joreth: (polyamory)
Based on Poly Weekly episode 516: The Art of Three, I bought the book of the same name. This episode is an interview with Racheline Maltese, who wrote a polyamorous romance novel that does NOT include a couple opening up their relationship for the first time and does NOT include unicorn hunters finding their hot, bi, cis-woman love slave / nanny.
It does, however, include some hot bi men, which is automatically a plus for me.

I only just started the book, so I can't give a full review, but I already like that it's not unicorn hunting, it's not "opening up", it's not written for the literature version of the straight male gaze, and the characters don't seem to do the usual irritating-as-fuck foolishness stemming from typical monogamous culture habits like poor communication and objectification.

The authors, Erin McRae and Racheline Maltese, seem to actually know polyamory (and judging by some forum comments, there are self-identified poly people who nevertheless don't understand polyamory, so them understanding it says more about them than just calling them "poly"). The characters are self-aware, have decent communication skills, are respectful of agency, and still manage to have their own personalities, flaws, and foibles. They're not perfect, and they still make mistakes, but they don't make *rookie* mistakes. And even more importantly, they don't make *monogamous people who don't get polyamory* mistakes.

The polyamory seems to go pretty smoothly, at least so far. I have criticized movies and TV shows that make relationships look too easy and that skip over all the hard stuff where everyone just seems to magically be naturally good at relationships. But sometimes I just really need a story where the conflict and plot isn't related to the character's relationship skills. Sometimes I just need them to be decent at relationships so that I don't have to constantly yell at fictional characters that things don't have to be as difficult as they're making them.

Here are some of my reactions while reading it:

  • The book has a tense discussion where the authors, through the wife's character, acknowledge an unfair distribution of Emotional Labor along gender lines! They also make the male characters self-aware enough to be bothered by it when it occurs to them that they do not carry enough of the responsibility or the skill for this labor.
  • Love it. The Art of Three points out the sexism inherent in constantly asking if the husband is OK with the boyfriend sleeping with the wife or sharing their "marriage bed" or staying in "their" house, but never asked the same questions of the husband about the wife.

    The book points out that this is behaving as though she is her husband's property and notes the boyfriend's chagrin at the criticism, thereby implying that he is not intending to be sexist and does not wish to be sexist, but is nevertheless a product of his culture and participates in sexist assumptions even against his own better nature.

    To be fair, the boyfriend did ask the wife if she really did have an open marriage and really was OK with him sleeping with her husband for the first time. But he makes a bigger deal out of being in the husband's "place", like their shared bed or "his chair" at the dinner table in their home, when these thoughts never occurred to him about the wife when he was with the husband in their other shared home.

    The boyfriend does handle the criticism well and seeks to change.
  • The Art of Three also captures the weight that a long-term marriage has which presses down on newcomers. It reminds the reader of the gravitas that a preexisting relationship imposes on new partners through the boyfriend's occasional insecurity and his constant reminders to himself that he needs to be "respectful" of their marriage, as well as through the married couple's deliberate and conscious decisions to mitigate that weight whenever possible.

    That second part of that reminds the reader of the solidness of a preexisting relationship without enabling any couple privilege such as implying that this solidness and heaviness is as it should be or showing the established couple feeling or presenting as entitled to such privileges.

    These authors also avoided enabling couple privilege by not making the established couple suffer petty bouts of insecurity at the NRE or feeling "threatened" by a newcomer.

    So, if you're looking for a book that shows polyamory in a positive light, written by people who *get* polyamory, doesn't follow the single most overused and irritating trope in all of poly storytelling, and doesn't spend a whole lot of time dragging the characters through Poly 101 Drama, I'd recommend checking out The Art of Three.
joreth: (polyamory)
Apparently, threesome romance novels (which means not just threesome sex but also threesome long-term relationships) with at least 2 men are A Thing, and paranormal romance novels are A Thing, and more importantly, paranormal threesome romance novels with at least 2 men (and often with plus-sized women and also often with Latina women) are also A Thing.

If you happen to want to buy any of these books through Amazon, the links I'm using are for my Affiliates Account, which means that I get a very small commission (that doesn't cost you anything extra) if you buy from these links instead of just searching Amazon.

I have not read ANY of these books. I have no idea if they're good or not. But I think I'm gonna try a few out. I am currently adding them to my Polyish Booklist which doesn't have my Amazon Affiliates link.
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: (Purple Mobius)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

joreth: (Bad Computer!)
I think I might be zeroing in on why it pisses me off so much that people are defending 50 Shades.  This is still rough, but I think I'm getting closer to what's wrong with these defenses.  I've been spending a lot of time learning how to support abuse victims over the last couple of years.  Over and over, the message to victim supporters is "just listen, and accept".  Believe victims, listen to them, accept their story.  You don't have to "take sides" by accusing the abuser or doing anything active against the abuser.  You can even reserve some empathy and support for the alleged abuser.  The important part is that you make a safe space for the victim to heal and to feel.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"This was domestic abuse marketed as Valentine’s Day fun."
joreth: (BDSM)
So, everyone knows that I am utterly, emphatically, antagonistically opposed to 50 Shades Of Fucked Up. I've been posting links explaining how it's romanticized abuse pretty much since the books came out. But here's something ... when the books came out, I didn't yet realize that I was in a relationship with an abuser. I've been in a relationship with someone who tried to abuse me. And, for reasons that I plan to go into in another blog post, abuse doesn't seem to "stick" to me. I don't react to abuse attempts the way some other people do, so manipulation and abuse seems to act like a fiery catalyst, ending with an explosion of the relationship. When I was engaged to someone who attempted to abuse me, I got the hell out of there without, I believe, much damage to my own psyche.

But then I dated someone who abused his other partner. And, in spite of my experience, I didn't see it. Actually, I think it may have been because of my experience. Because they had slightly different tactics, and because the victim didn't react the way that I did or like the way victims are portrayed in movies, I couldn't see what was happening right in front of me. To be fair, a lot of it wasn't right in front of me. Most of the abuse was when they were alone. That's how it was able to fly under the radar. But I've since had the opportunity that only space and time can bring, to go over my own experiences and to hear the victim's story of what happened in privacy as well as to read and learn more about what emotionally abusive relationships actually look like.

So, let me tell you, when I found this link of 50 Abusive Moments In Fifty Shades, I could have used a trigger warning. Now, I don't TW or CW my posts. I figure that I am a trigger, so anyone who follows me should just know that. And I generally don't need warnings myself, even though I have plenty of my own triggers on a variety of subjects. I read what I read and that's just how it goes, for me. But I wasn't prepared for the connections this article made in my head. And I think it needs to be shared.

For the most part, negative reviews of 50 Shades are much like any other - they all go into great detail explaining how the book is about an abusive relationship, many of which cite domestic violence resources as evidence, and many of them save a little room to attack the poor literary quality of the writing on top of the content. Many of these reviews are written by people who are not familiar with BDSM but who take care to point out that they are not attacking the BDSM but the abuse, that they see a distinction, and that they are echoing criticisms from their kinky friends and resources. And many of them are abuse survivors. Such as this one.

Here's what got me. In the second book, when Ana seems like she really might leave him (again), Christian goes catatonic. It was this blogger's use of the word "catatonic" that triggered me. See, the ex who abused his other partner did this. When things got too stressful for him, he literally shut down. I'd never seen this before, or so I thought until this article. His other partners had seen it, and they just accepted that his brain was broken and this is what they had to deal with. So I accepted that explanation too. Everyone bent over backwards and treated him like a special needs child until he was coherent again. What I didn't see was the pattern, until much later.

I can remember times when I got legitimately upset with my ex for things. I'd tell him I was annoyed and I'd reject his advances and the next thing I knew, he'd clam up. He'd lie there, all sad-eyes and mouth opening and closing like a fish on land, breathing like like every intake was painful. Sometimes he'd start to shake, too. And I'd panic, thinking "shit, I've broken him!" and set about trying to make it all better again. Sometimes I'd try to touch him and he'd swat my hand away. Sometimes I'd start trying to explain my feelings and he'd shush me. But you can mark my words; the second I started saying I was sorry and that I loved him and was going to support him? Suddenly he'd regain the power of speech and he'd start talking about something painful from his past, until I'd forgotten what I was angry about in the first place, because I was too busy comforting him. That happened pretty much every time I questioned his behaviour, until I just stopped questioning it altogether. It's manipulation. It's calculated emotional and psychological abuse. And okay, maybe I didn't see it as such at the time, because I loved him.

This is from the blog, not me. But I swear I nearly looked up at the URL bar to confirm if it was written by me or by his victim because this was exactly what happened. And this is when I connected his catatonic state to the one my ex-fiancé used.

My ex-fiancé was a pathalogical liar. He started out with small, easily-believable lies so that it wasn't until we were engaged and living together that I finally started hearing lies big enough to detect as lies. Sure, looking back from the vantage point of post-breakup, the pattern is obvious and even the small lies are easy to spot. But when they're still in front of you and the pattern hasn't been revealed yet, it's not so easy. One of his lies, the one that finally smacked me upside the head with a clue-by-four, was that he would conveniently get "sick" after or during an argument or just before I was about to do something that he didn't want me to do.

He had been raised by a stay-at-home mom who was my grandmother's age, and consequently, of a different school of thought on gender and family roles. So he didn't have a single homemaking skill like cooking or laundry because his mother never taught him. When we moved in together, even though I had been clear that I was not going to assume the same role as his mother, all the cooking and cleaning and domestic chores fell to me on top of my part-time job and full-time college schedule, while he worked only one full-time job to "provide" for us. So, when he got sick, he didn't even know how to make himself chicken noodle soup. And I, of course, as the loving fiancé, felt compassion for him in his time of need.

But then I noticed that his upset stomachs always happened when I was winning an argument. And after arguments. And before my night classes when he would be left at home alone. And on days when I went to my mother's house to do laundry and wanted to go without him. And right before my friend's bachelorette party that was no-men-allowed. And... and... and... Yes, I stayed with him through an awful lot of these episodes, but I was already resentful and irritated by about the 2nd or 3rd "upset tummy" and I very quickly lost my compassion. I also didn't stay home to nurse him for each episode either, but he continued to get "sick" each and every time. It was these "illnesses" that made me realize that he was lying, and I began to question all the other "convenient" things that had happened in our relationship too. Those things aren't relevant to this blog post, but I do have another one all about this relationship coming.

So I got the fuck out. The thing is, he wasn't a terribly good liar and he used the same excuses too often. As I said, in the beginning the lies were small so it was easy to believe and rationalize them. But as soon as they had any real importance, his duplicity became fairly obvious. So when the other ex would go catatonic, I didn't connect them because he wasn't obviously, blatantly lying. To this day, I'm not entirely sure how much was faked and how much was a real reaction due to his mental illness (which was diagnosed after we broke up). For all I know, he really, legitimately, could have lost his ability to function each and every time as a reaction that he had little-to-no control over.

But, here's the thing. Mental illness is not an excuse for abuse. There are plenty of people who have mental disabilities who do not abuse and who learn coping mechanisms for functioning in relationships. His breakdowns happened during very specific times and the result of each breakdown was that people would "panic, thinking 'shit, I've broken him!' and set about trying to make it all better again." And as soon as the person he was in conflict with apologized and took all the responsibility for the scene, "Suddenly he'd regain the power of speech and he'd start talking about something painful from his past, until [they'd] forgotten what [they were] angry about in the first place". I spent years trying to talk down a friend from suicide every time he asked me out and I refused to be anything other than a platonic friend, because I didn't know that suicide threats were also a form of abuse. I spent years until I had finally reached my limit and I lashed out at him. That limit never reset itself, so I don't have very much patience for people who "get sick" when we are in conflict. I've been accused of being a cold-hearted bitch for it, but now I see that the people who accuse me of that most often are those who are trying to use tactics that are classified as "abusive" by domestic violence agencies. So I take those accusations with a grain of salt, and I actually feel very grateful about my instinctual reactions even though it hurts to be called "cold" by people who I thought cared for me.

As the blogger here says, "It's very much a thing and it's what made me utterly suicidal when I finally walked away from my abuser, because I thought he'd die because I'd abandoned him and I was a horrible bitch like all the others." This is exactly what abusers do and this is exactly what Christian Grey does to Ana in this story. "And then this chapter goes on to play on the ridiculously dangerous 'if I love this man right, I can cure him' trope", which is right out of the #WhyIStayed hashtag movement (and if you haven't followed that yet, you should). I have, on more than one occasion, found myself in a relationship where I thought to myself that I would "prove" that I'm "not like the others" who were so heartless and cruel as to abandon this poor, mistreated, misunderstood man. But it's not a mark of a good relationship to turn it into a competition between myself and his exes as to who can withstand his bullshit the longest. I am not a better person if I can cope with abuse longer than others. You know that saying that goes "if all your exes are crazy, the thing they have in common is you"? Well, if "all" his exes felt like they had to escape because they couldn't handle his damage, maybe there's a reason for that.

This subject is a difficult one because there are legitimately people out there who need help and they can't do it on their own. There are legitimately people out there who rely on their significant others to get them through rough patches. In fact, I'd argue that this is even one of the functions of a significant romantic relationship - to be someone your partner can rely on in hard times. I've had moments myself when I wasn't sure that I would make it, but a partner helped me through it. So I am not going to tell other people whether their relationships are abusive or not (although I will point out when I see people exhibiting abusive behaviour). I am going to tell you all, however, that this is a common tactic of abuse.

Shutting down mentally, emotionally, and communicatively until after the victim has switched sides and embraces their fault and wrongdoing is one of the steps in the cycle of emotional abuse. I get it, really I do. When I'm upset with my partner, and I really believe that they have wronged me, it might cause me to disconnect from them emotionally, at least for a while, because, hey! they wronged me. When they have seen and acknowledged the wrong that they've done to me, it can result in warming back up to them. Apologies that really display both remorse and understanding are worth considering and can repair a damaged relationship and damaged trust. So this can be extremely difficult to see as an abusive step when you're the victim and you're in the middle of it. This can also be difficult to see as an abusive step when you're the abuser, since abusers are not cartoon villains, twisting their mustachios and plotting on how to manipulate their victims trapped in their dark towers.

This confusion, this masquerade of a real phenomenon, is what an abuser is counting on to continue the abuse, even if they aren't consciously aware that they are abusive. And this social acceptance of abuse as "romance" is what abusers count on to provide them with a steady supply of victims who will have no support network to help rescue them because no one around them will believe that this is wrong. This is why I am so opposed to this series and movie. It is not being billed as an abusive relationship. As I posted the other day elsewhere, this isn't like when my generation and before read Flowers In The Attic - we all knew that book was a horror story. We knew that book series was about twisted minds and abusive relationships. We read it the way we read any horror story. It's completely OK that Flowers exists and that people read it, because it was not intended to get people off and it was not defended as some gateway for the mainstream to learn about "alternative family structures". It was drama and psychological horror.

And so is 50 Shades, but it's not being read that way. It's being billed as "erotica" and it's being defended as an open door for mainstreamers to learn about BDSM. I believe this is wrong, harmful, damaging, and frightening. I'm supporting the boycott solely because I do not wish to reward society for romanticizing abuse, not because I think this story should not exist. I've read the entire Flowers series more than once. If the author was making a fortune because society was holding up that series as the new How To Guide for family values, I'd boycott that series too.
joreth: (Default)
Several people have given me book recommendations recently, and without a smartphone or notepad, I have forgotten them all. What books would you recommend to read?

I like fantasy, sci-fi, military sci-fi, historical fiction, & nonfiction. I like my books to be internally consistent and prefer egalitarian, skeptical (pro- science-based, rational, critical-thinking), & transhumanism themes even if not explicitly so, and even if they're set in magical worlds.

I don't like books heavy on the sexism, that penalize reason or critical thinking, that use science as the "bad guy" or weapon of the bad guy (i.e. Michael Crichton), and I'm starting to detest books clearly set in our own future that nevertheless show no progress or even explorations into futuristic ideas (i.e. it's 3023 and we're space-faring & we have AI, but we still haven't even broached personhood theory).

I like complicated characters and plots that are not black and white (i.e. Firefly - yes I know it's not a book). I like characters I can empathize with or who make me feel as though I can get to know them or are similar to people I actually know. I like character-driven stories and I can excuse some bit of plot-mangling or lack of explanations if I can relate to the characters.

I don't like books that are too heavy on the technical specifications - especially if they don't spend equal intensity on the character development. I appreciate technical accuracy, but without the characters to get into, the specs just wash over my head.

I've enjoyed reading the Honor Harrington series and the Vorkosigan series but am finding the Wheel of Time series too painful for its sexism. I really enjoyed the Anita Blake series in spite of the author desperately needing an editor and being generally a terrible writer of sex scenes, and I vaguely remember liking the Hollows series (Dead Witch Walking / Rachel Morgan) although I've forgotten many details. I have Hunger Games & Game of Thrones in my queue.

So, any other suggestions?
joreth: (polyamory)
Reading Robert Heinlein poly books is like the literary equivalent of having sex with a misogynistic Fake Feminist premature ejaculator:
Oh, that's nice. That's good, yes, keep doing that. That's great! Almost there ... almost ... what do you mean you're done? Oh, well, that's OK, we can still ... you mean you're just stopping? Right there? But we're so close! If you just ... what do you mean it's all my fault? Yes women should be responsible for their own orgasms, but that doesn't mean you aren't supposed to contribute anything at all! This is supposed to be a shared experience! That doesn't make you a feminist, that makes you a shitty lover.
I don't want to waste my time with a guy who may be decent at starting off, but stops short right when it starts to get good - not when there are plenty of other guys out there who can start out good and still follow through to the end, and who don't mask their condescension of women with intellectual snobbery.  No, it's not feminist if all the women in your books are tall, thin, blonde, have Ph.d's, but still want to stay at home and make your babies. 

And don't even get me started on the whole "no bi or gay male sex" thing, either.
joreth: (polyamory)
by Nash Popovic

I was excited to see a poly book available to read online. The most common excuse for not reading a book assigned in the poly bookclub is that they couldn't find the book or didn't have money to buy it. Threesome was offered online, entirely free and promised to be pro-poly.

Well, it was definitely pro-poly. It was also very short.

Plot synopsis with spoilers )

I have mixed feelings about this story. On the one hand, it's refreshing to read a book that supports polyamory and where things work out for the characters. On the other hand, there was no real struggle, no conflict, nothing that the characters had to overcome or grow from. They just kinda worked. I love it when that happens in real life, but, as I always tell reporters when they ask about my relationships, it makes for a boring story. There's no real story arc and there's no conclusion, satisfying or otherwise. I really couldn't relate or identify with the characters, other than to nod a few times when Marko elaborates on some of his relationship philosophies. I didn't get drawn in and I wasn't emotionally invested in the characters.

I think it's great to have examples in literature that do not demonize alternative relationships, and this may be a decent book to give to someone who you're trying to explain polyamory to, especially if they're more willing to read a narrative rather than a reference book. But as a pure work of entertainment fiction, it was not that entertaining.

But it has motivated me to write my own autobiography of polyamory - something longer than a blog post, in a narrative style, that highlights the struggles & the achievements & the happiness of being polyamorous in a monogamous world. Someday I may even self-publish it.

Join the discussion at
joreth: (Bad Computer!)
Everyone of my Regular Readers should know by now that one of my pet peeves is the perpetuation of the myth that men and women are inherently different.

Of course there are some obvious physical differences, even aside from the genitalia. But study after study after study have shown that the differences among men and the differences among women are far greater, but a HUGE margin, than the differences between men and women.

I have also posed the probability, backed up again by study after study, that when we *do* see gender differences, it is because we are trained from birth to be different. Our brains are really good at adapting to the situation, so if you are encouraged to play with cars and get dirty, and discouraged from cooking, those are the skills that will appear to be "natural" to you when you are an adult. Since most of us have no real, clear memories of being 18 months old and trying to reach for the toy truck but having our mothers push a doll in our hands instead, only those of us who had *really* strong desires for the opposite of what we were being trained for have any sense of this cognitive dissonance.

Well, here's a book (that I haven't read) that makes all those points that I rant about. It's called Pink Brain, Blue Brain and it shows side-by-side graphs of the bell curves of different sex-related traits, such as height, and also *perceived* sex-related traits like math skills. I love the example that the review talks about here:

In one of the eye-opening studies cited in Lise Eliot's masterful new book on gender and the brain, mothers brought their 11-month-olds to a lab so the babies could crawl down a carpeted slope. The moms pushed a button to change the slope's angle based on what they thought their children could handle. And then the babies were tested to see how steep a slope they could navigate.

The results?

Girls and boys proved equally adept at crawling and risk-taking: On their own, they tried and conquered the same slopes. But the mothers of the girls -- unlike the mothers of the boys -- underestimated their daughters' aptitude by a significant margin.

"Sex differences in the brain are sexy," Eliot writes. And so we tend to notice them everywhere. "But there's enormous danger," she says, in our exaggeration. It leads us to see gender, beginning at an early age, only in terms of what we expect to see, and to assume that sex differences are innate and immutable. We forget that the differences within each sex -- among girls and among boys -- are usually greater than the gaps between the two.

Our assumptions "crystallize into children's self-perceptions and self-fulfilling prophecies." Girls' slightly lesser interest in puzzles and building toys is reinforced instead of challenged, and it turns into a gap in spatial skills and map reading. Parents and teachers see a boy lagging in reading and verbal skills and shrug it off with, "But of course, he's a boy."

I'm planning on picking up a copy of this book and I recommend everyone else do the same.  I'm also going to buy a copy of this book for my sister, who just had her second son, and my parents, who are helping to raise my nephews.  I also recommend the book Same Difference.  Thanks to [profile] may_dryad for the recommendation.

joreth: (Purple Mobius)
So Alan, over at the Poly In The Media blog, has just posted a review of Jean Paul Sartre's No Exit as a poly story.  I highly recommend going over to read it.  Some highlights include:

So Sartre was quite familiar with living and functioning in MFF threes (yes, de Beauvoir was actively bi). And even when not in one, he and de Beauvior (their relationship lasted 50 years) famously agreed to tell each other everything about their other lovers.

This had to affect his thinking and writing about bound-together, sexually interested threes.

I say that No Exit has a little-noticed poly message that's quite different from the unrelenting bleakness that most people see in Sartre. If the characters were literally at each others' throats 90 minutes after their arrival in the room, where will they be after a year in there, or 20 years, or 600? Their hell was arranged to fit their sins. It is up to them to redeem themselves: by learning to treat partners in a triad with the love and kindness and devotion they failed to show in life, and thus create their own salvation there in that room — since they'll be in it for eternity. If they want to get to heaven, this is where they must make it.

Go check out the rest of the blog for more on this.

Now I'm off to find my old copy from high school and re-read it!  Maybe we'll review it over at the Poly Bookclub!
joreth: (Purple Mobius)
We are now discussing Black Wine by Candas Dorsey over at the Poly Bookclub:

Next month we will be discussing Plural Loves: Designs for Bi and Poly Living edited by Serena Anderlini-D'Onorfrio.  Please stop by and chat with us about this or any other poly book!
joreth: (Purple Mobius)
The latest discussion over at the Poly Book Club has now begun!  We're discussing Thy Neighbor's Wife by Gay Talese.  Next month, we will be discussing Black Wine by Candas Dorsey.

Come on over and join the discussion!
joreth: (Purple Mobius)
We are now discussing Leaving Cheyenne at the Poly Book Club.  Come join the discussion!
joreth: (Purple Mobius)
Sometimes It IS About The Sex

Polyamorists have a phrase, "It's not all about the sex". What they mean is that it's not ALL about the sex. The point is not to downplay or ignore that our relationships are sexual, it's to focus on the multidimensionality of our relationships, to focus on the relating to each other that may or may not include sex. This is opposed to relationships that are purely about sex, that have no other quality, no other dimension, no other purpose.

But, what makes us different from monogamists is that we do have multiple sexual relationships. If it weren't for the sex, we'd just be a bunch of friends. Friends, even in the monogamous world, can have many different levels of intimacy, from social acquaintances to closest, lifetime confidantes. So can polyamorous relationships. The difference is the sex. So, at some point, we do have to address the question of how to handle multiple sexual relationships.

And that's what the book The Ethical Slut by Dossie Easton and Catherine A. Liszt tries to answer.

Come visit our online bookclub to read the rest of the review and discuss it with us!

Next book is Leaving Cheyenne by Larry McMurty due June 1st.
joreth: (Polydragon)
Once again, I'm running late and since no one responded on time, I pushed the deadline back to March 31st.  The first review for Assignment #3 is in:

Summer People
By Marge Piercy

This book claims to be a “strikingly intimate one, focusing on the lives of three dedicated artists in a small Cape Cod Community”. It centers on a triad found, surprisingly, in the quiet backwoods of New England. Susan and Willie have been married for many years with two children and living on a property with two houses on the banks of a Lake, one of the very few year-round residents. Susan is a fabric designer and Willie specializes in political sculptures. Dinah and her husband rent their small house on the same property while he is ill. After her husband dies, Dinah befriends the couple, particularly Susan. In an effort to stretch herself in, what she thinks of as a backwards, hick town, Susan begins an affair with Dinah. Willie, a rather open-minded sort, doesn’t mind his wife’s sexual expression and eventually falls in love with Dinah himself. 10 years later, our story begins.

Read more about this book at and contribute your own thoughts about Summer People!

Next Book Club Assignment:  #4 - The Ethical Slut by Dossie Easton
joreth: (Polydragon)

 I'm WAY behind, but I finally have my first post about Love Without Limits:

Next book assigment:  Summer People by Marge Piercy, due March 15th.  Check us out at the Polyamory Book Club at Shelfari
joreth: (Polydragon)

Book reviewed online at the Poly Book Club - come and discuss with us! 

The High Cost of Living 
     By Marge Piercy

I am reviewing this book strictly from a polyamorous point of view. My opinions of the book do not reflect the qualities of the book otherwise. 

On the back of the book, the summary claims to be about a young woman, Leslie, who has just lost her female lover to another woman and finds herself “involved in a strange erotic triangle” with the two other main characters, Honor and Bernie. The final line claims “Here is a powerful, searing novel of three young dreamers caught up in a lifestyle they can neither accept nor change”. This sounded very promising. It implied that the 3 characters were involved in a multi-person relationship the likes of which they were unfamiliar, yet drawn towards. It implied they might have personal issues or social constructs to overcome in this unique lovestyle and were forced to face them because of the inevitability of their love for each other. 

joreth: (Polydragon)

I posted about a poly bookclub online a while back, and now I am giving the first book club assignment.  The problem is that I don't think Shelfari emails everyone when new posts are made, so I'm making a post here for two reasons:  1) to notify anyone here who is a member what the assignment is and 2) to alert anyone else who doesn't know about the book club that we are here and how to find us.  If you want to join the poly book club, visit  



April 2019



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