joreth: (sex)

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."

joreth: (polyamory)
Couples wanting to "open up" their relationship for the first time (besides being impossible, because you can't just "open" an existing relationship and expect it to be exactly the same as before just with more people, you actually end up creating whole new relationships) often spend a great deal of time fantasizing and worrying about hypothetical future relationships with people they haven't met and have created in their minds, who they make up to be either their greatest fantasies or their biggest fears.

Then these couples go about looking for these hypothetical, mythical people. They simultaneously seek for some magical goddess (because it's usually a bi cis woman) that will fit their giant laundry list of qualifications, while seeing monsters peeking out from behind the eyes of everyone who doesn't fit that list.

What they're doing is overestimating the happiness that they expect to find with their mythical pet and overestimating the UNhappiness that they expect to find if their new pet doesn't meet all their criteria.

This is called Impact Bias.

"The impact bias is our tendency to overestimate our emotional reaction to future events. Research shows that most of the time we don’t feel as bad as we expect to when things go wrong. Similarly we usually don’t get quite the high we expect when things go right for us." - Jeremy Dean

In other words, people are notoriously bad at predicting what will make them happy. (paraphrase of Franklin Veaux)

Impact Bias does several things, two of which are particularly relevant to polyamory:

1) When predicting how an experience will impact us emotionally, things we haven't experienced yet are REALLY difficult to accurately predict and we usually get it wrong.

2) We have our own "theories" based on our culture and our cultural experiences, and those "theories" are often wrong.

What all this means is that couples, if they want to find success in polyamory, need to be aware of Impact Bias in a similar way that they are told to be aware of NRE. They don't actually know what will make them happy, even though they feel really strongly that they do. They are likely basing those predictions on cultural assumptions. But those cultural assumptions come from our monogamous culture, which means that they don't apply to poly relationships.

Trying to apply mononormative assumptions over poly relationships tends to make them fail because poly relationships, fundamentally, run contrary to those very mononormative assumptions. The couple's background, past experiences, and cultural exposure are all conspiring against them to give them bad information when they make their predictions. Predictions made on faulty premises usually come out wrong.

When everyone in the forums is saying "stop focusing on a single bi woman to love you both equally in a live-in triad" and "all those rules aren't going to help you 'protect your relationship', just let go and trust", and the couples are feeling upset and defensive because hey! they've thought all this out and they know how they feel and what they want! ... no, you probably don't.

I mean, yes, you probably do feel all that fear and hope and desire, but it probably doesn't reflect reality. Everyone falls victim for Impact Bias, just like everyone falls for all the other cognitive biases. They're what our brains do. The advice for NRE is to feel what you feel, but keep in the back of your mind that it's a temporary state and likely an illusion so don't make any *real world plans* based on NRE because NRE is lying to you. Fiction can be a fun experience, even a meaningful, profound experience, but at the end of the day, it's still a fiction.

The same goes for this Impact Bias - feel your feelings, just know that they're probably lying to you so don't actually make plans based on them. You are probably overly optimistic about how happy you will feel if you find some magical unicorn with perfect boobs and a penchant for childcare, and you are very likely overestimating how terrible things will be if you try dating someone who doesn't meet all your criteria, like someone who is only interested in one of you or who maybe has a penis or doesn't want children.

So just relax, acknowledge your fears and your fantasies but let them go and just meet people. Dating someone a little different from all your rules probably won't be as bad as you think it will, and searching for The Perfect Match probably won't bring you as much happiness as you think it will - at least not enough to be worth the price of dehumanizing all your interviewees and missing out on other potential sources of happiness.
joreth: (being wise)
Logical Fallacies are difficult for people to wrap their brain around. We employ them all the time in regular conversation, in debate, and even in research.

"Begging The Question" is probably the most misunderstood logical fallacy name, because it's not just *not* understood, it's understood incorrectly. Most people use it to mean "that statement you just made leads us to ask a followup question..." But what it *actually* means is "that statement you just made assumes the conclusion in the premise, making it a circular argument".

A Loaded Question is a question which has a false, disputed, or question-begging presupposition behind it. Here's an example:
"To what degree have you and your partner discussed the boundaries or “rules” related to sexual and/or emotional connections with other people?"
The way it's phrased, in particular "discussed THE boundaries or rules", this begs the question. This assumes that we have rules (and the word "boundaries" is used incorrectly here in this sentence too, which is another begging the question) related to sexual and/or emotional connections with other people.

Because of this presumption, it can't really be answered if the premise is incorrect. If we don't have any rules telling each other what we can and can't do with other people, then how can we have had any conversations about it? But, of course, it *is* possible to have lots of conversations about things that we ultimately decide not to participate in. Except we can't answer "we have talked about this a lot" because then it implies that we do, indeed, have these rules in place when we don't. There isn't an option for "we have talked about this subject but we do not have any rules regarding this subject", because the person writing the question assumes the premise, and so did not provide any options to accommodate for a false premise option.

Now, had the question writer not had this assumption in mind when the question was written, it could have been written exactly the same but minus the word "the" - "To what degree have you and your partner discussed boundaries or 'rules' related to sexual and/or emotional connections with other people?" This is a general "have you discussed this topic" question. But, because of how English works, that article "the" implies a specific set of rules, while the absence implies a general "concept or subject of rules".

If we say "we discussed it a lot" under the original wording, then it implies we discussed *our* rules on what we can do with others a lot, but we don't have rules that needed to be discussed in the first place. If we say "we didn't discuss it at all" because we don't have rules, then it implies that we *do* have rules and we just didn't discuss them at all, we just went ahead and implemented them. Both assumptions are not only wrong, but things I actively want to combat about polyamory in general.

These kinds of things are really sneaky. Preset assumptions and biases sneak into all kinds of things, usually without our notice. Lots of times, when we read or hear things like this, we know that something is wrong and we have an emotional reaction to what was just said, but we can't always deconstruct *why* we know it's wrong and *why* we're feeling emotional about it.

Someone who has incorrect presuppositions and asks Loaded Questions gets to "just ask questions" while people get pissed off about it, and they don't ever understand why everyone is mad at them and the people who are mad can't always even explain why it was so angering. It's because we can tell that you have an embedded assumption. You're not "just asking questions", you're revealing what you think about the people you're "just asking questions" of.

This question is not a particularly offensive or antagonistic one. It just happened to be a pretty decent example of several things at once: of the logical fallacy, of how people get that logical fallacy wrong, and of how subtle this fallacy can play out and how simple it can be to correct for, as long as we know what to look for. We often use the really obvious example of "when did you stop beating your wife" when we talk about this logical fallacy because it's crystal clear how there is no good answer to that question that won't get you in trouble and it's so obviously an offensive question.

A loaded question is a question with a false or questionable presupposition, and it is "loaded" with that presumption. The question "Have you stopped beating your wife?" presupposes that you have beaten your wife prior to its asking, as well as that you have a wife. If you are unmarried, or have never beaten your wife, then the question is loaded.

Since this example is a yes/no question, there are only the following two direct answers:

"Yes, I have stopped beating my wife", which entails "I was beating my wife."
"No, I haven't stopped beating my wife", which entails "I am still beating my wife."

Therefore, either direct answer implies that you have beaten your wife, which is a presupposition of the question. So, a loaded question is one which you cannot answer directly without implying a falsehood or a statement that you deny. For this reason, the proper response to such a question is not to answer it directly, but to either refuse to answer or to reject the question.

Which makes supporting and participating in research on polyamory very difficult when their questions are written as Loaded Questions with false, disputed, or question-begging presuppositions behind their premises.

That famous scene from My Cousin Vinny where the lawyer asks the girlfriend a question that's "impossible to answer" is also a Loaded Question, and he doesn't even know that it's a trick question that can't be answered as-is (at least, that's how it's played in the scene, IMO). He didn't know the answer (I believe), he was just banking on the fact that she wouldn't know it either (mansplaining). Since he didn't know the answer, he made a lot of assumptions in his question, like that Chevy made a Bel Aire in 1955 or that it came in 327 cubic inch engine.

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: (Default)
This is pretty accurate, I think. I'm on the Relaxed side of the spectrum but not very far, so I have some bits of On Edge anxiety. I'm also on the Engaging edge of the spectrum but just *barely*, so I have a lot of Avoidant traits too:

Relaxed-Engaging (Secure): Relaxed-Engaging individuals tend to have good self-esteem and typically find it easy to share their feelings and opinions with others. They spend less time fretting and second-guessing themselves than individuals in the other three quadrants, [all me] and they generally find it easy to ask others for help or support when in need [I do not find it easy to ask for help].

They are usually straightforward and trusting in their relations with others [I am straightforward, but not always so trusting], and their usual state is one of being open, approachable, and relaxed [I am open but I am not always perceived as "approachable" because some people find me intimidating, apparently]. For this reason, they typically have fewer interpersonal defenses than others [this is patently not me - I have tons of interpersonal defenses].

They naturally seek to connect with others while remaining realistic about the transformative power of intimate relationships: Relaxed-Engaging individuals don't expect to be swept off their feet, or to have their entire world turned upside-down by the arrival of some romantic savior or the like - they're already "comfortable in their own skin," so to speak. Instead, they seek to cultivate simple virtues, such as mutual trust and a sense of shared intimacy with others. They generally don't play games, but seek to establish uncomplicated and mutually beneficial relationships. [This is definitely all me]

Relaxed-Avoidant (Dismissive): Individuals in this quadrant often take a dim view of others, preferring to keep their distance and guard against invasions of their autonomy and privacy [I am cynical and my experience has been that my autonomy will be violated repeatedly because the world experiences me as "woman", so life has made me "avoidant" in this sense].

Relaxed-Avoidant personalities tend to have a strong belief that others are too different from them for truly intimate relations to be worthwhile. They may have a spouse and family, and even be solidly anchored in a stable network of friends and acquaintances, but at the end of the day, they tend to avoid entering into relations where emotional interdependence and intimacy are required [I do not avoid intimacy or emotional interdependence and in fact crave it, I just don't find it very often because people really *are* very different from me, at least in how we each perceive the world. It is because of the fact that I don't avoid these things that I keep finding how different I am from most people].

Unlike individuals who fall in the On Edge-Avoidant quadrant, Dismissive personalities tend to be quite content keeping their deepest feelings and views to themselves, and they often have a deeply-held belief that the opinions of others are mildly irrelevant or even second-rate [Again, I don't keep my feelings and views to myself - I blast them from the rooftops, but I do tend to think that other people's opinions are basically irrelevant]. Consequently, many Dismissive types are often quite good at dissimulating, that is, appearing to share their innermost thoughts, while in reality, they are simply appeasing others without ever letting them come close. [Yep, not me at all. What you see is what you get]

Independent and proud of it [me], these individuals can typically achieve remarkable feats of social manipulation and self-restraint [funny, but every time I've tried to do this, in order to "better" a community, I've failed spectacularly], but on the downside, they may have trouble kicking bad habits (such as drinking or smoking) which they can enjoy in solitude and use to comfort themselves, independently of the company of others [not me at all].

They can frequently be unmotivated or lazy with regard to the duties that others expect of them [depends - if it's expected of me and I didn't agree to it, i.e. gender roles, I'm unmotivated to adhere, but if it's something I agreed to like working out with a friend, I'll stick to it better than if I didn't have their expectation to motivate me], but on the other hand, they are often very original (since they are not hindered by concerns about having to conform to the expectations of the group).

Finally, they also tend to be intelligent risk-takers, since they are at heart relaxed and cool under fire. [yep, me]

The Horizontal Axis: Relaxed-On Edge

This axis pertains to the individual's root affection towards themselves. Roughly speaking, individuals who fall towards the Relaxed end of this axis appear self-sufficient, confident, and low in anxiety when engaged in social situations. In short, they give off the impression of being at ease with themselves.  [yep, me]

By contrast, individuals who fall towards the On Edge end of the spectrum tend to give off an impression of being more vulnerable or concerned than their Relaxed counterparts. In a nutshell, On Edge individuals feel a sense of unease about themselves whereas Relaxed individuals tend to be more at ease. [this is accurate of my experience being Relaxed]

A complicating factor in the precise administration of this axis is that On Edge personalities have often learned to counteract their root uneasiness, for example by being intensely gregarious and charming, thus causing others to believe that they really are Relaxed (whereas in reality, they are overcompensating because they feel that if they did not, others would not notice them). [Yep, this is not me, so being on the Relaxed side of the axis is accurate]

The Vertical Axis: Engaging-Avoidant

This axis pertains to the individual's root affection towards others. As a general rule, individuals who fall towards the Engaging end of the axis appear approachable, open-hearted, and open to forming relationships with others. In short, they give off the impression that one could easily become friends with them and form a relation where they will keep you in their thoughts. [Depends - some people tell me that I appear approachable, open-hearted, that I'm a good listener, that they surprised themselves by confiding things in me they haven't told others, but some people say the opposite of me]

By contrast, individuals who fall towards the Avoidant end of the spectrum tend to give off an impression of independence, coldness, aloofness, and of being hard to approach. [This is what the other people say of me, so it depends on the person and whether they associate "independence" with coldness and being hard to approach or whether they find "self-confidence" to be "indimidating"]

In essence, Avoidant individuals feel a sense of unease about others whereas Engaging individuals tend to have fewer fears about forming connections with others. [This is why I'm on the Engaging side, but just barely. I don't feel unease or fear about connecting with others, I just don't often think it's worth trying when I can tell that we're very different people]

Avoidant individuals may give off the impression of being simply private or closed, but according to Attachment Style Theory, this demeanor is really an adaptation; a counterattack against their root feeling of uneasiness about others. [And this is why I'm not Avoidant, but just barely. My closed-off-ness is a defense mechanism, but it's not in response to "unease". To me, it's like wearing a seatbelt - I'm playing the odds and choosing caution, that's all]

(Note that an Avoidant Attachment Style is not the same as an Avoidant Personality Style.)
joreth: (::headdesk::)
Oh Mayim. ::shakeshead:: I was already annoyed with you for your anti-vax position. As a scientist, you should know better, but also as a scientist, you think that just because you're smart, that your conclusions must also be correct. Scientists are NOTORIOUS for being the most fucking wrong they can wrong when they step outside their narrow area of expertise. You just keep proving the rule.

So now you have to shoot your mouth off about non-monogamy. Please sit down and shut up. You're making educated white women look bad. Not that they need any help in that area, but you're just making it worse.

Your biology is outdated, your sex and gender essentialism is outdated, your anthropology is outdated, your psychology is outdated, and your sex education is way outdated.

AND you make the same mistake as so many others before you of believing that, assuming that even if all your so-called "facts" were completely true, that humans stopped evolving millions of years ago around the point at which we split from apes and that our brains aren't incredibly plastic and highly susceptible to non-genetic influences like culture and higher-order thinking.

You're just so wrong on so many points that it would take me forever to correct you on each one. You're not just wrong, you're fractally wrong. Every single thing you said was wrong.

Except the part where you said that you don't get open relationships. That was 100% accurate - you don't get them.

I'll give you this: it's a good thing that you know your limitations. It's excellent that you have discovered that you lack the attention span and the emotional capacity to care for more than one human and one relationship at a time.

I just wish you had discovered that before you had children.

I'm not linking to the original post because I don't want to give her traffic. But if you really need to see it, do a YouTube search for Mayim Bialik and open relationships. She rants and raves about how she "gets" certain "excuses" for open relationships but then goes off the rails on all the things she doesn't "get" that are strawman arguments, using outdated or incorrect "science facts" to back up what amounts to her personal opinion that *she* is not capable of doing these strawman things. And she completely ignores gender diversity, boiling everyone down to biological "men vs. women" sexual dimorphism.

So. Much. Wrong.
joreth: (Kitty Eyes)
I watched a movie the other night that I was surprised to find that I actually liked. It's a Netflix movie called Spectral that, I'll be honest, I was expecting to suck.

The description reads "We can't see them. Bullets don't stop them. The Army is no match for them. Time to try something totally different."  The title screen graphics looked ... well, it made me assume that the movie would be a typical anti-science, heavy on the action, light on the plot, sci-fi flick.  But [ profile] tacit seemed interested in the description and saw it had 4 stars, so we watched it.

I was pleasantly surprised.  I ended up liking all the characters.  I thought even the minor side characters had complex back stories and depth to their character that, even if we didn't get a lot of exposition about them, was clearly demonstrated in the dialog and in their portrayal of the characters.  There really wasn't anyone who was a standard trope caricature.

In these sorts of movies, one can usually expect to find the following characters: The gruff old military leader who is either a total dickhead or a lovable but cranky career soldier; the token demolitions expert who is also "crazy"; the scientist who is either the evil guy because science or the wuss who complains all the time and gets in the way of the real business of kicking ass; the chick who is either a badass tomboy "chill girl" with no real personality or the girlie girl outside girl who is thrown in by circumstance and constantly needs rescuing usually involving strategically destroyed flimsy clothing but will likely be somebody's love interest; and the lead character who is physically fit, intelligent, has exactly all the right skills in every circumstance to lead his team to victory, gets the girl, and saves the day with either the smarts to outwit the dumb jarheads who are making things worse with their shoot-em-up mentality or the fists to beat up the wacky super-genius whose intellect is destroying the world.

None of those characters were in this movie.

The lead was a conventionally attractive, physically fit, and yet super smart white male, it's true. This wasn't a flawless movie. He was a scientist who invented a new type of goggles for DAARPA that gave our soldiers some kind of benefit in urban combat because it could see more on the light spectrum than the human eye can. Because of that, they were also picking up something unknown that the soldiers couldn't see naturally. So they send for him to explain what his invention is seeing (justifying his presence in a combat situation by declaring the data from the goggles to be too sensitive to just send back to him to analyze).

There was a lone woman in the movie, but she wasn't the token badass chick and she also wasn't the completely ineffectual girlie girl in the wrong place at the wrong time. She was one of the lead's obstacles, but her opposition to him was reasonable given her background and position (which is so often left out of movies - we're given opposing characters who seem to oppose for no reason other than to be obstinate and give our hero someone to argue with). She was also not a love interest.

Our military guys were angry at the non-military guy coming into their sacred space, but they were given reasonable motive for feeling that way. It wasn't just "grunt, grunt, we big army boys, you pansy ass, leave now!"

Our combat team leader was gruff and tough but also smart with tactical knowledge and good team-building, mediating, and interpersonal conflict resolution skills, as a successful team leader ought to be. Our team was made up of just a bunch of guys, not the Token Bomb Guy, the Token POC, the Token Sharpshooter, the Token I Made A Mistake Joining Guy, the Token Joined Too Young Guy, the Token Irish/German Jolly Drinker/Fighter Guy, and the Token Small But Wiry Communications Officer.

What really sold me on the movie was the commitment to science, critical thinking, and reason. Our hero consistently maintained a pro-science attitude, not a pseudo-science attitude. Everyone wanted an immediate answer to the problem and everyone had an agenda to get confirmation of a specific answer that they wanted from him, but he kept insisting that science (and solutions) required data and it was foolish to go off half-cocked on speculation and bias.

The movie had 2 major flaws. When they finally did the big reveal, everything they said was actually scientifically accurate as far as we understand the concept right now. Except for one thing, which I won't spoil. But it was the very premise from which all the other things happened. The Big Bad Thing is made of This and exists like This and does These Things - that's all true. But it only happens in a particular circumstance that was not present here.

The author of The Martian has been lauded for his adherence to scientific accuracy in his book, and again with the movie based on it. He crowdsourced the book to make sure it was as close to realistic as possible. But he had one major plot hole - because of Martian gravity, storms wouldn't happen like they did in his book, but without that storm, we wouldn't have a story. In an interview, he explained that he knew of this flaw, but that all sci-fi stories had one Gimme - one major plot device that was excused for the sake of the story because the story can't happen without it. As long as the story was internally consistent, that one thing, if handled well, could be forgiven and even overlooked with the suspension of disbelief. He made storms that don't exist on Mars because he needed a way to isolate his character on the planet. But everything he did afterwards conformed to physics as we know it.

So, this plot point - that The Thing only happens in This Circumstance in real life but doesn't have that limitation in the movie - I'm willing to write that off as a Gimme because they otherwise described it correctly and the movie remained internally consistent.

The other plot point is that the writers seemed to have spent all their time researching their major conflict and didn't spend any time understanding the difference between a machine that "reads" light (i.e. a spectrograph) and a machine that *produces* light. These are VERY different things and, generally speaking, you are not very likely to be able to convert one machine into the other.

This movie did have one typical thing that often annoys me - the manufacturing montage. Building things takes time. It's not very common to be able to outfit a squadron with all new weapons from within a combat zone using found items overnight. Not impossible because it depends on the weapons and the found items. Just ... unlikely. I mean, making a bunch of Molotov Cocktails can be done in a single night, for example. But Tony Stark inventing and building Iron Man by himself in a cave in the Middle East in a couple of days? Yeah, yeah, I know that they explained that away by having him be captured by a well-funded terrorist who magically provided all the materials necessary. Still. Welding and soldering complex mechanics takes time and skill, even assuming you're lucky enough to have the right kind of welder in your found items (which, to be fair, the movie did account for by giving an explanation for why they had the gear that they ended up with).

I'm not saying it's not possible. I'm saying that I've built shit. I've even built shit that I personally designed that never existed before because it came out of my head and I had to use unusual materials because the thing never existed before so the parts for it didn't either. I'm saying that prototyping takes time and untested mechanics rarely work right on the first try. As [ profile] tacit put it, movies make manufacturing look easier than it is. Not impossible, but it's harder than the movies make it look.

There was also one moment in the movie that broke me out of it; one phrase that made me roll my eyes and groan ... "there are some things that science can't answer." While this is *technically* true, this is almost always applied in movies to things that we can, in fact, answer. Often, it's applied to things that we *have the answer for right now*, but sometimes it's for things that are currently unknown but that doesn't mean that they're unknowable.

So, my conclusion is that, in spite of these criticisms, I felt that the movie was engaging and internally consistent (which is my version of "plausible" for movies - maybe it couldn't really happen, but given the pretend movie conditions it likely could), and I found the characters to have depth and understandable motivations and most of them to be likable. I would recommend this movie if you like sci-fi action.

However, as we learned with the next movie we watched, you shouldn't necessarily trust Netflix's star rating system. The next 4-star movie we watched was COMPLETE AND UTTER SHITE ON EVERY CONCEIVABLE LEVEL.
joreth: (Self-Portrait)

This is fascinating! I also had no idea that other people don't feel cold as pain. I mean, I knew other people had higher thresholds for cold than I do, but I still assumed that their experience of cold was similar to mine, just at higher doses, if you will. For me, cold is *pain*, like stubbing your toe pain, as well. I absolutely can't do ice treatments for injuries because the ice causes a deep ache that I interpret as being "in my bones" and in my joints and aggravates the pain from the injury.

I do sometimes use ice to numb the area around insect bites because I'm allergic and numbing the entire area is the only coping mechanism that works even a little bit. But the ache from the cold hurts so much that I don't know which is worse, the body-aching cold or the mind-maddening itch. Both sensations are so unpleasant that I often wonder if this time will be so bad that I will literally lose my mind in order to escape the sensation.

I also find being wet very uncomfortable. Especially the *transition* from dry to wet. It's one of the things that I associate with my OCD that prevents me from doing the dishes as often as I should. If I get hot and sweaty *enough*, I will start to find the thought of being wet less unpleasant, and once I'm in the water, I'm mostly OK about it. But I'd rather not get wet. I was just talking with Ben the other day about how grateful I am that we all come with electronics on our bodies nowadays because I have a built in excuse that everyone respects for not being thrown in pools (since, y'know, my consent isn't a good enough reason on its own).

Oh, and I don't do caffeine. Like, at all. I went off caffeine some 21 or more years ago as part of the process to diagnose a sleep disorder and by the time we ruled out caffeine as a causal factor, introducing it back into my system started giving me migraines. So I just don't take caffeine. Chocolate, as having something very similar but not exactly the same as caffeine, doesn't trigger the migraines, and also doesn't cause any other similar symptoms such as more "energy" or the ability to fight off exhaustion or sleep deprivation better. It does, however, help keep my mood more even and less volatile, so I eat chocolate fairly often.

But I otherwise *do* inhabit my body. I *feel* myself in my space, almost all the time. I'm acutely aware of where I exist and I believe that's related to being in chronic pain as well as having to compensate for other people (mostly men) being largely unaware of the space that they occupy, with a little bit of "oh no, am I going to sit on my cat?" pet-owner-concerns thrown in. The chronic pain and being acutely aware of my body is why, I believe, I developed the reaction to pain of feeling sleepy. It's the only time I can disassociate from my body so when I hurt, I sleep. This has the drawback, however, of being able to sleep through some discomforts that ought to wake me, like needing to pee or my arm being asleep or whatever. Because, otherwise, I'm very much "living in my body".

What's more, I can also start to "feel" my partners as extensions of myself when I am in close proximity for extended time periods or when I am granted extreme amounts of physical intimacy. They did a study on dancers a while back (I don't have the citation on hand) that showed that partner dancing develops this particular encapsulation of other selves over time, so I suppose it's not surprising that I do it too. Knowing that it's a dancer thing, I now use this to teach people how to deliberately foster this sense of partner-as-extension in relationships through my and Sterling's Simple Steps workshop where we use dance techniques (with no actual dancing required) to improve relationship communication.

I am one of those people who "feels" music the way [ profile] tacit describes never having understood before. I knew that others didn't have that same sensation because I've tried to teach people how to dance and I've seen the lack of recognition when I try to describe this feeling. Knowing that he has synesthesia, I didn't realize that he also doesn't "feel" music. I sort of imagined the act of "seeing" music as being like "feeling" music only with extra visual stuff. Because of my connection with music, I'm particularly fascinated with how he experiences it and how his experience can be consensually manipulated to better communicate with him through music.

One thing I noticed, though, is that I do have periods where I don't feel like I'm living in my body and I feel like I'm this ball sitting at the top of a meat vehicle. Those periods are my depressions. That description of being a ball sitting on top of a biological vehicle isn't metaphor, it's literal - that's what my awareness of my self actually is in those periods. If you've never been aware of your body yet separate from it, I think it's very hard to understand from the descriptions. If you've *only* been aware of your body yet separate from it, I think the feeling of being connected to your body, of *living within* the body is very hard to understand. In both cases, the descriptions all seem metaphorical to the person who doesn't know those feelings themselves. I know because I am both of those people. When I am feeling connected to my body, the description of a ball atop a meat vehicle sounds metaphorical and I can't quite wrap my head around it empathically even if I grasp it intellectually. But when I'm in a depression, I can't remember what it feels like to be connected and I doubt that I ever really did, and my brain insists that my memories of once *believing* I was "living in my body" are lying to me and that I never *really* felt that way at all, therefore I likely never will again, or if I ever do, it'll just be a return to a delusion. Depression sucks.

I find this particularly noteworthy because Franklin isn't prone to depression that I know of so this sensation is either different from his or isn't dependent upon depression to exist. I don't know if the sensation of not living in my body has a causal relationship with my depression or just a correlated relationship, but they always go together. In fact, that's one of the red flags I use to determine if I'm in a depression. When the depression turns suicidal (thankfully rarely), I don't just feel like a ball sitting inside a meat vehicle, I feel like a ball being *constrained* by the vehicle, limited, like the vehicle is filtering out all the color and warmth in the world and if I could just break free of the body, I would no longer feel the pain of being colorless, of being cold, in a sense, of an absence of life and warmth and color and joy.

Because to me, cold is pain.
joreth: (Misty in Box)

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: (Bad Joreth)

"In his mind, he wasn't just stealing music, he was fighting for freedom!"

Coincidentally relevant to my last post (coincidentally in that it happened to cross my feed and my attention right after making my last post).

This is an interesting observation on exactly the points I was making - 3 in particular:

  1. We are all the heroes of our own stories and we can justify everything we do from within our perspectives;

  2. That doesn't mean that there is no such thing as "right" and "wrong" just that it's more complicated and the paths to correct people need to reflect that complexity and that understanding; and

  3. We have to leave room in our communities for people to fuck up and to treat them with compassion and understanding if we want to have any hope at all in changing the culture around us to lead to fewer fuckups with lesser degrees of consequences.

Burning it all to the ground (as I have been known to do) and leaving no room for tolerance or understanding (as a community - it's still OK for an individual to not want contact with someone or to give up on someone who harmed them) doesn't prevent people from doing bad things. This is why punitive justice systems don't work. If people come to believe that they are Bad People, for whatever reason but often because their society insisted that they were Bad, they tend to think "well, fuck it, if I'm bad, then I'm going out all the way!" There has to be room for redemption. That is actually much more effective at stopping bad things from happening and in limiting those bad things that still do happen to more manageable bad things.
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: (Misty in Box)
I have a question and I need for everyone interested in answering it to assume that I am asking in good faith, not trolling.

Are there any articles that directly compare and contrast the difference between being gaslighted and someone who is *actually* the horrible things that a gaslighter accuses the victim to be?

Let me expand a bit.  OK, a lot.

I've had the misfortune to see a gaslighter work his black magic now in person, right in front of my eyes but on someone other than me, and I've seen the devastation it caused. I've seen it in a poly context, which, for some reason, actually made it harder for me to see at first - easier for the gaslighter to hide. I've been an outspoken critic of what I have eventually come to see as real abuse in the poly community and how our own community standards protect and privilege abusive relationship structures and behaviours. So, in no way do I want to counteract any of the work done to bring awareness and solutions to gaslighting.

But I'm reading a lot of articles on gaslighting lately, and it struck me that, if I switched perspectives in my head and read the article *as if I were* the gaslighter himself (choosing a gendered pronoun because I am most familiar with male abusers and female victims, and I feel the need to use different pronouns to help keep the illustrations understandable), using the excuses and justifications he gave to make it look like he was the victim, if I took on that mindset for a moment, I couldn't tell from many of these articles who was whom. And a gaslighter or narcissist can find ammunition in these articles to continue their subjugation, and validation in these words.

So, for example, this one article lists several "tell-tale signs":

1. Something is “off” about your friend, partner, … but you can’t quite explain or pinpoint what.

So, this gaslighting observation that I mentioned above, in the beginning, he had me (a close but outside observer) convinced at first that he was the real victim. He confided in me his perspective. I do believe that he really did believe the stories he was spinning to me. It wasn't until I talked to the victim alone and then confronted him about the victim's side, and then HEARD him say "no, they don't feel that way, here [victim], tell Joreth that you don't feel that way" and then the victim proceeded to confirm the gaslighter *even though* I had just had an hour long conversation with them in tears about exactly how they felt. The victim told me that *I* must have misunderstood or misheard their anguished cries, that it wasn't a big deal, that everything was worked out.

I KNOW WHAT I HEARD. The victim felt a particular way, the gaslighter insisted that they didn't, and then the victim's story changed to match the gaslighter's version.

My point is that I believe the gaslighter is that fucked in the head that he (and most of them) really does believe his (their) version of events. I don't believe that most gaslighters are deliberately plotting to undermine people like in the movie, but I know for a fact that undermining people is the effect that's happening. I was one of his confidants, so I heard what I really believe to be his honest and true view of himself and his motivations. I believe that I understand the view of himself that he holds, at least well enough to read an article from a gaslighter's perspective who doesn't think he is doing anything wrong.

So, when I read articles like this and I put myself in the mindset of that confidante for whom I was on his side before I knew better, I have a hard time telling from these articles that *he* was the one who was doing the gaslighting. That's how he had me fooled for as long as I was.

He believed that something was "off" about his victim. They kept "changing their story". They weren't consistent. They saw things in strange, corner-turning ways that he didn't understand. I was constantly playing "interpreter" for them because he just didn't understand the victim.

4. You feel threatened and on-edge, but you don’t know why.

As the blogger Shea Emma Fett alluded to, abusers really do feel victimized, but they feel victimized by their victims' resistance to the abuser's control. When this gaslighter attempted to control his victim, and they resisted, the abuser felt personally threatened. I went out on a date once with a guy who I had a history with and I was interested in a future with, and my then-bf, when I told him all about it, accused me "HOW COULD YOU DO THIS TO ME?!" Listen here, asshole, I did *nothing* "to" you. This thing *happened* to me. It may have affected you, but it wasn't done *to* you and certainly not with malice. Nevertheless, he, and the abuser I'm talking about, felt threatened. This abuser was *constantly* fighting with his victim, to the point that he started working as late as possible to avoid being at home where another fight might break out. He was on edge all the time. He didn't understand why this was happening or how to avoid it (because he didn't understand that it was his own doing and he didn't understand the victim's wants - namely the desire to not be abused). He would check off "yes" to this one too.

6. You never quite feel “good enough” and try to live up to the expectations and demands of others, even if they are unreasonable or harm you in some way.

The motivation for this gaslighter's behaviour was a massive amount of fear and insecurity.  Every time he felt his insecurity crop up and it prompted him to try to control other people to manage his fear, I stuck my nose in to tell him that he should do better.  His victim also ineffectually tried to tell him that his attempts to control them was hurting them and he needed to do better.  In my own arguments with him, he accused me of being unreasonable for insisting that his attempts to control his partners were harmful.  He insisted that *my* suggestions for not controlling people were actually harmful *to him* somehow.  We argued in circles and I never got a clear explanation for how other men (even men that he didn't like) seeing naked pictures of his wife harmed *him* (for example), but he clearly believed that it did.

Remember that ex above?  He honestly believed that my date, and what we did on our date, with my new prospective partner was something done *to* him, and that it harmed him in some way, even though he wasn't on that date and he was told about the date both before and afterwards, prior to my seeing that ex in person again so that he could make informed decisions about how to relate to me in the future (and no, I didn't have wild, unprotected, fluid-exchanged sex with some random stranger and come home with an STD or something, which is usually what people point to when they want to defend the position that it's reasonable to be upset about what one partner does outside of a given relationship or to control, or even request, a specific set of behaviour for outside a given relationship).

I insist that a no-rules, boundaries-based relationship is the better relationship standard, and the gaslighter believed that my standards are too high, are unreasonable, and harm him in some way.  He's not the only one who thinks that either.  I have been told, verbatim, that not everyone is as "evolved" as I am when it comes to relationship and emotional maturity.  I call bullshit on the "evolved" part.  As far as I'm concerned, respect for agency is the bare minimum.  I get that it's not always *easy*, but it's also not some advanced, high level concept set aside for, I dunno, monks who have reached enlightenment or Clears who have spent millions of dollars to the Church or whatever.  Learning to respect other people's agency is something that children are capable of learning, and it's a lifetime of societal reinforcement that causes us to unlearn it (if we learned it in the first place) by instilling a sense of entitlement to other people's bodies, emotions, and minds.  When fear has a hold of you, respecting other people's agency may be challenging, but challenging is not the same as "harmful".  But because it can be challenging, someone who is an abuser or who is gaslighting someone can indeed believe that the standards their victim might suggest are "too high" and are "harming him".  Personal growth is uncomfortable, especially when you resist it.  That doesn't make it, necessarily, "harmful", but it can feel that way, so a gaslighter could see this "tell-tale sign" as evidence for his narrative too.

7.  You feel like there’s something fundamentally wrong with you, e.g. you’re neurotic or are “losing it.”

The gaslighter excused his efforts to control people away by claiming he had PTSD.  I do not believe that self-diagnosis, I believe another one made by an actual diagnostician but that's not actually relevant right now.  What is relevant is that the gaslighter *does* believe that he suffers from PTSD and he does, indeed, exhibit several symptoms, including "checking out" (which, I'm told by reliable clinicians, are also symptoms of a handful of other mental illnesses including the diagnosis I believe is more likely to be the correct one).  Every time he tried to control his victim and they pushed back, here's what would happen.  The victim would insist on their reality, and the gaslighter would go glassy-eyed and catatonic, unable to interact with the world around him.  *Until*, that is, the victim recanted and accepted the gaslighter's reality.  Then, suddenly, he would "wake up" and start interacting again.  Later, though, he would use that as "evidence" that the victim was "inconsistent" and kept "changing their story" and therefore shouldn't be trusted to know what reality was.

But because he would get "triggered" by his victim's resistance, he would often come to me in distress over how he was "losing it" or that there was something wrong with him.  PTSD and other mental illnesses are viewed as "something fundamentally wrong with you" or "neurotic" by society in general, so regardless of which mental illness he might have, he could legitimately think that "something is fundamentally wrong" and he would be "correct" about that.  He felt that he was being hollowed out, that he couldn't function in daily life anymore as their arguments increased in frequency.  He had trouble concentrating at work because he was always upset about their latest argument.  He was stressed and frightened by obsessive thoughts of losing his victim.  When I saw only his catatonia and the aftermath of their arguments, it was completely believable that he was the "victim".  But that required keeping the victim feeling isolated in an "us against them" tribalism within the group, because as soon as I started talking to the victim themself, and seeing the arguments from the beginning, not just the effect of the argument on him, things looked very different.

My second fiance was a gaslighter.  He was very young, though, and clumsy about it, and I'm way too self-confident for those kinds of tactics to work for very long on me.  He did things like this too, only he wasn't nearly as believable about it.  Whenever we got into an argument, if it looked like I was going to win (or that he was going to lose, since the argument was usually about whether or not he could have sex with me or I could go out in public without him), he would get "sick" somehow.  He got "the flu" twice a week on the nights of my ballroom dance class.  He got an upset stomach on laundry night if I wanted to do it at my parents' house instead of his parents' house.  He got another one of his upset stomachs on the night of a friend's bachelorette party when I told him it was "no guys allowed".

One time, he even "knocked himself unconscious" on a low-hanging pipe in the carport when we walked from the car to the house during an argument.  He managed to somehow hit himself in the head hard enough to lose consciousness completely without actually making any sound of impact and while moving at the rate of a slow lumber.  I've had someone swing a metal pipe at me with the intention of hurting me and hit me on the head and I didn't go fully passed out.  Head injuries don't work like they do in the movies.  And when I left his ass lying on the concrete, he also somehow managed to get "robbed" in broad daylight while lying unconscious (that one was the last straw and I called his bluff hard enough that he admitted his lie).  His various maladies and misfortunes were intended to distract me from the argument and trigger my compassion so that I would forget why I was mad at him and run to him to take care of him.  Fortunately for me, I'm not the "maternal" type and my reaction was to give the benefit of the doubt the first time or two, but then to become contemptuous of an adult who couldn't care for himself.  Contempt is the number one relationship killer, and unconsciously developing that emotion as a response to abusive tactics has probably saved my life on multiple occasions.

So, once I saw this gaslighter's tactic from the other side, I recognized it from my own abusive ex-fiance.  He would get "sick" and I would have to stop arguing to care for him, because if I kept being mad at him while he was sick, then *I* was the monster with no compassion.  Fortunately for me, I'm not terribly bothered by people I'm mad at thinking that I'm not compassionate because *I* know better, and that's what matters to me.  But this gaslighter was taking legitimate mental health issues and preying on his victim's concern over harming others and their fear of being seen as not compassionate.  Again, I believe that he really believes his side of things.  I don't think he actually deliberately calculated how to fake PTSD in order to win an argument (whereas I do believe my ex-fiance faked his unconsciousness - which happened more than once - although his upset stomachs were probably a real reaction to anxiety).  I believe that he really was "checking out" because I believe there is really something very wrong with him.  But it was always just so *convenient* that it ended as soon as the victim recanted, and then that recanting was used later to further undermine the victim's position and even their standing in the community.  If the victim stood their ground, they were "driving" the gaslighter to a mental breakdown, but if the victim backed down, they were unreliable and couldn't be trusted.  Either way, the victim was the "monster" who kept "harming" their abuser.

But from the gaslighter's perspective, since these episodes came more and more frequently as the relationship spiraled faster and faster towards its demise, he felt that he was "losing it" and becoming more and more unhinged.  And he was becoming unhinged.  He was a total wreck of a person by the end.  But he was still a gaslighter, and I do not believe the victim was doing it *to* the gaslighter.  I believe it is a consequence of the sort of person the gaslighter is who had to face the sort of person that the victim was.

8. You feel like you’re constantly overreacting or are too sensitive.
9. You feel isolated, hopeless, misunderstood and depressed.

This is really just more of an extension of the last one.  The relationship was spiraling out of control because the victim was doing more and more resisting of the gaslighter's attempts to control them and their own breakdown as a result of the gaslighting working, and that led to daily fights that consumed their every waking moment and also took over the atmosphere of the rest of the immediate community whenever either of them was present.  When you feel like your life is going out of control, regardless of why or how, it's not unexpected to feel isolated, hopeless, misunderstood, or depressed, especially if someone is trying to tell you that your behaviour is out of line.  When he wanted to control his victim, I told him that he was essentially overreacting.  I told him that he needed to dial it back and let his victim (who I had not yet begun to think of as "the victim") have their agency and do their thing.  I told him, more or less, that his feelings of fear and the need to control them were too much, out of sync with the reality of the situation, and that the solution was for him to get over his issues, not control the victim's behaviour.  In essence, it could be argued that he saw my words as telling him that he was "overreacting or are too sensitive".  So, from his perspective, these are a big "yes" also.

11. You feel scared and as though “something is terribly wrong,” but you don’t know what or why.

Again, I believe that he believes his own narrative.  This gaslighter felt that his life was spinning out of control and he didn't know how to wrestle control back.  Every day was fraught with arguments and intense fear.  More and more people were becoming unhappy by the splash zone of this one relationship.  Life began to look chaotic and turbulent.  Not only was this relationship a source of pain and fear, but because the two of them were constantly fighting, all his other relationships started to suffer and he started to fear that he was about to lose his other relationships as well.  Then, not a month after he told me that I was the one stable thing in his life, we had our own blow-out that he apparently couldn't anticipate.  Everything was "terribly wrong", but because the truth was his gaslighting and he didn't recognize it, he didn't know why everything was "terribly wrong" or how to fix it.

12. You find it hard to make decisions.

With his catatonic episodes happening more and more frequently, and the arguments happening constantly, he started to revert to a more child-like mental state.  He had trouble making decisions because his brain was just freezing up from all the chaos.  He was never good at making decisions anyway, preferring others to take the lead on things, which is actually one of the reasons why it took me so long to figure out that he was controlling the people around him to manage his insecurities.  It's hard to believe someone is a manipulator when they appear to be such a follower.  But because he felt that his life was out of control and that he was losing his own grip on reality, making decisions became more difficult than usual.

13. You feel as though you’re a much weaker version of yourself, and you were much more strong and confident in the past.

This was something he actually told me, more or less. He was so distraught by everything that was happening, that he felt like he was becoming "hollow", which is sort of like saying he is a "weaker version of [himself]". I have absolutely no doubt that he felt like he was losing his mind. His life wasn't looking the way he wanted it to look and the way he had always controlled his life in the past wasn't working with this partner. This partner was resisting his control, and he felt so entitled to controlling them to keep his own mental issues manageable that their resistance to his control was threatening and made him feel harmed.  Having those feelings, and the extent to which this whole relationship was disrupting everyone's life, it doesn't matter that he was the one abusing the victim, those feelings still feel real and still affect how one sees oneself and their place in the world.

14. You feel guilty for not feeling happy like you used to.

This gaslighter was *known* for his exuberance for life. In the dictionary, next to the word "happy", you'd see his picture.  I've known a bunch of people like that - in fact, it seems to be one of the elements of "my type". [ profile] tacit is one of those people for whom "happy" is an integral characteristic too.  But, obviously, this gaslighter was not happy all the time during this period.  He was stressed and anxious and depressed and angry and sad all the time.  For someone whose very *identity* includes "happy", not being happy can make one feel like one is not oneself anymore.  And for some of those people, if part of their identity rests on their ability to be happy and for others to see them as happy, particularly if their happiness makes other people happy and their sadness makes other people sad for them, no longer feeling happy can feel like a personal failure.

So, this gaslighter failing to control his victim, causing them to be miserable, which causes them to challenge the relationship and the attempts to control, which makes the *gaslighter* unhappy, this can lead to a sense of guilt for not maintaining this happiness in the face of all this loss and misery even though the gaslighter is the one causing the chain reaction in the first place.  Since this sort of gaslighter doesn't realize that he's the one setting the spark, he has a difficult time recognizing that his unhappiness is something he can fix because it's something he caused.  Or, he might suspect or know (possibly subconsciously) that it's something he caused (even if he believes he caused it but have the wrong ideas on *how* he caused it), and so feel guilt for knowing that he did it all to himself.

So, this whole long exposition is to explain that I am looking for sources to help explain why, when a gaslighter feels these things, it's *not* a sign that they are a victim or being gaslighted by their actual victims.  When a person is gaslighted, they start to believe that they are an abusive monster who is doing terrible things to their abuser, but an abuser actually *is* doing all those things.  I could write a similar checklist of "how to know you're being abusive" and read it through the perspective of a gaslight victim and that victim could conceivably reach the conclusion that they are, indeed, an abusive monster because of the lens that each is viewing the world through.  I know there's a difference, I just don't know how to explain or illustrate that and I'm looking for sources to cite and other people's words to use as analogy or illustration or explanation.
joreth: (Super Tech)

To me, this furor over common core sounds an awful lot like anti-intellectualism that's been running our nation into the ground: "I don't understand this! Therefore you're stupid!"

"Instead of trying to figure out what his child was learning, Herrmann did what so many parents do these days: He complained about something he doesn’t understand.

I’ll be honest with you: I didn’t know what “ten-frame” cards were and I wasn’t sure what he was trying to write in his check. Then I spent a couple of minutes doing the research he couldn’t be bothered to do himself."

"what math teachers have realized is that kids who relied on memorization, algorithms, and calculators had a really hard time understanding math as they got older."

"The problem with the method people like Herrmann learned is that it didn’t work when the math got harder. Strong math students find ways around that, but many students just give up on math altogether."

There's an interesting thing about this "new" math that I was never taught and how I do math. I've said before in my previous posts on the subject that I could do algebra in my head and not show my work, and the more I read about this common core stuff, the more I go "oh hey! That's what I do!" I wasn't taught how to do it, but that's how my brain works naturally. So I was considered "good at math".

Kids were grouped into two categories when I was a kid - "good at math" and "not good at math". I was a math tutor, and I helped those "not good at math" kids to be better. I never believed people weren't good at math, I just saw kids who thought in different ways and the system wasn't reaching them. I was taught by that same system, and that same system wasn't reaching me either, but I saw the ways around it.

I've told this story before. My high school classes gave us a syllabus at the beginning of the semester. On it was the entire homework schedule, so I knew what I would be assigned for the entire semester on day 1. In math class on Mondays, I would do the entire week's worth of homework right there in class rather than listen to my teachers. Then I'd have no math homework all week and I'd have the rest of the week to read a book for that 55 minute period. Since I wasn't listening to the teacher, I was teaching myself algebra (and later calculus) out of the book. I didn't show my work, but I grasped the concepts intuitively. I knew how to manipulate numbers. It turns out that I was basically doing some of these common core techniques in my head.

Here's the interesting part. One of my favorite books as a child was Clan of the Cave Bear. In the book, and in the movie, the main character is part of our current line of human who gets orphaned and adopted by a Neanderthal tribe. They (in the book) have trouble with advanced concepts because of the shape of their brains. Counting, specifically, is very difficult for them. Only the most advanced of their holy men can count past a handful and just barely at that. But Ayla is human, and we excel at math - that's why we survived without claws and fangs and fur, because we are engineers who change the environment to suit us instead of the other way around.

So her holy man is her adopted father and, on a lark, he starts explaining some of their most sacred (and secret) counting methods. He's not supposed to, but he figures she won't get it so it won't matter. He gives her a pile of rocks and teaches her to count them by placing one rock near each finger, so that each rock is represented by a digit. That's about where he usually loses his neanderthal bretheren. But Ayla thinks abstractly. So she grabs the entire pile of rocks, breaks them up into smaller piles of 5, places her hand over each pile, and then raises both hands, fingers extended, twice to indicate 20.

This blows the holy man's mind! No one has ever counted that high before! He's the smartest of the smart and he can only just barely grasp what Ayla has done. She took a large group and broke it up into chunks to make it easier to categorize. She was able to quickly count to 20 because she counted 4 piles of 5.

This is common core.

I had no idea. But I read this book in kindergarten and I watched the movie every time it came on TV. This is how I do math. I haven't had a math class in 17 years and I don't use anything higher than geometry in my daily life, so I feel like my math skills have slipped a lot. I feel that loss. But the more I look into this common core stuff, the more I feel that, had I been taught this as a kid, there's no telling how far I could have gone. I could have gone into engineering or physics. Instead, I got swept up in the "I'll never use algebra or calculus in daily life, and I need to save my college credit hours for things that will help me in my career" - the kind of anti-intellectualism that led directly to a nation that thinks the appropriate criteria on which to judge the leader of our nation is whether or not we can "drink a beer" with him.

"Because, to people like him, ignorance is hilarious. He’d rather see his son learn math the old-fashioned way, putting him in danger of struggling in his math career as he gets older, instead of course-correcting early in his education when everything is still fresh.

To answer the obvious rebuttal, yes, a lot of adults are able to get through the day just fine even though they were never very good at math. But why wouldn’t they want their children to aim higher, understand things better, and think more critically?"

"I’m telling you this new way is so much better for students, but we need parents willing to get on board with it instead of complaining because it looks weird.

At the very least, it sends the wrong message to really impressionable kids."
joreth: (Bad Computer!)
So first, some backstory.  There's this guy who used to run a hedge-fund who then purchased a pharmaceutical company which had just acquired the rights to a drug that wasn't used by very many people but those people were pretty damn sick. The previous company had changed its distribution setup so that distribution was very strictly controlled and you could only get this drug through this one path. OK, that happens sometimes, but if anything happens to that path or your specific case is outside of that path, you're pretty screwed. So this douchenozzle bought this company that had this drug and he promptly raised the price from $13.50 a pill to a whopping $750 per pill. You read that right; I did not drop a decimal point.

The internet exploded in outrage about price gouging and the lack of ethics in Big Pharma. And by "internet", I don't mean just those wacko Naturalistic Fallacy conspiracists who think "Big Pharma" is a single evil entity out to kill us all. I mean even rational, science-based people who support science and science-based medicine but who are willing and able to call out the actual flaws in the system when found. So I posted about that on Facebook, but I didn't bother to make an archived LiveJournal post about it. It was just sarcasm about the greed endemic to corporate America. That's also not a conspiracy story - capitalism and corporations are specifically designed to support greed, not the public good. Individual people aren't evil cardboard cutouts of power-hungry villains, but the system is not conscious and doesn't have human values like compassion. It takes actual people working against the system to keep the humanity in corporations. But I digress.

Shortly after I and many other people ranted about this jerkoff, I read an article that basically said "yeah, what he did was despicable but it's only going to affect people with enough money for fancy insurance policies anyway, so whatevs".

What we are all outraged about is not the number of people this will effect. It's the sociopathy and greed that a plan like this reveals. And when you give sociopaths power, they use it. Sociopaths and abusers, on a personal level, test boundaries. They check to see where they can get away with pushing in *just a little bit*. If you're somewhat flexible on some of your boundaries, probably because you're mostly a reasonable person who can make exceptions and can see an exchange of discomfort with another person who is operating with you on good faith as a net positive thing, then you might be willing to bend just a bit on this one thing that is less important than these other things. Because we often have to get burned before we can tell that someone is *not* operating on good faith - that's *how* we know that they're not, by the way they fuck us over.

And then the abuser pushes just a tiny bit more, which seems reasonable. And then he pushes just a skosh more, which might not quite seem reasonable but you've already bent this far, so not bending more kinda seems more unreasonable because it might feel hypocritical. And eventually, those series of tiny pushes and tiny compromises have you both so far inside of your boundaries that he entrenches himself and you can't get him out.

Now take that on a global scale. CEOs, by the very nature of their jobs (or maybe their jobs don't consider human impact because it's people who lack empathy who are attracted to the position?), tend to be more sociopathic and less empathetic than the average person. They push the boundaries to see what they can get away with. And then we let them because they rationalize it as "it's only going to affect this small number of people, and you don't really care about *those* people, do you?" or "but it's necessary for this particular outcome, and you want to help this outcome, don't you?"

The fact that this particular action will only harm a small number of people that we can justify hurting as "they can afford it" is exactly what makes this action so despicable. It's boundary pushing. He's seeing what he can get away with. And our fucked up medical / legal system provides enough loopholes for him to slide through.

Yes, I do sometimes take the stance that the rich can afford to pay more taxes so they should for the betterment of the rest of the country. I have done a risk-to-benefit ratio and decided that having one fewer yacht so that starving children can have one extra meal that they didn't "earn" is worth it. I do not think that the 1000 middle class people who won't qualify for the price-gouging safety regulations but still need that drug are an acceptable trade-off for making this guy even richer.

In this case, it's not the numbers of people who will be affected that makes this story so appalling. It's the inhumanity of the individual making the decisions that does. Patterns are important. This case is symptomatic of a pattern. And those of us who were horrified by the case saw that pattern. That's why it was such a big deal.
joreth: (Super Tech)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So I feel like (see what I did there?) this article did 2 things for me - it reinforces the relatively new message that women's speech isn't "wrong" or a "broken version of being a man" and that, not only should they not be criticized for it but that everyone will be speaking like them eventually because they're leading the cultural linguistic shifts (which I had no idea about); and it reinforces my own identity as not-feminine because I identify more with the men in this article in terms of what my speech is currently like and how I gradually jump on the bandwagon in what seems like "after the fact" with respect to certain speech patterns.
joreth: (Misty in Box)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Type is actually a very complex discipline that can take years of study. It's not as simple as taking an online quiz and now you're locked into a box. I can tell you my MBTI letters, for example, but that barely scratches the surface, even if we stick just with MBTI. As a former partner learned the hard way, you can't treat people based on their type category alone because we're not a monolith even within the more complex type systems. Our individual expression and individual experience of our type categories will manifest in unique combinations, making us all individuals who just happen to have a few things in common enough to loosely group us together.  They can be useful for interpersonal communication and for conflict resolution, but that's about it.  And I say that as a strong supporter of using type systems. 
joreth: (Purple Mobius)
"Throughout the day, partners would make requests for connection, what Gottman calls “bids.” For example, say that the husband is a bird enthusiast and notices a goldfinch fly across the yard. He might say to his wife, “Look at that beautiful bird outside!” He’s not just commenting on the bird here: he’s requesting a response from his wife — a sign of interest or support — hoping they’ll connect, however momentarily, over the bird. ...

People who turned toward their partners in the study responded by engaging the bidder, showing interest and support in the bid. Those who didn’t — those who turned away — would not respond or respond minimally and continue doing whatever they were doing, like watching TV or reading the paper. Sometimes they would respond with overt hostility, saying something like, “Stop interrupting me, I’m reading.”

These bidding interactions had profound effects on marital well-being."
This is especially true for introverts and passive communicators. By the time they get to the point of mentioning something, it's already an important thing. The mere act of saying something out loud takes emotional effort, so they don't waste that effort on unimportant things. When someone brings their partner's attention to something, it's a signal that they're trying to connect with them, even if that something is fleeting or ultimately unimportant in the concrete; but it's important in the abstract.

This is something my extrovert ex-boyfriend learned the hard way when he thought I was just passing along random information that he could take or leave but I was sharing something important with him, so when no action resulted, I felt rejected. I'm not a passive communicator, so I was clear that I was sharing something; it was the *importance* that he didn't get, because he shares things that pop into his head all the time with no emotional attachment to that thought. It might even be a thought he disagrees with, but it popped in, so he shared it, because he's an extrovert. We both had to learn to interpret the other's communication skills through these filters in order to respond correctly.
"Contempt, they have found, is the number one factor that tears couples apart. People who are focused on criticizing their partners miss a whopping 50 percent of positive things their partners are doing and they see negativity when it’s not there."
This is something that Sterling & I mention in our How To Break Up workshop. Anger and disagreement in a relationship aren't indicators of trouble by themselves; that's all part of the normal range of human interaction. But CONTEMPT is a relationship killer. This is why I have a list of traits that a person can have that means that I can't date them even if I otherwise like them. If they have certain traits, then I know I will lose respect for them, and after loss of respect comes contempt, and that means the relationship is doomed from the start.
"Masters tend to think about kindness as a muscle. They know that they have to exercise it to keep it in shape. They know, in other words, that a good relationship requires sustained hard work."
People are not "good" or "bad". Kindness, courage, and love are all things we DO, not things that we are or that we have. They take regular practice. Franklin talks about this in the book More Than Two and I talk about it in my 5 Love Languages workshop. "One way to practice kindness is by being generous about your partner’s intentions." - this is also something mentioned in the book.
“It’s scanning the partner for what the partner is doing right or scanning him for what he’s doing wrong and criticizing versus respecting him and expressing appreciation.”
There's a Sex and the City episode where the main character starts out having a relationship with someone she once characterizes as "we're PERFECT!" and ends up having a breakup conversation that says "when did you stop being on my side?" There's a reason that dialog led to a breakup:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The most common argument I see against the [use of the] word "privilege" is that it is "annoying."

You are, of course, welcome to find anything annoying if you want. So here's what I personally find annoying:

  • Seeing people with no background in the social sciences summarily dismiss a sociological concept backed by decades of theory and research because they don't like the sound of it;

  • Having my own ideas and writing dismissed because they share a word in common with a bad Tumblr you read once;

  • Being asked to apologize for people I have never met or interacted with who were mean to you when you argued against the word "privilege";

  • The implication that ideas have to make you feel good in order to be accurate and worth your consideration, and ideas that make you feel uncomfortable or bad can be safely dismissed.

joreth: (::headdesk::)

"A scientific theory summarizes a hypothesis or group of hypotheses that have been supported with repeated testing. If enough evidence accumulates to support a hypothesis, it moves to the next step—known as a theory—in the scientific method and becomes accepted as a valid explanation of a phenomenon." -- Kim Ann Zimmerman,

~Shared from Physicist TV

This is why I have made a point to now say "hypothesis" even when using cultural or slang idioms. I also say "conspiracist" and "conspiracy story" instead of "conspiracy theorist/theory" because it's not a theory.

Wrong: "My theory is..."
Right: "My hypothesis is..."

Wrong: "In theory, it should work"
Right: "In principle, it should work"

Wong: "Theoretically speaking..."
Right: "Hypothetically speaking..."

These are not the only examples nor the only corrections for the examples given. But it's a start to give you an idea. This rant came from a Facebook post, not an hour-long lecture or a class or a book on science & grammar, so I kept it brief with just a few examples. I don't feel the need to list every possible example or exception and I'll get irritated if the comments devolve into a semantics debate with pedantic exceptions (but personal substitutions are welcome, to increase the general vocabulary).

I won't play the obnoxious pedant every time someone uses the word incorrectly and correct them (unless it's actually relevant to the discussion), but know that every time y'all use it wrong, I'm thinking in my head that you're wrong and I assume that you know less about science because of it unless/until you can prove to me that you don't.
joreth: (Kitty Eyes)
I haven't done an update on local testing options in a few years, so even though that post is still here in my journal, it's time to do a new one.

Local Testing Options Review )
Here's my opinion on necessary testing )

To sum up:

Get tested for everything listed above at least once to establish a baseline. Then get tested for The Big Four approximately once a year and 3 months after new sexual partners.

If you don't have a GP or health insurance for a full STD screening, visit one of the online services like AnyLabTest Now! for a complete workup to set your baseline. Then, if you are in the Orlando area, I recommend using the Orange County Health Department on Center Ave. for the minimum Big Four to maintain your regular testing schedule and AnyLabTest Now! for the HSV test for the most economical options. If you skip any of the steps, get another full workup as soon as possible to reset your baseline known health status. If you test positive for anything, discuss your case with your STD counselor, your clinician, or your GP for the appropriate measures for you.

For more information about HPV, about HPV research, or about other testing posts that I have made, click on my STI tag below.  I focus on HPV research and occasionally I post about local testing options and general testing information to give non-local people enough information to research their own local testing options.
joreth: (Xmas Kitties)
How does an anti-thest, anti-traditionalism, anti-consumerist, anti-obligated-gift-giving atheist celebrate the winter holiday season?

I celebrate Newtonmas which, for convenience's sake, looks exactly like Christmas celebration complete with wishing people happy holidays, giving gifts without obligation, wearing red and green, and singing songs specific to the season, decorating with pine trees, tinsel, little colored lights, fuzzy red and white peaked caps, and eating ALL THE THINGS but especially the things with cinnamon, apples, chocolate, and lots of sugar (sometimes all in the same dish, but not necessarily).

The only difference is that, in my mind, the birthday I'm celebrating belongs to a different historical figure - one that I know for a fact existed - Isaac Newton.  And I'm not so much celebrating his birthday specifically as I am celebrating what his birthday respresents, namely science.  All the gifts, all the food, all the time spent with family, all these things are reminders to me of how much science has improved our collective lives.

I live in a time and place where even those of us below the poverty line have such wealth and abundance compared to our past generations, that I can afford to bitch about consumerism on a laptop using high speed internet access in a house with central air conditioning.  I live in a time and place where visiting loved ones 3,000 miles or more away is an actual *possibility* (even if an unrealized one at any given year).

I celebrate on an arbitrary day that happens to numerically match up with the day a historical figure was born (if you do some more arbitrary numerical fudging) because that figure is one of many who represent all that has made my life possible.  I choose that particular arbitrary day because everyone else collectively chose that same arbitrary day for pretty much the same reasons but with a different central character, so it becomes convenient to take advantage of the national acquiescence to allow us all to celebrate.  In other words, no one puts up a fuss if I take time off or spend the day celebrating or wear clashing colors or weird accessories because they're all doing the same thing and it would be strange if I did otherwise.

I won't take offense if people do not wish me Happy Newtonmas instead of Merry Christmas, although I do appreciate the "Happy Holidays!" effort made by those to acknowledge that there are other holidays being celebrated during this season by trying to include their holiday of choice even if one doesn't know what that holiday might be.  But if anyone was curious what a person with different values might do during this time when it seems as though one set of values is being pushed onto an entire planet regardless of personal holiday preference, well, this is what one person with different holiday beliefs does.

There is no war on Christmas.  There is only a desire to experience our own holidays in our own way.  This is how I experience mine.
joreth: (Silent Bob Headbang)
For the last several years, I've maintained a Group Me for conventions.  This is a web-based service that allows you to enter your phone number, join a particular Group Me (or be added by the moderator), and then send a regular SMS text message to the Group Me phone number that will then be relayed to everyone else in the group.  They have the option to do the same.  This has come in handy for sending a single message out to everyone to say "I'm going to eat at the hotel restaurant, anyone else free and want to share a meal?" and "Party tonight is in room 465!" and "Sorry, have to cancel the party - roommate is sick.  Please don't show up tonight!"  I send one message to one phone number and reach everyone who needs that information.  Everyone else can send a message or reply to mine and everyone else gets to see it too.

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

But not for me. And here's why... )

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

No, I haven't actually counted out one million examples. That's a figure of speech and is intended to convey "a lot" in a way that impresses the reader with "really a lot". And that's exactly what I'm talking about - Missing The Point Pedantry. Everyone knows that "a million other things" doesn't literally mean exactly one million other things, and "everyone knows" doesn't literally mean that every person on the entire planet that has ever or will ever live understands that figure of speech. And you, who is doing this, also understand that, in most contexts except for whatever it is about this one that prompted you to point this out. I'm not speaking to Rain Man here, or Sheldon, I'm not speaking to or about anyone who has any kind of actual neurological condition or complication that makes them actually have trouble with abstract thought. I'm talking to and about people who, in most cases, get this, but couldn't refrain from "not getting it" now. I know you're not stupid and I know you're not an asshole, but for fuck's sake, stop acting like it and, by implication, stop acting like I'm stupid by ignoring all the context around whatever detail you picked out to focus on.
joreth: (Bad Computer!)
or The Misuse Of The Argument From Authority Accusation

First, a couple of disclaimers. 1) I'm going to use the word "skeptic" in this post to lump everyone from the skeptics, secular, humanist, and atheist communities into a single label. Those communities are absolutely not interchangable, let's get that straight right up front. Being an atheist doesn't make you a skeptic, as everyone's go-to example, Bill Mahr, can attest. Neither does being a skeptic automatically make you an atheist, as our resident non-atheist skeptic, Pamela Gay, proves. Irrelevant for my point here. I don't feel like listing out all the groups every time I reference them, so I'm going to lump them into one place-holder label, and I chose "skeptic" because I say that word often enough that it comes out easily.

2) I am a skeptic, and damn proud of it. I love the label, I love what I learn from both the community and the process of skepticism. I am in no way considering dumping the label. I'm uncomfortable in skeptic spaces because there are certain problems I encounter, but I want to fix those problems so that I can continue to be part of the skeptics community; I don't want to split off into a whole new group that has the exact same premise as the skeptics community but who refuses to be connected to skepticism because of the bad association.

3) This is not the only problem with the skeptics community. In fact, it's not even one of the top 10 worst. It could be considered a symptom of one of the more major problems, but I don't want to hear "that's it? That's your big problem? Why are you bitching about that when there are real problems with the skeptics community that need to be addressed?" This is an irritation that has real-world implications, and this is my journal where I specifically set it up to bitch about things. So I'm going to bitch about it.

So, on to the problem.

Skeptics, overall, tend to be a fairly well-educated, intelligent group of people. When you have a group of well-educated, intelligent people, the arguments have a tendency to take a particular form. People tend to try to remove all emotional content from the argument and argue everything academically, even when the subject is about emotions, is personal, or is subjective. Many times, they will argue something just for the sake of academically arguing it - it won't even be a subject they're particularly invested in exploring, they just want to argue. If that subject happens to be something that their opponent is invested in, then because the skeptics aren't, they have a tendency to, not only be totally unaware of how damaging it is to academically argue about something the opponent is personally invested in, but to also be completely dismissive of the emotions of their opponent because, hey, it's just an intellectual exercise, no need to get your panties in a twist over it.

Now, as an intellectual exercise with no emotional investment in the outcome other than being right, skeptics will tend to throw accusations at each other, and anyone they're arguing with, like they're in the middle of a Logical Fallacy oral exam in school. Except that these dispassionate skeptics are not actually unemotionally invested in the argument. They are, just not in the topic. They're invested in the idea that they're well-educated, intelligent, and not emotionally involved. So any criticism of this really irritating way of arguing is taken personally and defended with great vehemence and their own set of logical fallacies.

Final disclaimer, I'm not immune to the subject of this rant. But I can still be irritated when I see it happen.

So, the one I'm going to vent about today is the Argument From Authority. There are a handful of logical fallacies that are easier to identify and remember than the others, so every time they come up, skeptics immediately jump to accusing their opponent of using said logical fallacy. The Argument From Authority is one of them.

The Argument From Authority Fallacy is when a claim is deemed to be true simply because the person who made the claim is an authority figure of some sort.

The Misuse of the Argument From Authority Fallacy is when someone is accused of using said fallacy when it's actually a legitimate argument.

So, for example:

  • Quinn: Acupuncture TOTALLY works! You should try it!

  • Devon: Uh, no it doesn't. Here are citations from well-regulated, double-blind, placebo-controlled, large sample population studies from a variety of research facilities that all confirm there is no measurable effect from acupuncture.

  • Quinn: Psshhh! My acupuncturist is a guy I've known for 20 years and he's a karate sensei  so I believe him, not your studies. Science gets things wrong all the time, but THIS guy knows karate! I think he knows what he's doing with acupuncture!

  • Devon: *blinkblink*

You might now want to accuse me of Strawmanning by pulling out a ridiculous argument, but this is, I swear, a conversation I actually had with someone. It was a person I know in real life and had the conversation face-to-face so it's not a troll either. This is actually how it went. In order to keep the peace, I had to end the conversation simply by advising him to make sure that his sensei at least uses brand-new needles and wears gloves because of the recent hepatitis scare among acupuncture patients in Florida. Even the thought of getting a life-threatening illness didn't phase him, because his guy is a guy he "knows", who would never do anything dangerous. Karate. Acupuncture  Nothing dangerous. OK, I'm done.

So this is an example of a legitimate accusation of the Argument From Authority. Quinn believes the claim that acupuncture works because "a guy" said it does, with complete disregard to the mountain of evidence to the contrary.

Here are some examples of legitimate USES of the Argument From Authority:

  • Paula: As a black trans woman, I've experienced sexism, racism, and homophobia in skeptic communities, so I'm less likely to want to attend skeptic events.

  • Paul: That's ridiculous, there's no sexism, racism, or homophobia in skeptic communities! We're a rational group of people, we require evidence to hold beliefs, and there is no evidence supporting the unequal treatment of other genders, other races, or other sexual orientations. Therefore, you couldn't have experienced any of those things because we're just not any of those things.

  • Paula: Look, I'm telling you that I've experienced all of those things. Just because you weren't there or you can't see it doesn't mean it doesn't happen. It does, and I've felt it, and so have a lot of other people. That's why there are so few women, people of color, and people of alternative sexualities at your little events - we get treated poorly and we'd rather just not go.

  • Paul: I don't see you citing any rigorous studies supporting your claim, therefore you're just spouting anecdote, and anecdote does not equal data. You're wrong, it doesn't happen.

  • Paula: I think I get to be the authority on my own personal experiences and you can't tell me that I didn't have them.

  • Paul: That's the Argument From Authority! Your argument is invalid!

  • Jordan: Polyamory is a legitimate relationship style. I love more than one person at a time and polyamory is a valid way to ethically explore those feelings.

  • Sam: You don't love more than one person at a time, you only think you do. Real love doesn't let you love more than one person at a time, so if you think you love multiple people, you don't really love any of them. If you did really love any of them, you couldn't have feelings for the others. QED.

  • Jordan: You can't tell me what I do and don't feel! I know what I feel, and I feel real, true love for each of my partners!

  • Sam: You're just deluding yourself, that's not real love. says love is exclusive, therefore what you feel isn't real love.

  • Jordan: No one gets to overrule what I say about my own feelings. I have feelings that I can feel, I am part of a community you've never even heard of before today, and I have an academic sociology background. I am the final authority on what I feel and anyone who says different is wrong!

  • Sam: Aha! That's the Argument From Authority! Your claim is now invalid - polyamory is not real because you can only support it with logical fallacies!

Before anyone tries another accusation of Strawman, these are also both absolutely real conversations. And both are absolutely misuses of the accusation. There are times when it is completely valid to take an authority figure's word on a subject. It can, and should, be provisionally accepted, but it should still be accepted. When the authority figure is an authority on a subject with actual experience in the subject and not just "I read Wikipedia for hours about it" or took some classes on it, and you're not, you can provisionally accept his word. When the authority figure is telling about her own personal experiences, you can provisionally accept her word. When the authority figure is telling you about their internal feelings, you can accept that they do, indeed, have those feelings (even if you remain dubious regarding the nature of what caused those feelings - i.e. just because one feels attacked, it doesn't mean someone actually attacked them). Especially in the third example, their word automatically trumps everything else.

I have been feeling more and more uncomfortable in skeptic spaces over the last year or two, and the smug and dismissive attitude when it comes to topics the speaker has no experience in that is so prevalent among skeptics keeps me away. I don't even want to bother attempting to educate them, because they're so confident in their own intelligence that they don't think they need education on anything they have already formed an opinion on, even if they formed that opinion without the benefit of any education on the subject or with speaking to anyone relevant to the subject. Even worse is when they claim to have done their own "research" on a topic (it usually means they've Googled it or read Wikipedia) and think they're fairly well-read, but they have no personal connection or experience with the subject and dismiss anyone who is actually living the subject but who hasn't done any formal research on it.

Take Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory - he is constantly lecturing Raj on Indian culture, even though Raj was born and raised in India and Sheldon has never left his own apartment, let alone the country.  But Sheldon has read stuff and is smart therefore Raj's personal experiences don't count.

So misapplying the accusation for the Argument From Authority pisses me off. If you aren't kinky, poly, female, transgendered, non-white, poor, or anything else that is as much "experience" as academic (if not more), and when someone who is talks about their experiences or their feelings or their own community, your ability to recite all the logical fallacies by heart and have an argument without getting "emotional" does not make your opinion as equally valid as theirs. "There is no authority and all opinions are equally valid" is a classic logical fallacy among pseudoscience cranks. Don't fall into the same trap and don't dismiss personal experience when the subject is a subjective one. We're not talking about the chemical makeup of water or the physics of gas planets. Those have yes/no answers - either something does or does not, and we can test it and find an answer that is right and an answer that is wrong (insert appropriate error bars here, for those who are pedantic). But a physicist with credentials and published papers and a university behind him is probably more right about physics than the guy who hasn't left his basement in 5 years spouting Deepak Chopra and Dinesh D'Souza is, because the physicist is an authority on the subject, and we can provisionally accept his word that cold fusion is highly improbable and that we will never develop a free energy machine that sucks electrons from the ionosphere but that could turn into a doomsday weapon with only a small modification to the plans (again, true story).
joreth: (Misty in Box)

As I mentioned in my last post, I had heard there was a clinic who was offering the HPV test for men, but I was waiting for confirmation and more information before I posted about it.  I had looked up online on my own and only found more insistence that no HPV test existed except for that used in research.  One clinic in California was taking it upon themselves to use that research testing method to conduct their own study, thereby giving men who participated an HPV test.

Well, I found out that the clinic I heard of that may have had an HPV test for men does not, in fact, have an HPV test for men.  They seemed to have deliberately misled interested patients, as one particular patient tried to confirm several times, through several levels, that he was scheduling himself for an HPV test, and at each level was either told yes, or given an ambiguous or non-committal answer until he finally saw the physician personally.  That physician was the only person to say, flat out, that there was no HPV test for men and that their answering service gives out the wrong information all the time.  The person on the phone, the receptionist, the nurse or medical technician who prepped him for the appointment - none of them corrected the patient on the belief that he would be receiving an HPV test that day.

Remember, when you go in to be tested for "everything", you are not tested for everything.

Let me repeat that:  
When you go in to be tested for "everything", you are not tested for everything.

You MUST go in with a specific list of tests that you want to purchase and get confirmation from the physician herself that you will be tested for those things.  And, more than just saying "I want a herpes test", you have to say "I want the HSV PCR test" or whatever you're looking for.  Some STDs have different kinds of tests with different levels of accuracy and expense.  Make sure you know exactly which test you want and ask for it by name.  

And then be prepared to argue with them over the necessity of getting tested.  Many clinics and doctors still take the position that certain STDs like herpes and HPV are so prevalent, that there's no point in worrying whether you have it or not if you're asymptomatic, so you don't need to get tested.  They figure that if you don't have herpes or HPV yet, you will soon, so just don't worry about it until you start showing symptoms and need treatment.  If you're OK with that, then fine, but if you want to have test results in your records to show prospective partners, then insist that doctors provide the services that they offer to the patients willing to pay for those services, and if they won't, go elsewhere.

It is true that many people either have or will have HSV or HPV, and it is also true that, for the vast majority of those people, the virus is little more than an "inconvenience".  It is also true that stress about health and medical procedures can, for some health issues, be worse than the health issue itself.  Many people are worse off for worrying about things than they are for having those things, and for a great deal of things, too-often testing does not significantly increase your odds of survival or better health.  People who go looking for health problems will often find them, even when those problems are mild or things that the body can heal on its own.  Many people put themselves through unnecessary procedures and surgeries to take care of things "just in case" that probably won't hurt them and that are so mild that they'd never know they had if they hadn't gone looking for them.

All of that is irrelevant if you have done your research and you just want to have accurate and update medical records for your prospective partners.  I caution people against using test results as a way to justify and entrench their own sex-negative fears.  Some people hold onto their "clean" records as sort of a talisman to justify rejecting and being hurtful towards prospective partners who might have an STI.  I can't tell you how often I've heard statements like "I'm clean and I want to stay that way".  The fact is you won't.  STIs should be treated as any other equivalent illness.  You will get sick, whether it's the flu, strep throat, the measles, or warts and cold sores.  By all means, take precautions, but be consistent.  If you're afraid of getting a life-threatening illness like HIV, use condoms, get your flu shots and pertussis boosters, wash your hands regularly, don't go to work sick and insist that other sick coworkers go home, and get your physicals and preventative exams done on time.  

Being sick sucks, but STIs are no better or worse than any other comparable illness, so don't use your test results as a weapon against people with STIs, or to look down on people with STIs, or to think you're "safe" from life-changing surprises like illnesses.  Get tested so that your partners can make informed decisions, so that you can see patterns in your own health history, and to help you and your physician decide on appropriate medical  procedure schedules.  If you routinely have abnormal pap smears, for example, then you ought to be getting the HPV test regularly & often, like annually or semi-annually.  If you consistently have normal pap smears, have no history of cancer in your family, and your sexual network is fairly static, then you can probably get checked less often, like every other year.  

But, yes, definitely get tested "regularly" (for whatever definition of "regularly" fits your particular health circumstances) and definitely insist that your physician provide you with the proper services.  Just make sure to use those tests in the same way that you'd use any other health test - to evaluate your personal risk assessment and manage your personal health checkup schedules, not to freak out about being "unclean" or to ward off "dirty" partners.

For a list of the STIs that you can and should be tested for, download the Sexual Health & History Disclosure form, which includes spaces for you to add your latest testing dates & a record of your past and current partners, their testing status, & the transmissive activities you shared with them and can be found here, along with some other convenient charts & graphics

joreth: (Kitty Eyes)
It was back in July, 2010 that I last wrote about carrageenan, a component of algae found in nearly every type of commericial food, that looks to have HPV-blocking properties.  All in vitro testing done up until that post seemed very promising.  In July of 2010, a research facility had finally gotten the go-ahead to try a double-blind trial on actual people - testing had only been done in the lab before then.  Well, I haven't heard anything new since then so I haven't made any posts about it.  I did a cursory Google search for the specific product that I wrote about, Carraguard, to see what happened, but I didn't find anything more recent than that same study.  It has apparently concluded and found the gel to be effective, but the conclusion didn't make any headlines that I'm aware of, and no announcements about putting Carraguard into production.

Today I saw that there's another research facility in Canada doing their own double-blind, human study sing a personal lube that is currently available on the market, Divine 9 which also passed all of it's Phase II, in vitro, trials).  They will give a very similar gel/lube with either carrageenan or a placebo to be used during sex and then follow up with the women in a year to check the rates of HPV infection.  Hopefully something will actually come out of this study, so that we can start seeing products made specifically with anti-HPV properties in mind, and so we can offer a more affordable option to those women who can't afford the vaccine.  In the meantime, there are already personal lubes available on the market with high concentrations of carrageenan as a regular ingredient used to thicken products.  Divine 9, Bioglide vegan), and Oceanus Dreambrands Carrageenan are all commercially available lubes that the research suggests may be effective and preventing HPV transmission during sex.

Also, I just heard that there is a test for men now, but I'm still trying to get details on it.  So far, all I've found is this article talking about a clinic in San Diego that decided, on its own, to start swabbing the urethra opening and performing the HPV test in the context of a research study.  According to the CDC, there is still no FDA-approved test for men.  Near as I can figure, individual men can occasionally convince a doctor to do the woman's test on their penis.  But I know someone who claims to have found a doctor to give him the test, so when I get more information on it, I'll post it here.
joreth: (being wise)
"This paranormal thing is fake. Here's the evidence."

Believer: Bummer! I hate it when the fake ones make all the real ones look bad!

True Believer: Shut up! You don't know anything! If you just weren't so close-minded, you'd see this Logical Fallacy and this Unscientific Anecdote proves it's real! And here! A flawed and poorly conducted study/investigation that I totally believe because it supports my belief, but your well-done & scientifically rigorous investigation I will dismiss as crap because it says something that I don't like!

Skeptical "Believer": Oh, hmm, well if I could be fooled by that one, I wonder what else I can be fooled by? I better go back and re-examine some similar events and look up this psychological trick they're talking about to see if the other events are real or I was fooled by those too! I'm disappointed, but I didn't know that they could do that, and that's pretty cool! And maybe a little bit scary.

I came up with this example after a recent incident on Facebook, where I explained to someone that a certain famous "haunted" house I used to work in wasn't really haunted.  Her reaction started off pretty mildly, but she eventually took to "schooling" me on the nature of truth and reality, and why her favorite ghost hunters were the Real Ghost Hunters who "debunk" the crap I was explaining to her.

As I said on Twitter, "debunk: I do not think this word means what she thinks it means".

I used to be a believer.  I was probably even the first kind of believer listed above.  But eventually I learned that I can be fooled.  And I also eventually learned that reality is far more interesting that the ghosts and goblins that I used to believe in.

"Isn't it enough to see that a garden is beautiful without believing there are fairies at the bottom of it too?"
— Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.
joreth: (Super Tech)
There are a lot of misconceptions about what that phrase means. Mostly, it gets confused with "immortality" in the fictional, supernatural sense. Radical life extension, often shortened to "immortality", is medically preventing aging and making death optional. This does not mean "immortal" in the comic book sense. It means extending life. And, by definition, life can be ended. Biological organisms can die. So in a world where we have cured aging, we can still get hit by a bus.

There are many objections to the idea of radical life extension, but there are 2 I see most often, and they tend to be raised in conjunction with each other. I'm not sure why. But the objections are that we will eventually get bored or run out of things to do, and that we will live alone, forever cursed to watch our loved ones age and die while we remain.

These objections aren't actually related, as far as I can tell, other than those who make them tend to make them both and they come up most often.

So, the first one, that we will get bored or run out of things to do or interest us. I think this profoundly underestimates the complexity of the universe. I could take the time to master each and every profession in existence. That alone would take more time than I can even conceive of, and that only counts the professions currently in operation, not all the ancient jobs that are no longer necessary or the jobs that will develop as society and technology develops. Then there are all the hobbies. Then there are all the books I haven't read yet. There is so much to see and do RIGHT NOW, that I think it's a severe limitation of a person's imagination to think that we would *run out* of things to do and learn and experience.

For some reason, people want to take current conditions and project them onto the future.

In the second case, this actually has a 2-part answer. First, what part of my very finite existence now makes you think I don't already have to watch my loved ones die around me while I live on? I'm beginning to lose track of the number of friends and family members I've seen buried, and I'm not even middle aged. I lost my first close friend when I was 12 years old, and that's not even counting the old, distant relatives that I "knew" by virtue of having once been introduced to someone I was told I was related to. This was a close, personal loss, someone who was a peer and a confidante. I'd lost family and other peers even before then. Being mortal doesn't make me immune to losing loved ones over and over again. It hurts, deeply. But I heal, and I develop more relationships, some of whom I will also lose, but some of whom will lose me first.

And the other part of the answer is that I'm not talking about some kind of supernatural curse or comic book superpower. I'm not talking about being indestructable and alone. I'm not talking about being Hancock. When I, and people like me, talk about "immortality" or radical life extension, I'm talking about a medical procedure that would prevent aging, and as a side effect, eliminate those forms of death that result from the process of aging. Because it would be a medical procedure based in science and technology, and not some magical wish or curse, it would be applicable to more people than just me. And because I'm way down on the economic scale, by the time it was made available to *me*, specifically, it would be made available to pretty much everyone, at least everyone in the US.

I'm nobody special. If there ever comes a day when a medical procedure to radically extend lifespan is made available to me, it won't be made to me alone. I'm not part of the elite rich who could afford some super procedure that only 5 people in the world could afford. I'm not a man behind the curtain, pulling strings and covering up wonderous new treatments for my own, selfish gain. While I understand that I am important to a handful of individuals, in the grand scheme of things, I'm nobody. This sort of treatment will not be available to me unless it's available to everybody.

Which means that I won't be watching my loved ones age and die around me because they will be living indefinitely along with me. In fact, the more likely outcome is that I'll have to go through more breakups because of my multi-hundred-year lifespan as I and my loved ones eventually grow in different directions and become no longer compatible with each other after a few centuries. Which brings me back to the first part of this answer - I'm already doing that. I have breakups, I hurt, I heal, I meet new people and build new relationships.

Maybe, it's possible, that one day I will decided that I don't want to live through another breakup, or another death of a loved one. I have a hard time imagining such a day, but when I was a kid, I would have had a hard time imagining the person I am today too. I mean, the idea that I would be intentionally unmarried, child-free by choice, and have several loving boyfriends who approved of polyamory and liked each other, and whose wives and partners I liked? Preposterous! So, it is entirely possible that after a millenia or so, I might just grow weary of existence. Which brings us back to the original premise - that death should be optional.

Remember, we're not talking about a fairy tale curse here. An organic body can be killed, and a mechanized body can be shut down. The idea that some opponents have of a solitary body sitting alone on a rocky asteroid in the vaccuum of space as the universe around him is destroyed and all life anywhere is gone, forever contemplating his existence and never being allowed to end it even when existence itself is ended, is, to me, about as far-fetched, and fantasy-based, as religion, or Santa Claus, or leprechauns.

Along with the technology to halt aging, and the passage of time, will come other technological advances that I couldn't even guess at. That's what the singularity is, after all - a horizon that we can't see past. With all those changes coming, there is no reason to assume that I will make it through exactly as I am now, with my current body and my current thought-pattern. The very act of eliminating aging will change who I am, how I think, and how I see the world. There is some philosophy that who we are is dependent upon our meat bodies and brains, and that trying to upload ourselves to a non-meat medium isn't even possible because it requires the meat to be "us". I'm not sure where I stand on that issue, specifically, since I don't understand enough about the brain to make that kind of speculation. But the point is that future-me will not be present-me and, by definition, I cannot predict past that horizon anything about how the world will look or what I will think of it. So I, therefore, cannot project any current status onto that future self, such as the idea that I want to live at all costs. I may change my mind someday and want to die. Or I may live long enough that the questions of life and death are something so completely foreign to my current meat-brain and short lifespan, that the questions themselves won't resemble anything I can currently comprehend, let alone the answers.

But I want the opportunity to ask them. If we really were to cure aging, giving us effectively unending lifespans, our society and our way of looking at things will be so different from the viewpoints we have now with our current circumstances, that it is absurd to pose such hypotheticals as "we'll run out of things to do & get bored" or "we'll have to watch our loved ones age and die around us". These are statements wrapped up in a profoundly limited imagination.
joreth: (being wise)

Carl Sagan said that we are made of star stuff.  We are the part of the universe capable of understanding itself.  In the movie The Ledge, the atheist protagonist talks with a Christian woman about the nature of the universe.  She wants to believe in a god because she wants to believe in something bigger than herself.

So he lays down next to her on the apartment rooftop and shows her the night sky, and says something to the effect of "you want something bigger than yourself to connect to?  There, the whole universe, how much bigger can you get than that?"

So she says, basically, that it's a pretty concept, but she wants more than just to be connected to a cold and uncaring universe.  She wants to be loved.  Unfortunately, he doesn't have a good answer to that.

I turn back to Carl Sagan, and Neil de Grasse Tyson, and all the other science popularizers out there, and that's comforting to me.  I am made of star stuff.  I am part of the universe and therefore I am connected to the whole of the universe.  I am the part of the universe capable of understanding itself.

But there's one more part to that.

If we humans are the part of the universe capable of understanding itself, we are also the part of the universe capable of loving itself.

If I want to be connected to something larger than myself, what's larger than the universe?  If I want to be loved by something greater than myself, what's greater than the universe?  Except that the universe doesn't love.

But people do.  And people are part of the universe.  We are star stuff.  We are the part of the universe capable of understanding itself.  We are the part of the universe capable of loving itself.  We are the universe, and we love.

There is one thing greater than the will to live, and that's the will to love.  We are star stuff.  I am connected to something greater than myself.  What's greater than the universe?  I am loved by something greater than myself, and that is because I am loved by people, and people are star stuff.

joreth: (sex)

I'm reading a very interesting article that doesn't really tell me anything I didn't already suspect, but you know how confirmation bias can be, so I'm fascinated to read someone approaching the subject from an actual scientific point of view.

The article's conclusions, based on evaluation of various studies & data, suggests the following things:

1) There is a reciprocal relationship between pleasure & violence - as a person gets more of one, they want less of the other.
2) Infancy physical affection + permissible sexual behaviour after puberty = non-violent individuals.
3) Remove the physical affection from children & you get violent adults. But give them positive sexual experiences as teens & you can circumvent the violence as adults. In other words, you can compensate for a shitty childhood by giving someone a decent sex life.
4) Keep the physical affection as children but remove the happy sex life post puberty & you still get violent adults.
5) This suggests that it's the sex life / sexual attitudes that strongly affect the level of violence in individuals.
6) Cultures that have strong mores and taboos against physical pleasure (i.e. sex & drugs) have equally strong interests in violence.
7) Cultures that have dualistic philosophies tend to have those strong mores against physical pleasure.

Western (Judeo-Christian) philosophical thought is that "man was not a unitary being, but was divided into two parts, body and soul. The Greek philosophical conception of the relationship between body and soul was quite different than the Judeo-Christian concept which posited a state of war between the body and soul. Within Judeo-Christian thought the purpose of human life was to save the soul, and the body was seen as an impediment to achieving this objective. Consequently, the body must be punished and deprived. ... Aristotle did not view a state of war between the body and soul, but rather envisioned a complimentary relationship in which the state of the soul or mind was dependent on the state of the body. In fact he stated that "the care of the body ought to precede that of the soul." (Politica) Aristotle also appreciated the reciprocal relationship between pleasure and pain, and recognized that a compulsive search for bodily pleasure originates from a state of bodily discomfort and pain."

So, basically, cultures that believe that the soul is somehow separate from the body tend to discourage either infancy physical affection and/or sexual and physical pleasure. When they deprive their people of sexual pleasure, they tend to have more incidences of violence.

Vs. cultures that tend to believe that the soul & body are linked have a tendency to support physical pleasure, including sex. And when cultures support their people having sex, they tend to have lower incidences of violence.

Bottom line: philosophies that encourage more physical affection & more sex for pleasure lead to non-violent societies. Religions that prohibit sexual pleasure lead to more violent societies.

I did find it irritating, however, that every time the author broached the subject of multiple sex partners, he was quick to dismiss the motives for casual sex or multiple partners as being pathological. For instance, he defines promiscuity as quickly moving through partners in search of pleasure that one can't find with anyone, and group sex as "not a sharing, but more often an escape from intimacy and emotional vulnerability".

Clearly, he has not really looked into why people choose casual sex, multiple partners, or group sex. Rather than group sex being an escape from intimacy, I quite often don't want group sex precisely because it's too much intimacy for me at that moment. I have to be in the mood to be intimate with everyone in the group, and if I'm not, I can't have the group sex. Most of the poly people I know who enjoy group sex, do so because it can be a form of intimacy with several people at once, not just lots of slippery bits rubbing together all at once.

He does, however, go on to support multiple sexual partners in general, as well as premarital sex, and even teen sexuality.  He also goes on to condemn gender inequality & fear of female sexuality, stating pretty unequivocally that women need to be considered equal & fear of losing dominance over women when they're allowed to express their sexuality is harmful to everyone.
joreth: (being wise),0,1665761.story

A couple of interesting points here, mostly good-to-know news, with a little bit of bad news.

First, oral HPV seems to be spread through oral sex, not kissing or casual contact.  That's good news and good-to-know news.

Second, 7% of teenagers already have oral HPV.  That's bad-ish news (bad because it's more than 0% but "ish" because it's "only" 7%).

Third, among those 7%, only a very small percentage of them will develop oral cancer and, according to another article recently, apparently HPV-caused oral cancers has a higher treatment success rate than cancers caused by other means (like smoking).  That's good news.

Fourth, HPV-caused cancers is on the rise with 70% of all new cases of oral cancer being caused by HPV, surpassing tobacco as the primary cause of oral cancers.  But don't freak out - 80% of the population has or has had or will have HPV at some point in their lives, and the vast majority of them will never develop any cancer.  However, this study shows that 1 in 10 boys (yes, BOYS) currently have an infection that *could* lead to cancer.  This is not a female problem, it's a people problem - get vaccinated.

Fifth, apparently, the more oral sex you've had, the greater your risk of developing throat cancer.  That's actually not new news - we already know that the more exposure you have to the virus, the greater your risk of developing cancer.  That's why they FDA won't OK the vaccine for people over 30 - the older you are, the more sex you've probably had, the more exposure you've had to the virus, the less likely the vaccine is to work because it doesn't do shit if you already have the strain it protects against.

But since no one actually knows which strains they have or have had, it's still beneficial to get the vaccine if you're over 30 and have the money for it.  If you don't have that strain, the vaccine still works.  It's just that, being over 30 means you've had more chances to have caught one of those strains, since they're the most common ones.  That's all it means by "less effective" and why it's not FDA approved.  But it's not banned either, so find a doctor to give you the vaccine off-label.  It's legal and safe, just expensive since your insurance probably won't cover it.

Doctors recommend using protection even during oral sex.  It's not "safer" than PIV sex (penis-in-vagina), you just can't get pregnant from it.  Problem is that most people don't talk about using protection for oral sex.  "It's something people are not comfortable talking about, but it is protective ... If you are going to be intimate with someone, there are some adult conversations you need to have."
joreth: (statement)

First of all, note that this is a preliminary study.  Much more research needs to go into this hypothesis, including replicating this study a couple more times.

Second, there is no indication at this time that HPV causes heart attacks or strokes, the way we know that certain strains cause cancer (to be pedantic, even those strains don't cause cancer each time, and, in fact, the vast majority of HPV cases never cause cancer at all.  This just means that, in those cases of cancer that are linked to HPV, as opposed to other cancers for which HPV is not linked, there is a causal relationship.)

This study suggests that HPV has some role to play in increasing the risk of a heart attack or stroke in women by a significant amount.  So it is very important that 1) everyone get the vaccine if there is any way possible to afford it, and 2) we start pushing for the DNA test before the pap smear, so that we can better evaluate every woman's personal risk factors.

At the moment, we currently have women get a pap smear every year.  Then, if there is abnormal activity, her smear sample is tested for HPV DNA.  Many in the research end of things think that this is backwards.  We should be getting regular DNA tests because those DNA tests will tell us how often we should be getting a pap smear.  If we have no HPV, we might only need the invasive pap every other year (HPV is not the only cause of cervical cancer or other pelvic problems for women, just the main cause).  

Tests have sort of a rise and then plateau, or sometimes a drop off, when it comes to efficacy.  We need to be tested often enough for things like cancer to catch them early, when we can best treat them.  But for all tests there comes a point at which testing more frequently does not have any better chance of catching the problem and all it does is put the individual through unnecessary and sometimes invasive procedures, wastes money, and wastes time and medical resources that could have been spent on others with fewer means.

Every test has a different slope and peak in that efficacy chart, and every individual will have their own gradation to that slope because of personal risk factors.  I, with my family history of no breast cancer, of no cancer ever, and with small breasts, am not considered to be high risk for breast cancer so I do not need a mammogram until I am much older, and I do not need them often - regular self breast exams and an annual check with my routine pap will do fine for quite a while.  A friend of mine with a family history of breast cancer, however, does need to be checked regularly, and has since her early 20s.

The HPV DNA test can help with this more personalized style of healthcare by identifying who is higher risk and increasing their screening schedule to a peak efficient timetable while giving those of lower risk a bit of a break in money, time, and discomfort involved with annual paps.  And, apparently, more than just how often we should get pap smears, knowing that we have active strains of HPV can also help us to adjust other exams like cardiovascular exams and better refine our risk category for heart attacks and strokes as well as cancers.

To remind everyone, the HPV vaccine is currently approved by the FDA for both men and women up to age 26.  Since HPV is also known to cause anal, penile, and several oral cancers, as well as be passed on asymptomatically from males to their partners (both male and female), I strongly encourage both boys and girls to get vaccinated.  The sooner they get vaccinated, the more effective the vaccine is, hence the age limit.

Which means that if you are over 26, you can *still* get the vaccine.  You have to request it "off-label".  This does not mean illegal or black market or anything bad.  It just means that the FDA thinks that the vaccine's efficacy (that is, how well it prevents HPV) drops too low in older people to justify making claims about it or including it on governmental or insurance programs.  

The logic goes like this:  If you have already been exposed to those strains of HPV, the vaccine won't do anything.  The older you are, the more likely it is that you have had sex, so the more likely it is that you have been exposed to HPV, rendering the vaccine ineffective.

And that is all true.  The problem is that most people do not know if they have been exposed to HPV or not, and out of those who have, many don't know which strains they have been exposed to.  The main reason is that for the vast majority of people, HPV doesn't actually do anything - we catch it and it just goes away in a couple of years.  Gardasil prevents the two most common cancer-causing strains and the two most common wart-causing strains, but it also seems to work against a handful of other strains that are closely related to the big four, just not as well as against those four.

So, since we don't know if we have been exposed or not, if you have the cash (or the insurance), get the vaccine which will significantly decrease your risk of genital, pelvic, and oral cancers as well as, apparently, lowering your risk of heart attacks and strokes.  And start pushing for screening for men as well as reversing the order of the testing - DNA test first and then the pap based on your personal risk level.  Talk to your healthcare provider, check with Planned Parenthood, and keep an eye out here for opportunities to sign petitions to politicians and/or policy makers regarding better personalized healthcare.

Notes: - FDA approves automated HPV DNA test. - HPV vaccine does NOT make girls more likely to be sexually active (and girls with the vaccine are more likely to use condoms when they do have sex than girls who don't get the vaccine). - HPV DNA testing is much better than pap smears & researchers recommend reversing the order to HPV test first, paps second.
joreth: (religion)
People who don't know me very well might not know that I used to be a wooager. I mean full-on, hardcore, drunk-the-Kool-Aid woo. I grew up in Northern California - I think it's something in the water there. They add it along with the flouride. Seriously though, if it was magical or occult, I believed in it. I read palms and tarot cards, I believed in ghosts, I was absolutely positive that I could tell the future, had a psychic connection with certain people, and even had some minor influence over the elements. I still have my magic amulet - a small leather bag that I made myself, to wear around my neck and carry magic items, symbols, and the physical representations of my guiding totem spirits. I blame that last one on the Clan of the Cave Bear book and the white, middle-class guilt that is so prevalent in liberal areas like the California Bay Area. Oh, and I could psychically command my dog. Sometimes.

It pains me just to write this all down, before I've posted it and before any of ya'll can read it.

Now, losing one's faith rarely actually happens in a single moment, or even on a single day. Usually, there is a long time and many instances leading up to the final step, and usually quite a few remnants hanging around in the brain like cobwebs to be dusted out for some time afterwards. Sometimes that final step isn't even noticeable as distinct from the others, so that the loss of faith feels more like a gradual fade. But sometimes it is an actual turning point, a moment when everything changes, a "click" in the brain, a lightbulb turning on. Mine was just such an event.

One of my "psychic powers" was the ability to tell when something out of the ordinary was going to happen to me before it did. Now, I had a very good education - I even was enrolled in the smart-kids program at my school, what we called Gifted And Talented Education. And in our GATE classes, where they took us geeks out of regular classes once a week and dumped us all together, all grades, into a single room, we learned about stuff that the rest of the school didn't - we covered art and music and history, and yes, critical thinking.

And yet, I managed to make it all the way to adulthood with very good logic skills and a deep internal sense of skepticism, but a shocking lack of critical thinking skills. In fact, my GATE program had an entire section on ESP and UFOs, from a completely credulous standpoint.  I value the city planning section and the American Sign Language section and the "how to write instructions for complete idiots" section (otherwise known as communication & lessons in assumptions in writing), and also the day we dissected a cow's brain.  But c'mon, UFOs and ESP?  As reality?  I wasn't equipped to tell the good lessons from the bunk at that time, creationist senator's beliefs of kid's abilities notwithstanding.

So I didn't have the tools to understand probability, particularly with respect to just how ordinary "out of the ordinary" actually is. I didn't understand logical fallacies or cognitive flaws like confirmation bias. I didn't know how to ask the types of questions that yielded realistic answers. When you start with faulty premises, you will get faulty conclusions, even if your logic is sound.

So, when my stomach started to flutter, and I started to get a little nauseated, and I became hyper-aware of my surroundings, I thought that I was having a premonition and that something unusual would happen to me soon. I had no idea that when you go anamolie hunting, unlike deer hunting, you are pretty much guaranteed to bag one and bring it home.

Finally, I made it to my mid-twenties. I met a guy who seemed so incredibly in synch with me that I just knew it couldn't be coincidence. I mean, we could read each other's minds! I could have a thought and he could say it out loud before I even opened my mouth! Given my past experience with psychic phenomena, this was totally possible (I thought), but it was kind of spooky just how tight our psychic connection seemed to be!

Then I took him home to meet my family for the holidays. I have never been a really big fan of air travel, but as a kid, I was mostly OK about it. I can read pretty much anywhere, and I can sleep pretty much anywhere, and I can also hold the contents of my bladder for a frighteningly long time. But as I got older, I got more and more bothered by riding in airplanes. Again with the lack of grasping statistics (I could calculate them in my head back then, but I didn't quite grok them, if you know what I mean - I didn't understand their implications), I became more and more uncomfortable at being out of control as a passenger in an airplane. I also started to develop motion sickness that I never had growing up, but I didn't recognize that for what it was until years later.

We boarded the plane and got our luggage stowed away and I sat down in my seat. Suddenly, I was overcome with heat, and that familiar stomach-flopping sensation tripped in my mid-section. I started to sweat and tremble and I could swear that I could hear the creaking of the joints in the plane.

I was going to die.

This flight would be my last and my parents would be waiting for me at the airport, only to be greeted by the news of the death of their eldest daughter. I could see my fate as clearly as if I were watching it on a movie screen. There was going to be a malfunction in the plane and it was going to fall out of the sky. I was going to die.

I jumped out of my seat and started speaking really fast and low "I have to get off I have to get out this plane is going to crash I can't be here I need to leave I have to get off the plane ohgodohgodohgodIhavetogetoff ..." My then-boyfriend tried to calm me down and asked what was wrong. I explained that I was having one of my premonitions and my premonitions were never wrong. He offered to let me up and we would miss the flight together if that was what I wanted to do.

That made me pause. What if I was wrong? I will have missed the flight, I will have lost all that money on the tickets, and I will look incredibly stupid to everyone who finds out why I got off that plane. But, if I'm right, I'll die.

I took a deep breath and decided to stay on the plane. Then I promptly put my head in my lap and cried. And I prayed. I prayed with all my heart to whatever benevolent deities were listening to please deliver me safely. The lady on the other side of me asked my boyfriend if I was alright. He told her that I get motion sick but that I would be fine. I cried and I mumbled to myself - to the powers that be - and rocked in my seat, absolutely positive that these would be my last thoughts on this earth and that I wouldn't be able to tell my parents that I loved them one last time. That is pretty much always my "final" thoughts before my impending demise. I've had more than one brush with death, and that's always the last thing I think before realizing that I'm actually going to survive.

As you can probably guess because you're reading this now, I did not, in fact, die in that plane crash. I meditated myself to sleep (a trick I learned years prior to combat my sleep disorder), and when I woke up, I felt an embarrassment so deep, that I don't think I had ever been that embarrassed before ... except for maybe the time I wet my pants in elementary school because I wanted ice cream from the ice cream truck and my dad didn't want to go out and get it for me, so I chose to wait in line at the truck instead of going to the bathroom and I didn't get either the ice cream or the bathroom.

The sureity that I was going to die had completely lifted by the time I woke up. My premonition was wrong! They're never wrong! Or, were they? Really, how many times had I had those premonitions? And how many times were they actually true? And out of those times, how many of those "out of the ordinary" events were really out of the ordinary? I mean, they were unusual, but how often does unusual really happen to people?

That day, I came face to face with the realization that my magic powers were gone ... or, more likely, I had never had them in the first place. Once I started to question the supernatural events in my life, I had to question them all because they were all connected. I was wrong. I had no magic powers. Magic powers didn't exist.

As I said before, the loss of faith is rarely an isolated event. I mentioned reading palms and tarot cards. I did that until I studied with a psychic medium in Lake Tahoe back in high school. I'll tell that whole story another time, but the punchline is that she told me outright that the cards and the palms are not where the truth lies. The cards and palms are merely a distraction, something for the client to focus on. What she reads is people, and the cards keep the people from realizing that she is just reading them. But learning that lesson still didn't teach me that magic wasn't real. It just told me that magic might not be exactly what I thought it was.

After the plane incident, I started questioning other things. Another story for another time is how I found out that my "psychic" boyfriend and his amazing mind-reading ability was really more computer-magic than mind-magic and that he was just spying on my internet use. But I discovered that because of the plane incident. Once I started questioning, I started finding answers. Once I no longer took magic as a given, but started insisting on evidence for it, I started to see reality.

I also learned what a "panic attack" was and discovered that I probably just had an anxiety attack and that all my "premonitions" were just anxiety that led to me post hoc-ing so-called "unusual occurrances" as the predicted event. Now that I know what anxiety attacks are and what to look for, I have only had 1 since, and I was able to get it under control fairly easily, and I have been able to keep the early tremors of anxiety from blossoming into full-blown anxiety attacks by better understanding what is happening to me. Knowing the reality of my problem led me to solutions that actually work to help me manage it, rather than allowing it to run my life.

I have to say that losing my magic powers was a boon I never would have thought it could be. If you had told me as a teenager that I would lose my magic powers and asked me how I felt about that, I would have been horrified. That would mean that I'm not special anymore, that there isn't anything about me that sets me apart from everyone else, or that makes me better than those lowlife assholes that I was hoping I could use my magic on in retaliation if I could just develop it enough. Life would be ordinary, and then there would be no hope for extraordinary. If this was all I was, then this was all I ever could be.

But I didn't understand what "this" really was. I didn't understand the sheer majesty of it all. I didn't understand how much more potential I had without my magic powers; how special I really was, how unique, and yes, how much better I was than those assholes who used to beat the crap out of me. I wanted to be connected to something greater than myself. I had no idea just how great was the "greater than" that I was really connected to. The daydreams of a bullied, frustrated, impotent, awkward teenager paled in comparison to the reality before me, just waiting to be discovered. Don't get me wrong, I still daydream of being able to fly, of knowing what is inside the heads of other people, and of justice being doled out to the assholes of the world. I still think the world would be more awesome if I could do all those things. But I no longer underestimate just how awesome the universe is without them. And I no longer underestimate just how awesome I am without them either.

That was the day I lost my magic powers, but the day I gained something much more powerful. That was the day the blind became sighted and I was granted access to the universe.
joreth: (being wise)

One of the podcasts that I only sporadically listen to is called Skeptically Speaking, and is actually a real radio show (yes, they still have those) that is recorded and uploaded to iTunes as a podcast so you can listen to it even if you are out of range. It's a good show, I just didn't discover it until I was already polysaturated, so to speak, with podcasts, so I only download those episodes that have titles I am particularly interested in.

This was one such episode. It is all about HIV and AIDS, but they start the episode out with a short bit on HPV, including a description, questions-and-answers from the audience, and a discussion of the vaccines. I highly recommend you check this out:


I have only a quibble about the episode concerning the HPV section. In that bit, the expert talks about the cost benefit of the vaccine. Now, I don't actually have a problem with a discussion on cost-benefits. I can separate out my emotions from my ethics from the practical considerations. I believe it is the right thing, the safe thing, and the ethical thing to encourage vaccinations in men and women. But I can also see that the cost analysis of the vaccine, from both a personal decision perspective and from a governmental budgetary standpoint, might recommend that HPV vaccination is lower on the priority list than other vaccinations, or even other programs.

No, my quibble is that I think the expert left out a major factor that could affect both an individual person's and a governmental agency's decisions regarding the cost-benefit analysis. He points out that cervical cancer is almost entirely caused by HPV, and that cervical cancer is one of the most common forms of cancer in women. Therefore, it is to the benefit of both an individual and the government agencies concerned with public health issues to ensure that women get vaccinated.

But only a very small percentage of the male population get any sort of genital cancer from HPV - namely anal cancer. According to this expert (and I didn't check his facts, so I'll take it at face value for now), pretty much the only men who get anal cancer are MSM or men who have sex with men (this includes men who are not "gay", as a self-identifier). MSM is a statistically significantly small portion of the population, and of that small portion, only a small number of THEM get anal cancer.

So, from a purely cost-benefit perspective, it may not be the most efficient use of resources to make sure all men get vaccinated, and it may not be the highest priority of men who do not fit into the high risk category to spend their money on a vaccine that probably won't help them out in any way. The reason for men to get vaccinated, according to this expert, is to protect a future female partner (which is, I think, a worthy reason, but I can see why it might take a back seat due to finances).

My quibble is that this expert did not mention anything at all about oral cancers and HPV. The latest statistics (for which I don't have time to cite at the moment) now say that HPV is the leading cause of all oral cancers (mouth, tongue, throat, etc.). Not necessarily because HPV-caused oral cancers are rising (they are, but not much), but because smoking is dropping. But what that means is that now the majority of all oral cancers can be prevented by a vaccine.

It is possible that, if you add up all the numbers of oral cancers in men and women, those cancers caused by HPV, cost of the vaccine, etc., it might still be not cost-effective to encourage mass vaccination of men. I haven't added up the numbers, so that is one possible outcome. I'm disappointed that the expert didn't mention oral cancers at all. Maybe only 1% of all men in the US ever get HPV-caused anal cancer, and we can predict 99% of that 1% based on behaviour, so maybe that isn't worth it to push for mandatory male vaccination, whereas mandatory female vaccination has a much better cost-benefit analysis. But maybe enough men get HPV-caused oral cancers that the number could actually tip the balance in favor of mass male vaccination. I would have liked for him to at least mention it.

But aside for that bit, the episode is informative and fairly easy to understand, so I recommend giving it a listen.

joreth: (Dobert Demons of Stupidity)
I'm listening to a podcast episode right now that's really bouncing around a variety of topics, but the main theme is how we cannot have logic without emotion and how thought is a physical process. I don't want to get into such a science-heavy topic because that's not the point I want to make and I'm fuzzy on the nitty-gritty details. But within the larger topic, the host and the guest got to a point of conservativism vs. liberalism. And the guest (whose name escapes me) said something that kind of boggled my mind. And I'm still thinking it through.

Anyone who is familiar with the Skeptics Movement(TM) knows about the so-called schism between the "militant atheists" and the apologists (and, I just have to point out how much I fucking hate the term "militant" with regards to atheists. "Militant" is taking up arms in support of your cause, not writing fucking blog posts and books, no matter how loudly one yells "there is no god!" Ahem.) So, in the one camp are those who say we should say it loud, say it proud and stop being wishy-washy, nambsy-pambsy, mealy-mouthed cowtowers to the conservative Right. The other camp says we should be nice and try to find common ground and just accommodate them a little bit because we don't want to alienate anyone.

Ya'll should know which side of this debate I fall on.

The camp that sides with volume and strength has pointed out that the conservative Right has been incredibly successful at winning their battles by using these exact methods. The difference is, the argument goes, that we aren't *just* being loud, we're also backing up our shouting with facts that support what we're yelling about, so we're loud, but we're also right. The other camp says that no one likes to be yelled at, so the middle ground will side with the conservatives just because they don't like our tone. And besides, we don't *like* the other side, so we shouldn't emulate them! We should be distancing ourselves from them, not copying their methods.

Well, according to this scientist, there's a reason for for all this. *He* says that fMRI tests suggest that the reason why people can hold contradictory beliefs in their minds at the same time is because when one section of the brain that corresponds to one type of belief is firing, it cancels out the other section, the one that corresponds to the contradictory belief. It's like a breaker - if you activate conservativism, you shut off liberalism and vice versa.

So, he says, when a conservative wants to convince a middle-grounder who holds a some liberal and some conservative views (which is pretty much most of us) of the conservative position, the conservative doesn't try to find middle ground. Instead, he moves further to the Right because he's trying, basically, to deactivate the liberal portion of the listener's brain by pounding it with conservativism.

Yeah, seriously.

Oh, I'm sure the conservative isn't aware that he's doing this - it's not some rational, science-based game plan. Somewhere along the line, the fundies noticed that the more extremely conservative they got, the more followers they got. And they exploit that trick. So when they're shouting from the pulpits sounding like complete lunatics to people like me, others are hearing them and their liberal breaker gets flipped, and the conservative side of their brains kick in and start thinking "y'know? That guy kinda makes sense!"


The guest then went on to say that the Democrats just haven't figured this out yet. The Democrats (he specified them) are doing the apologist/find-common-ground method to try and win converts. So they moderate their message and tone it down and go a bit more conservative in their effort to sound friendly towards conservatives. And that doesn't win them converts, it just increases the ranks of conservatives. Which is why we have the Wingnut Party and the Republican-Light Party.

So, because I don't know who this guest is, and because I don't know the science behind this, I hesitate to actually endorse it. But, and I'm fully aware of confirmation bias here, this certainly fits my own observations of the world. I continue to be baffled, no, shocked absolutely dumbstruck, at how these wackaloons can get such large followings. I listen to these idiots and the pure bile that comes out of their mouths and I think "how in the world can anyone hear this shit and take them seriously?" And I have no explanation for that, because there really is no lack of intelligence on the conservative side. In fact, quite a lot of conservatives are extremely intelligent. So I just don't get it.

The fundagelicals and the Rethuglicans (I use those slurs intentionally, because not every theist or Republican is the barking moon-bat crazy that these terms more accurately describe) appear to actually be winning converts and followers by doing exactly those things that make my jaw drop - by being extreme and totally out there. That also explains why, in spite of the reasoned arguments of the Don't Be A Dick lobby claiming that "people are swayed by niceness", the biggest names in the skeptics, atheist, and/or liberal movements are considered dicks - PZ Myers, Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, and all the most well-known comedians who are most certainly Not Nice to religionists such as George Carlin, Jon Stewart, Billy Connelly, Eddie Izzard, Tim Minchin, Matt & Trey, Penn & Teller, etc. It's true that there are plenty of nice and famous people too, but if the apologist argument was true - that nobody likes to be yelled at (which, technically, is not what's happening, but that's another rant) and people prefer nice guys, then these famous Dicks shouldn't be so popular.

And, according to this podcast, the reason why is because inundating a person who holds a combination of liberal and conservative viewpoints with an extreme version of one or the other viewpoint activates that side and deactivates the other, so that the listener's decisions are then made using the emotions that are more prominantly featured by that particular viewpoint. In other words, the more extreme conservatives win converts while the moderate liberals trying to be nice just chalk up more points for the conservatives.

And that's a scary thought.
joreth: (statement)

We haven't heard much new about HPV over the last several months. Mostly, it's been minor news about specifically which category of person the FDA has approved to take the various HPV vaccines (girls and boys under 30, but not over 30) or new home test kits that haven't yet made it to market.

Reminder: the vaccine being "approved" for a certain category doesn't mean those not in that category CAN'T take it, it means that the company can't make any claims of successful treatment for those categories, and, consequently, many insurance plans won't cover it for those category.   The current evidence suggests that efficacy is decreased with age (because of likely previous exposure), but not eliminated.  So if you have the cash but are not in the "approved" category, I still recommend you find a doctor to give it to you "off-label" (which is completely legal).

Anyway, while testing an anti-HIV drug, researchers discovered that a drug called Lopinavir actually kills HPV-infected, pre-cancerous cells while leaving uninfected adjoining cells alone.

This could be extremely exciting news if it follows through on its promises and scales up to humans. So far, this drug works in petri dishes on actual human HPV-infected cells that have not yet turned cancerous but are the closest thing to pre-cancerous. In order to work on HPV, the cells require 15 times more drug than the HIV-infected cells, so this will not be available in pill form, but researchers speculate that a topical cream could deliver the appropriate dose.

At the moment, the US has a backwards system, in part because of the awesome work that was done in the past with making female reproductive health care such a priority. Currently, women get a pap smear done, which is collecting cells directly from the cervix and then looking at them under a microscope to see if there are any abnormal ones. Then, if there are, several tests are done to figure out why they are abnormal and if that abnormality is bad, including an HPV DNA test. The research community believe this is the wrong order, but the medical practice community is slow to change (partly because of financial concerns) with the newly available HPV tests.

The research community thinks that we should be having the HPV DNA test done first, to see who is even at risk for cervical cancer, and then when we have determined who actually has HPV, those women would go on a frequent pap smear schedule to watch for changes in the cervix, so they can be treated immediately, while those without HPV can go on a longer pap smear schedule (like HPV-infected women get paps every year or 6 months and women without HPV get them every 2 or 3 years, for example).

Then, with this new drug, should it pan out, instead of bothering with frequent pap smears, women who test positive for HPV DNA could just get the cream, kill all the affected cells, do another DNA test to make sure it's gone, then go back to the more infrequent schedule.

Paps would still be important, however, because HPV is responsible for something like 70% of all cervical cancers and is now the leading cause of oral cancers (thanks to smoking dropping in popularity), but that still leaves 30% of cancers that are not caused by HPV (I may have my percentages wrong, but the point is the same - some cancers are not caused by HPV).  And it is our collective access to pap smears & LEEP procedures that make the mortality rate of cervical cancer so very low in this country (no thanks to the GOP defunding Planned Parenthood).  
Also, do remember that even though HPV is responsible for such a high percentage of cancers, the percentage of people with HPV who *get* those cancers is very low.  In other words, 80% of women will contract HPV in their lifetimes.  But only a sliver of them will actually get cancer from it.  The vast majority of women simply pass the virus through their system with little to no effect.  It is for that sliver of women that these journal posts, and the research and the vaccines and the procedures, are so important.  Being one of those women certainly doesn't make one feel good to know that they're statistically in the minority, but let's also remember that this is important to be concerned about, not to panic about.  Regular checkups go a long way towards reducing and minimizing the likelihood of serious complications, but too-often checkups do not increase your chances and can actually have detrimental effects.  Current recommendations are pap smears & breast exams once every 2 years if you are not in a high-risk category.  I recommend annually if you have multiple partners regardless of your risk status.  More frequently is not necessary unless your physician has recommended it based on your personal risk level or if you have a known exposure to an aggressive strain of HPV.

The articles I have read so far have not been very clear on the specific mechanism involved, only to say that the drug "re-activat[es] known antiviral defence systems" that HPV switch off. So this drug could, potentially, eliminate or reduce all viral infections, but not necessarily be that magical "cure for cancer" that everyone is hoping for.
joreth: (boxed in)
  • Courage: to tell the story of who you are with your whole heart.
  • We can't practice compassion with other people if we can't first treat ourselves kindly.
  • You can't form connections without being willing to let go of who you "should" be in order to be who you are.
  • Whole-hearted people are those who fully embrace vulnerability, who believe that what makes them vulnerable makes them beautiful, and that results in a strong sense of worthiness.
  • Vulnerability is the core of shame, fear, struggle for worthiness. But also birthplace of joy, creativity, belonging, love.
These quotes and paraphrases are from a TEDTalk by Brene Brown on her research into vulnerability.  These sentiments remind me strongly of [ profile] tacit and his approach to life.  This is how I view the world too, but it took me a while longer to get here.

Brene Brown studies human connection -- our ability to empathize, belong, love. In a poignant, funny talk at TEDxHouston, she shares a deep insight from her research, one that sent her on a personal quest to know herself as well as to understand humanity.
joreth: (polyamory)
Conveniently, someone wrote an article in Psychology Today about how open marriages are healthier than closed marriages. It cites the contributing factor as a relationship that encourages and supports personal growth and change - and that growth and change is facilitated through interactions with others.

Sounds kinda familiar.

It also makes the point that sexual relationships are not mandatory for achieving this growth and change, which is a point I made too. But I maintain that personal growth and change is correlated with the level of intimacy of the relationship that fosters it - so a person who has no or few intimate relationships with people other than the spouse is a person who has little opportunity to have the kinds of experiences that foster exactly that kind of personal growth and change, whereas a person who has several intimate relationships (platonic or not) has just that many more opportunities for experiences that foster that kind of personal growth and change. And that romantic relationships, by their very nature, tend to be extremely intimate, and therefore likely to be more influential on the people in them. And, therefore, people with multiple, simultaneous, intimate relationships are more likely to have the opportunity to have those kinds of experiences that foster personal growth and change, and therefore become an incredibly rich and nuanced type of person.

Polyamory, by its very nature, requires that we either embrace, or learn to adjust to, change. And here we've just seen that change can lead to personal growth, which usually leads to the highest degree of satisfaction in marriages.

Of course, not all polyamorists are enthusiastic about the idea of change, not all use their relationships as a vehicle for personal growth (some don't see it as being about "growth" but about "getting my needs met" and some think they're very well enlightened enough, thank you very much), and not all relationships are satisfactory just because they're labeled "polyamorous". We're still human, after all, and still prone to make many of the same mistakes (and invent a few new ones, just to spice things up) as monogamists do. But, if you're wondering why we go through the trouble of maintaining multiple relationships, how we can possibly love someone when we're already "in love" with someone, what are the benefits to being polyamorous, that's one of them.
joreth: (Dobert Demons of Stupidity)
I originally made a list of podcast episodes that I was compiling for a sample CD of skeptical topics. I have been unable to produce a small enough file containing all the audio in the list that I could reasonably upload or have people reasonably download. But I have put together my discs and I handed out my first one today.

I have made 3 discs - one for religious episodes, one for pseudoscience episodes, and a DVD with video episodes of both. I also rearranged the episodes so that they were grouped together by topic, instead of by show. I believe it will be easier for people to find the episodes they want to listen to, since they won't have any idea who the show producers are anyway, so "Skeptoid" or "Quackcast" won't mean anything to them. This way, they also may have a couple of shows to choose from on the same topic that they can find easily, and can switch to another show's episode if the one they're listening to isn't doing anything for them, like if they don't like the format or the host or something.

In case people are interested, here is my recommended episode playlist, with all the episodes in order )

Data Dump

Dec. 15th, 2010 10:24 pm
joreth: (authority)
I've had these tabs open for ages, meaning to write a post about them, and I never seem to get around to it.  So I'm throwing them all in one post: - New Discovery May Offer Cure for Human Papillomavirus (HPV). "Test results confirming two of our lead compounds showed excellent in vitro antiviral activity and no cellular toxicity at dose levels tested for Human Papillomavirus (HPV). Testing was performed using the HPV 11 strain, which along with HPV type 6, is responsible for ninety percent of genital or anal warts." - Marinomed's iota-carrageenan effective against H1N1. "In animal experiments, Carrageenan demonstrated equivalent efficacy when compared to the drug Tamiflu". - Evolutionary history of partible paternity in lowland South America. "Partible paternity, the conception belief that more than one man can contribute to the formation of a fetus, is common in lowland South America and characterized by nonexclusive mating relationships and various institutionalized forms of recognition and investment by multiple cofathers." - "JourneyQuest is a fantasy comedy web series from the creators of "The Gamers" and "The Gamers: Dorkness Rising"." - "The Enemies of Reason is a two-part television documentary, written and presented by evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins. ... Watch the full documentary now" - " aggregate all the Atheist, Pro-Science and Free-Thinking Songs, under the one roof." (I need to comb through this and add songs to my Atheist Music YouTube Playlist - The Rap Guide to Human Nature by Baba Brinkman "Immediate download of 19-track album in your choice of 320k mp3, FLAC, or just about any other format you could possibly desire. Buy Now name your price" - Rationalist Kids Show Martha Speaks The Truth
joreth: (Dobert Demons of Stupidity)
Holy crap! Bookmark this page!

Remember that whole Skeptics CD List I put together? Yeah, this goes way above and beyond! Save it, use it.
joreth: (Xmas Kitties)
 So, it's the holidays, and being a member of several minority groups, everyone wants to know how I handle the traditional holiday season as a non-traditional person.  I was interviewed for a UK magazine about how polys spend the holidays, because apparently the idea that we spend them pretty much the same way monogamous people do is an unusual concept.  I'm also reading The Atheist's Guide To Christmas, a book I have been curious about for some time.  I know it's difficult to imagine, but atheists, and polys, are actually made up of more than one person, and sometimes we actually have different thoughts, ideas, wants, likes, and dislikes!  Shocking, but true.  So that means that there isn't a single way to exist during the holiday season, for either polys or atheists.  But with everyone reminding me that I'm "different", it got me to thinking ... how does a skeptical polyamorous atheist deal with a holiday that is more or less seen as a religious family holiday?  Apparently, people want to know.

I can only answer for myself.  Everyone else will have a different story, just like every monogamist and every religious person will have a different story.  Because, and here's another shock, they're not all the same person either!

How do Polys spend the Holidays? )

Shouldn't I be out in the trenches, fighting the War On Christmas? )

So, Happy Holidays everyone, whichever holiday you celebrate!  And if you refuse to accept my wishes for a good holiday because I didn't specify *your* holiday, then you don't deserve my wishes for a good holiday anyway.
joreth: (Dobert Demons of Stupidity)
I am appalled by your uncaring, criminally negligent promotion of any charlatan that crosses your path. I am holding you personally responsible for the upcoming death of Kim Tinkham. She took your recommendation for The Secret and other medically unsound advice, and is now dying of a cancer that could have been prevented.

You should feel ashamed and guilty at the part you played in her death. You are the most powerful woman in the world; what you say, your readers take as Gospel; what you endorse, your readers accept as Truth, trusting you to have done the proper research before presenting it to them. They are not stupid, make no mistake that I am insulting their intelligence. They are human, and people trust important celebrities like you to not deceive them when they present pseudoscience as science and lies as fact.

You have had Kim Tinkham on your show and I will give you credit for looking uncomfortable when she admitted to eschewing all proper medical attention for her cancer. But you continue to promote The Secret, which is directly responsible for her decision to do so, and you promote hucksters like John of God, with his obviously fake parlor tricks that have been revealed and denounced decades ago.

Kim Tinkham is responsible for her own decisions, and her "doctor", Robert O. Young is not just criminally negligent, but criminally murderous for his role in Kim's (and others') case. But you are responsible for encouraging and spreading the types of lies and myths that result in otherwise intelligent and educated people like Kim pursuing these quacks and snake-oil nostrums. You have such a broad reach, that one whisper from you is like that fateful butterfly whose wings cause a breeze that results in a tsunami on the other side of the world.

As trite as it may seem, coming from a comic book movie, "with great power comes great responsibility". You, Ms. Winfrey, have great power to influence millions of people. You are not living up to your responsibility. If you can't handle this kind of responsibility, if you can only palm it off on your audience by leaving it up to them to do the research your money and staff should have been doing before you promoted the quackery you did, then you do not deserve your power.

Do the honorable thing and possibly redeem a portion of the respect that the legitimate science community has lost for you by retracting your support for The Secret, John of God, and the other quacks who convince your audience that wishful thinking can cure their cancers or that the "medical establishment" is "out to get them". You have the power to actually influence the tide of public opinion in this country, and you could contribute to the improvement of health of the entire nation if only you wielded your power for good.

Do the right thing.

(posted as an Open Letter on my blog at

(Want to write a letter to? Want to know what this is all about?
joreth: (::headdesk::)
Oh for fuck's sake, now AMC is swearing that they are not going to show that PSA, that whoever is saying they are is lying. Fuck this. I will wait until Black Friday, when the PSA is supposed to air, then find out exactly which theaters have actually played that damn PSA, and boycott THEM ... or just avoid the movie theaters entirely until this whole mess is over. Not like I go to the movies much anymore anyway. I still sent off my angry letters, including to the ad distributor company, so that everyone will be flooded (hopefully) with warnings about the inadvisability of playing such a dangerous and fraudulent "PSA".

The whole story, including links
joreth: (Dobert Demons of Stupidity)
Because I like lists, I made a new list. My favorite Skeptic, Science, and Atheist Podcasts list. I made a post a while back with specific episodes of specific podcasts for a Podcast Sample CD as an introduction to skepticism (either pseudoscience/paranormal or religion), particularly for people who do not listen to podcasts or have an iPod, but this is just an overall list of my favorite podcasts.

If you click on the link that takes you to the Listal page for each list, you can get widges and embed codes to include these lists in your own blog or webpage.  I will be posting this list on my website soon as a resources that will hopefully be easier to find than an LJ entry lost in the archives. But for now, it's here:

Skeptical, Science, & Atheist Podcasts at Listal

My other lists include:

Skeptic Movies
also found at

Pro-Skeptical & Pro-Science Movies at Listal

Poly-ish Movies
also found at

Polyamorous & Poly-ish Movies at Listal

Poly Books
also found at

Polyamory Books at Listal
joreth: (Dobert Demons of Stupidity)

Oh for fuck's sake, now AMC is swearing that they are not going to show that PSA, that whoever is saying they are is lying.  Fuck this.  I will wait until Black Friday, when the PSA is supposed to air, then find out exactly which theaters have actually played that damn PSA, and boycott THEM ... or just avoid the movie theaters entirely until this whole mess is over.  Not like I go to the movies much anymore anyway.  I still sent off my angry letters, including to the ad distributor company, so that everyone will be flooded (hopefully) with warnings about the inadvisability of playing such a dangerous and fraudulent "PSA".


OK so AMC lied and they will be showing the PSA.  Not only are they showing this dangerous PSA, but they outright lied too.  It's not just AMC, it's Regal and Cinemark.  It's going to be a movie-free holiday season for me :-(  I'm pissed, I really wanted to see Harry Potter on the big screen, and I even had plans to do so today.  So much for that.


So it was not AMC after all, but Regal Cinemas.  Boycott is back on, for Regal instead of AMC


AMC Theaters has promised not to show this PSA, so no boycott is necessary. Thank goodness at least *some* businesses have managers with a conscience!

To Whom It May Concern,

I just heard about your decision to show a PSA from the anti-vaccine group Safe Minds during the Harry Potter/holiday season. This decision is HIGHLY irresponsible. This so-called PSA contains misinformation and lies, advocates that people do not get vaccinated, & specifically targets high-risk populations like pregnant mothers.

I realize that, as a private business, you have the legal right to accept a paying client and play their commercial on your screens. I also recognize that you can get out of any culpability or accountability by posting a disclaimer somewhere that says the messages in those commercials do not reflect the views held by the theater. But playing this particular PSA is a public health danger. You will be personally contributing to the increased deaths of children this holiday season by allowing this message to reach your audience.

I find this reprehensible & will avoid all Regal, AMC, and Cinemark theaters until this PSA is removed. Expect to hear more angry and concerned complaints. A movie boycott during the holiday season is nothing to overlook.

For more info:

Angry Movie Watcher

to send your own complaint, visit their feedback form and/or sign the Dissatisfaction Form at I also highly recommend sending a letter directly to the National Cinemedia company who are the distributors for the ad. I sent this letter today.
joreth: (Super Tech)
I am often confronted with the "barefoot is better" people, and, frankly, they drive me nuts. First, let me preface this with the fact that I grew up barefoot. I grew up in a mostly temperate climate, on the swim team, and in a neighborhood with lush lawns & smooth asphalt streets. I LIKE being barefoot, and I often do not wear shoes unless I'm going outside. As a kid, I didn't even wear shoes outside either, and as an adult, I won't wear shoes if I'm running out to the car or the mailbox. When I did deign to wear shoes to school as a kid, they were shoes with the least amount of restriction (in fact, I spent the better part of high school actually wearing moccasins to school). But I have a serious problem with the "barefoot is better" people.

The basic position is that people evolved to be barefoot, not wear shoes, so wearing shoes is bad for us - all of us (usual disclaimer here about if you don't do this, then I'm not talking about you). There are also some woo reasons, but I'll save that for another time. There are two main problems with this position. 1) The Naturalistic Fallacy. This assumes that anything natural is automatically "better". 2) The assumption or premise that people evolved until a few thousand years ago and then stopped, making all modern technology & achievements "unnatural".

First of all, not everything that is natural is better. Nature does not make "perfect", it makes "good enough". And there are plenty of things wrong with nature. I won't get into them all here, but Skeptoid covers some relevant points. Sometimes, many times even, humans have improved on nature, making life easier, more productive, and qualitatively better than before. Some modern shoes fall under this category. Obviously, some do not.

Second, though, is the idea that we evolved to a certain point, responding to natural selection and environmental pressure, but do not continue to evolve in response to man-made environmental pressure (which they then assume that evolving to accommodate those "unnatural" environmental pressures is a bad thing). Early forms of shoes were mostly made of organic materials, like animal hides & plant materials. These do not lend themselves to preservation over the millenia. But we have actually made a pretty good estimation on when humans started wearing shoes partly because that's when the human pinky toe started shrinking (if I can find the link to this study, I'll post it).

Note, these were not the tight, foot-cramping, heel-elevating shoes of the Rennaissance England (or modern-day Manhattan - I'm looking at you, Sex And The City!), nor the foot-binding techniques of China. These were the moccasin-type shoes that the pro-barefoot websites claim are the closest thing to being barefoot (historically) & therefore acceptable to wear. Nevertheless, pinky toes began to shrink. And they did not just shrink because they were squeezed in every generation, the trait was passed on through natural selection & environmental pressures to children so that successive generations were *born with* smaller pinky toes. Naturally, this variation is not a constant - those societies that continued to shun footwear for generations later tend to have flatter feet with longer pinky toes.
The human body isn't designed as much for "finish product = X", but rather with a lot of coding that starts with "If X, then Y".  This means that the genes mostly express a lot of potential for certain traits, and what we end up with is actually a matter of how other things affect the finished product, and not nearly as much definitive end results as we like to think.  That's ad hoc ergo propter hoc - we ended up this way, therefore it must have been because we're supposed to be this way.  Think of it this way:  rather than a map with landmarks & an itinerary based on knowing where gas stations & restaurants are on the way to a fixed location, life is more like someone setting out on a stroll with no real destination in mind, deciding to eat when there is hunger, choosing the meal based on the available options when you get there, and ending the stroll based on what you find along the way, not on a set time limit.  Life seems to be very "P" that way, and we keep wanting to make it more "J" (Meyers-Briggs joke).

But the smaller toe & higher arch managed to be selected *for* and some people, and even some ethnicities, are much less suited to running around barefoot on the savannah than others.

I happen to have an extremely high arch and a very small, almost useless, pinky toe. I also have weak ankles, bad knees, back problems, poor circulation, and a potassium deficiency that causes my toes to cramp up if I point them or try to grip things with them.  These things have always been so.

Remember, I went barefoot for most of my life. I used to hike barefoot & run in the street on asphalt barefoot. I have *always* had weak ankles and a bad back, and my knees & circulation got worse over time.  The foot cramping fluctuates depending on if I've had enough potassium lately.

Modern shoes save me considerable pain and suffering from my "natural" bare feet. Just the other week, in fact, I found myself standing in the kitchen (which has a tile floor), barefoot, cooking. I was doing a LOT of cooking, and ended up standing for several hours. After a couple of those hours had passed, my back was aching & my knees were starting to lock up on me and I felt the beginnings of a migrane starting behind my eyes. So I went into my room, put on my ultra-cushy Crocs sandals, and instantly my back & knee pain eased. I was able to stand for several *more* hours with less pain even than when I started the day, and I needed no painkillers.

It is true that shoes change a person's gait. When I run barefoot, I run on my toes. When I run in shoes, I run on my heels. And studies back up my anecdotal data point - most people do this. But, those same pro-barefoot websites say that it's bad to always be on the toes. That's one of the main complaints with today's shoes, particularly women's shoes. And, for me, it puts a lot more pressure on my knees than running on my heel (and I don't run enough to develop shin splints). So, while it's true that shoes affect certain things, I'm not convinced that those affectations are necessarily bad things. When we have poor eyesight, we wear glasses. When we have poor hearing, we get hearing aides. When our teeth come in crooked, we get braces. I have yet to be convinced that modern shoes, those that place a priority on comfort and health, are a net negative to the human body in general.

I can easily see why women's fashion heels are considered a detriment. They certainly hurt my feet, my back, my knees & ankles, and give me a headache. But I've also had dance heels that catered to foot care that I could wear for hours, dancing on hardwood floors, and not feel any worse than dancing barefoot or in sneakers (and the proper dance shoes actually cause me *less* discomfort than dancing barefoot), even with my bad knees, ankles, and back.

But that does not hold true for all shoe styles or for all people. Going barefoot my whole adolescence did not prevent me from having weak ankles. They did not magically strengthen on their own. High-top shoes with ankle support relieve the pain of my naturally weak ankles, and my unnaturally weak right one that was broken when I was 13. I have poor circulation, again, something I've always had. Going barefoot does not improve my circulation. Wearing socks and close-toed shoes keep my feet warmer than going barefoot. When my back is hurting, wearing more supportive shoes with the proper amount (for me) of cushion & firmness in the right (for me) places improves my back pain. Not to mention the counless times I've been saved from amputation or pulverizing when something heavy fell on my toes while I was wearing steel-toe boots. Fungus has never been a problem because I properly air out my shoes at night and change my socks regularly.

All in all, going barefoot has either caused, or not prevented, significant health problems that well-crafted footwear has actively corrected. And don't even get me started on my mother, who has bone spurs, and can't even walk across the living room in bare feet, and whose special orthopedic shoes enable her to function in society, and in her own house. She did not get bone spurs from Mahnolos, she often walked barefoot and when she did wear shoes, they were low-heeled and sensible, preferring quality tennis shoes to dress shoes or sandals.

I have no doubt that some people find going barefoot improves their quality of life in some way. As I stated at the very beginning of this piece, I, too, enjoy being barefoot.  I certainly don't lounge around on the couch with my feet over the arm while wearing shoes.  But it is not the panacea of all ills that some claim, and it is not the "best" method just because it's "natural". What is "best" depends on each individual person (the human species has an wonderful amount of variation), and modern technology has a steady track record for consistently (over time) improving on "nature". I think I might like the ability to take off my legs and attach those springy metal ones to go running in, for instance. That seems like a huge improvement to me, and the Powers That Be in running seem to agree, since amputee runners are banned from competition with able-bodied runners because they have an "unfair advantage" - you know, those people who do not have feet to bare, who don't have nerve endings feeling the soil, and who have no soles from which their qi can flow into the earth and back again, renewed, or something.

For me, being barefoot when I am not standing or walking much, and when there is something soft and cushy underfoot to absorb the shock instead of my knees and back absorbing it, is great. But if I am at work, where big heavy things fall regularly & I'm standing a lot of the time, if I am on hard surfaces, if I am dancing, or if I am standing or walking for more than a few minutes at a time, the proper shoes for the activity significantly increase my own quality of life and improve upon the imperfect body that nature saw fit to bestow upon me.

If individuals claim that they feel better doing certain activities barefoot, or being barefoot more often, then I'm happy for them. But PLEASE stop telling me that going barefoot is the best method for all people because it's "natural", or that I'll feel better without shoes. No, it's not the best method for everyone, "natural" is not always better, and I think I'm a better judge of what will make me feel better than some stranger or aquaintance on the internet or at work, having been experimenting with my body for more than 3 decades now. If you don't have a medical degree, and haven't actually examined me personally, do not tell me that I am wrong when I make a statement about what's best for me. You cannot make any statements about the entire human race without being intellectually dishonest, and unless you have robust, peer-reviewed studies (plural) to back up your point, don't even tell me that something is good for "most people". You can tell me that something worked *for you* and if it doesn't contradict known science, then I'll take your word for it. Please afford me the same courtesy.

Related rants: The Five Finger Shoes are often held up by people who try to convince me that *these* shoes are the most like going barefoot and therefore "better" because it reverts to "natural" while still protecting your feet from glass on the sidewalk, or something.  BS, these things are fucking uncomfortable to me and have all the same problems with going barefoot that being barefoot does.  Again, I get that *you* might find them comfortable, but don't make the mistake that natural is better or that everyone will benefit from them.  It's not and they won't.

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April 2019



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