, which requires more precautions to maintain safety than most dudes have to worry about. Mocking them or getting mad at them for exercising basic safety precautions is an asshole move.

Understand the world you're part of, practice empathy for people who got dealt a different hand in the game of life than you did, and don't be an asshole, the world has too many of those already. It's not that hard once you know what you're doing. The End."
~ Holden Shearer
joreth: (anger)
Gaten Matarazzo, who plays Dustin on “Stranger Things”, says that he couldn't get any acting jobs for 2 years because of his condition. He says that "they couldn’t write in a disability into the show because they had already written the script.”

Hey, writers! You don't actually have to write in a disability into a show. People with disabilities have lives. They have adventures. They have friends and families and enemies. They do things and they know things.

If Stranger Things had never added that one tiny scene where one of the friends teases Dustin about his lisp, and Dustin says "I told you a million times, my teeth are coming in, it's called cleidocranial dysplasia", the show would have been EXACTLY THE SAME.

You don't have to give people with disabilities a "reason" for existing in the story. You don't have to give women a "reason" for existing in the story. You don't have to give people of color a "reason" for existing in the story. You don't have to give trans people a "reason" for existing in the story. You don't have to give not-straight people a reason for existing in the story.

A story happens, people are part of it, and lots of times, those people happen to be people with disabilities, or women, or POC, or trans, or gay, or bi, or anything other than white straight cismen.  Just write the fucking story, and then cast someone who can deliver the lines convincingly in it. Or, if it's a text-based medium, just write the fucking story and then change around some of the pronouns or descriptors just because.

Like, the terrible Tom Cruise version of War of the Worlds could have been the exact same fucking movie if you had cast a woman in the role, or a person of color, or someone with a hearing challenge. Especially since the character didn't survive by some amazing abilities that he magically had exactly the right ones at the right time (like most of Tom Cruise's movies), but he survived pretty much on pure, blind luck (which is one of the many reasons I hated the film).

Straight white men don't need any particular "reason" to be in stories. Nobody writes a story and then says "wait a minute, we need a reason why he's straight and white for him to be doing this... I know! Let's write in a series of awkward flashbacks showing his struggle growing up where he likes girls or he doesn't experience racism, and how that leads him on his path to where he is today!"

We don't need to create a romantic subplot to give the women a reason to be in the story. We don't need to set a movie in the "ghetto" to give the character a reason to be black (which is different from setting a movie in the "ghetto" because we want to tell the experience of being in the "ghetto"). We don't need to explain away a character's disability if the story isn't actually about their disability.

Stories don't need to be rewritten to accommodate disabled people, or women, or POC, or anyone else. Only if the story itself is about the experience of being that particular kind of person. But an action film? A drama? A comedy? Just talking about people's lives and adventures? We all have them.

If their disability literally prevents them from doing the thing (like, probably a deaf character couldn't be one of those safe-crackers who listens to the tumblers to open safes), then, OK.  But, like, this one actor with cerebral palsy talked about auditioning for a character *who had cerebral palsy*. She wasn't hired because the director was afraid her disability would prevent her from being able to physically handle the role.

As she pointed out, SHE HAS CEREBRAL PALSY. If SHE can't do those things, then the CHARACTER CAN'T EITHER.

So, just write your fucking stories and then cast people in them who can deliver the lines. You don't need to "write into the script" something to explain away your casting choice unless you are directly contradicting something in the script. "The character existed and had relationships and adventures" is not directly contradicting things like "the character also has a disability" or "the character also has a vagina" or "the character also has brown skin".
joreth: (boxed in)
I have feral cats living under my house. I love cats. I've been trying to win their trust for months and very slowly succeeding.

Feral cats have very good reasons for not trusting people. People generally suck when it comes to treatment of animals. Their literal lives depend on them being cautious and wary of humans.  I have never once felt bad or offended that a stray cat doesn't trust me immediately and can't tell me apart from those assholes who want to hurt them. I am bigger than they are and I have all the power in the world over their existence. I understand their safety requires them to start out by distrusting me. It's not personal to me, it's what they need to do to survive.

I don't always feel like I have "all the power in the world". Some things still have power over me. Hell, even the ferals manage to get in a good scratch now and then if I get too close. And that scratch has a high chance of getting infected, them being ferals and all, and I could actually catch something from them that could kill me.

And yet, I am still bigger and stronger than they are and I have *more* of a chance of seriously harming them than they do of me, even with their "unfair advantage" of dirty claws. Plus, I have the weight of society behind me, that doesn't much like stray animals running around. Even if I often feel trod on by that very society myself.

Women are like feral cats in this way. We live in a world with creatures bigger than we are that have power over our existence, and a system set up to support them, and some of them want to hurt us and we can't tell who they are from the ones that don't until they grab our tails.

Some women trust easily because they've had no or few bad experiences and they get lucky and their trust is never betrayed.

Some women don't trust easily and they miss out on the wonderful bond that they could have had with the nice guy who genuinely cares for them and really wouldn't hurt them.

Some women trust easily and get tortured and killed for it. Some women don't trust easily and still get tortured and killed.

Not all men, just like not all humans. As one of those humans who does not torture and kill cats (one of the majority, I might add), and as one of the few who is actively trying to provide a safe place and nourishment for some cats, I am #NotAllHumans, but I am not suffering any sort of self-esteem or rejection crisis just because these cats are taking their time figuring out that I am Not All Humans.

The vast majority of stray and feral cats will never trust me, some even actively cross the street to avoid me even when I crouch down and call out to them in a friendly way. They run from me, but I don't want to hurt them. I want to offer them food and kindness and pettings that would feel good.

They don't know that. They might never know that if they don't take a chance and trust me, but not taking a chance on me might save their lives someday when they don't take a chance on someone else. I'll get over it. I'll find other cats who do trust me, if that's really what I want.

And I'll patiently continue to put food in the bowl on my porch for the ones under my house, the ones closest to me, even if they never learn to trust me, because I care about their health and safety. Their safety is more important to me than my ego over whether or not they like me.

Some might try to say that it's different, because we have a drive to bond to other people. These people obviously have never been inside my head and don't know how strong the drive is to bond with cats. Honestly, I'd rather bond with cats than with most people. My need to develop relationships with tiny furry predators is stronger than my need for sex. At least sex I can do by myself if I really want to.

The point is that it's not about the Humans and it's not about the Men. It's about what's good for the cats and the women. It's not about *me* when a cat rejects me or doesn't even give me a chance. It's about the cat and what they need to do for their survival.

Rejection sucks. But it's not about you, so suck it up and move on. There are other cats in the world, many of whom will be happy to rub up on your ankles and claw your face in the middle of the night.
joreth: (boxed in)
https://medium.com/@emmalindsay/if-we-fire-all-sexual-assaulters-will-we-end-up-firing-everyone-bca0db236174

The headline is inflammatory. It makes it sound like the article will be one of those strawman arguments defending the "right" to sexual assault and criticizing the "over-sensitive liberal left" for being big whiny babies accusing everyone of rape and trying to wiggle out of accountability.

But it's more about acknowledging that everyone *is* culpable in perpetuating #RapeCulture and about looking inside ourselves for at least part of the solution.

If the #MeToo campaign made you feel better, gave you a sense of solidarity, had some benefit for you, then I'm genuinely happy that it helped you. It did not help me. It made me feel weary, cynical, and apathetic. So, even though I also raised my hand in #MeToo, I also took that opportunity to join another set of ranks - one that acknowledged my own participation in rape culture and in hurting other people. It's only by acknowledging it that we can even begin the work to change it.

As I've said before, abusers abuse people not because they have "feelings", like they're angry or afraid because everyone has those feelings, but because they have *beliefs* - they believe right down to their toes that what they did is justified and right. As long as they have those beliefs, they will never change their abuse. Abusers abuse because they believe they are right to do so. They believe they have the right to control other people in an attempt to manage their own feelings. Accusing them of abuse only makes them feel and react indignantly, offended, insulted, and more angry, because they believe they are *righteous* in their behaviour.

Rape culture is just more of that. People sexually assault, not because they're "overcome with lust", but because they believe they are good people, and since they are "good people", what they did must not be assault. They have a justification for it. They believe that they did not do anything wrong.

And as long as they continue to believe that, they, like abusers, will not change.

So we need to stop seeing people who do bad things as cardboard, cartoon evil villains, and start seeing them as complex people who have absorbed the very messages our society tells them to absorb and they believe they are right for having done so.

That has to start with ourselves. That has to start with it becoming "cool" to see the complexity in people, and "trendy" to look at ourselves deeply and acknowledge our actions, and morally right to accept accountability for those actions. We have to make it the more socially acceptable path to model and reward humility and accountability over strength and confidence (two of my own traits I am most proud of, btw, so this is not easy for me).

Nobody will be perfect. I'm sure there are plenty of things that I still believe I was "right" to do that others think I was wrong about. But I will start by acknowledging my participation in rape culture *even as I was a victim of it* my whole life, and I will apologize, and I will seek to change my behaviour in the future because sometimes that's all we can do when something is too far past or the people we have hurt are too far out of our lives to make reparations towards them personally.

But the hard part is that I am seen by society as a woman. My standing up to "MeToo" my participation, rather than my experiences, isn't what will fix things. It will take people seen as men, and respected as men, doing it visible and frequently to turn the tide of society.

Because otherwise, I am just a tu quoque example "well women do shitty things too!" defense.

"And, part of what was creepy about that night, is that I was hooking up with that girl for social status, not to connect with her. Of course I was tuned out to what she was feeling sexually; I was completely numbing my own sexual desires in pursuit of ego gratification. I wanted the feelings of success that would come after hooking up with her, but wasn’t much interested in the feelings of connection that came during hooking up. I wanted to fuck her as quickly as possible and get it over with just so I could say that I’d done it."

"How could people enjoy, and demand, being sexual with my body when they could knew it was hurting me?

The answer, I believe, is that they were in pursuit of ego gratification. They were disconnected from what we both were feeling, and were instead focused on the “accomplishment” of hooking up with me. The gratification they wanted wasn’t the gratification of connecting with another human, but rather achieving something in the eyes of society."

"Even if I didn’t do anything to her without consent, I think what I did was bad for her. I think I hurt her. "

"However, I think most of us *have* participated in the culture of sexual harassment in one way or another. There is not a sharp divide between the “evil” men in the headlines and a mostly innocent public; rather there is a spectrum that we will all find ourselves on."

"Sexual assault is a natural and obvious extension of our culture. It is a natural extension of values that we all have internalized."


joreth: (polyamory)
Your regular, sporadic reminder that not everyone who is poly started out as a "couple opening up" or a bisexual woman who got courted by a couple, and that not all poly relationships involve polyfi FMF triads.

In fact, the majority of poly people and relationships are not this.

Not all of us are hetero men and bisexual women. Not all of us are cisgender. Some people are even gay! And asexual! And aromantic! Some women are straight and some men aren't!

And most of us have relationship structures that don't fit a convenient geometric shape.

#polycule #TheAmorphousSquiggle #TheTangle #IStartedOutPolyAsAMostlyStraightSingleWoman #NeverOpenedUp #AlwaysPoly #IHaveWaitAMinuteFirstDefineTheTermPartner #MyRomanticNetworkNeedsA3DFlowchart #SorryIHaveNoIdeaHowManyPartnersMyPartnerCurrentlyHasIHaveLostTrack #OKSoWeAre3rdMetamoursTwiceRemoved? #MyBestFriendsSistersBoyfriendsBrothersGirlfriendHeardFromThisGuyWhoKnowsThisKidWhosGoingWithAGirlWhoSawFerrisPassOutAt31FlavorsLastNightIGuessItsPrettySerious #IAmYourFathersBrothersNephewsCousinsFormerRoommate
joreth: (polyamory)
https://longreads.com/2017/10/10/the-horizon-of-desire/

"Why 'you knew what the deal was going in' is bullshit in relationships. Just because I knew the deal doesn't mean I am required to consent to it unendingly.

'Consent is a state of being. Giving someone your consent — sexually, politically, socially — is a little like giving them your attention. It’s a continuous process. It’s an interaction between two human creatures.'"

~Jessica Burde

The article linked is about sexual consent in the context of what constitutes "real rape" and our current Rapist-In-Chief's endorsement of the new social climate of Rape Culture. But "you knew the deal going in" with respect to poly relationships is a natural extension of this same mindset, even if it's adjacent to the conversation about Rape Culture.

It's a coercive practice in the poly community where, usually, a cis-hetero couple lays down the law for some poor bisexual woman about what their relationship is going to look like once she signs her life away to them (sometimes not much different from the scene in 50 Shades, with actual contracts on paper and everything).

And then, when the woman who was initially snowed over with lust and New Relationship Excitement and the promises of double the fun by a, usually, more experienced couple, and not a little bit of strong-arming her to accept what would clearly be manipulative and toxic relationship practices in a monogamous context but who get away with it because it's "polyamory" so obviously it's going to look different so why can't "toxic" = "healthy" when we're turning the whole monogamous paradigm upside down ... ahem,

when this woman eventually starts to add up all the red flags and she can't ignore her misgivings any longer, or when she just changes her mind and her libido as people do over time and wants to renegotiate the parameters of her relationship *as we all have to over time*, the couple trots this old worn out trope and demands that she not ever change, that whatever she consented to previously still holds, and it's ALL HER FAULT for "disrespecting the primary" by daring to want something other than what she signed up for.

Consent, whether it's missionary sex in a long-term, hetero, vanilla relationship, casual hookup sex with the person you met in a bar, or ongoing intimacy in a poly relationship, is a continuous process and it is required *the whole time*, not just once up front. Expecting anyone to maintain a sexual, emotional, or romantic agreement they made in the past is coercive and a part of Rape Culture. Even when it's a couple doing it to a bisexual woman who "knew the deal going in".

"The problem is that technically isn’t good enough. 'At least I didn’t actively assault anyone' is not a gold standard for sexual morality, and it never was."

"Ideally you want them to say it again, and again, and mean it every time. Not just because it’s hotter that way, although it absolutely is; consent doesn’t have to be sexy to be centrally important. But because when you get down to it, sexuality should not be about arguing over what you can get away with and still call consensual."

"Rape culture describes the process whereby rape and sexual assault are normalized and excused, the process whereby women’s sexual agency is continuously denied and women and girls are expected to be afraid of rape and to guard against it, the process whereby men are assumed to have the erotic self-control of a gibbon with a sweetie jar of Viagra, creatures who ought to be applauded for not flinging turds everywhere rather than encouraged to apply critical thinking."

"The thing is, if you accept the idea a woman has the absolute right to sexual choice, you must also wrestle with the prospect that she might not make the choice you want. If she’s really free to say no, even if she’s said yes before, even if she’s naked in your bed, even if you’ve been married for twenty years, well then — you might not get to fuck her."

See how often these things apply to a couple's "third" when you mentally place them in these statements?

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, www.theinnbetween.net/polyterms.html#metafore).

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.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zx5N2b94BSk

 

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: (polyamory)

I had a match available to answer someone's genuine-seeming question on why some of the less-offensive unicorn hunting posts were also picked on. The thread is a good thread, with thoughtful yet passionate responses. My comments aren't that great, because I just typed quickly, trying to answer before I leave my house to the mercy of the coming hurricane. But there are some nuggets in there that I'd like to be able to find again, to write a more comprehensive post on the subject later. It is my opinion that couples-seeking-thirds is *always* coercive and disempowering and cannot be anything else. But it's really hard to explain why. Here are some of my comments touching on why:


Polyamory isn't an add-on to a relationship. Polyamory isn't something that COUPLES do, it's something that PEOPLE do. It's when a "couple" is seeking, as if that couple-relationship is a sentient being of its own. It's when the *relationship* is prioritized above the individual needs of the people.

When the relationship is prioritized over the needs of the individual people in it, and when any relationship requires any one person to have a relationship with someone else, those relationships are fundamentally, inherently coercive in nature.

People get all hung up on the configuration, as if we're complaining about triads, instead of recognizing the *nature* of the relationship itself. Unicorn hunting is coercive and disempowering. It just so happens to most often take the form of a MF couple seeking a bi woman for a triad.

It's not the triad that's the problem, it's the hunting that's the problem.

If you read any material on emotional domestic abuse, stuff that is a clear red flag for mono het relationships are things that the poly community just nods its collective head at, like, "well, sure, that makes sense, you totally need to organize your multi-person relationships that way in order to stay safe! What? It's just our preference! There are no wrong ways to do poly! Stop oppressing me for wanting to oppress others!"

Seriously, read Why Does He Do That? by Lundy Bancroft, and see how many couples-seeking-thirds do these kinds of things to their thirds.

For some reason, poly people like to reinvent wheels. Just because some of us are seeking to dismantle the monogamous paradigm, it doesn't mean that everything we've learned about monogamy needs to also get thrown out. We've learned a lot about what NOT to do, but the larger poly community seems to want to start over completely from scratch.

So now we have to re-learn what coercive relationships look like, because it's somehow "different when we do it". As if having 2 people in positions of power exerting coercive control over a third is less wrong than when one person does it.

Why Does He Do That is a book written by an abuse specialist who specializes in men-on-women abuse. He includes some nods to other demographics, but this is his specialty. It's tempting to write this book off because of that, but I think it's really important not to.

The reason is because men-on-women abuse has an added layer of culturally supported misogyny protecting it, and this book acknowledges that. How intersectional social issues affect abuse in relationships differs among demographics. White cis het men in particular are at the top of the privilege food chain, so it's important to see how all those privileged positions affect their ability to abuse and their type of abuse.

Even though we are polyamorous, we are still living in a monogamous culture. So we have couples privilege on top of all the other layers of privilege. Granted, couples privilege is not even in the same class as race or gender when it comes to oppression, but it is *one more layer* of a privileged class that affects abuse.

This is why I think we can take the lessons we learn from Why Does He Do That and apply it to unicorn hunting. In the microcosm that is polyamory, couples have the cultural support that white cis het men do, so we can draw parallels.

In addition to that, many of those unicorn hunters have white cis het men at the helm, having been steeped in the same culture that protects and excuses the abusers in the book. Throw in some internalized misogyny, and their women partners turn into enablers, funneling and directing the abuse out towards a third even while they are subjected to the very same coercion by their men partners. Like when child abusers turn their victims into accomplices later in life, only less dramatic.

So, as touched on in a comment above, because of the nature of most unicorn hunters just happening to be cis-MF couples (usually white but not always), it's bigger than just individuals being coercive and it's bigger than just "couples privilege".

Unicorn Hunters exist because we live in a culture that, through several axis of privilege and oppression, have spawned this one, little demographic of cis-MF couples seeking thirds that is a culmination of all kinds of intersectional privilege.

Which means that they are *inherently*, definitionally, fundamentally, harmful to the individuals they hunt and to the community as a whole. And this book is relevant for that point.

Related reading:

 

joreth: (boxed in)
Me: I need this information to assess where I should place my boundaries.

Them: It hurts me that you would even ask me about that! Don't you trust me to tell you? Your boundaries make me feel bad. Don't you care about me to let me in?

Me: Sure, it's cool, I'll just do the emotional labor so that you don't feel bad.

If people wonder why I'm so standoffish and hard to get to know on an interpersonal level, this is why. It's easier to keep people at a distance than get into fights over who should be shouldering the burden of emotional labor. If I push, I'm a nag or I'm disrespectful of someone's hurt feelings. If I don't push, then I don't feel safe so I place my boundaries farther out and then I'm "cold" and "emotionally distant". Which hurts their feelings.

When I was a portrait photographer in a studio, I used to have lots of clients bringing in their toddlers and babies. It was my job to make their bratty, cranky, frightened children look like the advertisement photos of baby models who were deliberately selected for having traits conducive to producing flattering portraits (including temperament and parents whose patience was increased by a paycheck). I would spend more time than I was supposed to, patiently waiting for the parents to get their kids to stop crying and fussing.

Every single session, the parents would exclaim how patient I was! How did I do it?! What I couldn't tell them was that I had built a barrier in my head to tune them out. I just ... spaced. I did not notice the passage of time and I wasn't really paying them any attention. I just let my muscle memory control the equipment and make the noises that got kids to look and smile. It's an old trick I adapted from getting through assaults by bullies as a kid - tune out, mentally leave the body, make the right mouth noises to get the preferred response.

That kind of emotional labor management takes a toll. I couldn't express any irritation or annoyance at the client and I couldn't leave to let them handle the kid and the photographing on their own. So I learned to compartmentalize and distance myself while going through the physical motions.

But the price? I now hate kids. I used to like them. I was a babysitter, a math tutor, and a mentor and counselor. I originally went to college to get a counseling degree so that I could specialize in problem teens from problematic homes. Now I want nothing at all to do with kids unless it's an environment where I am teaching them something specific and I can give up on them the moment I am no longer feeling heard or helpful.

That's not what made me not want children, btw. I was already childfree-by-choice at that time. I just still liked them back then. Now I can only stand certain specific kids who are very good natured, interested in my interests, and able to function independently (as in, introverted and not dependent on my attention).

So, yeah, I can do the emotional labor. But the cost is high. Doing the labor for too long, to the point where I have to shut myself off from empathy to bear the consequences of doing that labor, results in my emotional distance.

That's what happened with my abusive fiance. He wanted a caretaker, not an equal partner. Everything I did to remain an independent person "hurt" him. I bent a little in the beginning, as I believe partners are supposed to do for each other. But eventually catering to his feelings while putting my own on the back burner took its toll.

So I shut down. In the end, I was able to watch him dispassionately as he lay on the concrete floor of our garage, supposedly knocked unconscious by walking into a low-hanging pipe conveniently in the middle of an argument. And then calmly walk upstairs without even a glance behind me to see if he was following. He described my breakup with him as "cold", like a machine. I had run out labor chips to give, even to feel compassion as I was breaking his heart.

Of course, I didn't recognize his behaviour as "abuse" until years later, or I might have bothered to get angry instead of remaining cold. Point is, emotional labor isn't free, and if you don't pay for it in cash or a suitably equitable exchange, it will be paid by some other means. I don't mean we should never do emotional labor for anyone, just that it needs to be compensated for because it will be paid one way or another.

Since this method has served to end several relationships with abusive men where I never felt "abused" because it didn't "stick" (I just thought of them as assholes), I don't feel much incentive to change it, even though it would probably be better to either not take on so much emotional labor in the first place (which is hard not to do because I *want* to do some forms of emotional labor in the beginning as an expression of love back when I'm still expecting a reciprocal exchange) or to leave or change things before I run out of fucks to give.

But I do eventually run out of fucks to give and I do eventually stop taking on too much emotional labor. And it always seems to surprise people when I do. Because I was so accommodating before so that I wouldn't push "too hard" or seem "too selfish". But that always comes with a price. People are often surprised to learn that.

joreth: (being wise)
www.quora.com/Should-a-girl-marry-a-man-she-loves-or-a-man-who-loves-her/

I'm just gonna skip over the whole issue about referring to her as a "girl" and him as a "man", and I'm also going to skip right over the part where we're talking about what the *girl* should be doing, and not the man in the scenario or the fact that it's heteronormative in the first place.

People should marry the people who would make good legal spouses. Marriage is a legal contract that comes with a whole host of responsibilities and obligations and pitfalls and surprises. Roughly 1700 of them or so. Marrying for love, and only for love, is a good way for those surprises to bite people in the ass.

Love does not conquer all, and love is not all you need. If a person chooses to marry, they should go into the marriage knowing what a legal entanglement they’re getting into and choose their marriage partner based on who would make a good partner to be legally entangled with. Sometimes, the person who we are in love with is also someone who would make a good partner to be legally entangled with. Sometimes, it’s not.

That being said, it’s not generally a good idea to get into any kind of romantic relationship where only one person loves the other but it’s not reciprocated. True, we usually don’t have the exact same feelings at the exact same time as another person, but we should at least be on a similar page when we get into romantic relationships with people that involve intimacy and vulnerability.

Sharing intimacy and vulnerability is a deeply significant, meaningful gift. It’s an insult to that gift to get into a relationship with someone who doesn’t value that gift and who doesn’t exchange their own gift of intimacy and vulnerability in return. It’s also a good way for at least one person to get very hurt and at least one other person to be a jerk.

There shouldn’t be an either/or answer to the question. People should get into deeply committed and emotional relationships with people who they love AND with people who love them. And people should get into legal entanglements with people who make good legally entangled partners.
joreth: (polyamory)
www.quora.com/What-should-you-tell-a-girl-to-make-her-like-you

Nothing. You cannot *make* someone feel anything they don’t feel. Trying to make someone feel what you want them to feel is coercive and manipulative. You are not entitled to her feelings.

That being said, people generally like people that they find interesting, share common interests and worldviews, and that respect them and treat them like human beings.

If you want people to like you, go out and be an interesting person who respects other people’s autonomy and treats others with dignity, compassion, and kindness. This particular girl still may never like you, but *someone* will like you if you’re just a decent person.

And, just FYI, trying to “make” someone like you is not being a decent person.
joreth: (anger)
https://wearyourvoicemag.com/identities/feminism/mindy-kalings-brother-slut-shamed-distract-bizarre-race-experiment

There's this thing that some people do. When they belong to a class of people that has some (or a lot) of discrimination against them, some people choose to embrace their oppressors, their oppressors' values, and their oppressors' worldviews.

My mom is a good person, generally speaking, and I love her. I consider her a friend as well as a mother, and I talk to her about almost everything. She grew up a poor Mexican in the '50s and '60s. Her father actually had money for a while, long enough to pay for the eldest daughter's extravagant Quinceañera and send her to private school.

But by the time the other kids were old enough for similar things, my grandfather lost all his money and the family became poor.

My grandparents were immigrants and never did learn English. Oh, they spoke a few words here and there, but they never really picked it up. They deliberately sent their children to English-speaking schools and encouraged assimilation, so that their children would have more opportunities in the US than they had. Which is not a terrible hope to have for children.

So my mom speaks English with no accent (unless she's just back from visiting her sisters who still live in Texas and still speak Spanish at home, and then the accent peeks out again). She also married a white man whose parents were financially comfortable, a little bit racist, and also believed in their children improving on the lives that their parents started them with.

I am a 2nd generation, US-born Mexican descendant. I didn't learn Spanish until high school - in school. And I learned Castilian Spanish (that means, the language spoken in Spain and taught from textbooks with "proper" grammar, not the language of my grandparents).  And my mother still never spoke it to me - she wasn't refusing, she just never remembered to. It was no longer "her" language. She has to convert to Spanish, like a native English speaker, in order to speak it now.  So, to this day, I can't have a conversation in Spanish because I still can't "hear" it and I can only remember a handful of words, mostly cuss words that I picked up in grammar school from my Mexican peers.

My accent, my look, everything about me screams "white & middle class" because that's how I was raised. I went to private school, I was told to expect a bright future full of academic achievements and middle class adventures. I listen to country music for fuck's sake. And metal, back in the '80s.

I wrote before about my recent acceptance of the label "chicana". When I was growing up, a chicana was a lower class Mexican - the 1st generation descendant of immigrants and someone who did not speak proper English, did not live in a respectable neighborhood, dressed slutty, did only "bad girl" things like drinking and smoking and having sex, was probably in a gang, and likely had no future to look forward to other than more of the same - blue collar jobs, lots of children, and an ugly house in an ugly neighborhood.

I was not one of *those* Mexicans.

I grew up in the suburbs in a white neighborhood where a lot of my neighbors probably had that outlook. But I also went to public school whose district zoning was written to include my middle class housing tract as well as those Latino ghettos. So I was exposed to plenty of chicanos in my early days.

And yet, I still had that view of them. Which I got mainly from my parents. They were people who didn't respect themselves. We did. They were people who didn't *want* a better future, because my mom and her parents did want a better future for their progeny, and since they achieved it, obviously it was available there for anyone who wanted it badly enough to work for it. Since they didn't achieve it, obviously they didn't want it badly enough.  My mom embraced assimilation. Being of the light-skinned variety of Mexican and having a white husband, white name (through marriage), and no accent probably helped a lot. But she improved her lot in life by assimilating. So, obviously, assimilation is a good thing, no?

My mom worries about me because I live in a poor neighborhood. She specifically asked me about the racial makeup of the neighborhood as part of her worrying. My parents are the sort who would nod approvingly at Cosby (before his fall from grace) when he declared that black people were hurting themselves by wearing baggy jeans and speaking with their accents. If they just cleaned themselves up (i.e. adopted white values of appearance and decorum), they, too, could reap the benefits that white people enjoyed.

I remember my dad complaining endlessly about baggy pants, especially in the car when he would see "gangbangers" walking down the street. I also remember my mom telling me the story of how, when they were moving from Texas to California while engaged, to start their new life together, my parents were refused service at some establishment or another (a restaurant, a hotel, I don't remember) because the establishment didn't serve "hippies".

Now, my parents were NEVER hippies. But they were married in 1968. So my mom had hair almost as long as mine, and it was very straight, and my dad grew a big mustache when he got out of the military and had that shaggy '70s version of "short" hair, which of course was not short enough for conservatives who were born 20 years earlier. And they drove a van. You know ... one of *those* '70s vans (but it had real seats in it, not a bed).  I also remember my mom telling me about the discrimination she experienced when some establishments recognized that they were an interracial couple. Hateful things screamed at my parents when they were together in public, once someone recognized my mom as Mexican.

Mom even refused to allow me to attend a formal dance at my high school called The Black & White Charity Ball ("black & white" being slang for black-tie, tux-formal) with a guy I was kinda sorta dating who happened to be black.  She was afraid that I would experience discrimination for being in an interracial relationship (the irony that *I* was interracial all by myself was lost on her although I did point it out) and she was so upset by the experience that she was willing to prevent me from having that experience even if it meant hurting me by forbidding me to attend a dance with a guy I liked because of his skin color.

The point is that my parents knew what discrimination felt like, but they also believed that they could *do* things that would reduce or remove that discrimination. As long as they followed the rules, they would be treated like the class whose rules they followed. This is what allows people to tell BLM protestors that the secret to not being murdered while black is to just comply with police. Be a good little Negro, son, and the White Man won't harass you.

Except my parents *could* benefit from following the rules, not because following the rules gets you privilege, but because there are other things beyond their control that determine how willing society is to throw them a bone that they mistake as a privilege. Like whether they're more Spaniard in coloring or indigenous in coloring. Or how much progress has been made in the culture at large.

This goes back to my other post about Godot not being a person of color, and how we are not all the same in our oppression. There are a lot of us with more melanin in our skin or who say words differently than Becky from Wisconsin, but our experiences are not the same as each others'. Some of us are afforded more, or at least different, privileges from the rest.

As was mentioned in the comments of that post on Facebook, this is how That Asshole who killed Treyvon Martin could experience discrimination as a Latino man and still enjoy an enormous amount of white privilege in the killing of Treyvon and his other racist assaults and insults.

People of Latin American descent are *legally* classified as "white", unless they identify as Afro-Latinx (and then they're just "black" like Gina Torres from Firefly, because y'all black people are all the same thing, right?). That gives us some privileges that people who are not classified as "white" don't get. Like being allowed to vote or marry white people before black people could do either.

So here is someone who looks a lot like the US's current favorite whipping boy who still manages to think that Affirmative Action hurts the "more deserving people" (whites and Indians, apparently) and that black people are unfairly privileged in this country.

Because, if part of your culture includes embracing assimilation the way that many Latinx people, especially older people, encourage assimilation of their children to trade for future success, a member of an oppressed class can find some amount of what looks like privilege under your oppressors. This is one of the many (and brilliant) strategies for perpetuating oppression.

It's much like benevolent sexism. "Act like a Lady and we'll treat you like a queen. But fall of the pedestal we put you on, and you'll learn exactly how much we really hate you by the long fall and the hard bottom. You are only deserving of privileges as long as you meet our qualifications for them.

And when we punish you, we'll even tell you that some of your punishments are actually privileges. Like what an 'honor' it is to be a stay-at-home mom. You're just so much naturally better at it than men! What do you need a silly thing like an education or a career or your own income for when you can have babies?!"

"No, but Asians are just good at math! And medicine! They're all doctors and engineers! What? It's a compliment! It can't be racism, I was being nice!" Toe the line, meet white standards, and you'll be thrown some table scraps that you've been convinced are gourmet meals.

"Whose a good boy? Whose a good boy? Do you want a treat? Sit! Speak! Shake! Stay! Good boy! Here you go, here's a treat for you! We love you! Just remember, though, if you ever step out of line and pee in our favorite shoes, it's the pound for you!"*

Keep us all distracted from the white upper class oppression by keeping us looking to the side and down. Engage us in their oppression like a bully finding a shy loner and getting him to do the bully's dirty work in the hopes of one day being accepted by the charismatic and powerful bully.

"Sure, you can join our club. Just as soon as you publicly humiliate your sister, and oh, by the way, the difficulty you're having joining our elite group? Yeah, that's these black people's fault. Might want to go do something about that too."
joreth: (Spank)
http://www.boredpanda.com/girls-stop-abuse-boyfriends/

Abuse is abuse. In heteronormative relationships, man-on-woman abuse has an additional filter layered over it that is informed by misogyny. The blogger Shea Emma Fett used to talk about this and Why Does He Do That? by Lundy Bancroft covers how the cultural power dynamic is inherently embedded in man-on-woman abuse in hetero relationships. It's there automatically because the power imbalance is there automatically, so there always needs to be a conscious effort to fight against power dynamics in romantic relationships.

But in heteronormative relationships where there is woman-on-man abuse, that is ALSO misogyny at play. That's an example of the phrase "the patriarchy backfiring on itself".

What that means is that PATRIARCHY, as an inherently misogynistic system, created two, distinct gender roles to force people into, one of which is required to be submissive and the other as dominant and aggressive.

So if people are only allowed to fit into one of these roles, then when we don't, society simply refuses to acknowledge it. Which leads to women doing abusive things because they don't recognize it as abusive (because of the power structure, they don't believe women *can* abuse), and which leads to men not understanding that they are being abused and so not having any tools to deal with the abuse. Because they don't think they CAN be abused.

So if you participate in any of these behaviours (and let's face it, our culture teaches us that many of these things are OK no matter what your gender is, so we ALL have the potential to abuse others buried in our cultural programming, even if we fight it), if you do these things then you are participating in and supporting misogyny and the patriarchy.

While this is demonstrably worse for our victims, it's also bad for us living in a patriarchal society.
joreth: (feminism)
https://t.co/vYkCwB2LDV

I've been having conversations like this all weekend because, legally speaking, in the US, people of Latin American descent are classified as "white". As in, when it was illegal for a black person to marry a white person, it was never illegal (in the US) for a Mexican to marry a white person. We have never been "equal" to whites, but we were still classified as the same species, unlike black people who were literally classified for a time as subhuman.

There has absolutely been oppression and hatred and bigotry directed at any number of nationalities, ethnicities, and skin tones. It has not all been the *same*. I'm not even going to rank any of it - it was just *different* for us all. Our cultural histories are *different*. So when it comes to representation, someone of my heritage, or Gadot's heritage, cannot stand in for all POC, and sometimes not for any POC.

I may be Chicana, but the world sees me (and therefore treats me) as white, so my experiences, especially my successes, can't be used as examples of POC success or representation. As for Gadot, I will let the people most affected by her speak for or about her.

"But what about all the black AND Latinx people who tell me that POC is an umbrella term that includes black people, Latinx, Pacific Islanders, and Middle Easterners? Are you saying I'm wrong to call them all POC?"

You've been somewhat misled. If you look on any census or many government stat questionnaires, "Hispanic" is not a race. We still have to classify ourselves as white in the race category.

"Latin American" was created by white people to replace (and is often used interchangeably with) "Hispanic" because Peru speaks Portuguese and white USians wanted a single word to refer to a dozen different distinct nationalities rather than acknowledge us as all different. People from those regions do not call ourselves Latin American. We usually refer to our country of origin - Mexican, Cuban, Puerto Rican, etc. or even more locally by tribe or indigenous affiliation like other Native American people.

That's like Italians and Irish people all calling themselves "European", except if the US invaded Europe, colonized it, and then said "since we've renamed your continent Europe, you're all just Europeans now because we want to track you all but we really don't care enough about your individual cultures to track you that granularly.  And, not only are you all just "European", you're also all white, because you're not black.  But if you are black, you're not "European", you're still just black."

Because people of South American descent are discriminated against, we are often brought under the umbrella of "POC" because black and brown and red and yellow are all colors of skin and none have the status of "white".

But a success or a representation of one of us is not a success or a representation of us all. Our various histories of oppression are *different* and one group overcoming a hurdle is not representative of all people of color and all their distinctive hurdles.

As, for example, the issue of marriage mentioned above. Mexican children were always able, legally, to go to school with white children, as another example. A Mexican getting a degree from a "white" university is not a "win" for black people, who were legally barred from entry into white schools. That accomplishment does not represent all POC and should not be celebrated as such.

And another point - South America is a colonized continent with an incredibly diverse ethnic and racial background. We are not all brown. For a long time, there was even a strict caste system in place based on how much white or indigenous or African ancestry one had. Being from Mexico could mean that I'm African-Mexican or Native Mexican or Spaniard (which is white) or some mix.

Mexican people in particular, of those with South American heritage, have been trying to gain some control over our nomenclature, but nobody seems to hear us. They just keep calling us "Hispanic" and "Latino/a/x" whether we want to be called that or not.

And then there is a segment of our population who is all about embracing assimilation and our colonizers and invaders. They'll vehemently defend those terms or tell you that its not problematic to use them, that it's not a big deal. Some of these people voted for Hair Gropenführer and made headlines when they were surprised to find their totally legal asses deported anyway.

So whether we fall under the POC umbrella depends on who is speaking and the context of the subject. But a success for one member is not a success for us all. Maybe if all POC finally figure out that we outnumber the white folk when we're all counted as one bloc and we rise up unified, but that probably won't happen.  When it comes to POC rights and being equal, then we can all band together as one group.  But when it comes to specific types of discrimination or specific landmarks and historical progress, we cannot each stand in for us all.  

The history of Jews is not my history as a descendant of Mexicans.  The history of Africans in the US is not my history as a descendant of Mexicans.  And Gadot headlining a successful action film is a huge win for women in film and entertainment, but not a win for "POC", let alone WOC.  Talk to me when a person of obvious African ancestry headlines a successful action film, or when an Asian actor headlines as the romantic lead or a successful action character that isn't a martial arts expert.  Or a Mexican (playing a Mexican character, because there are some women of Latin American descent who occasionally play no specific ethnicity and pass as white) headlines anything not as a villain or in a film not related to drug cartels.

And then come talk to me when those landmark films are a drop in the bucket and we no longer need to point out "well, there was This Film who had This One Actor who did This Thing" to somehow "disprove" that racism doesn't happen in Hollywood.

#ContextualPOC
joreth: (feminism)
There's this pernicious trope in the poly community.  It says "it's OK to restrict someone else's behaviour as long as they all agree to it" and "if one person doesn't want his partner to have sex with other men, and she agrees to it, then it's OK", etc.  For some reason, people seem to think that it's totally acceptable to tromp all over someone's agency, as long as the other person doesn't stop you from doing it.  But I have a BIG problem with this.

If everyone wants to "restrict" themselves, then there's no need for someone else to "restrict" them. If one person has to "restrict" another, that's where coercion comes from. The language is important. It leads to *excusing* abuse.

There's nothing wrong with 3 people who decide together that they all want a closed triad. There *is* something wrong with one person dictating on behalf of all 3 of them that they will be in a closed triad (or 2 people dictating to the third that they will be in a closed triad).  It would be just as wrong for one person to decide that the others *must* date or have sex with people outside the group whether they wanted to or not (or for one or two people to decide that another *must* have sex with that person if the other wants to have sex with this person whether the other is interested in both or not, i.e. the "package deal").

Our language affects how we think and feel and behave. The relationship configuration isn't the problem, the language is.

In studies of other languages and other cultures, they discovered that people's perceptions are actually different and that they are not able to do the same things that other people do simply because of the words that they use and the way they use them.

For example, in English, when we speak about time, we use language that measures physical distances, i.e. "short break", "long wedding". Time is perceived as a distance traveled.  But Greek & Spanish speakers use words referring to quantity - "small break", "big wedding". In Spanish, time is perceived as a unit of volume.

In studies, they found that learning a new language that uses different concepts for things like "time", people actually become aware of perceptual dimensions that people who only speak one of the languages can't perceive. Language and our use of it effects our emotions, our visual perception, and our perception of time, among other things.

In a study years ago, they looked at the language of primitive tribal cultures untouched by industrial societies who didn't have words for things that they had no context for, such as global distances. Because of this, they actually couldn't *see* things that they had no language for.  It's not as simple as holding up a smart phone in front of a tribes person and that phone being "invisible", but their brains literally couldn't see things the way that other people could.

One of the things they had trouble with was perceiving distance, because their concept of "distance" is very different from someone who has seen pictures of the earth from space, for example, and who regularly talks about distance in terms of thousands of miles or kilometers, compared to someone to talks about distance in terms of steps taken or the time to get there on foot.

So, back to the point. Language shapes how we think and what we believe. People who are prone to using language that disrespects the agency of others are *more likely* to have beliefs that disrespect the agency of others, and are therefore more likely to *do* things that disrespect the agency of others.  And they are also therefore more likely to be unable to *see* how they are disrespecting the agency of others.

We see this when people use words like "permission" vs. "checking in".  Some people casually throw out that they need to "ask the spouse permission" to do something, rather than phrasing it like "let me check in with the spouse to see how they feel about that."  That's SUCH a huge implicit difference in how the person being granted "permission" is viewed by the person granting it!

The big difference, I discovered a while back, is that there are basically 2 types of people in these discussions - one who focuses on the outcome and one who focuses on the method of achieving the outcome:

To people who focus on the outcome, it's an "end justifies the means" kind of mentality, where the outcome is the same so it doesn't matter how they got there because the result looks superficially identical.

To people who focus on the method, these aren't even in the same universe. When the method differs, the outcome is irrelevant because that superficial resemblance isn't the POINT. The tools and methods we use to get there is the whole purpose.

And I'm coming to learn that the people in the first group can. not. see. the. difference. 

This is why the language is so important. Their use of language wires their brain so that they are *unable* to see the difference. They literally can't see it, like the apocryphal tale of the South American tribespeople who couldn't see the ships that the Spaniards sailed in when they landed on American soil (of course that's not how it happened, but the tale has lasted as a fable with a moral anyway).

Their use of language is actually limiting their brains' ability to perceive things that other people can see.


The idea that anyone could actually "restrict" anyone else is an illusion. People only follow the "rules" that they want to follow. If 3 people made an agreement to be a closed triad, that agreement is only followed for as long as all 3 people *choose* to follow it. As soon as any one of them doesn't want to follow it anymore, it's over. The "restriction" is an illusion.

I once knew of a guy in a D/s relationship who insisted that his slave was his literal slave in every sense of the word - that it was "real" and that he "owned" her in exactly the same way that he owned his TV. And he kept insisting this right up until the day she served him with divorce papers. His "restrictions" over her only lasted for as long as she allowed them to last. It's all an illusion and he did not actually "restrict" her, she chose to self-limit her own behaviour. It was all her choice and it always was.

If people in a triad use language like "it's OK to restrict someone else", then they are more likely to believe that it's OK to restrict someone else, and that, by definition, is coercion. If the other person willingly "agrees" and *chooses* to self-restrict, then no one in that group is, or even can, restrict her. She is making her own choice. As soon as she decides not to self-restrict anymore, it's over.

Unless the others in the group *actually* have power over her to make her perform actions against her will. In which case, this is abuse and this is exactly the problem people are warning about with the use of language.

Someone will inevitably bring up D/s relationships in these discussions.  I prefer to keep D/s discussions separate - kinda like it's a 201 course and we're still talking about Abuse 101.  You can't get to the nuances of D/s in 201 until you master the concepts in Abuse 101.  But I'll mention why it's different here anyway, but if you don't grasp the underlying concepts, then the subject of D/s and why it's different will only confuse you.

We use the trappings of this kind of language in the context of D/s relationships because some people really want to feel that these things are true for themselves.  If two (or more) people have a D/s agreement, where they will use language like "I forbid you to do X" and the other person obeys, that's an exception to the rule.  But not really.  It's an exception to the rule that you should never use the phrases that imply ownership or that disrespect agency, but that's only because the very act of a D/s agreement is an act of empowerment and agency.

What I mean is that the submissive in a relationship *always* retains ultimate control over what happens to them.  They are choosing to enter into a role-playing agreement where they engage in a fantasy structure of their choice.  The power dynamic is an illusion.  It's called power *exchange* for a reason.  As soon as the submissive loses the power to revoke consent, that's when it becomes abuse.

But the fantasy requires the ability to use this sort of language.  In order to make the brain feel like it's real, we have to make the exception and allow language that is otherwise unacceptable.  The trick, then, is to balance the use of language with the internal respect for agency.  This is indeed a very tricky balancing act and not many people can do it.  So it's usually better to leave out BDSM exceptions when talking about the dangers of language and coercsion.

So, excepting D/s agreements (assuming that D/s agreement truly does value and respect the agency of the people entering into the agreement because that respect and value for agency is what makes it an illusion and therefore not doing what I'm complaining about here), no, it is never, ever, acceptable to "restrict" someone else's behaviour. That is literally the definition of coercion and abuse. If one person has a preference for a certain type of behaviour and another person *chooses* to acquiesce to that preference, that is not someone "restricting" someone else - that is one person choosing to self-restrict. The moment it is not acceptable to say no, that's the moment that consent is violated and that's when it becomes abuse.

The language that implies imposing one will over another is the language that leads to the belief that it is OK to impose one will over another. That belief is what *enables* us to abuse others. Without that belief, one is simply not capable of abusing someone else. Of being a dick in other ways, sure but not of *abuse*. You NEED that belief in order to abuse someone.

And that belief is formed by accepting language that excuses it.

So when we're talking about people who "agree" to various things, it's so important that I can't even stress how important it is, to use the kind of self-empowering language that discourages abusive beliefs and that discourages the community's ability to overlook abuse.  When we promote "but they agreed to it, so it's OK", we open the door to "why did she stay if he was abusing her?  She must have agreed to it."  This is how abuse gets excused.  This is how victims get blamed.  This is how an entire society builds itself on a structure that empowers abusers and disempowers victims.  

The whole reason why victims "stay" with their abusers is because the society around them will. not. let. them. leave.  And part of that is because we give them shit for "staying" even though we have removed any support to help them get out.  When coercion is part of the picture, they aren't "agreeing" to it, they are simply not allowed to not-agree.  And then we blame them for their own abuse because they didn't not-agree.  So we need to change our language so that we center the individual people and their choices over the other people imposing their will.  

She is not "agreeing" to be abused, she was abused and couldn't not-agree.  He didn't "agree" to be restricted by someone else, he chose his own limitations.  These aren't "agreements" between two people, these are things that each person is personally empowered or disempowered to do.  Those words are important.

Just like asking people of privilege to change their language use if they don't really intend to imply whatever racist or sexist or -ist thing that goes along with the words, it is important for our entire community to be cognizant of our own language use and to change it to accommodate belief structures that encourage freedom, choice, and empowerment.

If a white person were to defend his use of the n-word because "it just means a stubborn person" (someone actually told me that not too long ago), I would have to question his motives and why it's so important for him to use that word. Why *that* word, when there are so many other words for stubborn people? Why is it *so* important to keep a hold of *that* one word when people are telling him that it's harmful?

When we say that the language of choice vs. restriction is harmful to the community, I have to question the motives of those who insist "it's just a word" as a defense to keep using it. If it's just "a word", then it should be no problem to give it up.  Because we *know* that words have power. Otherwise it wouldn't be any big deal to switch using that word to another. We know that words are important. So we have to look at why there are even debates at all around people using disempowering language.

So please listen to people who might know a little something about abuse and coercion and disempowerment when we say that this language is problematic, and if you really want to refer to someone who is choosing to self-limit themselves, then say so instead of couching it in terms that imply disempowerment and abuse.

If you don't mean to support abusive and coercive structures, then don't implicitly support them with the language you choose.
joreth: (anger)
OTG don't start a relationship with someone who is in the process of leaving an abusive partner*! And for fuck's sake, don't get upset when they act inconsistent or seem to reconcile or "go back" to said abusive partner.

Abuse does all kinds of fucked up shit to a person's head and they really need to find their own identity before beginning a new relationship. Escaping one abusive partner into the arms of another partner creates a coercive dynamic because of the fucked up shit going on inside the victim's head, *even if you try very hard not to be coercive*.

The key part here is the loss of identity. Abuse wipes out victims' identities, and without a clear sense of who they are as an individual person, they are unable to create healthy boundaries for themselves in other relationships *which makes those other relationships coercive by nature*.

You cannot force someone out of an abusive relationship before they're ready, and you SHOULD not encourage them to leap straight from the abusive relationship to a new relationship. Be "on call" for them to go pick them or their stuff up at a moment's notice, field or facilitate the finding of a new place to live so that their abuser doesn't find out about it, believe them and give them space, and most importantly, don't take it as a personal rejection or blame them when they inevitably backslide in some way including going back to their abuser.

Abuse does all kinds of fucked up shit to a person's head. If you can't be a proper support system for a victim, which includes not pushing them into leaving before they're ready and not complaining about how hurt you feel or that they "used" you or "played you" or "ditched" you when they end up not leaving or they gradually stop talking to you or they go back to their abuser, then back the fuck out of their lives. Otherwise, you risk making things worse for them.

For a better idea on how to be a "proper support system" for a victim, check out the resources in the back of Why Does He Do That? by Lundy Bancroft which includes books on how to be the loved one of an abuse victim.

Just a reminder: escaping from an abuser is the most dangerous time for a victim. This is the time abusers are most likely to escalate the violence to murder.

This is not only dangerous for her, it's dangerous for everyone around her. She doesn't need to escape into your home, she needs to escape to a place that knows how to keep her safe from an escalating, now pissed off abuser and that fully understands the situation she is in.

Every time you hear about some woman and her kids or her parents or her new boyfriend being murdered by an ex, it's almost always during the time she is trying to escape the ex.  What do you think an abusive ex, hell bent on power and control and now extra pissed off that his little punching bag is leaving, is going to think of the new boyfriend *and girlfriend* who "stole her away"?

He's going to *blame* the couple and polyamory as being a bad influence on his girlfriend and believe that he needs to teach everyone a lesson and reassert his authority. This is the time when previously emotional-only abusers escalate to physical violence too.

I can't stress enough what a dangerous time this is for her and why the concern needs to be what's in her best interest. That's also why you can't force her to leave if she's not ready. Only she understands the extent of the danger she is in, and if her mind has to rationalize why she stays in order to keep herself safe, then that's what she needs to do.

Please, everyone here, read Why does he do that? by Lundy Bancroft. This is so much more serious than most people who haven't been there really understand.




*I'll be honest, I have known one relationship to work out where the new partner began dating the victim right around the time she was trying to escape. I'm not sure exactly of the timeline, so I don't remember if the new relationship started before the victim moved out or afterwards, but it was close enough in time to be within the range of "while trying to escape".  This relationship happened to work out and is one of the healthiest the victim has ever been in. This relationship was instrumental in helping the victim find her own identity again.

That said, this is an exception. Most people believe that they are exceptions to various rules, but statistically, most of those people would have to be wrong because "most" people can't be "exceptions".

So just don't do it. Be that person's support system, but for fuck's sake, let them find themselves before you immerse or enmesh them in another relationship. One of the things that abuse does is convince people that the relationship is more important than the people in it, and that you need to subsume your identity into the relationship. These patterns will be there, embedded in the victim's brain, and will play out again out of habit in your relationship with them.

And it won't even be your "fault" if the relationship turns coercive, or maybe you have a few of the same coercive habits that we all pick up just from our culture that most healthy partners can manage and work around without being damaged but that an abuse victim will have no skill in managing or deflecting.  So there doesn't need to be any intentional manipulation on your part for a relationship to still turn coercive and an abuse victim who hasn't healed yet to be damaged by a relationship with you.

So just don't. Even though "I know someone who was good for a victim" and "it worked out for me!", still don't.
joreth: (boxed in)
Hypothetical boss of part-time employee: Yeah, we're gonna need an official diagnosis from a doctor in order to accommodate your "condition".

Me: OK, well, since I don't have health insurance because I'm a part-time employee, I don't have a doctor anymore. This may come as a surprise to you, but doctors don't hand out certificates when they diagnose people with "Congratulations! You have a debilitating illness!" on them.

I don't have any paperwork "proving" that I have a condition, that's not how medical diagnoses work, and I will have to go back to a doctor and pay out of pocket to get one, assuming I can find a doctor who will do that (sharing medical information is a violation of patient privacy, btw, which can be a federal offense, so demanding "proof" is legally questionable, at best).

Which, by the way, will require an invasive exploratory surgery and a hospital stay for a "non-emergency" procedure because that's the only way to diagnose this particular condition. So we're talking tens of thousands of dollars for a doctor to tell me what I already know and which doesn't change the fact of my existence with this condition - whether a doctor recognizes it or not doesn't make the pain and vomiting any less.

And it will also put me out of commission for a few weeks so I won't be able to come into work anyway, or earn any money to pay for the surgery.

OR... you could just believe me that I have a chronic, debilitating condition that affects my ability to work sometimes and make at least as many concessions for me as you do for the pregnant women who are allowed to sit down more often or are given other tasks to make up for the lower amount of manual labor that they do or can call out or rearrange their schedule to accommodate their condition.

All *I'm* asking for is to not get fired if I have to call in sick more than some blanket number of days per year when I show up the rest of the time and when I am a satisfactory employee while I'm there.

I know it's a hardship on the rest of the team when people call in sick. I'm just saying, don't pick some arbitrary number of days that a person can call in sick and then fire people when they hit that number. This needs to be handled with more context and nuance regarding the individual person, and expecting part-time, minimum wage workers to have access to healthcare including the ability to get "doctor's notes" to excuse them is not a solution.
joreth: (polyamory)
"But WWWHHHYYYYY are you all so mean to unicorn hunters?!? We just want to be loved, like everyone else!"

Maybe because we've seen more than one post where a couple wants to "add a third", except the sex doll, er, I mean new hire, er, that is the "lucky lady" is trying to leave an abusive relationship, and the couple starts asking advice on whether they should risk their hearts with her because it looks like she's flaky and may "back out" of their relationship?

Like, the concern here, folks, isn't that someone you know and presumably care about is IS IN AN ABUSIVE RELATIONSHIP THAT SHE CAN'T LEAVE, but that she might break *your* hearts by going back to her abuser. Because you getting "played" or "dumped" by someone WHO IS IN AN ABUSIVE RELATIONSHIP is the real issue here. 0.o

"Yeah, but we're people too! Our feelings matter!"

Uh, no, not so much, not in this case. Your feelings really don't matter here because ABUSE. This is *exactly* what we're talking about when we complain about treating people like things, disrespecting agency, couple-centrism, etc.

This is why unicorn hunting is a bad thing.

"But we're part of a couple looking for a third, and we don't do THAT!"

Yeah, it's not this very specific situation that's the problem, this is just an especially egregious example that 1) is totally obvious to most people that the unicorn hunters are the fucked up ones, and 2) the unicorn hunters STILL can't tell what's wrong with them because they're the ones who described the situation in the first place, so they obviously don't think they're being problematic here.

There is an underlying mentality that is the problem, and it's a problem because that mentality manifests in a million different, often unanticipated ways. We can't always predict in what way the unicorn hunters will mistreat their "third", but we can predict that they will, and that all reasonable people will recognize it when they do but they will continue to feel that they are the ones being victimized by the circumstances.

Today, with this hypothetical couple, it's a girl who is trapped in an abusive relationship so badly that even though she's in the process of trying to escape, she may not make it but the couple's biggest concern is how bad their feelz will hurt if she gets sucked back in, with maybe some afterthought to how much "drama" she's bringing to the triad because of her abuser's actions with regard to her leaving him and/or dating them.

Tomorrow it might be someone being gaslighted to believe that the triad fell apart because she was too "needy" or because she "changed" when she "knew the rules when she signed up", and what a "drama queen" she is for having wants/needs beyond what everyone agreed in the beginning.

The next day, it might be some poor guy who dared to fall in love with some girl who isn't allowed to feel her feelings because she signed a contract, maybe even literally, giving all her future feelings away to the couple, thereby introducing "drama" by developing feelings that she promised she would never have.

A woman tries to escape abuse, and signs point to a high chance of failure. But the issue on everyone's mind is ... what about the couple she promised to date once she escaped? What about their feelings about her flaking out on them? And what about the drama she'll cause if she does leave and he makes trouble for everyone and she flip-flops and possibly goes back to him later anyway? What about the couple?!

#UnicornHuntingIsProhibitedHere #CouplePrivilege #dehumanizing #NeedFulfillmentMachines #ThePeopleInTheRelationshipNeedToBeMoreImportantThanTheRelationship #EmbeddedCoersion #OutOfTheFryingPanIntoTheFryer
joreth: (BDSM)

I'm finally getting around to reading "Why Does He Do That" by Lundy Bancroft so expect lots of quotes in the next few days, and hopefully some longer blog posts if I ever get a computer again. I didn't want to wait on this one because it's relevant to the atrocity of a "kinky romance" movie whose sequel just came out.

In addition to being rape and abuse apologia, the 50 Shades trilogy is also extemely classist. Some tweet put it more succinctly, basically that this book wouldn't seem romantic at all if Christian lived in a trailer park. If a guy with tattoos and a construction job behaved like Christian, even the "soft" version in the movie, it would be glaringly obvious how controlling and manipulative he is. But give him a private jet and suddenly it's "romantic"

Bancroft addresses this very thing as early as the first section in the introduction chapter on The Mythology of abuse.

"The social stereotype of the abuser as a relatively uneducated, blue-collar male adds to the confusion. The faulty equation goes: 'Abusive equals muscle-bound caveman, which in turn equals lower class.' In addition to the fact that this image is an unfair stereotype of working-class men, it also overlooks the fact that a professional or college-educated man has roughly the same likelihood of abusing women as anyone else. A successful businessperson, a college professor, or a sailing instructor may be less likely to adopt a tough-guy image with tattoos all over his body [although that stereotype is gradually being overcome these days] but still may well be a nightmare partner.
 
Class and racial stereotypes permit the more privileged members of society to duck the problem of abuse by pretending its someone else's problem. Their thinking goes: 'It's those construction-worker guys who never went to college; it's those Latinos; it's those street toughs - they're the abusers. Our town, our neighborhood, [our class of man,] isn't like that. We're not macho men here.'
 
But women who live with abuse know that abusers come in all styles and from all backgrounds. Sometimes the more educated an abuser, the more knots he knows how to tie in a woman's brain, the better he is at getting her to blame herself, and the slicker is his ability to persuade other people that she is crazy. The more socially powerful an abuser, the more difficult it can be to escape."



This is Christian Grey. This is Hair Gropenführer. This is even my ex, who is not in the same class as the extremely wealthy, but has the social power of being a white-collar, educated, middle-class, white, likeable, social-justice-conscious, cismale.

The Orangutan-In-Chief has made the "Latino" argument explicitly. One of the reasons he wants to build his security-blanket of a wall is because he claimed that Mexicans are rapists, implying  proportionally more often than US men are. My ex uses social justice language to obfuscate and confuse his victims so that they get confused and start believing that their resistance to his control victimizes *him* and that they are the monsters.

Christian uses his money. He can afford to travel literally anywhere and with no notice or preparation to stalk his victim. He buys the company his victim works for so that her income is directly tied to pleasing him. In the movie, they gave him an excuse that he wanted to fire her "abusive" boss, but a non-controlling person would seek legal prosection means to help her, not replacing one abusive boss for another. He buys her a car against her wishes. He consistently thinks that he knows what's best for her in spite of her protestations and buys whatever he thinks she "needs" from clothes to food to transportation to her source of income, regardless of her own preferences.

He uses legalese to obfuscate his manipulation in the form of a non-disclosure contract (and again in his farce of a bdsm contract) and then uses literally the power of the law with those contracts to isolate her and prevent her from communicating outside or having an independent support system.

Healthy kinksters introducing a newbie to bdsm for the first time recommend that the n00b find a local dungeon and/or community for more resources and support during the learning process. One of the red flags in the community, or "lifestyle", is when a dom tries to be the only teaching source, often insisting that he alone is "responsible" enough to properly guide the sub. One example of an extemist who uses this tactic is a cult leader who is the sole source of wisdom (and sex or decisions about sex).

I once had an ex who insisted that only he could be trusted to recognize predators in the community, so all new subbies had to be collared by him so that any dom wanting to play with the newbie sub had to court his permission and approval, so that he could "vet" them. I've also seen "poly" men use this same excuse to infantilize their female partners saying that they have poor judgement so he needs veto power to make sure that she stays safe. Ironically, this is a warning sign that *he* is the one abusing her.

Christian also uses the "I was abused as a child" myth that Bancroft addresses in the immediately prior bullet point. This excuse pulls on a victim's compassion and makes her feel guilty for her resistance because she is then continuing to hurt an already broken person, as well as making her want to stick around to "save" him.

This book and movie trilogy would have actually made a good suspense thriller (if you excuse the poor writing). If the author wasn't such a piss-poor writer and if she hadn't gone on record multiple times defending her tripe as "romantic", I might have thought that she researched abusive relationships and used the domestic abuse checklist as a character outline. And if the Twilight author wasn't almost as shitty of writer, I might have assumed that *she* was the researcher and used the checklist that the plagerizer - er, I mean 50 Shades author just unwittingly copied into her fanfic version.

I'm not even past the introduction chapters yet and 50 Shades can already be seen in the warning signs. Abuse is about power and control. Money, education, job type, and other class markers are all ways that people obtain power. If anything, it seems like it would be MORE likely that Christian and Orangeface McTinyhands would turn out to be abusers.

Don't support the books or movies by spending money on the franchise or watching / downloading through a service that tracks its popularity like Amazon or Netflix. Don't recommend it to newbies or excuse it as a "gateway" into real kink. If you happen to be interested in the erotic fantasy of being controlled or trained, I can recommend better stories that don't neglect the subbie's consent even while she submits to a power exchange dynamic, even ones that include her resistance and him "knowing her better than she knows herself".

To put it simply (yet again), it's not the kink that makes it abuse, it's the manipulation and control, and what makes it particularly dangerous is that it relies heavily on the audience buying into the class myth of abuse. This myth is one of the tools that abusers use to gaslight their victims and convince them that they are not victims. By not taking a hard stance and speaking out against this franchise, our silence contributes directly to the culture which traps women in abusive situations. Women need to know that this is abuse so they can better recognize it when it happens to them.

He is not romantic. He is not sexy. He is not a dom. He is not a broken bird to be saved. He is not your fault. He is not exempt.

joreth: (Dobert Demons of Stupidity)

Hey filmmakers! I know this is a complicated, nuanced concept that takes years of study in advanced academic institutions, but I'm going to spoil the ending for you now:

It is not only possible, but likely, that two people of complimentary genders can be thrown together in a situation and not want to have sex with each other.
I know, I've seen this happen. Like every single mixed-gender office ever. They don't all pair up, even if they're not already married. Even if they genuinely like each other as people. And sometimes, even if they are actually attracted to each other.

Now, some of y'all script writers appear to have advanced doctorates in Non-Trope Writing, because I've seen a couple movies lately where you didn't do this. And I appreciate you. But the rest of y'all need to get your shit together and get some schoolin' because the obligatory romantic subplot that serves to support the male character's story arc is boring, trite, lazy writing, overdone, and way out of proportion to reality. It's like watching a movie set in Harlem around the turn of the last century and seeing only 1 black face (of someone who happens to be in power during Jim Crow and yet not a main character). Like, do you even history bro?

The population is more than 50% "woman" - there needs to be more than 1 female character in a cast of dozens. When you add up all the various ethnicities together, white men are a minority - there needs to be more than 1 or 2 black dudes and possibly that 1 hot Latina in a cast of dozens. And I know that this one will be some seriously high level thesis work for you, but all those women and non-white people have their own stories going on that have nothing to do with supporting some white dude's personal growth, which even white dudes in the audience can relate to if you tell the story well (and if they don't just refuse to relate to on principle).

And when you look at all the times that people don't hook up with each other just because their genitals are complimentary, there needs to be more than 3 movies in the last 10 years that feature a mixed-gender cast that doesn't have the token woman character having sex with the lead male character or any sexual tension leading up to will-they/won't-they subplots.

Because it's totally possible to put an attractive woman and an attractive man* in a room together and have them not want to bone each other.




*I'm not even going to address the problem with body diversity or gendered double standards of age and/or "attractiveness" here - I'm mad enough already.

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: (Super Tech)

The more I learn about Moana, the more I like it.

I'm about to say a few things that I just learned about the film and the backstory that I like, which aren't *too* spoilery, but if you're really spoiler averse, you might want to not read the rest of the post.  It's mostly about the background behind the movie and not so much about movie plot points.

First of all, I just learned that the production team recruited "experts from across the South Pacific to form an Oceanic Story Trust, who consulted on the film's cultural accuracy and sensitivity as the story evolved through nine versions." Seriously, more movies need to do something like this.

Next, I learned that one of those early versions had Moana as the only girl in a family of sons and her character arc was gender-based. Now, I'm usually all in for a good examination of how gender roles are expressed and inhibit characters, but something I've been really into lately is just having characters be fully fleshed characters that get into situations and who might happen to be not straight white males. MRA defenses of mostly white straight male protagonists include the justification that the story isn't *about* being a white male, so girls and POC should have no problem getting into the story because it could apply to "anyone". 1) Totally not true on pretty much every level of that assertion; 2) if they really could apply to "anyone", then it shouldn't matter if the character *is* "anyone", including non-male, non-straight, or non-white; and 3) yeah, having "white male" be the default setting where making a character not "white male" is a deliberate choice IS PART OF THE PROBLEM.

Ahem.

So, I really liked the fact that the story of Moana is not about her being "a girl". She wasn't prohibited from her dreams by her father "because she's a girl", she wasn't being forced into her traditional role "because she's a girl", and her story wasn't about either overcoming her gender or teaching anyone else to overcome gender roles. Her story was just an adventure story. That happened to happen to "a girl". The story could have been anyone. And I absolutely loved that she didn't have to "be a girl" and yet, she was one.

Next, I learned that the scene with Moana, Maui, and the ... well, I'll just say the "pirates" ... was a *deliberate homage to Mad Max: Fury Road*! Take that you fucking MRAs! Even Disney sees the financial incentive and storytelling value of Furiosa. Even "chick flicks" are fucking badass feminist action movies now. Because, here's a newsflash (and to blatantly steal from some other post I don't have the link to), women actually like action movies but particularly when the main character isn't a sexualized woman. Just tell our stories and we'll come see them. It's not that we don't like action films, it's that it's fucking lazy storytelling when the only women in the film are there to fulfill the (perceived) male audience members' wet dreams and we're *bored* and uninterested in lazy storytelling like that. The action isn't actiony enough to make up for the fact that your few women are cardboard flat and BORING.

There are legitimate criticisms about the film with respect to cultural sensitivity, and I was concerned about that happening when I first heard of it coming out and again when I saw it, but not being familiar with the communities of the people in the South Pacific (other than to know that there is no great controversy or ownership battle over who gets to use the term "poly" online and I refuse to White Knight them by making it into A Thing on their behalf), I was not able to anticipate or later to pick out what those criticisms might be.

So, as someone who is not disinfranchised by whatever gaffs the movie makes, the more I see, read, listen, and think about this movie, the more I want to include it in my top Disney favorites alongside Brave (my #1 favorite for the tomboy struggle), Maleficent (#3 for the lack of romantic love driving force and the nuanced look at a villain without ignoring her flaws) and Frozen (#4 for the lack of a husband and romance plot).

If I didn't list your favorite Disney princess movie, chances are it's because I either didn't like it or because I haven't seen it, so you don't have to ask me "have you seen...?" to find out why it's not listed.

joreth: (Bad Computer!)
[livejournal.com 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.

https://norasamaran.com/2016/08/28/variations-on-not-all-men/
"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: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1jDo84msoBu74TQIW2OM4MLiILCoDIiQyzNllinU_FVg/edit?usp=sharing. 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 ([livejournal.com 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 [livejournal.com 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 [livejournal.com 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 - https://medium.com/@sheaemmafett/abuse-in-polyamorous-relationships-d13e396c8f85

2. 10 Things I Wish I’d Known About Gaslighting by Shea Emma Fett - https://medium.com/@sheaemmafett/10-things-i-wish-i-d-known-about-gaslighting-22234cb5e407

3. Relationship Rights: Can You Negotiate Them Away by Eve Rickert - www.morethantwo.com/blog/2015/01/relationship-rights-can-negotiate-away

4. Can Polyamorous Hierarchies Be Ethical? Part 2: Influence and Control by Eve Rickert - www.morethantwo.com/blog/2016/06/can-polyamorous-hierarchies-ethical-part-2-influence-control
joreth: (Super Tech)
Me: ... I even know what song I'd dance to at my wedding.

Him: You don't even want to get married! Do all girls just naturally like planning weddings?

Me: No, you don't understand, I've had my wedding planned since high school because it was a *required class*! I've had the dress designed since then and even had a version of the dress made as my high school prom dress (which I still have in the closet, I'll show you later if you're interested). Obviously, if I really were to get married today, there would be some changes because I have some very different values since being a teenager (like not believing in marriage, for one thing, and being poly for another), but the reason why so many women have ideas for their weddings even before there is a prospective husband is because we're proactively coached in wedding planning.

Not everyone is forced to actually take a wedding class in high school. Some get it through their cotillion or sweet 16 parties or similar "coming out" parties that are really just mini-versions of today's weddings. Others just get it through their families. But I had sex ed every year from 6th grade through 12th grade, and eventually there's only so much biology to be taught on the subject. So they covered other related subjects.

One semester, our "sex ed" course was a self-defense class where I learned tae kwon do (not that I remember any of it, but I did flip a real assailant over my shoulder once, which was pretty cool). That class doubled as a P.E. credit. Another semester was a marriage and family planning course where we had to actually plan an entire wedding, down to calling venues to find out about how to reserve dates, developing color schemes, and making a budget. We were also randomly assigned various careers with certain incomes and had to plan a household budget with given criteria and limitations. The course ended the semester with one of those flour sack baby projects. And I also learned all the symbolism and significance to all those wedding traditions.

Did you know that the bride is supposed to have two bouquets? One of fresh flowers that she walks down the aisle with and then dries or freezes to keep stored forever and another fake bouquet to throw at the reception?

Him: What? You have to keep the bouquet?

Me: Yeah, along with the dress. That multi-thousand-dollar dress that you only wear once and then put in a box in the closet, never to see the light of day again. The flowers can get preserved and saved too. If you spent all that money on flowers, wouldn't you want to keep it too?

Him: I suppose. I just didn't know you were supposed to.

Me: So it's not a guy vs. girl nature thing, it's that I literally didn't have a choice. And even women who don't have a class to make them plan their weddings don't really have a choice. We're hounded by our family and friends, asked questions about our wedding plans that we have to answer, and when we're segregated into our respective gendered wedding parties, you guys are expected to go out and get rowdy while our "parties" are actually helping the bride prepare for the wedding. So even if I hadn't ever had that class, all I'd have to have is an invitation to a bridal shower or a close relative get married and I'd have been expected to help pick out dresses and florists and taste-test the cake and look at invitation fonts and discuss the hopes and dreams and expectations of the bride and her bridesmaids.

That bridal shower is pretty much all wedding planning and grooming. We give the bride wedding gifts that are supposed to help her with the wedding ceremony or the marriage after. The "games" we all play at these things are basically silly versions of wedding traditions that reinforce the cultural programming of weddings. Like dressing the bridesmaids up in toilet paper wedding dresses. That's dress designing reinforcement right there, even if it's silly.

Do you know the importance of choosing an invitation font? Or the seating chart at the reception? Or the consequences for having a more casual reception where there is no seating chart? How about the order of events? Do you know why, when you were a groomsman and you walked down the aisle with your bridesmaid, your linked arms were "wrong"? Do you know why that's important? And the cake, the topper for the cake is supposed to be saved too, frozen, and then eaten on your first anniversary together. Every little bit of the wedding and reception has to be planned out and it all means something.

Him: !!

Me: We are literally pulled into two different worlds and coached on different things. So, yeah, I have a wedding plan even though I'm ethically opposed to the government regulating my romantic life and philosophically opposed to most of the symbolism inherent in traditional marriage ceremonies (which, as I told Franklin, is subtly but significantly different from being "opposed to marriage" but it's too complicated to say all that so I summarize it as "opposed to marriage", but I'm not quite, not exactly). I have that plan because it's not really very likely to be socialized as "female" in this society without one. Even for us conscientious objectors or conscientious "modifiers", we can't be "conscientious" about it without looking into the whole concept of weddings and marriages and analyzing what we disagree with and why, both for our own introspection and also because we, as women, will be challenged on our objections so we have to really understand the subject in order to defend our position.

You guys just get to show up with a tux, or not. Even if you choose not to, you don't *have* to really examine why. You're guys. You could just be "a bachelor". But I have to defend my protest with reams of historical data, studies of sociological mores, piles of legal precedent or justification, and a degree in biology to counteract the false "evo-psych" bullshit that says I'm supposed to want to get married.

And even then, I'm still supposed to be able to describe the dress I would wear if I ever changed my mind.

Him: Huh. I didn't realize there was that much that goes into weddings.

Me: Yeah, it's not a "girl thing" in that we just like planning weddings. It's way more complicated than that. We don't really have much of a choice in whether or not we "like planning weddings".



In response to the inevitable "but I'm a girl and I didn't take any classes like that in school!" response:

I went to a private Catholic school, which held this class. But many public schools do have flour sack or egg baby projects so I wouldn't be surprised to learn that they also have wedding planning mixed in there somewhere. Maybe in home economics class? I dunno, I'm told they don't have that class anymore, but they did when I was in high school, so it's not that archaic. Not yet anyway.

But, as I mentioned, we do have cotillions and bat mitzvahs and other religious or social practices where wedding planning sort of sneaks in there. Much of our "wedding training" is pretty subversive.  A lot of us go to religious or cultural classes in addition to our public school education. I went to Catechism as a Catholic (religious Sunday School), for instance. The Filipino Catholics had cotillion training that I only learned about after I joined a Filipino church and was invited to someone's cotillion, where I discovered it was basically a wedding reception where they dismissed the importance of the "groom" entirely except to be arm candy for the girl whose party this was. She held "court" and everything.

But many, as I said, just learned about wedding planning through attending the pre-wedding events like the bridal shower. It's sort of an informal tribal-school learning session, where the bride is the main attraction and the elder women all gather around to assist and then instruct the younger women and girls on doing the legwork. I can't tell you how many times I sat at someone's kitchen table with a sponge and a stack of invitations, stuffing envelopes and listening to the older ladies all talk about the wedding and the symbolism and the etiquette and fielding off demands from the grannies to know what *my* wedding will one day look like.

So even before high school, it's not like my mother quizzed me on wedding rituals, but I absorbed a lot of this knowledge just through cultural osmosis by being around other women going through their wedding preparations.  Which I was required to do as a "girl" as my mother, and then later myself personally, was invited to participate and celebrate in weddings, because the wedding activities were all segregated, with women attending bridal showers and pitching in to help and men attending bachelor parties and pretty much nothing else.  Really, sometimes my upbringing looked like a movie from the 1950s without the poodle skirts.

Plus, as I mentioned, even when women do opt-out of the cultural expectations, a lot of the time they still end up knowing about weddings precisely because they chose to opt-out.  Either they really looked into the subject and what they saw informed their opinions, or they started looking into the subject for their own weddings and got overwhelmed and just said "fuck it" and deliberately ignored the rituals.  Either way, the guys still mostly had the luxury of just showing up without really having to learn much about the process they were either participating in or eschewing.

It should also be noteworthy that people who follow me online are kind of a self-selected group, particularly a group of those who break gender norms, and when I speak of gendered social programming, I'm speaking of cultural trends where it should be obvious that some individuals (especially those who follow me) would be on the outsides of the bell curve.  Obviously I wasn't alone in going through these gendered normalization practices.  I grew up in one of the largest cities in the world and was raised in one of the most populous religions in the world.  While weird to my current friends and followers who follow me pretty much because we're all weirdos in these ways, my experiences growing up were still very common and are typical examples or illustrative of the sorts of experiences that shape the culture in which I live.



*Update*

In the comments of someone else's share of my post, someone said they were glad they didn't grow up like me. I have a response to that which I think is kind of important. I'm noticing a lot of borderline horrified reactions, and I think that's kind of missing the point.

The point of my tale was not "poor me, I was forced to learn about weddings". The point was "poor men are excluded from this process and women are expected to pick up the slack so here is yet another example of culturally enforced gender discrepancy of emotional labor".

The learning of the wedding process wasn't the criticism. In fact, I believe I benefited from the learning process and that maybe classes like these should be taught more often - just without the gender role enforcement or heteronormative structure.  Imagine what kind of cultural awareness we could be teaching our youth in classes that examined popular cultural traditions like weddings in-depth and challenged the students to understand why those practices are used and why they might want to keep or reject any given practice by having them plan and explain their own hypothetical weddings!  Imagine how the entire wedding industry might have to change as a result of an entire generation of youth growing into marriagable ages where they have already examined and challenged the gender roles embedded in weddings and already examined the interconnected economic consequences for participating in the wedding industry!  Imagine the generation after the "millennials" seeing the economic disaster that their parents are currently facing and learning about how we got to that point and how it affects even day-to-day decisions and larger decisions like the structure of our relationships, and then applying that knowledge to their own creations of their own relationships and futures!

There are much worse things than expecting children to learn and understand the culture in which they are expected to participate as adults.

Here's my comment:

I am glad to have grown up as I did. I learned a lot about my own culture, so that when I choose a different path, I have a very in-depth understanding of what I am choosing, what I am rejecting, and the whys of it all. I have a deep understanding of our cultural history and all the connections made over time and across cultures as imperialism and trade created influences on our own culture.

Knowledge is a good thing and I was fortunate to have grown up with people who embraced knowledge. It wasn't enough for my family and teachers for me to just adopt, say, wedding practices without understanding them and it wasn't enough for them to let me get to the stage where I would have a wedding without learning all the work involved in putting one on. My schools and the elders in my life wanted us to be prepared for adult life. They didn't want us to build these giant, unrealistic dreams of fantasy weddings, they wanted us to know how much they cost and how much work goes into them. They didn't want us to go out into the real world without understanding how checkbooks and credit cards worked and how much of our pay would go to essentials like rent and utilities.

I was better prepared to enter life as an independent adult than most of my friends who went to schools that didn't offer such instruction and I had a better understanding of why we culturally did the things we did than those same peers. No, the sad part is not that I learned all the stuff that I learned, but that men don't also learn these things and aren't expected to shoulder any of the burden while women are expected to know and do all this on our own (whether the women were given instruction as I was or not). As I told the person in the original story, if I ever was to have a wedding, my future husband would be an equal partner in the wedding planning because he would be an equal partner in the marriage. But thanks to culturally enforced gender roles, if I want an equal partner in this, it'll be up to me to educate him to the point where he *can* be an equal partner, and that's the part that is the problem, not that I'm already schooled in how to put on a wedding.
joreth: (Misty in Box)

http://the-orbit.net/brutereason/2016/08/16/selfishness-valid-response-entitlement-boundary-crossing/

In a completely different context, I have been known to say to my coworkers:

"I can totally tell you're a straight dude, because you've *obviously* never dated another guy. Y'all think you're all rational and logical and shit, and that you're all about the sex and not the romantic stuff, but I know what y'all say to women when your dudebros aren't around. You whine about not 'connecting' and missing the romance and all the fucking talk, talk, talk. After a while, it's like 'do we have to talk about our relationship ONE MORE TIME? Can you please just shut up with all the relationship talking? Is it too much to ask to just come home, have some dinner, watch a little TV in quiet, have a little sex and go to bed? Jesus fuck, you guys with all the talking!' You sit there and complain about girls doing that but as soon as a girl doesn't WANT to do that, y'all turn into the whiny little bitches you complain about! And don't tell me it never happens, unless you've dated as many men as I have, I'm pretty sure I have more experience with how dudes behave in relationships than you do. You're getting the story your dudebros TELL you and the side they want you to THINK. You're not seeing them behind closed doors. I am. Y'all are just as whiny and emotional as any of the girls you complain about."

Now, keep in mind that, when I phrase it like this, I'm talking to dudebros. I'm talking to guys who are working in a masculine industry, talking to other guys, and doing that toxic masculinity bonding thing where they complain about how girly girls can be. But the story under the language is true - I have spent a lot of time in relationships throwing my hands up in the air, yelling in frustration, "what the fuck, dude, I don't want to talk about our relationship anymore!"

Before I started dating Franklin, about 13 years ago, just about every relationship I ever had ended in accusations of being a cold-hearted bitch. I've had a few since then too, but he sets a high bar and my tolerance for partners who can't even come close to meeting that bar is rapidly dropping as I age, so my other partners since dating Franklin have been a better ratio - with only a couple of outright abusive assholes using that accusation and the rest breaking up for other reasons. By the end of things with those who accused me of being a cold-hearted bitch, I was no longer interested in hearing about their day, in listening to them whine (because that's how I thought of it by the end) about how much they "missed" me, in making them dinner, in sitting with them to watch their favorite show, in, really, doing anything at all kind or compassionate for them. There would come a point in the relationship where I would just ... check out.

And I bought into this idea that I was some kind of borderline sociopathic monster (or, a dude in a girl's body, because the other common accusation is that I act like "the guy" in the relationship, which "forces" them to act like "the girl", because there always has to be one of each? Oh right, if *I'm* not performing the emotional labor, *someone* has to, and it's just not *fair* that it has to be the actual penis-holder!). So I would warn people up front that I'm "the guy" and this is what I do.

But, in the beginning of a relationship, I like performing some amount of emotional labor - I like hearing my partner's inner most feelings. I like baking for them. I like validating them. I am actually pretty schedule-oriented so I will keep the calendar and schedule events and remember (or get calendar notifications for) people's birthdays and anniversaries. I even like the cuddling and the sex, in the beginning. So they get used to me behaving in a way contrary to my warning words.

Then they start to feel entitled to that behaviour, and that turns me off. So then they're surprised when I start acting exactly like I said I would because they weren't hearing my words, they were seeing my actions which contradicted my words and they put a filter over their interactions with me that projected their own biases onto my actions and filtered out my words. Then they accused me of being "cold" and I would yell right back at them "what part of 'I'm a cold-hearted bitch' that I said in the beginning didn't you understand?"

The Five Love Languages theory claims that everyone has one primary Love Language that they use to express their love for people or that they feel love when expressed towards them. It claims that it's possible to learn the other languages just like it's possible to learn actual languages, but that there is always The One. I disagree. I think that there is no limit (upper or lower) to the number of languages any given person naturally "speaks". Some people have a single language and all the rest will always be a struggle for them. Others, like me, speak all five fluently and naturally. And most everyone else is somewhere in between.

Here's something I learned about the Five Love Languages - if a person has a particular Love Language, and that Love Language gets abused from an early age, and/or often, then that person will develop a strong aversion to the expression of that Love Language precisely because that Love Language is so important to them. It's like touching an exposed nerve almost. Maybe not quite, but touching something sensitive - if you do it exactly right, it will make them melt with pleasure, but if you do it wrong, it'll be a screaming, painful experience for them when the rest of us are all like "I don't get it, what's the problem? This doesn't hurt *me* that much!" (we see this very clearly in the "can't you take a joke?" defense where some people have no problem slinging insults around as signs of affection, but get confused when someone they love takes it "personally"). If that Love Language gets abused early enough, before the person is aware that this is a Super Important Way To Express Love, this person might believe that they are actually opposed to it completely, instead of it being extremely important to them. And then, because they are avoiding the expression of that Love Language out of self-defense, their "love tank" runs on empty for most of their life.

A "love tank" is often compared to a car's gas tank or a bank. It's this metaphorical space that gets "filled up" when you do things that makes the person happy. When the tank is "full", they have a reserve to fall back on when things are tough. When the love tank is full, and you have a fight, they are more likely to be charitable or compassionate during the fight and get over it afterwards because they have this extra cushion to fall on, this extra reserve to draw from, so they can afford to bend more, be more flexible, give more during a conflict. This is why conflict, anger, or arguments are not necessarily a sign of a bad relationship - all relationships have these. It's contempt that is the big warning sign. Contempt, and similar emotions, are what gets brought out when these love tanks are running low. Contempt and disgust lead to a lack of empathy, and that lack of empathy leads to "selfish" behaviour. If you can't empathize with someone's position, you prioritize your own safety or your own security or your own escape route.

These behaviours are labeled "selfish" because you are putting yourself ahead of them. I, personally, make a distinction between "selfish" and "self-interested". "Selfish", when I use it, means putting WANTS ahead of someone else's NEEDS, and doing so either knowing that your actions will harm another and not caring; or thinking of yourself to the exclusion of the other person so that it doesn't even occur to you that someone else might get harmed. When I say "self-interested", I mean that you are putting your NEEDS ahead of someone else's WANTS. I might include "putting your needs ahead of others' needs" as well because sometimes there are situations where two people have legitimate "needs" that are incompatible and someone might have to choose themselves over someone else. I don't consider that to be "selfish" so much as "self-interested". Often, the person putting their own needs ahead of someone's wants is aware that someone else might feel hurt by it, but they feel it is a regrettable necessity. They aren't lacking empathy, they are making a choice about priority.

I think this distinction is very important because the accusation "selfish" is a very powerful tool of abusers to maintain their victims. Being "selfish" is one of the worst things a person, especially a woman or someone coded as "female" or "feminine", can be. So it's easy to keep her in line by grooming her for her entire life to not be "selfish" and then drawing on that grooming whenever she acts self-interested.

Meanwhile, the actions of the abuser are, in fact, "selfish", by this definition. I think it's important to note these two similar but distinct actions and belief systems with their own labels. This is not a criticism of the original article's use of the term, but an explanation of my own position on the subject and how I normally use these terms. Regardless of which term is used, I completely agree with the posted article's position on this subject, which is why I'm sharing the article. It prompted me to take a look back on all the times I've been called "selfish" and "cold" in relationships and to be critical of those accusations.

So, back to the Five Love Languages - I apparently speak all 5 fluently and naturally. Which might sound awesome at first hearing, because there are so many ways that people can express their love for me and I can speak naturally to any of their individual ways so you'd think that I'd get along well with a whole bunch of different people. But, as I like to joke, it's actually more like there are so many *more* ways that people can fuck this shit up than those who only speak 1 language. Because there are *5 separate love tanks* that people have to keep filled, not one, if they want me to feel secure in our relationship.

So, I would start out in a relationship with the NRE filling the role of the "cushion" or "reserve" in the relationship. Kinda like how lactic acid works when there's an oxygen deprivation to keep you physically moving, only in reverse - I start *out* with the NRE giving me a boost just long enough for the new partner to start making emotional "deposits" that I will eventually start drawing on when the NRE wears off. So, the NRE makes me all physically affectionate, verbally validating, intensely interested in everything they have to say, interested in doing things for them, and even wanting to give tangible things to represent my feelings for them or to show them that I was thinking of them when they weren't around (in order, the Love Languages of Physical Touch, Words of Affirmation, Quality Time, Acts of Service, and Gift Giving).

But here's something that the Love Language theory doesn't cover. I propose that "entitlement" can actually draw *out* any saved reserves from love tanks. So, even if my partner is actually expressing love for me in ways that might otherwise fill up my love tanks, if he is acting *entitled* to any of these expressions of love from me, that entitlement will start to siphon off some of those reserves. So, he may be showing his love for me by wanting to spend Quality Time with me, but if he's also *demanding* that time of me because he feels that I owe it to him as part of our relationship bargain, that Quality Time now starts to act as a deficit instead of a deposit.

"Leaving aside the fact that it’s still her phone and she still gets to decide who gets to use it and for what–a very important fact that I’m only leaving aside because I’m writing about something else–our brother has a pattern of entitled, demanding behavior towards her. He treats her time, belongings, and energy as if they’re his to take. Unfortunately, that happens a lot to selfless and caring people.

Because of that pattern, my sister has stopped being as giving with our brother as she used to be. Often she angrily refuses to do even tiny favors for him, like letting him borrow her phone for a few minutes to take some photos. Occasionally he makes his requests in a more appropriate way, but sometimes she still reacts with knee-jerk irritation and, raising her voice, tells him no."

I have been quoted as saying that I have a long fuse, but a huge blast radius. This means that I seem to have these endless reserves of patience and caring and compassion and empathy ... until you reach the end and then I blow up in what appears to be a totally disproportional way. I have yet to find a way to fix this, because I actually have gotten very good at clearly stating my boundaries and warning people that I'm nearing the end of my rope. But that seems to make it worse for me, because then when they overstep my boundaries, they're doing it *knowingly*, from my perspective, and I take it now as a deliberate blow. But, there's something else that gets added on top, it's just that very few people ever get to see it these days because I've gotten more comfortable with the banhammer and burning bridges.

When I have finally lost my patience with someone on a particular thing, but for some reason I haven't decided to nuke the entire relationship, I never again build up any resources to deal with that particular thing. So, for example, my family. My family doesn't do anything so horrendous that I'm willing to cut ties with them. They're not abusive, they're not racist (at least not all of them, and the ones who are aren't overtly racist), and since I live 3,000 miles away I can enjoy their company in small doses of my own choosing. But when we were kids, my sister used to steal my stuff. My clothes, my cassette tapes, whatever I had, she would steal it whether she liked it or not. One day, I'd had enough and we got into a fight about something probably not even related, and I shoved her bedroom door through the connecting wall. I got grounded forever and I had to do the repair work on the wall when my parents got home. To this day, I am extremely short-tempered about my stuff going missing and I'm incredibly territorial about my stuff.

Another example is my parents not respecting my agency. In a million tiny ways almost too hard to describe, my parents have never respected my autonomy and my desire or ability to make my own decisions or be an independent person. It's hard to describe because any one example is minor enough that many people just don't get why it's a big deal. The big deal is the aggregate. It takes a lifetime of tiny little chips away at my autonomy before I finally blew up about it. I got into a huge fight with my mom and moved out (and into the arms of my first abusive fiance, but that's another story). My mom tried to physically restrain me from leaving the argument and, for the only time in my life, I pushed her back and into the hallway wall. My sister came running down the hall and broke up the fight and I left.

My mom and I have repaired things and I consider her a good friend in addition to being my mother now, but every time she does even the slightest thing to remind me of an infringement on my autonomy, I get red-faced, temperature-raising, pissed off. The most common example is that, every time I visit or they visit, mom asks me if I need her to wake me up in the morning to get to whatever we have to do that day on time. She doesn't believe that I can do it myself just because my sleep disorder showing up in my teen years took me some time to learn how to compensate for. No, I don't fucking need mom's help to wake up. I'm motherfucking middle-aged and I've been getting myself up for two-thirds of my entire life. Don't fucking wake me up before my goddamn alarm. I have a system that works for me, don't fucking do it. See? Totally unreasonable reaction if seen out of context and in isolation. But I have never been able to build up any extra reserves to my mother infringing on my autonomy, so it is *always* that exposed nerve, that empty tank.

"Once I realized that my partners thought that it was my job to do emotional labor for them, I started rapidly losing the desire to do it."

"Even now, even to myself, I sound selfish and cold. But so does my sister, out of context. Neither of us is selfish or cold. What we are is exhausted. What we are is tired of being unable to set any boundaries. What we are is totally done doing things for people who have never, ever asked us what we need."

"When someone’s reserves of compassion get drained like that, they start setting boundaries that are much stricter and tighter than what they would’ve been otherwise. No, you can’t borrow my phone for even a few minutes. No, I don’t want to listen to your feelings at all. No, I honestly don’t even have enough emotional energy to give you a compliment to make you feel better about yourself."

"Because others’ entitlement often shuts down our desire to help them, and when we’re constantly afraid that our boundaries will be ignored, one strategy that many of us feel compelled to use is to start loudly, bluntly stating and defending those boundaries, as if to remove any plausible deniability from the person who continually crosses them."

The author goes on to say that they're not very optimistic about salvaging a relationship after the point at which it has collapsed from one person just flat out giving up on doing any more emotional labor. I can relate there too. Once I "go cold" like that, once I'm just done giving a shit about their feelings in the matter - any matter - I really have no interest in trying to repair the relationship and I don't see it as being very likely that anyone else will have any success in their own relationships after someone reaches that point. I'm reading a book now that claims to be able to help people come back from that precipice, but I'll be honest, I have some reservations about it.

The book I'm reading is all about the scientific research being done about "trust" in interpersonal relationships, and it actually had me for about half of it. I was on board, I was nodding my head as I read, I was already trying to come up with ways to work some of its theories into my Love Languages and Breaking Up workshops. And I *still* think those parts have merit, so I may still reference them. But then I got to this one part where he lumped kink into "impersonal sex", which tells me that he has no fucking idea what kink is, which means that he really doesn't understand what's going on in the minds of people regarding trust at all.

He moved away from kink and went back to just talking about repairing trust and betrayal and I thought, well, OK, the 5 Love Languages is deeply problematic too, coming as it does from a heteronormative, couple-centric, deeply Christian perspective, but I managed to strip it of all that bullshit and find something usable to present to the poly community so perhaps I can pick and choose with this book too.

But I'm not entirely sure I agree with his premise for using his research on trust and betrayal to mend broken relationships. He seems, from my perspective as someone who has been thrust down the rabbit hole of abuse in poly relationships, to be fetishizing the couple and prioritizing the needs of the relationship over the needs of the individuals in the relationship - a core axiom of ethics violation in poly relationships.

We go through so much trouble to try and salvage relationships after things have gone sour. There is a point before which things are rocky but there are enough good parts to a relationship that things can be improved and bring value and joy to everyone involved, and there is a point after which I'm not so sure it's worth the effort even if it *can* be turned around and start bringing more joy than suffering again. And that's not a hard and fast point that I can just say "if X happens, it's not worth it anymore, for anyone, no matter what!" I think that's something only the people in the relationship can decide for themselves, and I think it's possible for it to be true for one / some of the people and simultaneously not true for the other(s).

But I think that point exists, and I think it's very important that we as a society acknowledge this. Relationships and love are abundant. We can find them all over the place. But we can't *see* them, or won't be open to receiving them, if all of our resources are tied up in Scotch-taping broken relationships back together. Sometimes, we might just be better off by using our resources more efficiently by giving up on a broken relationship and spending those resources in other places that aren't so broken.

In this book that I'm reading, the author talks about this point where someone in a relationship starts comparing what they have to what they could have elsewhere, either a real person / relationship that they know of or a fantasy in their head of something that might exist elsewhere if only they could go look. I really want to expose this researcher to healthy poly relationships where believing there is "someone else" out there who can do or be this other wonderful thing *isn't relevant* to whether or not we choose to stay with our current partners.

But there is a nugget of truth in there, that if we are too busy spending all of our resources on a sinking ship, we don't have any resources to maintain or repair all the other ships in our lives, whether it's other romantic partners, family, friends, hobbies, or jobs. This even has a name - the Sunk Cost Fallacy, where we keep dumping in resources after resources into an endless pit because we feel that we have to justify all the resources we have been dumping in so far. To cut our losses and run is to have "failed" and to invalidate all those spent resources. So we keep spending. And that contributes to people staying in abusive or toxic relationships (among other things).

I think we need to stop romanticizing the Forever After and accept that relationships, even successful ones, may not always last until Death Do We Part. I think that it is not necessarily a bad thing to reach this point of No More Fucks To Give and decide that, even if it's possible, it's not desirable to try to "fix" the relationship. I think that, not only is not a bad thing, but it's actively a good thing in many cases, and that it's also not a bad thing to decide it's not desirable *before* reaching that point in order to meet a different goal of maintaining a civil breakup and post-breakup relationship. Better to walk away still remembering the relationship fondly and perhaps even harboring some loving feelings, than to wait until the only feeling you have left for them is contempt, disgust, or anger. Assuming, of course, that you can choose when to walk away, but that's a different discussion.

When we have someone who repeatedly violates our boundaries, or regularly draws upon our emotional reserves in the relationship without putting enough of their own back in to compensate, "selfish", or as I have termed it, "self-interested" behaviour is a valid response. If you're wondering why someone seems to have "checked out" or why they seemed to have lost all their compassion for you, it may be because you've been drawing on their "love tank" reserves instead of filling them up. If you're being accused of being "selfish" and you're wondering why you seem to be this heartless monster around this person in particular but you either remember not being that person or you aren't that monster around other people, it may be because this particular person is crossing your boundaries in small, almost unnoticeable ways or because they're acting entitled to your emotional labor or because they're withdrawing your love tank resources instead of depositing into them.

And if that is the case, it may be for everyone's benefit that you act a little more "selfish", or at least self-interested, and remove yourself from that relationship. If full removal isn't possible at this time, I'd recommend embracing the accusation of being "selfish" and/or looking into ways that you can get away with enforcing as many of your boundaries as possible and acting in your own self-interest in as many ways as possible, as often as you can.

If "reclaiming" the label of "selfish" gives you the strength you need to do what you have to do, go for it. If just reminding yourself that "selfish" and "self-interested" are two different things and that people who have a vested interest in keeping you under their control often use the "selfish" accusation when you're really being "self-interested" - if that reminder is enough make you feel better about taking care of yourself in the face of boundary-crossing and entitlement, then hold onto this until you can improve your circumstances and keep reminding yourself of it. It is not a bad thing to take care of yourself in the face of this kind of violation, even if that means you have to "shut down" something in order to cope.

joreth: (Super Tech)
I've said it before and I'll continue to say it until the culture is changed - if girls under the legal age of majority are considered autonomous enough to choose to conceive or keep a pregnancy or raise a child, than women the same age and older are capable of making the choice not to.  With adoption, fostering, step-parenting, and the more extreme pregnancy surrogates as options, the consequences for regretting a permanent sterilization are far less disastrous than the consequences of forced motherhood or regretting childbirth.

I have ALWAYS known that I did not want to be pregnant. I assumed, when I was a child, that I would eventually become a parent because, with no role models otherwise, it never occurred to me that not having children was even an option. But all my childhood dolls and daydreams were adopted, as I was. My adopted parents provided me with such a loving home that I was convinced that the more responsible thing to do was to be an adoptive parent too, to give other less fortunate children the kinds of opportunities I had been given.

As I have gotten older, starting at about age 21, the idea of parenting even as an adoptive parent became more and more onerous until, now approaching middle age, I can't think of anything culturally expected that I want to do less. I'd even choose monogamy over parenthood at this point, if my life were on the line for picking one cultural milestone that I had to accept that I have previously eschewed. Every year, I keep expecting some magical "biological clock" to start ticking, but every year I am more grateful than the previous year that I do not have children. The closer I get to the age of no return, the more relieved I am that I will one day not be able to change my mind.

I have been refused sterilization, and those who were willing were out of my price range because I don't have health insurance. Perhaps people ought not to be trying to convince someone who lives below the poverty line without health insurance that she should be having children - it's tragic those who are *actually* concerned with "what about the children" are the ones who don't have them, while those who do are more concerned about imposing their values to the *detriment* of those children they pay lip service to. But I digress. Always, the response to my desire to be childfree is that I might change my mind, as if adoption isn't an option. Some day, I might find that "right man" who will make me want to procreate.

Sorry, but the only thing that delaying sterilization did for me was make it more likely that I'd have an abortion, which I also don't regret. Had I been sterilized when I first requested it, I wouldn't have had the procedure that these same people find even more appalling than the sterilization procedure. This is what happens when you withhold contraception - you increase the chances of having abortions.

That is not a procedure I would have chosen, like other elective procedures such as getting a nose job, but I did choose it because it was better than the alternative, which was remaining pregnant. If one is truly interested in reducing abortions, one ought to be the most supportive of access to contraception, including permanent methods. My brief pregnancy and abortion procedure were some of the worst days of my adult life, but you bet your ass I'd do it again rather than carry a parasite around for 9 months or be stuck raising a dependent for the next two decades. And I'd bet *my* ass that you really don't want someone raising said dependent when that person refers to it as a "parasite".

Every day, every year, I am more and more relieved and thankful that I had an abortion. The only negative emotion I feel about it at all is the accompanying frustration that I shouldn't have NEEDED it in the first place if I had just been allowed to get sterilized at an affordable price when I asked for it.
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: (Super Tech)
"Our bodies are special so only our (future) husbands should get to see them!"

My body isn't special because no other man has seen it, nor is it tarnished because men have seen it. My body is special because it is part of me and *I* am special. It is the vessel which houses my soul, my essence, me. No man is so powerful that he can remove my specialness just by looking at me.

No matter how many men see or touch my body, it remains special because *I* am special. No matter how many men I share the experience of my body with, every experience with me is special because *I* am special. No one, man especially, is powerful enough to remove my specialness.

Just because I exist, I am special. Just because I *have* existed, I will always *be* special.


It's also why I'm not afraid of polyamory. Nothing my partners do or say or think or feel with other people changes my specialness, and our relationship is special because *we* are special and *we* are in the relationship.
joreth: (Misty Sleeping)
Very long and rambly post about flawed female reproductive systems and my own personal experiences with my reproductive system with lots of gory details.

Endometriosis is severely understudied. We really don't know that much about an affliction that affects a large percentage of the population, and affects it in a debilitating way.  The main reason for this is because it's a woman's issue. I've been told my entire life that my cramps "aren't that bad" and "I have bad cramps too, but I still make it to work every day so you're going to have to learn how to get to school every day" and "does the ibuprofen help? Well, keep taking it then."

Women's pain is not taken seriously, and women of color especially are ignored when it comes to complaints of pain. In fact, women are generally seen as the weaker sex (yes, I'm using both binary and mixing gender and biology because those fallacies are also mixed up in this whole problem) - whiny, unable to handle the sight of blood, unable to bear pain, even though when men are hooked up to machines that simulate labor they can't tolerate it even half as well as women.

Consequently, the only forms of treatment for endo remain copious amounts of painkillers with their own side effects and long-term usage consequences or dangerous invasive surgery that A) most doctors won't even do because baby-making is a priority and women don't know what they want or what's good for them; B) if successful will still likely result in even more long-term consequences, particularly the full hysterectomy which requires the woman to go into early menopause and spend the rest of her life on drugs to treat *that*; and C) isn't all that successful, given the specific details that is endo in the first place.

So, all of that is to prepare the background for some musings I have about my condition - musings which may very well turn out to be incorrect because I am not a medical research professional who specializes in this area but that seem very plausible to me because of the dearth of knowledge that we even have on the subject.

Often, pregnancy can alleviate the symptoms of endo for a few months after childbirth. See, what endo actually does is cause some of the uterine lining to grow outside of the uterus. Most of the time, it means that it grows out past the cervix and into the vaginal canal, but sometimes it also means that random patches of uterine lining are hanging around in various places in the abdomen. So, when it comes times for the monthly cramps, the uterus tries to shed its lining and those contractions used to push the lining out, in essence labor contractions but without the baby, can happen in places where they're not supposed to happen. In addition to other things endo is doing, labor contractions outside of the uterus and lining shedding outside of the uterus can cause pain.

But when someone gets pregnant, sometimes the extra uterine lining that has grown down into the vaginal canal sorta gets sucked back up into the uterus to cushion the fetus. Because there are no periods for 9 months, those specific labor-cramps might not occur when this happens. Then, after childbirth, all the lining is basically used up (I'm summarizing here to make it more understandable in a short-form, obviously my language isn't going to be 100% medically accurate) and sometimes it takes a few months to grow back to pre-pregnancy levels. This means that, if this happens, the endo-caused labor cramps (which are above and beyond "normal" cramps) might not exist for a few months until the uterine lining grows back in those places where it's not supposed to be.

So, for what little we do know about endo, we know that pregnancy can affect the severity of the pain and some of its other symptoms. Unrelated to endo, we also know that many, many, many times a body might reject a fertilized egg for a variety of reasons and miscarry even before the host body is aware that it is pregnant. A rather large number of periods are actually miscarriages that we don't even know about. So now onto my particular case and my musings.

I was pregnant once. It was one of the worst experiences of my life and I hope to never go through it again. I had terrible cramps even without shedding the blood lining. I had the worst "morning sickness" all day long. I became extremely sensitive to smells, which further triggered the vomiting (a permanent side effect, btw - I remain that sensitive to those same smells years later and often have to fight nausea and vomiting when I smell them). And I had my other digestive symptoms common with endo - diarrhea, constipation, severe gas pain, etc. Basically, it was like having my monthly 2-day ordeal at its worst but for every day between the time my period was *supposed* to start and the day I was finally able to terminate the pregnancy.

Then, for the next 3 or 4 months, I had the easiest periods I've ever had. I experienced absolutely none of the digestive symptoms, and my cramps felt more like the early twinges that let me know that I'm about to start a 24-hour cycle of hell. I mean, they hurt, but when your pain scale is parked at 8, pain at 4 feels like a relief. I was downright giddy at how easy my period had gotten! If that's what non-endo people feel during their periods, no wonder they couldn't understand the severity of my situation! No fucking wonder women in commercials could go horseback riding and surfing during their "time of the month"!

Eventually, my cramps went back to normal and life resumed. But then, one month, I had an episode that was so bad, I started to wish for death. And as I had just come out of a suicidal depression, I mean that literally. I was actually hoping that I would just cease so that I wouldn't have to endure the pain anymore. I couldn't even get out of bed long enough to evacuate all the bodily fluids that were causing all the pain in the first place, and I had one bucket next to my bed for the vomit and another for the poop. I stayed in my sweat-soaked bed for 28 hours in a feverish delirium, awaking only long enough to void some cavity and immediately passing out again.

I wrote about that month. A friend even remarked on how hardcore I was to use my own pain like that to further my feminist goals by trying to help normalize the discussion around women's bodily functions and issues.  Then I got to thinking. That month, my endo was the worst that it's ever been. It was as if my body had taken my entire few-week pregnancy and condensed into a single day. I did some math. Given the timing, I had a close call that month. It was within the realm of probability to have gotten pregnant given the last time I had unprotected sex with a partner who was still fertile.

So, now I wonder ... can the severity of cramps be related to the frequency of miscarriages or other situations involving failed implantation or fertilization? If so, would it only affect people with endo or could it affect everyone? I mean, non-endo people also have a range of severity for their monthly symptoms too, right?

As I was explaining yesterday, some months I pop a few pills and I'm like "WOOOO!!! Drugs!! I feel fucking great! Let's tear this shit up!" At least, I feel that way for as long as the drugs are in my system. About 5 hours later, if I forget to take my meds because I'm feeling so fantastic, I start curling up into a ball and crying, but as long as I take the meds, I'm floating on air that day. Other months, I pop a handful of pills and the best I can hope for is to be able to stand just upright enough that I can at least get myself from point A to point B without collapsing. The cramps are like a string is pulled taught in my abdomen and the straighter I am, the more tension is on the string and the more the cramps hurt. Some months all I get is just enough tension let out of that string to enable me to not be horizontal, which allows me to be technically functional.

So, since endo is obviously related to my reproductive system and the shedding of my uterine lining, and it can sometimes be temporarily relieved by pregnancy, I have to wonder if its symptoms are also otherwise affected by the variability of the reproductive system. Because the Far Right is hell-bent on reversing Roe v. Wade, some of us are becoming more aware of the complexity of the subject of conception. It's not a binary state - either you are or you are not pregnant / either there is or is not a baby. There are all these other states - an egg can be fertilized but not implanted. An egg can be fertilized and implanted but in the wrong place. The body can spontaneously abort before the host is even aware there is a pregnancy. More and more and more, that I don't feel like researching and listing. Bottom line is that it's not as simple as the anti-abortionists want us to think. It's not "you have sex, and then BOOM, a baby exists".

Throw into the mix alongside the complexity of the human reproduction system a lack of understanding of that system and especially of when that system is not working optimally under its given limitations, and that leads me to wondering how often I may have actually been experiencing a miscarriage? One of the symptoms of endo is the inability or difficulty to carry to term. The reason I am adopted is because my mom couldn't carry to term so she had to adopt in order to become a mother at all (of course, the doctors waited until she had 2 adopted children and at least one hospitalized miscarriage before they'd deign to give her a hysterectomy, knocking her into menopause at age 34 and condemning her to hormonal therapy for the rest of her life).

Since I've always been so careful about timing, I haven't had all that many close calls in my life, and the one time I was confident we were too close really did result in a pregnancy which I terminated, I don't have very many data points about how pregnancy or conception affects my personal association with endo. It makes me wonder, if we could hook up all fertile people with uteruses who have PIV intercourse with fertile people who have penises, if we could somehow monitor the "pregnancy" status of all those people all the time, how often would we see the loss of a fertilized, viable egg? A fertilized but non-viable egg? What would that mean for the fight for abortion rights? And how would that pattern correlate with each person's own patterns in their reproductive cycle?

I have no answers, no directed rant, no challenge, not even any real awareness-raising goal. I'm just pondering my body and wondering what all these things about my body *mean*, and what *that* could mean in the larger cultural context if we had the answers to all my questions.
joreth: (Bad Computer!)
I had been posting about the Stanford rape case for a few days, and rather than fill up my blog or Twitter feed (which auto-tweets each of these blog posts as I make them) with all the posts I blew up my Facebook with, I'm going to just put them all in a single post, and I'll even put the meat of them behind a cut for the 2 of you who still read LJ like a social media feed.

Here goes... )


If you want to do something and you don't live in Santa Clara county to sign the actual recall petition being launched by a Stanford professor this week, fill out this form and mail it in to file a judicial complaint against Aaron Persky for showing bias in according such a light sentence to a fellow Stanford athlete.

http://cjp.ca.gov/res/docs/appendix/complaintform%20fillable.pdf

WHAT TO SAY:
Judge - Aaron Persky
Court - Superior
County - Santa Clara
Name of case & case number - The People of the State of California v. Brock Allen Turner, Case No. B1577162
Action of judge: (feel free to write in your own words, this is just an example) Appearance of bias toward a particular class: Judge Persky sentenced fellow Stanford athlete to an unusually light sentence of just 6 months, in spite of a unanimous jury verdict on three counts of sexual assault. There were two eyewitnesses to the act. Turner being a swimmer has nothing to do with the severity of his crimes and should not have had any influence on Persky's sentence.
Others present: District Attorney Jeff Rosen, Defense Attorney Mike Armstrong, Brock Allen Turner, Jane Doe.

WHERE TO SEND:
Commission on Judicial Performance
455 Golden Gate Avenue, Suite 14400
San Francisco, CA 94102
joreth: (Dobert Demons of Stupidity)
In this latest installment of "real conversations I have with real people, face to face" -

Them: Well I TRIED to be progressive, but people get so angry! I just don't even want to help anymore!

Us: The only way to move forward is for the more privileged person to recognize and acknowledge that the less privileged people have a reason and a right to be angry. Once we accept that they have a right to be angry, we can stop being afraid of saying the "wrong thing" and making someone angry (because their anger is a given and is valid, even if directed at us in the moment), and then we are better able to listen to what they have to say.

Them: But when they get angry and say hateful things, it HURTS ME!

Us: I understand that and, let me take time out of my educational process here to validate your feelings because, goodness knows no one can ever hear that they're wrong about something without first soothing their ruffled feathers, but if you really want to move towards a more inclusive and tolerant society, it's on US to stop being afraid of their anger and to let them be angry.

Them: But they say such mean things!

Us: Yes, but the first step is in accepting their anger.

Them: But I can't even TALK to them because they're so angry! They need to stop being angry so we can have a calm and rational dialog!

Us: No, as the group with the more privilege, it's OUR job to let them be angry and to listen to what's BEHIND the anger.

Them: Well I can't even hear anything but the hateful angry stuff they say. *I* didn't do anything to them! I was trying to help and they just shut it all down by getting so angry!

Us: No, the people who aren't acknowledging and accepting their anger are the ones who are shutting everything down. The first step is on us, to give them the space to be angry.

Them: but... anger! My feels!

Social Justice seems to be little more than an ongoing exercise in circular arguments.

‪#‎SJW‬ ‪#‎privilege‬ ‪#‎WhiteFragility‬ ‪#‎IKnowISteppedOnYourToeAfterSomeoneElseShotYourFootButWhyYouGottaYellAtMeForIt‬?

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