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: (anger)
Alright, let's get this down on "paper", so to speak, so that I don't have to keep retyping it several times every December.  It's the time of year for That Song.  You know the one.  The creepy date rape song.  "But it's not rapey!   It's about feminine empowerment!  Historical context!  It gave women an excuse in a time when they couldn't be openly sexual and needed an excuse to do what they wanted to do!"


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That's some fucked up shit.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


How's that for context?

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

joreth: (polyamory)

Thanks to some experiences with people who use "agreements" as weapons and who also hide their abusive behaviour behind social justice language, I have become extremely averse to words like "agreements" and the casual use of the term "rules".

I was always pretty anti-rule, but a lot of things are treated as rules while being called other things. And I've discovered that the words we use are important because they subtly and subconsciously influence how we think and view our partners and other people, especially when we use agency-denying language in jest or casually.

So I have written an answer to the common question "what are your relationship agreements" that I'd like to archive on my blog to share every time the question comes up:

I don’t have very many “agreements”. I learned the hard way a long time ago that some people use the word “agreement” as a blunt object with which to beat partners over the head. I don’t do “rules”, which are things that are imposed on other people that dictate their behaviour (and sometimes their emotions and choices). I do “boundaries” which are lines that I draw around myself where I don’t want other people to cross.

Some people treat “agreements” like “rules”. You can usually tell that someone is treating an agreement like a rule when you discover what happens when someone “breaks” the “agreement” or wants to change it. If there are punishments, if breaking or changing the agreement is seen as a “betrayal”, then it’s probably a rule in disguise.

What I do is, I have certain things that I *prefer* to do with my own body, and I tell my partners what those things are so that they know what to expect of me. If I change my behaviour for any reason, then I notify my partners as soon as possible that I’ve done or am planning to do something different, so that they can make informed decisions about their own body (mind, emotions, time, etc.) based on my choices.

The things that I prefer to do is to get tested once a year for HIV, gonorrhea, syphilis, & chlamydia (what I refer to as The Big Four) and also HSV +1&2. If I have not had any new partners in the last 6 months, and my ongoing, regular partners have not had any new partners, then I might skip a testing period. But if I am considering taking a new partner then I will get tested right before so that my tests are the most current possible. Then I also prefer to get tested about 2 weeks after I take on a new sexual partner.

I prefer to see the actual tests results on paper for my partners before we have genital contact or fluid transfer for the first time, and 2 weeks after any ongoing partners take on a new sexual partner. I also prefer to keep an open dialog with all potential partners and ongoing partners about our sexual history, our current STD test results, our interests in potential new partners, etc.

I tend to use condoms only for birth control, and I tend to prefer having sex with men who have had vasectomies so that I don’t have to use condoms for birth control. I don’t consider condoms alone to be sufficient protection in the absence of discussing sexual history, STI testing, and sexual patterns so I don’t generally have even barriered sex with people I’m not comfortable having unbarriered sex with.

I prefer to choose sexual partners who have similar STI risk profiles as me - people who prefer to get tested regularly, only have sex with partners who get tested regularly, who openly and frequently discuss sexual risk and history and behaviour, who tend to have a relatively stable number of partners, who have had vasectomies, and who have paper test results that they are willing to share with me.

We do not make “agreements” to do these things, these are just things that I tend to do and I prefer to date people who also tend to do these things. Should either of us make choices that differ from anything we discussed that our partners can expect from us, then we talk to each other about the different choices we have made (or want to make), and we each evaluate the new situation and make our respective choices based on the new information.

I have found this to be the most statistically likely to prevent me from unwanted consequences for sex and to also be the most respectful of everyone’s agency. This allows everyone to be in charge of themselves, to have complete autonomy over their body, mind, emotions, and choices, and to still respect the risk we might place on our partners through our decisions.

**Added**  I  received a comment on my Facebook post of this article and I like my response to it that I'm adding it here.  The comment was about a person who responds negatively to agreements being broken, not because they're "rules" but because they believe their partners should find them safe enough to come to them and renegotiate any agreements that aren't working instead of just breaking them, because their own personal integrity requires them to keep any agreements they make and so only make agreements that they can keep, and because many times people will break an agreement and then dismiss this person's upset feelings as if they are not responsible for breaking their trust.

Here is my response:

And that's exactly why I don't make agreements. I basically treat them as promises, and I don't make promises that I can't keep. For most things, since I can't tell the future, I can't guarantee that I can keep an agreement or a promise. And, yeah, when trust is broken, it's understandable that someone would be upset and want that broken trust to be acknowledged.

For most reasonable people, things like "we both agree to pay half the rent" and then a few months in, having a conversation that goes "honey, I don't think I can make my share anymore, can we change this agreement?" are conversations that are had and people don't generally flip out about one person "betraying" them if they can't make their share anymore.

Those are expectations and agreements about how two people are going to treat *each other*. You will pay for half our our shared expenses, and I will pay for half our our shared expenses, and that is how we will help each other survive.

But most of the abuse that I see comes from "agreements" between two people about what one person will do *with their own body, mind, emotions, and time*. When someone makes an "agreement" about what they will do with their own body, time, mind, and emotions, and then they change their mind about that, whether it's something talked about before or after the fact, the other person they made that agreement with takes that as a personal betrayal, even though it was the first person's sole property, so to speak, to do with what they will, "agreement" notwithstanding.

The casual way that people mix these two types of "agreements" up under the same label of "agreements" is the danger, and, in my experience, most people are not savvy enough to separate these two things out when discussing their relationship arrangements.

I make "agreements" all the time, where I "agree" to come pick someone up from work because their car is non-operable and they need a ride somewhere, or where I "agree" to call them before I show up at their house to give them some notice, or where I "agree" with them on where to go for dinner so that we find a place that we both want to go.

These are not generally the sorts of "agreements" that get people into trouble. I mean, they *can* ... lots of people do things like agree to pick someone up and then totally flake out on them and leave them hanging. But when it comes to  people asking "what kinds of agreements do you make in your relationships", this is not generally what they're asking about.

Usually, they're asking about having sex with other people, falling in love with other people, spending time with other people, and spending money on other people. These are things that are better handled by discussing *boundaries*, because these are things that only one person can *own* and stake a claim to (excepting money, in states with shared property marriage laws).

I will make agreements with someone on how I will treat *that person* and how I want that person to treat me. This is discussing our boundaries. I say what my boundaries are, they say what their boundaries are, and we agree to respect each other's boundaries. Then, if for some reason, one of us feels that we can not abide by that particular agreement anymore, we discuss it.

But I will not make agreements with someone on how I will treat *my body, time, mind, emotions, or money* with respect to other people. My time away from my partners is my own time and I will not make agreements with my partners on how I will spend that time away from them. My body is my own, and I will not make agreements with my partners on what I will & won't do with my own body, etc.

It is the lack of awareness of that division (or the deliberate blurring of that division) that I see causing problems (and becoming abusive, in many cases).

It's one thing to get angry because a partner had sex with me without telling me that they recently had unprotected sex with a new partner without trading test results - that is a violation of my ability to consent. That is a "betrayal".

It's quite another thing to get angry just because they had sex with someone else, even if it was unprotected and without trading test results, and even if it goes contrary to their preferences. That is not a violation of my ability to consent. That has nothing at all to do with me. That has to do with *their* body, and I am not entitled to control of their body. That is not a "betrayal" of me.

And I will not be punished anymore for things that I do with my body, my time, my mind, my emotions, and my money just because somebody else had an expectation of the things I would or ought to do with my stuff. They are not entitled to those things, even if they have reasonable expectations of what I would do with those things.

What I do with the things that are mine are not a "betrayal" of someone else. But as soon as you say the word "agreement", people take any deviation as one.

So I don't make "agreements". I state the kinds of things I am *likely* to do and try to only date people who are likely to do similar sorts of things.
joreth: (feminism)
I noticed how few men are really disturbed at the idea of female sex robots - some might be bothered or a little disgusted (the same way they are disgusted by the idea of prostitution), but they're not really *disturbed* at the concept of men preferring literal sex objects over real women and what it means in terms of psychology and culture...

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

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

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

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

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

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

So I blocked him. Because he's the reason why I want a male sexbot.
joreth: (feminism)
At work a few months back, I passed by a couple of dudes arguing. One guy stopped me and said, "I'm pretty sure JORETH doesn't need a man for anything!"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He conceded the argument.

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

joreth: (sex)
Interesting. The term "sex negative" refers to the philosophy that sex is bad, dirty, dangerous, or wrong, unless it occurs within a very narrow range of circumstances (i.e. within a marriage for procreation). "Sex negative" is pretty much what it sounds like - that sex is a negative thing, possibly with some exceptions.

But "sex positive" doesn't mean the opposite. "Sex positive" does not mean that all sex is good (with maybe some exceptions), it just means that sex isn't *inherently* bad.

So "sex negative" means that sex is actively bad, but "sex positive" means an absence of an active descriptor about sex.

It seems that, because of the way our society chooses one particular thing to herald, not just as "normal" but as "the One True Way", most of my own philosophies have to do with saying "well, I'm not for OR against it, I'm just absent a positive affirmation in this thing that everyone else is saying."

I'm atheist, which doesn't necessarily mean "there are no gods", it just means an absence of belief in gods. I'm non-monogamous, which doesn't necessarily mean that I'm opposed to monogamy, just that I don't do it, even when I only have one partner at a time.

I'm sex-positive, which doesn't mean that I think all sex is good or that people should be having all the sex all the time, just that I don't think that sex is, by it's very nature, bad, and you can have it or not as you see fit. And there was that meme a while back about "I'm not liberal, I just think the earth is more than 6,000 years old but I can see how you'd think that's liberal by comparison". When extremism reigns supreme, even a middle ground can seem extremist next to it.

No point here, it just came to my awareness that a lot of subcultures exist because we don't have any other way to say "well, but I'm not THAT." And that's a big enough deal to have its own subcultures, labels, and ideologies around it.

This is also a reminder that "sex positive" doesn't mean "all the sex, all the time, for all the people". Some assholes get all offended when we don't make space for their desires because they feel entitled to expressing their "sexuality" (psst ... being a rapist isn't your "orientation" or your "sexuality, just sayin'). Just because you have feelz, it doesn't mean you're entitled to a platform to express them at others.

"Sex positive" just means that *if* consenting people like doing sexyfuntimes together, that's cool, but if not, that's cool too.

But sex-negativity is such a strongly enforced worldview that we have to add "positive" to the other descriptor just to indicate what really is more of a neutral position, because "neutral" is a subversive, radical act in a culture that swings way too far to the "negative" side.
joreth: (polyamory)

A quick explanation of how I have boundaries regarding safer sex practices that don't turn into "rules" or those insidious type of rules that masquerade as "agreements" from a comment I made literally upon waking and not even out of bed yet:

Q. You say you don't have rules or agreements about what people can do with others, but don't your safer sex agreements cover what your partners can do with others?

A. Nope, they address safer sex boundaries *with me*.

All of my relationships are structured to support everyone in being authentic to themselves and any "agreements" are about what "you" can do to *me*, not what "you" can do with others. And even then, those "agreements" are always subject to negotiation. "That thing you said you needed me to do to you? I don't think I can live up to that, so let's talk about our options".

Boundaries are the lines I draw around *myself* and only myself. They are the edges of where I end and the world begins. They tell you how to treat me, and that's it.

Boundaries are if-then statements. Rules are you-will statements. So, my boundaries are "if you take these kinds of precautions with others, then I will have this kind of sex with you" and "if you do these things, then I will not have this kind of sex with you". I do not say "we agree that you (and I) will not do these things with others."

My partners can make whatever choices they want regarding their own bodies, minds, and feelings with regards to other people. Only when it comes to what they do with me do I get a say in it. Then I choose partners who naturally, of their own volition, *prefer* to do the kinds of things that match my boundaries. Then I never have to police anyone, and there is never any punishment nor "breaking" some agreement (which, btw, is one way you know it's a rule in disguise) because I'm not their mother to dictate and punish their behaviour when they misbehave.

My relationships are a Choose Your Own Adventure story. If we make Choice A, the story goes this way. If we make Choice B, the story goes another way. This respects everyone's autonomy and agency at the same time. They are free to make choices about themselves, I am free to make choices about myself, together our choices create our relationship structure.

joreth: (Bad Computer!)

I had a partner once who, when I found out that their pattern of both he and his wife only dating women was partially instigated by his discomfort with having his wife date a man and not fully because she was really more into women than men, I got really upset with him and pointed out the inherent sexism. I went through the usual objections, including the idea of ownership over his wife's body, etc., but right now I want to focus on his reaction to the proposal that the reason why he wasn't bothered by his wife having female lovers but was regarding male lovers is because he, fundamentally, believed that "lesbian sex / women's relationships don't count".

It basically boiled down to "I can't compete with other women and they can't compete with me because we have different parts, so I'm not threatened by them because they offer her something she can't get from a relationship with me, but another man can give her the same thing that I can, therefore she might leave me if she has access to another man" with the further assumption that said other man would necessarily be "better" in some way to facilitate the threat that she would leave if she only had the chance to know some other man.

This idea equates people with their genitals. A) No one can "give her the same thing [you] can" because NO ONE ELSE IS YOU. B) Since your relationship is not purely sexual, a woman can also give her the "same" things that you do, which are good sex, companionship, understanding, support, love, fun times, arguments, and everything else that makes up your relationship in addition to inserting your penis into her vagina. C) Women can also insert penises into vaginas - either the ones that are part of their own bodies or the ones bought in the store.

Since this argument is literally condensing all of human romantic / sexual interaction to which body parts people can mash together, it requires an unspoken assumption that mashing two particular set of body parts together is more important than mashing any other set of body parts together because mashing those other body parts together (or, y'know, any other part about relating to each other) couldn't possibly compare to or threaten the act of mashing that one set of body parts together.

BY DEFINITION, being afraid that someone else's vagina coming into contact with someone else's penis might make that vagina-haver discard everything about your relationship that makes it special and break up with you, but not being afraid of someone else's vagina coming into contact with literally any other body part from some other person will do the same thing is erasing the validity and legitimacy of relationships between women (going with the position of those who defend this policy of equating vagina-having with "women").

I also want to address the idea of using rules with what's called "sunset clauses" - a specific time limit for when the rule will end. This is a legitimate use of rules to work through specific issues and I have used them myself. However, I remain suspicious of them as "rules" - limitations that one person imposes on (or asks nicely of) another person(s) with regards to how they interact with other people to mitigate one's own issues, again, primarily because of this same former partner.

He and his wife also used the excuse of sunset clauses to justify rules, and they used these as "evidence" that they were both "getting better" and experiencing "personal growth". What would happen is that he would have a bad reaction to the idea of his wife doing a thing with a guy, the wife would hold off on doing that thing until the husband felt better, then when he could deal, he allowed her to do the thing. Their position was that, since the wife was building an ever-growing list of specific activities that she could do with men, clearly the husband was "getting better". I thought that sounded like it too.

I was wrong.

Yes, the wife was able to check off additional specific sexual activities over time that she was able to engage in, but neither of them ever got out of the mindset that *he* had a right to control access to *her* body or that sexual relationships with other men was somehow inherently more "threatening" than sexual relationships with women. There was never any actual personal growth happening, just a desensitization of specific sexual activities and positions. That is not "working on it" and it is not "getting better". It's basically just moving the goalposts while defending the same basic premise.

There is a time for when people have such a strong emotional reaction to something that the first thing they can focus on is just desensitization. I've used this tactic myself. But the point of desensitizing myself to an idea is to "numb" the emotional reaction enough that I can see through it to the root issue, and then actually do work on the root issue itself, so that I won't *need* to continuously desensitize myself to something that, ultimately, has nothing to do with me in the first place (i.e. my partner's other relationships).

But too many people stop at the desensitization process and think that, now that they're "numb" to this one thing, problem solved! Then that exact same issue gets triggered by a totally different thing, and they think "well, last time this desensitization made it more bearable, let's do that again!" It's the emotional equivalent, to borrow the pill analogy from the article, of taking shit loads of ibuprofen for my endometriosis. Every month, I'm wracked with pain and forced to spend a day or two in the fetal position, so I take ibuprofen to numb the pain enough to barely function. That is not a solution! A solution would be to attack the endo at the root cause so that I don't have to rely on copious amounts of drugs that may ultimately damage my liver from chronic use ever again!

Unfortunately, our medical industry is also misogynistic and has not put any effort into solving the root cause of endo, so millions of women are stuck desensitizing ourselves just to make it to work every month or ripping out a part of our internal organs which may or may not fix the problem anyway.

So don't let your cultural misogynistic programming work like our cultural misogynistic medical industry - we should not accept as sufficient the mere desensitization of emotional issues or hacking out deep parts of ourselves just to function. Focus on solving the actual problem of not seeing queer relationships as equally legitimate to hetero ones so that you don't need that mental ibuprofen anymore.
joreth: (Dobert Demons of Stupidity)
So ... just FYI, it's possible to defend a person's right to say no while still acknowledging that their *reasons* for saying no stem from internalized cultural bigotry.

Like, they totally have that right to say no to sex with anyone at any time and for any reason. If I ever saw, say, a black person yell "you HAVE to have sex with me, otherwise you're racist!", I'd totally rip them a new one.

But it's also possible for a person to not want to have sex with a particular marginalized demographic (note: not an individual in that demographic, but the entire demographic) *because* the culture of bigotry that they grew up in affected their preferences and tastes as they developed into the adult sexual being that they are today.

Denying that we are products of our culture, that we don't develop in a vacuum, and that it's really difficult, if not impossible, to tease out exactly what parts of us are "nature" and what parts of us are "nurture" (save the false binary comments, I'm making a point here), are contributing factors to exactly that sort of cultural bigotry that usually ends up raising this exact issue.

Maybe if we could learn to accept that people are contradictions, that no one is a Good Person (TM) or a Bad Person (TM), and that we all do both good and harmful shit to people, maybe we could start admitting that bigotry influences us instead of defending ourselves as if our very integrity depended on never ever having a bad thought or bad motivation ever ever, like, ever, and then we could finally get on the road to moving past it.

Also, P.S. - "moving past it" doesn't mean "and now you have to start having sex with people you don't want to".
joreth: (BDSM)
I don't have time for a full book review, but if you liked 50 Shades of Grey, then read The Training of Eileen series. If you hated 50 Shades because of its abuse romanticism but like female sub fantasy porn, read The Training of Eileen series by William Vitelli (on Amazon and Symtoys). It's literally the 50 Shades plot (rich man takes naive young woman to wife & trains her as his sex slave) without the, y'know, abuse. There are *so many* books with this exact same plot and no abuse that exist, this is just one that I happened to come across that I enjoyed reading.



Throughout the series, we are given tantalizing hints and outright evidence that the sub *wants* to be trained as a sex slave, she just doesn't know it yet. This is not the misogynistic fantasy that all women want their husbands to dominate them, this is a genuine interest in submission that a more experienced Dom recognizes and indulges because A) he wants to; and B) she wants him to and he wants to provide a safe place for her unrealized fantasies. It's that part B that makes it not abuse and not misogynistic.

There is no "you will be my sex slave because I am damaged and only damaged people like hitting their lovers." There is no "you will be my sex slave because I'm the man and I will stalk you into submission." There is no "I am rich therefore my coercion is charming and above the law." There is no "ooh, look, it's a belt, that's so kinky!" There is no fucking inner goddess doing back flips and hula dancing or subconsciousness whispering anything. And there is no "I'm a good girl who doesn't believe in all this kinky sex stuff but I love you so I will save you from yourself and your damage and make you see the value in vanilla sex" bullshit.

This is good ol' "I like hurting and humiliating and dominating people who like to be hurt and humiliated and dominated, and you like being hurt and humiliated and dominated, therefore I will hurt and humiliate and dominate you with actual kinky sex and toys and tools and evil ideas because we both like it" fantasy porn.

Disclaimer: this story is basically heterocentric, which is actually why I'm recommending it. 50 Shades was wildly popular because there is something in the fantasy of a young, innocent girl being dominated by a more experienced man that speaks to a lot of people. I want to provide an alternative to that series by offering a story that has, basically, the same plot to appeal to the same people who liked 50 Shades, so that they can see the difference between a healthy D/s relationship *even under fantasy conditions* vs. an abusive one.

I'm sure there are plenty of books with more diversity, more queer-focus, more all kinds of things that are worth promoting. Perhaps even more important to promote. But I'm making a very particular point with this promotion - that for all the millions of people who got something out of 50 Shades, there's nothing wrong with you having that kind of fantasy, just that there are healthier ways to express it and here is one better way.

Most of the anti-50 Shades reviews I read are from people who are not actually into kink, so they have to make a bunch of disclaimers about how "kink isn't bad, even though I don't get it". But when they're not into kink themselves, it makes it difficult to explain to similarly-new-to-kink readers why 50 Shades is bad but they're totally not kink-shaming, no really, they're not, they just don't get it but their bestie who is a pro-Domme promises that there's a difference.

So I'm here to say, as someone who is definitely into some pretty disturbing kinky shit (although still pretty "vanilla" compared to my kinky friends), I really, truly am not kink-shaming and it really is OK to fantasize about D/s even when it's heterocentric male Dom / female sub and even when it's "she just doesn't know she likes being dominated yet but this handsome wealthy man will show her what she likes", but that 50 Shades DOES NOT GET THIS FANTASY RIGHT. It romanticizes abuse, and there is a difference. Here is an example that is not abusive, and yet it's still fantasy (i.e. people never have bowel problems or headaches or weight issues or disabilities when it's inconvenient for the story) to indulge in. Porn does not have to be so realistic that it's a turn-off in order to be respectful. You can still have fantastic elements that wouldn't be appropriate in real life (as the defenders of 50 Shades argue) and yet still not romanticize abuse or misogyny (the good girl will save the damaged man with her love myth).
joreth: (Dobert Demons of Stupidity)
Consent means, when someone doesn't want you to do something to their body, you don't do it. No matter what.

That's it. That's all it means.

A slightly more sophisticated view of consent means that you have to assume, by default, that they don't want you to do that thing unless and until they tell you otherwise in a clear way. If they haven't used their words, and you live in fear of "buyer's remorse" because you don't understand this shit, then get a verbal consent before and during.

That's it.


This is preschool level stuff.

There's more advanced stuff dealing with consent of emotions and mind, but for fuck's sake, just start with the lesson that a 4-year old can grasp before y'all confuse them with your sense of entitlement. Just get this lesson down pat. I promise, consent really is this simple.

"But what if she's wearing..." NOPE
"But what if she promised..." NOPE
"But what if there's this vibe..." NOPE
"But what if she's on..." NOPE
"But what if I did ..." NOPE
"But what if I paid..." NOPE
"But what if ..." NOPE

No matter what. As soon as there is a "no", you don't have consent. If you haven't gotten some kind of clear "yes", assume it's a "no". If any of this is confusing or you can come up with "but what if...", then assume that anything other than a verbal "yes" is not a "clear yes" and get confirmation in addition to her "body language" or whatever bullshit you think you can "read" that says "yes" to you.

I can make up a flowchart cheat-sheet that will fit in your wallet to take with you every time you leave the house if this one 3-step rule is too hard to memorize.
joreth: (Nude Drawing)
[Image: tweet screencap that says "If you think sex work is 'selling your body', but athletes, manual laborers aren't, etc. it's a moral hang-up you've got, and that's on you."]

I had this exact argument with an ex, who didn't want his wife to have naked pictures of herself available on the internet (whether she wanted to or not was irrelevant). After pressing him, he pulled the "selling her body" line, to which I responded that I (was at the time) a professional dancer and I worked manual labor which required me to do physical things like climbing and heavy lifting, so how was I *not* selling "my body"?

He had no good answer for it, but he certainly tried very hard to rationalize it, and we ended up arguing in circles for quite a long time that day. He tried to distinguish using one's body *for sex*, to which I pointed out a gradation from "respectable" dancers to "sex" dancers, and at what point is the dancer responsible for the sexual thoughts of the audience for her body, and followed up with "what's wrong with making money from sex anyway?" It was fun to hear someone try to explain what was wrong with making money from sex when STDs weren't on the table (i.e. pictures, lap dances, etc. = no possible STD vector) and when the person arguing against them is non-monogamous so he clearly couldn't use the "sex is special and reserved only for your spouse" line either.

He also tried the "it's degrading" bit, so I reminded him that he once worked in fast food, and various other well-worn responses, including my own "respectable" form of dancing still involved drunk men slobbering over me and needing to wear a fake wedding ring or have a male "manager" attend gigs with us, which still didn't prevent assholes from propositioning me after a performance.  One such memorable and yet entirely common proposition was at 4 in the morning after a performance when the venue was closed for the night and empty except for employees, contractors (like myself), and people associated with the event.  Some drunk dude cornered me to "compliment" me on my dancing, so I plastered my "I am working and can't afford to alienate paying clients or their friends who might hire us again later" smile on my face while he invited me back to his hotel room for what was left of that night.  I held up my "wedding ring", and he came up with the oh-so-brilliant line that my "spouse" need never know about it.  Because, OMG, that never occurred to me!!!  The only thing holding me back from hooking up with drunk strangers after a performance was the thought that I would be obligated to tell my "spouse" about it!  This totes changes things!

I almost never feel degraded when I have casual sex. I haven't tried any kind of sex work, but most of the sex workers I know seem to enjoy their jobs well enough. But I very much feel degraded working minimum wage jobs like retail or waitress jobs, because I take home so little pay for so much physical and emotional labor and the clientele automatically assumes that I'm beneath them, that I'm not worthy of being treated with any dignity or respect because I'm there to "serve" them. I can only imagine how poorly service workers like cleaning services, trash collectors, and landscaping workers are treated. You can't tell me that sex work is "degrading" and "selling your body" in one breath and excuse all those other jobs the next. I don't buy it. I've been there.
joreth: (Super Tech)
There's this thing that some guys do. I say "guys" because I'm straight and I exclusively date guys, so I have no idea if any other genders do it, but I do know that some guys do it.  There's this thing where I'll tell a guy that I don't think we're romantically or sexually compatible because I have certain values that I don't think match his, but those things might not interfere with a possible friendship and he's otherwise cool, so let's be friends.  Then the guy proceeds to temporarily turn himself into whatever it is that I think he isn't in order to gain my attraction.

  • "No I'm totally all about polyamory!"

  • "No, really, I've matured since the last time I flaked out on you."

  • "I know it SAID 'libertarian' on my profile, but it's really little-l libertarian and, honestly, I have more socialist leanings than anything else, I just haven't updated the profile to reflect that."

  • "I'm sorry, I've gotten over my whole blaming all women for my failings thing. I completely realize that I was wrong."

The point is to sleep with me, so he can then walk away saying "ha! Toldja we weren't incompatible!  You said you wouldn't like me, but I proved you wrong and you DID like me!"

Except, no, I didn't.  You weren't that person so I didn't like you.  And by pulling the Disappearing Act (because it's almost always the Disappearing Act, where the last indication is that things are going great and they just suddenly disappear, unfriend you, block your calls, etc. with no explanation, unless you manage to track them down like a stereotypical psycho ex-gf with a vengeance - and trust me, that never ends well), you actually proved me right because you did not, in fact, have the values that I said would be necessary for a successful relationship with me.

The values I require in an intimate partner are: honesty, transparency, respect for agency, integrity, shared worldviews on religious and social justice topics, a handful of common interests, a personal commitment to polyamory whether they get to date me or not, a similar style of polyamory to the one I do, and likes me for who I am as a person, flaws and all.  The values I require in a casual fuckbuddy are: I'm sexually attracted to you and you avoid talking to me about topics that will force me to face the fact that we don't have any of the other values in common.  Even with one criteria, you'd be surprised how many people can't meet this one.

The act of not being that person means that I was right about them.  The act of trying to have a sexual relationship with me under false pretenses means, by definition, that I was right about them.  The act of leaving without the dignity of a considerate breakup means that I was right about them.

They did not successfully "fool" me into having the kind of relationship that I said was unlikely because the relationship ended (usually abruptly and soon after it started) and because it was a farce, which means that we did not, in fact, have the kind of relationship that I said was unlikely.  They did not successfully prove me wrong because their attempt to "prove me wrong" is, itself, the proof that I was right.

BTW, this is a huge dick move full of entitlement, and I will find a way to work it into my Breaking Up lesson, one way or another - either in the workshop or in the book or somehow.  I've never shied away from outing assholes before, and now I even have a platform specifically for using assholes as illustrations of What Not To Do.  This is the very essence of entitlement.  These guys can't even have a girl *they don't even like* not want them, so they *make* her want them against her consent (because if she knew the truth, she wouldn't like them) just because they don't want her to dislike them.  And, as I have learned from those that I did what I say not to do in my Breaking Up workshop when I tracked them down to get "closure", they think of themselves as Nice Guys, who are "misunderstood" and girls only like jerks anyway.

Fuck you.
joreth: (Super Tech)

This is going to be long, convoluted, and twisty. This is me trying to work out a concept that I have been unsuccessful at elucidating before, using terminology that is new to me that encompasses what I'm trying to get at.

This is the concept of emotional labor. I've been trying to explain for most of my life that women are expected to do all this bullshit work like remember family birthdays and send thank you cards and maintain the family's religious habits and do the dishes and even know the appropriate attire to wear to social functions to tell the husband and kids when they have to wear a suit and tie and when they can wear a polo shirt. I've been trying to explain for my entire life that it's not "no big deal" or just a few extra details or even that it's "what women are good at". Now, I have a term and research to back it up - emotional labor.

I'm told that "men" just don't "see" a dirty house and I know that's bullshit because my own father was the neat freak of our family. He once threw my homework away *on trash night* because I had left it out on the kitchen table so I wouldn't forget it, but paper doesn't belong on the table so he threw it out and it was picked up in the morning before I was awake, and my homework was just gone (and my teacher didn't buy my story). It's just that men don't *have* to see a dirty house because the women in their lives will get fed up sooner than they will and the mess will take care of itself, feeding the cycle that the longer they wait, the more likely they won't have to do anything about it. The men don't have to see the dirty house because they're told that, as men, they *won't* see the dirty house, and women are socialized *to* see the dirty house and to have it bother them. So the men wait and the women pick up after them, and the gender roles assert themselves invisibly.

I once refused to do the work anymore. I watched my housemates literally step over a pile of trash *in the living room* rather than throw it away. I had long ago put a trash bin in the living room so that no one even had to get up and walk into the ADJOINING kitchen (it was one big room, no wall or counter or bar or island to separate them) to throw anything away and they still couldn't manage it. They'd toss stuff from the couch, and if it missed the can, they'd leave it there. So I stopped picking it up.

I actually broke up with them and moved out of the house before anything got picked up. And I left the trash there on the floor when I left.

In this same household, the bills stopped getting paid. I got tired of nagging everyone to pay their share. The house went into foreclosure and I moved out before anyone started paying (they actually continued to live there until the house got new owners and they had no choice). They were seriously willing to let the bank foreclose on us before either paying their fucking share or working with me to find a way out of the financial mess we were in (including selling). They just. Stopped. Paying.

Fashion is similar, although with less dire consequences. I'm fully aware of the class issues and history regarding social dress codes, particularly anything "business class" or "higher", but *I'm* the one who pays the consequences if my *partners* don't dress appropriately regardless of the class struggle symbolized by those clothes, so I was schooled at an early age to know what the various dress codes were. Men are *expected* to not know fashion, so women are the ones who get the disapproval if "their men" show up dressed inappropriately. In fact, men are *shamed* if they know too much about fashion (see homophobia and misogyny here). Women whose partners do not dress appropriately are either shamed for not getting them to dress correctly (because it's obviously their fault for failing to dress them like children /sarcasm) or pitied for having chosen men who can't or won't dress themselves properly whereas men are rarely shamed or pitied for a woman who dresses "correctly" when they don't, although they might sometimes get a little shame for not dressing up to a woman's standards. The worst that men get is shame or pity for a woman dressing *above* the appropriate dress code, which means she's "high maintenance", but that's yet another rant. *It doesn't matter* that the dress code system is bullshit to begin with and it doesn't matter if the woman herself is a conscientious objector as I am (overlooking the fact that because of those very class issues, many women don't have the luxury of objecting to fashion standards) or if she actively enjoys fashion for its own sake outside of the class issues also as I do, there are still consequences for women whose male partners don't comply with fashion standards, above and beyond any consequences for each given individual not complying with fashion standards (and you really don't want to get me started on women's fashion standards).

Dates, attire, eating meals, shopping, bill paying, caring for guests, housecleaning - all shit that if I don't take care of it, it doesn't get done. So I just stopped living with people so that I don't have to be responsible for it. I have my own difficulty with all this stuff - my OCD makes doing dishes very difficult, for instance, and if I'm not doing dishes and they're not doing dishes, shit gets pretty nasty. Unless I'm baking, I use disposable, or better yet, cook-in-its-own-container stuff so that I'm not making extra waste and I still don't have to do dishes.

But, even now, when I complain about this, it doesn't sound like it's as big of a deal as it is. Like, it's annoying to always do the dishes, but not worth a panic attack or a breakup. But it only seems like it's not a big deal when it's isolated away from the concept of emotional labor.

It's kind of a strange revelation to learn that I would be much less averse to things like cohabitation and even marriage had I not been subject to so much emotional labor over my life. I wonder, even though I'd likely still be just as independent-minded about things like autonomy, would I even consider myself #solopoly if gender-based emotional labor wasn't a thing?

I used to want to date only partnered men because I got burned by so many cowboys. I wanted them to already have a partner so I knew they wouldn't want to dump me as soon as they got another partner. Not only do I now see the flaw in that logic, I'm also very suspicious of guys who cohabit with women, particularly if they married young. They tend to be the worst I've seen for not just expecting women to shoulder the emotional burden but of being totally unaware that they're doing it.

Like, asshole patriarchal men who are still single (probably because they're assholes about it) make it easy to spot and therefore avoid. They're pretty obvious that they want women to shoulder that burden. But liberal men who champion women's rights but who have never noticed how the rent gets paid on time because they went from mommy's house to a dorm paid by mommy and daddy to wifey's house who paid the rent, did the cooking, picked up the trash they step over, and didn't have to remember anyone's birthday because wifey will remind them when it's important - they're something I've learned the hard way to look out for.

They're the ones I get burned by these days, especially before I had this language of "emotional labor" to express this concept. Before, I might talk about each individual chore or responsibility and get "Of course I can cook my own meals [but won't notice that you gradually start taking over more of the cooking duties because I'll just sit here at the computer until you get hungry enough to cook for us and your empathy and hostess training forces you to cook for both of us instead of just getting food for you]" and "I just don't remember dates, that's just how I am, take it or leave it [and I don't recognize the extra burden put on you to "take it" because I think the matter is just a simple "accept your partner for who he is" equation, so by forcing this binary choice on you, I'll also add pressure on you to choose the "take it" option instead of the "leave it" option by resting unintentionally on patriarchal standards that require women to "stand by your man" and making you look like the shrew trying to "change me" or not be accepting enough if you don't - a particularly guilt-laden punishment in liberal circles who espouse acceptance and tolerance of people's differences]."

See, in liberal circles especially, we tend to embrace this idea of accepting people for who they are and not trying to "change" them. Taken to its extreme, this leads to people who actually have very toxic or damaging habits that no one is allowed to confront or address because we might not be "tolerant" or "accepting" enough. I once dated a guy who was extremely emotionally insecure (although I didn't realize how badly at the time). He felt personally rejected every time I turned my back on him while sleeping. He felt that I was metaphorically and deliberately "turning my back" on him. That the act of facing away from him was *about him*. Of course, it wasn't. I have a bad shoulder and lumbar problems. I can only sleep on one side, especially on his hard mattress on the floor. Sleeping on the bad shoulder seizes it up and sleeping on my back or stomach makes my lower back hurt. So I sleep exclusively curled up on my left side. I also don't like sleeping face-to-face with people. That breathing in my face just bothers me. I don't like it when my cat does it and I don't like it when my partners do it. On top of that, I have some trust issues. Turning my back to someone is a sign of either trust or lack of fear. I have to feel very confident about someone (or about myself) to allow them access to me in a vulnerable position. Added to *that* is the fact that, sexually, my backside is very sensitive and is a secondary erogenous zone. So, in my mind, facing away from my partner not only isn't a negative thing, it's a very, *very* positive thing.

So, this guy got his feelings hurt every time I went to sleep. But, instead of talking to me about it, he kept it to himself until a dozen little, correctable things added all up to one big conflict and he broke up with me over it. During the breakup conversation, he admitted that this was one of the reasons he wanted to breakup. When I expressed my surprise that he never mentioned it before, he said it was because he didn't believe in forcing anyone to change for someone else. My turning my back was "just who I am", apparently, and asking for any sort of accommodation, or even asking me to come up with compromises that I would be comfortable with, was intolerant and not accepting of me.  O.o

The BDSM community has a similar problem with "Your Kink Is Not My Kink And That's OK". In principle, it sounds like a good idea. It promotes tolerance and empathy and understanding. We don't have to be all alike and we can still get along. But in practice, it ends to work out as a defense for abuse. No one is allowed to say anything negative about another person's sexual proclivities, even if they're harmful and especially if the person in question is a community leader, because that wouldn't be "tolerant". So guys (in general) get away with never having to learn how to use a calendar or run the washing machine because "that's just who I am", and asking them to take on some of their own emotional labor in a hetero relationship would be "intolerant" and "unaccepting" of who they are as a person. When, the reality is that asking for this kind of change is actually *more* respectful of their agency than just mutely taking on the extra burden and not supporting them in taking control of their own life.

I was talking to one friend who found herself recovering from a relationship with an emotionally controlling partner. She's a strong, intelligent, capable, generally secure woman (like me) who nevertheless ended up being controlled and manipulated by someone in extremely subtle and clever ways. No one saw it coming, and no one even saw it happening, until it was too late. So, she asked me one day how she could ever have been talked into giving up so much of herself to this man. How could no one have seen the signs? Neither of us knew or used the phrase "emotional labor" at the time - this was years ago - but she wanted to know how she could have been talked into being responsible for his own emotional landscape. How did it ever get that far? How did none of us see that he made other people shoulder the burden for his emotional care?

This was not something I had thought about before, but sometimes revelations pop out of my mouth without me having consciously considered it, because I see patterns and I connect dots, as I talked about in a FB post that sparked this one. I responded that the reason it had gone so far before anyone recognized the warning signs is because she had been conditioned already to be the one to care for a man. We had both dated men before who had primed us, unintentionally, for exactly the sort of releasing of boundaries that this other man took advantage of. The guys in our past could not care for themselves. One in particular had done the parents-dorm-wife path himself and had never even questioned that life would be managed by the women in his life, mainly because he kept getting involved with women who took their own sense of identity from exactly that role. They *demanded* that role from him, and it suited him, so that's how it was. If someone didn't remind him to eat, he didn't eat. If he finally noticed that he was hungry and there was no food in the kitchen, he didn't correct it by grocery shopping, he bought McDonald's, setting himself up for the same thing to happen the next day because there still wasn't any food in the fridge. He didn't remember anniversaries or dates because he never had to - his female partners controlled his calendar for him and he just showed up when he was told. Although I notice that men in general are terrible at remembering dates like birthdays and anniversaries ... yet they have no problem managing a freelancing schedule that has them going to different cities on different days and different times or part-time jobs with schedules that change at the whim of a boss and not working a set M-F 9-5 job. Some men have secretaries to keep track of client meetings and conference calls and other office type scheduling, but a lot of men, especially freelancers, don't and those also seem to be adequate at managing a calendar. But as soon as they get a girlfriend, it's all "I'm sorry honey, I'm just not good at remembering anniversaries" and "here are some flowers to make up for me forgetting Valentine's Day" and "it's my mother's birthday already? Did you send her a card from us?" Anyway, this partner in question didn't pay attention to fashion requirements because he worked in the tech industry and Steve Jobs brought blue jeans into the office. He didn't even have to cut his own nails or hair because his wife insisted on doing it for him.

My friend had been primed to accept abuse because she, like me, had a long history with man-child partners and a society that says this is acceptable and expected. This past partner who sloughed off the emotional labor onto his female partners, he wasn't abusive. He was loving and considerate and compassionate. He valued the agency of his partners. He is not a bad guy, and he's not even a Nice Guy. He's genuinely a good person who would not *want* to be participating in this system if inequity if he were aware of it. But he *is* participating in this system because no one knew how to make him aware of it - that's how privilege works. The system benefited him so he didn't see that he was benefiting from anything. He dated or married women who embraced the system and considerately let women go who could or would not (rather than abusively making them embrace the system against their wishes). When I dated guys like that, because I didn't have the language to explain any of this, I simply restructured the relationship so that I didn't have to deal with it by not living with him and only seeing him in the capacity where I didn't mind temporarily being "in charge". But even I had simply learned to accept that "men" were just like this, and it was a patronizingly "cute" personality quirk that smart, capable women had to keep the men in their lives fed and clothed. So, with this training in hand, my friend was set up to be taken advantage of by someone who manipulated exactly that training.

You don't want to hurt me, do you? You don't want to leave me when I could hurt myself, do you? Remember your training that says you are responsible for my well-being. If you shirk your responsibility, you are an irresponsible, inconsiderate monster. It's your fault if I get hurt. It's your fault if my life falls apart. You are a compassionate, kind person. You must stay and do what I say, or else your compassion will drive you insane because of how much I am hurting. If you leave, you will not be a kind, compassionate person, and you don't want that, do you?
I'm fortunate in that I'm not particularly bothered by people thinking I'm a cold-hearted bitch. That's not true, I *can* be bothered by it, but if it's applied when I'm doing something I feel strongly that is for my own good and in support of my own agency, that overrules any concern about being considered a bitch. So the "you don't want to hurt me, do you?" form of abuse doesn't work on me. I just raise an eyebrow and point out that what I'm doing is not about hurting them, it's about supporting me and that any harm they do to themselves for failing to care for themselves is on them. Other people, women in particular, don't have this specific defense mechanism. It seems to be internal to me, not something I learned. It can be learned, but usually at great cost and many just don't have the teachers to show them how to learn it.

But I *am* particularly susceptible to ignoring or overlooking abusive tendencies under the "I must be tolerant and accepting" banner, as well as overlooking this whole thing of displacing emotional labor that isn't abusive, per se. I have controlling tendencies myself, and I have overcompensated for them by backing WAY off when someone doesn't change in the way that I think they ought to. So, when I fall in love with a man-child who hands off the burden of emotional labor to his female partners, I don't insist that he take up the slack in his relationships. I just let him pawn it off on his other partners while I back away far enough that he can't hand that burden off to me. I can't make sure they eat their vegetables or pay their rent if I don't live with them or see them often enough to judge their diet or get their bills in the mail, and they can't reasonably expect me to.

They also can't reasonably expect me to assuage their insecurities by controlling my behaviour with regards to other partners if they don't see themselves as "entwined" enough to justify doing so. A cohabiting fluid-bonded partner might feel justified in telling me what kind of sex I can have with someone else, but a long-distance partner might be more willing to deal with it by just wearing a condom with me when we have sex and out-of-sight-out-of-mind keeps him from facing that he'd otherwise be willing to infringe on my autonomy if given the chance. However, I have had some try to justify telling me that he deserved to have a vote in whether and when I took a new partner and which sex acts we were allowed to engage in and at what pace we began engaging in them, even though this partner did not live in the same city, hadn't had sex with me in months, and was currently embroiled in a lot of drama with one of his own partners who I warned would likely cause exactly this sort of trouble but didn't try to enforce a pre-dating veto power that he wanted to give me. He wanted to date her and I didn't see myself as having the right to control his decision about it, although I did give my opinion on it.

He was not content to just give his opinion on my new partner (that I could take or leave) and he wasn't even content to notify me of how my behaviour would affect his own boundaries with me to take into consideration when I made my dating decisions. He wanted voting rights because he had insecurities and was not willing to do the work to eradicate those insecurities. Instead, he fell back on some couple privilege as the pre-existing partner, and palmed off the emotional labor onto his partners, who were required to limit their behaviour until he "got comfortable", at which time *he* would magnanimously declare the behaviour ban lifted. But since it didn't address the underlying issue, he would have to require the same ban the next time, and the next time. Because these bans eventually did get lifted, he offered this as evidence that he was "working" on his issues and making "progress". But the procedure itself never changed - his partners had to limit their behaviour until *he* felt comfortable, and then *he* decided they could remove the limitation. Always, his partners had to carry the burden, not him. He never had to sit with the discomfort himself. Oh, but he would insist that he was uncomfortable! But don't let that fool you like it did me - feeling uncomfortable when your partner does something that you don't like isn't the same thing as feeling uncomfortable by facing *why* your partner's actions make you uncomfortable in the first place. That's a very different sort of discomfort, but easy to confuse.

So, back to the whole pattern recognition thing from the Facebook post that inspired this post (I complained that I can see social patterns that others can't see, and gave emotional labor as an example of one such set of patterns, the entire text of that example is now the beginning of this blog post). The concept of emotional labor as tied up in the feminist movement and patriarchal society and internalized sexism is a dot that I can now use to connect a bunch of other dots - why it's such a big deal to me when men rely on their female partners for domestic labor and upholding social standards, why I tend to back away and structure my relationships more "casually" or less entwined to avoid shouldering that burden, and even more extreme dots like emotional relationship abuse.

If you saw me blow up on Facebook recently about dress codes when I was trying to talk about how men don't know the categories and then some men jumped in to sidetrack the conversation about fashion being tied to classism, this is why. I was bruised and sore about carrying my male partners' emotional labor and feeling the social burden and the consequences for it, while men (those who can most afford to ignore the social burden or consequences for dress codes) were dismissing my complaints and instead choosing to talk about economic class struggles, which, frustratingly, are *part* of the reason why that particular emotional labor is such a heavy load for women, who - all else being equal - are almost always in the lower class than men.

Basically, I was drawing a connection, and I was failing at making myself understood, so I lost my temper as I am wont to do when I get frustrated, and as I am particularly likely to do when someone is "intellectually debating" a topic that affects me very intimately and personally. This idea of emotional labor makes seemingly isolated events like women doing domestic duties or being the sole emotional outlet for men (because men aren't allowed to have emotionally intimate male friends) apparent that they are related to each other. It also shows that these events have more weight than simply doing an extra chore or taking extra time. If all other things in life are exactly equal, having a woman spend an extra 30 minutes doing dishes after dinner doesn't sound like a huge deal, especially if you throw in that the man mows the lawn or something. But add the weight of cultural history and institutionalized misogyny and patriarchy, and those 30 minutes doing the dishes take up more than just the literal minutes of the day in the emotional landscape of the woman's life. Once you factor in that extra weight and see how all these separate activities are connected under the same umbrella, then we see the path light up leading to emotional abuse. It's not the only path, nor is it necessarily the guaranteed destination. But they're connected.

And now I have some language to describe and explain what I'm feeling and those patterns that I can see that no one else seems to see. It will take a few more novel-length blog posts, I'm sure, before I work out some quippy soundbites or before I streamline my ideas based on those take-aways that seem to work for readers most often.

More resources on what Emotional Labor is, how to recognize it, and what to do about it:

joreth: (Kitty Eyes)
In response to some comments I have seen on several other people's threads where they shared that graphic trying to explain that no one *owes* you their time, attention, love, sex, relationship, thoughts, etc. these blog posts are relevant.

Discussions about agency and abuse in relationships tend to get sidetracked by the minutia and strawman arguments of people pursuing *selfish* (i.e. not self-centric, but selfISH where it requires a lack of concern for how one's actions affect others) hedonism. In other words, there is some defense of "but if the other person is doing things for their own pleasure and it hurts you, that's not OK!" Of course it's not, but that's a different discussion.

"This is my experience. You can not know my experience.
That is your experience. I can not know your experience.
These are my choices. You are not entitled to control over them, you are not victimized by them.
Those are your choices. I am not entitled to control over them, I am not victimized by them."

"When we really understand the difference between these statements, we will understand how to support both survivors and abusers.

'I was victimized by acts of control' is not the same as 'I was victimized by the other person’s resistance to my control.'

And then in the article they reference:

"“An abuser’s behavior is primarily conscious — he acts deliberately rather than by accident or by losing control of himself — but the underlying thinking that drives his behavior is largely not conscious.”

What is this underlying thinking? Well, it’s all around you. It is the foundation of rape culture. It is the fundamental belief that women do not have a right to their own personal power. It is the fundamental belief that they can retain power over their bodies, minds and choices, only so long as we agree with those choices. It is the way in which we punish women if we feel they’ve stepped out of line. It is the way we always suspiciously ask “what is she getting out of this?” when a woman reports abuse, harassment or assault. It is the reflexive dismissal of female anger as irrational, and female pain as imaginary. It is the way we, all of us, men and women buy into the belief that we are entitled to women’s bodies, thoughts and choices. In polyamory, this belief makes it easy for us to treat our partners as things and not people

This part is relevant because most of the objection to that graphic is in the idea that someone just has the *right* to go off and do whatever they want to do. OMG what is the world coming to that anyone can just LEAVE whenever they want?!? What if I don't want them to go?!?

"It is the fundamental belief that they can retain power over their bodies, minds and choices, only so long as we agree with those choices". It doesn't matter if we think they are making a poor choice for themselves. It doesn't matter if we are hurt by their choice to leave us, stop loving us, not liking us, revoking consent to sex with us.

They do, in fact, have that right. They might be behaving like dicks about it, but they still have that right. If someone gets involved in an explicitly monogamous relationship and then decides to have an unsanctioned sexual relationship with someone outside of that relationship, their monogamous partner does not own their body and they have the right to do with their own body what they will.

They're being a dick and I will harshly criticize and name-call and publicly shame people for making choices that infringe on other people's right to consent. *That* is not what they have the right to do. The choice to *remain* in an explicitly monogamous relationship without giving their partner the information necessary to give informed consent is what they don't have the right for. But they, and they alone, hold the rights to what happens to their own body and mind.

That graphic does not address the content of the person's character when it says a person has the right to leave, to not love, to stop loving, etc. It only addresses the one seeking to exert control over that person trying to leave.

"Understand, that when your reasons for disrespecting the boundary become more important than the boundary itself, you are displaying a belief of superiority, entitlement and control, and these beliefs are the foundation of a culture that tolerates rape and abuse."

"But what if…
It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter whether it was unjust. It doesn’t matter if it hurt you. It doesn’t matter in reference to whether or not you respect the boundary. It’s their right to set the boundary because they are a whole and complete and autonomous human being. When you don’t respect the boundary, you are telling them in no uncertain terms, that you think that they are less than this.


Yep, it absolutely sucks to have someone want to leave a relationship that you want to keep. It absolutely sucks to have feelings for someone who doesn't reciprocate. It absolutely sucks to have a partner make partner selection choices that involve other partners who do not respect your own relationship with the mutual partner. They are still allowed to make their own decisions about their own body, mind, and emotions, just as you are allowed to make your own decisions about your own body, mind, and emotions, including whether or not to remain connected to someone whose choices result in your pain.
joreth: (Nude Drawing)
I've noticed a trend. Every couple of years, I seem to get this restless sort of feeling where I end up with a casual partner or two. Usually it coincides with a breakup, so I've been thinking that it's a rebound pattern of mine, but now I'm not so sure. I've always enjoyed casual flings, I just don't usually have the emotional resources for very many partners at once and long-term, deeply intwined relationships take up a lot of those resources all on their own. I'm actually quite fine with one, maybe even two long-term, intertwined, local partners tops (I've had up to 3 of those kinds of partners only when I mix long-distance in).  As I keep saying, being poly isn't about how many partners you currently have, but how you handle your partner's agency (previously stated as how you handle your partner getting other partners).  So I don't need a large number, just the freedom.  Plus, I know that I get insecure if my partners are into casual sex so I kinda feel like I shouldn't pursue a type of relationship that I would feel uncomfortable with my partners pursuing. So I end up either putting off getting new casual partners when I start seeing someone "seriously" or I let my existing casual partners fall to the wayside when I get a new boyfriend-type partner.

But, I think, instead of a rebound thing, it might be more like I get involved with guys who get really attached who have some buried mononormative assumptions or fears. Then, in a couple of years, when I start getting restless and more emotionall "available" for a casual sort of relationship, those more attachment-type partners of mine sense a change in the stability of our relationship that they've come to depend on. Like, whatever my configuration was when they started dating me, they assume it'll always be the same thing, even if they think they don't - or maybe they don't "assume" but they do get comfortable with it and feel uncomfortable when it changes. Both of my last "serious", long-term partners completely freaked out when I wanted to start dating someone new, even though they had both pursued other relationships in the interim after we started dating. It was like, now that we have a comfortable rhythm going, I feel confident and secure about this relationship, so I have the emotional resources now to divert to starting something new and they're going "hey, wait a minute, this isn't what I signed up for!  You billed yourself as a long-term poly, family-oriented partner, not as a swinger or someone who has side flings with people who aren't integrated into the collective network!"  Because it's true, my preference *is* for long-term, intimate partners who are committed to polyamory itself and who feel a part of my poly network and can develop close, independent relationships with their metamours, and I prefer those kinds of relationships to ones with partners who aren't interested in getting to know my other partners or my own metamours (who are family to me).  But having a preference doesn't necessarily mean that the less preferred option is an active dislike either.

I once had a partner who lived with me but I did the grocery shopping.  He told me that he "didn't care for" rootbeer.  I can't have caffeine, and since we were on a tight budget, I would rather spend our money on soda that we both liked because otherwise it was zero-sum.  So I stopped buying rootbeer, which I love.  Then I saw him drinking rootbeer at a party.  Feeling a bit betrayed, I cornered him and demanded to know why he was drinking rootbeer when he told me that he didn't like it.  He said that he never said "didn't like", he said "didn't care for".  To him, that meant that he had no active positive preference for it, but that he didn't have an active negative preference for it either and he would drink it if that's what was available and the other options were less desirable.  In his mind "to care for" implied an active liking, which he didn't have, but "don't care for" didn't imply an active disliking, which he also didn't have.

I think this exact communication error is what happens between me and many of my previous partners when I talk about my own relationship preferences.  I say that I prefer "boyfriends" and "family-oriented networks", and they hear "I ONLY like 'boyfriends' and 'family-oriented networks' and nothing else" and then when I get interested in something outside of my stated preference, they feel a sense of betrayal because their model of me was incorrect or incomplete and they feel that I misled them somehow when I feel that I was totally clear on the subject.  And for those who have unresolved insecurities or hidden biases rooted in monogamous assumptions of ownership or entitlement to one's partners, even if I haven't strayed outside of my stated preference but I have developed an interest in someone that doesn't mesh well with the group or that this partner doesn't like, it still feels like a betrayal because they have that incorrect model in their heads of who I am and what I want.

Even if I haven't started pursuing anyone in particular, I think my diverted attention catches their notice (probably on a level they aren't even aware of), and that's when, out of the blue, "insurmountable" problems arise that lead to a breakup (and a breakup can be initiated by either of us). So, suddenly I'm "single" right about the time I was starting to be interested in a fling anyway, and I just go out and find a rebound to play with until my next "boyfriend" comes along and I don't have the resources to maintain a casual, ongoing fling in addition to that more intensive relationship. And I think that I thought this was a rebound pattern, not perhaps contributing to my breakup pattern in the first place. Because things are going just fine with my current long-term partners, and there is a new possible relationship on the horizon that will probably be a more casual sort of arrangement only because of the distance but I sense the potential for something really "serious" if the logistics would allow it. So my relationships aren't on the verge of collapse and they're all taking up plenty of my time and attention and are emotionally fulfilling, but I'm starting to feel restless again and I'm starting to reconsider options that I dismissed previously because they weren't the more desirable big-R Relationship options even though I'm not "single".

In the past, I had worried that my rather predictable trend of a casual relationship with someone who is generally unsuitable for a poly arrangement but who was fine with accepting an open FWB or fuckbuddy type arrangement while they were "in between girlfriends" was an unhealthy rebound pattern that I ought to try to understand and fix.  These rebounds were a lot of fun in the beginning but not very emotionally satisfying for the long term, and I would start to fill unfulfilled and lonely after a while, which prompted me to become open again to more big-R type Relationships. Which then, of course, would take up my time and attention and I would let my casuals fade away.  But now I'm wondering if the unhealthy part wasn't the rebounds, so much, as the breakups or even relationships that superceded them?

Because most of my casual relationships ended amicably.  Even if one of us wanted to continue it when the other was ready to fade away, we still parted on good terms and maintained platonic friendships or acquaintanceships after the sex ended.  Many times, those casual sexual relationships got restarted a couple of years later when the cycle repeated, with a couple of them getting restarted several times over the years.  In my big-R Relationships, those only ended amicably when I was the one who initiated the breakup.  In those, I seemed to be able to recognize when it was time to move on and was able to extricate myself with enough compassion for my soon-to-be-ex that he wasn't put off at the thought of transitioning to a friendship with me, even if there were hurt feelings during the breakup conversation.

But the breakups where my partners did the initiating?  Those seemed to always be surrounded by hurt, trust-damaging accusations that I think indicate a fear of change or abandonment.  In those cases where I was developing a new relationship, the partners who broke up with me somehow managed to find fault with my character when they didn't see those supposed faults before, even though I have never shied away from showing my difficult side as early on in a relationship as possible.  So breakups happened with a lot of contention and deliberately caused pain because these weren't conversations about differing needs and expectations taking us on divergent paths but about suddenly, from out of nowhere, deciding that I am a horrible person in ways that they not only never had a problem with before, but in some cases actively celebrated in me before.  I spend a lot of time in breakup conversations asking "what part of that was a surprise to you?"  It may be true that I'm a horrible person, but these partners didn't seem to think so until a new potential partner came along to upset the routine.  Even when that new potential relationship had very similar beginnings to how the preexisting relationship began so it shouldn't have been a surprise when a new relationship started in that way.

In the cases where I didn't yet have a potential new partner to consider, my existing partners seemed to intuitively feel, without understanding why or being able to identfy any specific actions to point to, that I was freeing up some of my attention for something or someone additional and they would react to this observation by trying to grasp me tighter to keep me from "leaving", even if I had no intention of doing so.  This is when a partner would start asking for relationship limitations but I, because of my outward-directed attention, had little patience for entertaining.  In the beginning of a relationship, I might (rightly or wrongly) accept some agency-denying boundaries because I would be in the throws of NRC (or NRE) and also feeling a lot of compassion for someone who was new to poly or unsettled and insecure in a new relationship that hadn't yet found its stable ground.  But a couple of years in, and I might start to get tired of protecting them from their insecurities or fears and I would start to unshoulder some of that burden and just expect them to start carrying the weight of their own emotions.  So when they would try to tighten up the relationship boundaries, I was much less amenable to them because now I was directing my attention outward and on myself, instead of on them.

So I think this is where all the dysfunction is happening, not in the rebound or casual sex relationships but in the breakups themselves or perhaps in my partner selection or my method of dealing with partners' fears or biases which lead to breakups, which lead to me being "single and looking" for casual sex partners.  The dysfunction or unhealthiness of the pattern is different for different situations and different people, which is a whole other series of posts that I could go into with each individual case.  But the hypothesis that I'm currently entertaining is that my casual relationships that followed my breakups may not be, by itself, an unhealthy pattern.  And I think if I can learn to embrace the part of me that enjoys casual sex enough to insist on partners who can embrace that part of me too, rather than tolerate it or write it off as something I did in the past, then I think all the associated dysfunction can be addressed more effectively.  See, I *do* accept that I am a person who likes casual sex, but I keep compartmentalizing it in my head as something I only do when I'm "in between" big-R, local partners, which may result in me ignoring when I'm ready to accept a casual partner until after I've broken up with someone, which may lead to either resentment on my part or denying any changes a preexisting partner is noticing which could lead to conflicts that could lead to breakups.  I know that when I was only aware of monogamy as the sole option, my attraction to or interest in casual sex used to lead me to conclude that I must therefore already be "over" a partner and that the relationship needed to end if I was "moving on" to that other relationship.  So a faulty awareness of where the actual problem lies can harm relationships.  I need to restructure my own model of myself in my head as someone who likes casual sex irrespective of when I'm in a big-R Relationship.

Sure, I still don't have many resources for lots of partners, and I prefer to save those resources for the more fulfilling big-R Relationships, but a preference for one thing doesn't necessarily imply an active dislike for something else.  When my Relationships are stable and I feel confident and secure in them, those Relationships take less daily maintenance.  We have fewer Relationship Talks because we've worked out a lot of the wrinkles and now we just need the occasional check-in to make sure we're still both on the same path.  We may even see each other less often because NRC has ended we are confident enough in the relationship's existence that we can survive time apart without fear of that distance signifying the possible end of the relationship.  Or maybe we see each other more often because we've entwined our daily lives so we can afford to start spending more time apart because we're confident that the other will still be there when we return.

So, when the conditions are right, I may be open and emotionally available to divert some of my other resources to one of those less fulfilling but still fun casual relationships for a short time.  That's not necessarily an unhealthy rebound pattern.  It doesn't even have to be a "rebound" pattern at all, if I can just better arrange my Relationships to accommodate that this is a Thing for me, which will only happen if I rebuild my own internal model of myself to change it from "someone who occasionally choose unsuitable partners for casual sex after a breakup that might signify some kind of breakup damage to my self-esteem" to "someone who occasionally chooses casual sex partners who are suitable for casual sex but not more emotionally intimate or intertwined partnerships when she feels she isn't too encumbered by relationship maintanance from other relationships simply because they're fun and because all different kinds of relationships have value and someone being unsuitable for one type doesn't mean they're unsuitable for all types".
joreth: (Nude Drawing)

"In order to raise a generation of kind and respectful men we have to stop telling our boys they're inherently bad (but it's not their fault because hormones.) In order to create a culture of strong and competent women who can save themselves, we must first stop teaching girls that they need to be saved."

"While the role of overprotective father is not a new one, it is a tired concept that needs to just die, already. Aside from the assumption that my daughter ... is incapable of good judgement and protecting herself and her standards, this ridiculous concept imagines my sons likewise incapable of the same good judgement and standards.

'But I've been/known a teenage boy,' You say. 'I know how they think.'

Which is total baloney. Because here's the thing -- thoughts are not equal to actions. And rationalizing that young men have overwhelming urges that cloud their judgement and force them to make poor decisions regarding young women is nothing more than excusing bad behavior. "Boys will be boys" needs to STOP. "

"It's not 'funny' to threaten my son. It's not 'cute' to treat your daughter as if she has zero common sense. "

"realize and come to terms with the fact that teenage sexuality is not a 'boy thing'. Teenage sexuality is a teenage thing. Young men and young women alike are going to be curious, interested, and looking to learn more about sex. Your daughter is just as curious as my son, I can virtually guarantee it."

I started exploring partnered sexual activity when I was 12. I started having penetrative sex when I was 15. I actively pursued each of my partners and they were not "boyfriends" - they were casual sex partners. My first "boyfriends" were guys who pursued me, but the ones I went for were not intended to be big-R Relationships. And, not only that, but the only reason I "lost my virginity" was to see what all the fuss was about and I deliberately picked a guy who would be leaving soon so that there was no chance of an ongoing relationship.

Teenage sexuality is a teenage thing. I was curious and interested in sex and I remain so to this day. But I was also well educated and practical and responsible. Well, I was well educated and responsible about biology. I knew all about safer sex practices and how babies were made and how to avoid making babies. I knew it so well that my church youth group asked me to give a safer sex lecture to the youth because the parish thought that an older teen would be listened to better than some cranky old adult.

But I was not educated about consent, other than the obvious and practically strawmanny stranger-rape scenarios. I knew, full well, that I could say "no" and I should expect it to be honored and I knew that I *should* say "no" whenever I didn't want to do something. By 16 I even had some self-defense lessons (taught to all sophomores by our school priest, of all people, who was a black belt in some martial art or another, and was part of our P.E. curriculum).

What I didn't know was that men could be assaulted too, and that much of what was taught to us about male / female relations leads directly to male assault. I was taught that "boys will be boys" and that "all men think about sex every 6 seconds" and that teenage boys especially were out of control and only wanted sex. With those kinds of assumptions, it leads naturally to the conclusion that if I was offering sex, then any male should want it. With romantic comedies and other media examples of "if you want your love interest, just be persistent and they'll eventually see that you're The One", that leads naturally to the conclusion that if any guy *did* put up any kind of resistance to my advances, it was his "higher brain" functioning in charge, but he really wanted it, deep down inside, so all I had to do was get past his objections, tap into his primal urges, and he'd "consent".

In other words, I was the sort of guy I now mock on the internet who thinks that "no" just means "try harder". Only I thought it was OK because I was a girl, and it doesn't count when girls do it because boys and girls were "different".  I do have memories of being in high school and telling other boys that I thought it was OK to be virgins, so I did have somewhere in the back of my brain the inklings of "consent".  I was aware that people had different rates of sexuality.  But I also had the conflicting message that "boys were horndogs", and that's the message that won out every time I was interested in a guy who wasn't equally as interested in me.  It was somehow *different* when I did it, because I was a Good Person, or something.

There *were* plenty of guys who would have been interested in sex with me, and even in sex under the circumstances that I was interested in (i.e. casual sex), and some of them were even in my age group. My problem was that I did not fully understand consent or sexism or patriarchy (and all the things that covers, such as the pressure for guys to have sex whether they want to or not and the overlooking of situations that violate male consent) or even entitlement. I wanted That Guy, so I was going to Have Him.  And of course it was OK because I was the girl, and all guys want all girls anyway, they just have to be made aware of it.

The things that I now understand about consent and agency needed to be taught to 10-year old me so that when I turned 12 and found my first sexual partner, I could have started off on the correct foot with negotiating what type of relationship we were going to have. He thought sex had to take place inside of a Relationship, so he would ask me to be his "girlfriend" on Friday, we'd make out all weekend, then he'd break up with me on Sunday so that he wasn't saddled with me as a Girlfriend at school. Because I was attracted to him, I fell for this more times than I can remember. I got my heart broken over and over again when, the reality is that if casual sex had been an option, I probably would have taken it. I was interested in the sex part, not necessarily him so much.

We were friends before puberty hit. We used to run from one house to the other, playing each other's Nintendo games that we got for Christmas. We would race our scooters down the street. We played basketball together at the end of our cul de sac. We did our homework together.  But we weren't interested in each other *romantically*. If FWB had been an option, our childhood friendship might have remained intact during our early sexual explorations instead of getting destroyed by heartbreak as he kept offering me things he had no intention of producing and I built up expectations that were never met. I kept getting hurt, and he kept getting that annoying girl mooning over him. But if we had the option back then of *negotiating* a relationship that matched our actual desires instead of the cultural script (and my reputation wouldn't have been stained because of it), it might have been much more fulfilling and beneficial to both of us.

Later, after I'd had a couple of penetrative partners, I had another boyfriend who was still "a virgin". He was fascinated by my sexuality, but he was also a little afraid of it. His hormones and his buddies were telling him to be interested in sex, but he wasn't really ready for it. Unfortunately, both of us thought "boys are walking hormones", so I pressured him into sex. I got him into a compromising position so that he wasn't really aware or able to not consent because it just "happened". Oops! My bad! We stopped, because he wasn't sure about it, but I should have had the lessons that told me that it was wrong to arrange that situation in the first place. After he went home, he freaked out about it and called me (several days later, which left me freaking out about his non-contact) to break up with me because he said he wasn't ready to start having penetrative sex yet. If we had both known that it was OK for guys to not want sex, and that penetrative sex wasn't some sort of finish line with all other sexual acts lined up in a hierarchy behind it, he wouldn't have suffered the pain of being pressured into something he wasn't emotionally ready for and I wouldn't have suffered the crushing weight of rejection that, to an introverted, shy, bullied teenage girl was *devastating*.

Telling boys that "boys will be boys", to pursue at all costs, that "no means try harder", that all men are walking hormones, that a Real Man has penetrative sex with Women (but only the right kind of women), that boys who have sex are Studs while boys who don't are Virgins (and that's a horrible thing for a boy to be, but the only thing a girl should be) - telling them all that leads to a culture of rape, a culture where boys AND girls violate people's consent and disrespect their agency and where boys and girls have their consent violated and their agency disrespected. And a culture where we shame boys and girls for having their consent violated, but we shame them in different ways - ways which do nothing to actually prevent the violations from happening in the first place.

It's been a very long time since I was that person.  I can only speak about it now, with this kind of clarity, because I feel so far removed from that teenage girl, that I feel like I'm speaking about someone else.  To me now, it's obvious how I was wrong and I can't even imagine doing something like that today, so I can speak candidly about my mistakes.  But I shouldn't need to have the perspective of being a middle-aged sex-positive, alternative sexuality activist to see how I was wrong back then.  I should have been given that perspective as a child, which means that it's the adults' responsibility to stop perpetuating exactly the sorts of beliefs that lead to exactly the sorts of scenarios these "keep your hands off my daughter" posts are trying to prevent.  Telling boys to "keep your hands off my daughter" did nothing to actually keep my boys' hands off me and it also did nothing to protect boys *from* me.  And it certainly did not help me to be my best self as a teenage girl exploring her sexuality.

But it did make me incredibly resentful of anyone thinking they owned my body, and it did drive a wedge between me and my otherwise loving parents that created tension and distance between us as I struggled to take control over my body away from people who never really had any control of it to begin with but who had enough power and authority to assume control.  My parents were mostly good parents and I love them.  I remain close with them to this day and I cherish my relationships with them.  But my entire adolescence was a power struggle between us.  In spite of not understanding consent and agency as it applied to other people, I knew that my body belonged to me and that I was my own person from the very beginning.  My parents' attempts to control me were seen as intrusions and violations (as they were).  Their misplaced fear and belief that parents "own" their children, and in particular that they had any say in their children's sexuality, caused rifts between us, as well as between them and my sister (but in different ways).  We all managed to survive our teenage years, but things could have been so much better, with fewer scars that inhibit our relationships to this day, had they not had the erroneous belief that parents were the owners of their children, as opposed to guides and mentors of individual, autonomous people.  There are lots of people whose familial relationships did not survive the teenage years, and others who did mange to but only because the harmful programming was successfully passed down, perpetuating yet another generation of agency violations.

We need to stop this cycle, and it starts with teaching children young that they are autonomous individuals with complex, often conflicting desires and emotions but that they are capable of making decisions that will benefit them after weighing all the options, and it requires us *giving* them all the options to consider, including biologically accurate safer sex and respect for agency and consent, and then trusting them to make those decisions and living with the consequences.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is all a very highbrow, analytical, navel-gazing, philosophical essay to say, basically, that I lust after some people I know, including some coworkers, but who would make totally unsuitable partners, so I am not acting on my attraction, but I am enjoying the lustful feelings when I see those people.  If you have not yet learned how to lean into your discomforting feelings, such as desiring someone who doesn't desire you back or who would not make a suitable partner for you, I highly recommend learning how to do this.  In addition to merely removing the discomfort (and / or the drama that comes with poor partner selection), it also creates a new sensation to enjoy.  It takes a lot of practice and a lot of work on the self-esteem to do it, but it's totally worth it.
joreth: (Bad Computer!)
I think I get one of the reasons why I lose my temper online, and I'll try to expand later (but right now I'm running late, as usual). The things I post are about people's subjective experience, their personal autonomy, their personhood, and their dignity. These things are not up for debate.

Yet people treat the posts in my feed as though it's a stage where two equal ideas with equal merit are to be weighed and considered. The counterpoint to the stuff that I post about does not deserve to share a stage with the stuff I post about. They do not deserve equal time, equal consideration.

My rage is part frustration that I'm not being heard and I'm not making myself understood, and it's also the sheer horror that anyone could even think that these topics are up for debate in the first place.

I post things for people's education and information. Which means that people need to *learn*. Learning involves listening, not talking back. People's autonomy, personhood, dignity, subjective experiences, the right to exist - these things are not up for debate, and if you think they are, you're a horrible person and I will not host a platform that helps spread your position. The Flat Earth "theory" does not deserve to share the stage with real science and rejection of other people as people does not deserve the same stage as respect for those people.
joreth: (Bad Computer!)
I know this will piss some people off, but I firmly believe that everyone has a right to not have sex with anyone they don't want to have sex with, for any reason they have, or no reason at all. Even if that reason is stupid. Even if that reason hurts someone's feelings. Even if I think that reason is so full of shit that I want to physically and literally knock some sense into them. They have a right to say no and they have a right to revoke consent at any time.

What they don't have a right to do is treat that person any differently in a non-sexual context than anyone else, or harm them in any way, or participate in a system that discriminates against them or any of that other bullshit. But that's not the issue. Those are good reasons not to disclose private information to people who are not sex partners and it's a good reason not to take on certain people as sex partners (with the added bonus that you don't have to disclose to them). It is *not* a good reason to manipulate someone into becoming a sex partner who would not consent to that role had they known.

"But we can't read minds to know all the possible things that all the people in the world might possibly make them not want to have sex with me!"

Strawman argument. There are things that we know by virtue of living in our cultures what people are *likely* to object to. Just like I know what Christianity is all about, and what the experience of being a white male out in society is all about, and what mono relationships are all about - even though #NotAllWhateverMajorityDemographic, I know enough about those demographics because I'm steeped in the expression of the experience of those demographics every fucking day of my life. I know that if some guy hits on me while I'm walking down the street, there is a greater-than-average chance that he won't like me *because* of my atheism, my polyamory, my feminism, my job, my independence, and my gender identity even though I'm really not that far away from cis. Those things all go contrary to the cultural narrative, so I'm pretty sure that at least one of them will be deal-breakers for the average guy who thinks it's appropriate to hit on me while walking down the street.

But, on the very off chance that he might like me precisely because of those things, or that maybe he won't mind those things, telling him about it up front will be a bonus. It'll give him even more reason to be interested in me. But that's such a statistically unlikely event that it has never once happened to me in all my years of being hit on by randos on the street.  Excuse me, not minding the atheism thing happened exactly once, but he was not American-born and he was from a country where religion isn't a big thing, so I don't think it's really an exception to my point.

Now, disclosing all that shit to street randos is not what I'm advocating either - that's a personal call regarding safety. But by the time I've decided to accept someone as a sexual partner, and he has accepted the idea of me as a sexual partner, I know there are certain things that he is, by pure numbers, likely to have a problem with and could affect his willingness to consent.  Most of those things are actually related to the act of sex itself and are not unreasonable to want to know, even if their reaction to that information or their beliefs about that information are, in my opinion, unreasonable.

What I absolutely do not want, as a small female person, is to find out *afterwards* that he would not have given consent by *him* finding out afterwards and thinking that I betrayed him. I've actually already had that happen to me and I count myself damn lucky that all I got away with was a hurt pride and some temporary embarrassment at being shoved out the front door without all my clothes on. I know all the excuses - this was just for fun and not some long-term relationship, if that was a deal-breaker for him then it was his responsibility to ask about it, blah blah blah.

I know how mainstream guys (and a lot of poly guys) feel about the idea of putting their dick in somewhere that some other dick has already (recently) been. Telling them up front that their dick isn't the only one is the best way I've found so far of only fucking the guys who won't beat me for it later, and being open about that in general is the best way I've found to locate guys who actually think it's pretty fucking cool that they're not the only ones.

When someone finds out after they have already had sex with someone whom they wouldn't have had sex with had they known what they found out later, it doesn't matter how "wrong" they are for not wanting to have sex. It doesn't matter how unjustified they are for feeling betrayed. It doesn't matter to the people they kill, or beat, or humiliate. Being "right" doesn't save them that beating, that death, that humiliation, that heartache, or that disappointment.  Knowing that the potential partner is that sort of person is the kind of information you want *before* you fuck them and not to find it out the hard way.

It didn't feel great when I had to disclose to people who I liked that I had an STD.  It really hurt my feelings to have people I cared about be so afraid of something based on stigma, and not facts, that they were afraid to even touch me non-sexually even though it wasn't something they could catch that way and it wasn't even something that was likely to harm them.  But it would have hurt them more to have sex with me without the information necessary to give informed consent.  It was more than just physically harming them, because I disclosed my STD long after I needed to, long after it wasn't possible to pass it on, just to make sure they understood sexual safety.  Not giving them that information would have been robbing them of their agency.  It would have been manipulative, and it would have been making decisions for them - deciding what they "needed to know" on their behalf based on what *I* felt about that information.  Sure, *I* knew that the STD wasn't likely to harm them, but that wasn't my call to make.  They have the right to refuse sex with me on any grounds and to make decisions for their own participation based on their own risk analysis, not mine.

If the information that you're hiding (even passively) isn't a big deal, then it shouldn't be a big deal to disclose. This goes along with the Little White Lies defenses & [ profile] tacit's post on truth and virtue- if someone is defending the secret that hard, then it's clearly not "no big deal". Remember, this isn't a situation where one partner is demanding to know something that isn't relevant and is attempting to violate another's privacy. This is something that could *change someone's consent* for having sex with you.

If you can't trust the person you're about to get slippery with to handle the information that you're keeping secret, then this is probably not the safest person for you to be getting slippery with either. If you fear for your safety, then don't take them as a partner. You don't *have* to disclose anything that will make you unsafe, but if you're unsafe with this partner, then choosing them as a partner was your first mistake (assuming you, yourself, weren't coerced or forced into the encounter in the first place - this whole rant is aimed at consensual sexual arrangements, not abuse victims keeping secrets from their abusers to prevent further abuse - again, go back to the truth and virtue post) and keeping the secret is the second in a list of mistakes.

This is about two things - 1) respecting your partner's agency enough to give them the information necessary for them to give consent. You can't read their minds to know that they would revoke consent if they found out that you once masturbated to a poster of the New Kids On The Block when you were a kid and they have an irrational fear of cooties from Donny or whatever the fuck one of their names was, but you can know that there are certain kinds of information that is culturally important and likely to affect someone's willingness to fuck you if they knew about it (and if you don't know that person individually well enough to know their specific deal-breakers, you at least know those culturally likely deal-breakers). Your partners are human fucking beings and deserve to be treated with no less dignity and respect than allowing them to consent to sex with you and I can't fucking believe this still has to be said;

And 2) saving yourself either the repercussions of being found out later, or of being a person who is not your best self. Sure, it's possible that person may never find out, especially if it's a one-night stand in a strange town and you didn't exchange names or phone numbers and have no overlapping social circles or interests to ever run into them again, even on the internet. It's probably even likely. But *you* know that you will have acted with the best of intentions and the highest degree of integrity. *You* will have been a person who respects your partner's agency. *You* will have been the sort of person that you ultimately hope your partners would be for you - someone who does not take it upon themselves to decide on your behalf what information is "necessary" when it's actually something that you think is not only important, but reasonable to be informed about.

This isn't about degree of severity.  I have two analogies I often bring out in this debate - murder and jawalking aren't the same thing and don't deserve the same punishment, but both are against the law.  A creek isn't the same as the ocean, but both will get you wet if you step in them.  I'm not talking about whose the baddest, most evilest, most terrible person out there and I'm not talking about stringing people up by their toenails even for minor infractions.  The guy who didn't dislose his HIV and had unprotected sex with a bunch of people, giving them HIV? Yeah, he was a monster, and I'm not putting him in the same category as someone who has a sort-of sexual partner with no arrangement of exclusivity not disclosing that person to a one-night-stand in another country on a business trip.  But both are still examples of not disclosing information that not only could affect one's willingness to consent but is *likely* to.  Both are still examples of not respecting the other person's right to not have sex, one example just has much more dire consequences than the other.

I'm far less likely to make a personal value judgement about someone who says "I've done some things where I wasn't my best self. I know my justifications for them, and I may even slip and not be my best self in the future, but I know that this thing is not living up to my highest ideals of integrity," than someone who tries to justify their actions, digging in their heels and doubling down on preventing informed consent with excuses, selfish justifications of "privacy" and "not my responsibility" and "too much trouble / effort."  Someone who says "yeah, I torrent big blockbuster movies.  I know it's wrong, but I do it," isn't getting the same kind of judgement from me as someone who says "I don't care if you're a starving artist, you OWE the world, and consequently me, the right to use your art without being compensated for it." (That's a real example, btw, not a strawman and not hyperbole).  This isn't about degree.  It's about being your best self and by doing so, treating those around you with the dignity and respect that they deserve, especially those you engage intimately with.

If I want to live in a world where I, as a woman, have the right to say "no" for any reason whatsoever and no reason at all, if I want to live in a world where my body is completely mine and I have ultimate authority over what happens to it, then I have to make that world by defending other people's right to say "no", even if I disagree with their reasons, because it's *not my place* to decide the validity of someone else's reasons for saying "no".  If integrity were easy, everyone would do it all the time.

"Ben, there's a story eating at you ... one you know you gotta tell."

"Not that simple."

"Telling the truth is never simple... or easy. Why only the best of us ever really try."
joreth: (Nude Drawing)

"OMG, women like hardcore porn!"

Uh, yeah, no shit. This author makes the same mistake that I see all too often - they compare stats showing that women like hardcore porn to so-called "feminine porn" that's "soft focus" with slower sex scenes.

The mistake is that there is any kind of porn out there that is "for women". By that, I mean that people think there is a *type* of porn that having a vagina makes you more likely to like (conflating vagina-having with "women", of course - the rest of my rant will keep the gender binary because that's what the people I'm criticizing are doing). There isn't.

What "porn for women" tries to do (at least, those that aren't just as misogynistic as mainstream porn) is have representation of the *woman's experience* instead of catering to the "male gaze".

Here's what this means: Porn that is written and performed with the assumption that men like certain things and they want to highlight those certain things is what is called "the male gaze". Obligatory #NotAllMen here. Yes, I know not all men like those things, that's part of the problem with this shit. Moving on. They are made with the ASSUMPTION of straight male interest and the performers are performing for the pleasure of those men whom they are assuming are watching.

"Porn for women" isn't about there being two categories of sex acts for which men like one category (usually involving getting messy) and women like the other (usually involving perfect hair). Both and other genders like a variety of sex acts. This type of porn is about writing and performing stories that a woman-centric audience can *relate* to, vs. performing acts that men supposedly find attractive. There may be some overlap.

For example, I love giving blow jobs. According to the common misconception of "porn for women", none of my porn should have any blow jobs in them because only men get something out of blow jobs, so showing that act on screen is for men only. And, yeah, in mainstream porn, I hate watching blowjob scenes. Those women don't look like they're enjoying it. It doesn't look authentic. They do things that might look "attractive" to someone who has a penis and knows what a blow job feels like, but they don't do the things about blow jobs that make them so much fun for me to give. Things like, taking a flaccid penis and rolling it around in my mouth, gently squishing it between my tongue and the roof of my mouth, and gradually feeling the texture change from soft to hard.

"Porn for women" would show a blowjob like that. Porn that people who don't understand what "porn for women" is make for women (that is, when a person who doesn't understand that phrase attempts to make porn for a female audience) wouldn't show a blowjob at all, and if it did, there would be a soft focus on the camera, diffusion filters on all the lights, high key lighting, pastel colors, no actual images of oral penetration on screen, perfect hair on the girl, and the guy tenderly whispering how much he loved her. Blegh.

So, yeah, of course some women like hardcore porn and of course some women aren't interested in the fuzzy romance-novels-on-screen type porn. Women are interested in a huge range of sexual activity. What makes porn "for women" or "for men" is not the specific sex acts depicted in them, but in how those sex acts are portrayed and what assumptions that the performers and writers are making when they make their choices for portraying them. Is the sex act performed so that someone with a penis can have the view of those things it is assumed he will want to look at? Or is the sex act performed so that even someone without a penis can feel that their experiences or desires are represented on the screen?

A hardcore, explicit gangbang can be portrayed either way. And women who like gangbangs are probably going to spend plenty of time looking up videos with gangbangs in them, but they will probably *enjoy* watching the ones in the latter category more. Nowhere, on our Woman Membership Card, does it say that we can't like gangbangs or that we're betraying the sisterhood if we do. We just want to see gangbangs (those of us who like them) that take into account whatever it is we like about gangbangs, not see gangbangs that are nothing but posturing for the straight males watching. And only people who don't think of women as some Other species with a totally unique category Sex Acts We Like To Perform are going to know how to direct and write and film those gangbangs the way we like to watch them.

Or they might film it right purely by accident. Either way, of course women like hardcore porn. Why do you think fucking 50 Shades was so popular? It was crap, but it was told from the perspective of a woman experiencing "kink", rather than from the perspective of the Domly dom male.  We just need better writers.  When women's experiences and women's stories are represented, women attend those media in droves (Mad Max, anyone?).  They're even willing to spend fortunes on absolute shit examples (not Mad Max).  If we could just get some decent writing & production value, you'd see a new social wave of the Every-Woman (the female equivilent of the Every-Man) embracing hardcore and explicit sexual media like the Pope suddenly endorsed it.

joreth: (Misty in Box)

Psychologists often talk about a quirk of human psychology called the fundamental attribution error. It's a bug in our firmware; we, as human beings, are prone to explaining our own actions in terms of our circumstance, but the actions of other people in terms of their character. The standard go-to example of the fundamental attribution error I use is the traffic example: "That guy just cut me off because he's a reckless, inconsiderate asshole who doesn't know how to drive. I just cut that car off because the sun was in my eyes and there was so much glare on the windshield I didn't see it."

We do this All. The. Time. We do it without being aware we're doing it. We do it countless times per day, in ways large and small.

For the last several years, since I first heard of this error, I've started catching myself when I, for instance, call people assholes on the road. I still do it, but in my head I remind myself that I'm just letting off steam and that they feel just as justified as I do when I do it to other people. I think it's helping me (and is entirely appropriate) to feel my feelings as they are and to be validated in my reaction to situations while still considering my opponents as "people". I think it's important to be able to be angry at someone for doing an assholeish thing, and even to judge people for their actions, while still keeping the situation in context that they are a complete person who believes they are the hero of their own narrative just as I do.

"I would like, therefore, to propose a radical idea:

The world is made of lots of people. Some of those people are different from you, and have different ideas about what they want, what turns them on, what is and is not acceptable for them, and what they would like to do.

Some of those ideas are alien, maybe even incomprehensible, to you.

Accept that it is true. Start from the assumption that even if something sounds weird, distasteful, or even disgusting to you, it may not be so to others--and that fact alone does not prove those other folks have something wrong with them. If someone tells you they like something, and you have no compelling evidence that they're lying, believe them--even if you don't understand why.

I've been trying forever to get people to understand this, and I started by getting myself to understand it. I know lots of people (myself included) who think they have The Answer to other people's problems. I know, for instance, people who get really upset when other people make career choices that are not choices that they would choose for themselves. These are usually people who pride themselves on their "work ethic" because they have bought into the erroneous tale that people who work hard enough will be rewarded with an increase in the quality of life based on capitalistic standards.

So anyone who is poor must not be "working hard enough". Anyone who is poor who turns down a job, or who gets sick and goes home instead of working through their illness, or basically does anything that they, themselves, think they wouldn't do in the other person's situation, those people (by this logic) deserve the poverty they get.

I know, I've had that same perspective myself for most of my life. It gets *really* tiring to keep explaining that other people are DIFFERENT PEOPLE. They have different limitations, different perspectives, different preferences, different goals, different priorities, different feelings, different abilities ... and all these differences add up to making different choices that people should not necessarily be punished for.

People who have lots of sex do not "deserve" to get STDs, or to be beaten up, or to be thought of as some kind of "lesser quality" of person. People who do not want to work 80 hours a week doing manual labor in two or three different jobs and still not get any medical benefits do not "deserve" to remain poor or thought of as "lazy".

We do not all need to have the same house, the same jobs, the same clothing, the same kind or amount of sex, or the same goals out of life. And yes, as long as we live in a scarcity-model capitalistic society, sometimes that means that some of us pay more in dollars than others for that right. But if that means that people get to live the lives that makes them happy (which, btw, ultimately *does* contribute back into society), then I'm all for that.

"Equality" does not necessarily mean or have to mean equal dollar amounts. It means equal opportunity for "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness".
joreth: (Nude Drawing)
Someone explained to me that being the mother of someone with Asperger's is the reason why she has conservative values over dress codes.

You see (she explained to me), women walking around with sexually alluring clothing make it hard for her son with AS, because he is not capable of controlling himself in the same way that other people are.

So I explained to her that, my cultures (combining kink & poly & feminist geeky subcultures together, just so that I didn't have to start out with a lecture about the similarities and differences of each of those subcultures) are actually very popular with people who have AS. They seem drawn to them in high numbers and the cultures seem to be very welcoming and able to deal with the symptoms of AS. And yet, we don't have this big problem of everyone with AS being overwhelmed with uncontrollable emotions or urges as a result of seeing boobs or skimpy outfits or even outright nudity. And that's because the cultures emphasize contextual sexuality - sex depends on the context.

I could see her stumped, as no one had ever presented this possibility to her before. I think everyone she has ever said this to in the past probably nodded knowingly and gave her a pass for her sexism (she's also a bonafide Tea Partyist, so that should give you a clue to her regular social circles). But our food came and the moment passed, so we moved onto other topics of conversation.

Now, yes we need to talk *within* our communities about problems with fetishization and rape culture and sexism, etc. But I think that it needed to be pointed out that *AS* is not the problem here, and women covering up is not the solution. Other cultures have different social contexts for nudity, and people behave according to their culture's approval for nudity. While the kink community, for example, does have a problem with rape culture, it's not a "men will be men" thing, nor a "people with mental illness can't deal with society" thing, nor a "women must change themselves to make men behave" thing.

The rape culture in the kink community is a product of people bringing in the rape culture from the larger culture that we are all steeped in. It's not somehow *worse* in kink communities because women walk around dungeons in thongs, baring their breasts. If the amount of skin was the cause, then the amount of assault should be directly proportional to the amount of skin shown, and it's obviously not.

If we were going to draw correlations, I would bet money that the correlation would show an inverse relationship if any were to emerge at all. The LESS skin that is culturally appropriate to show, the HIGHER the assault rate is in that culture. And I would bet that the reason is because of the sense of entitlement that comes with a culture that considers telling women to cover up is the solution to men's "urges" is what is responsible for assault, not amount of skin showing.

Damn, I wish I had thought of those last 2 paragraphs when I was talking to that woman.

*EDIT* There are actually studies showing this correlation from a couple of different perspectives or angles.  I was reminded of these studies (at least one of which I've read before and forgot), but haven't had time to look up the links.  Bottom line is - I was right, it's not the amount of skin that's showing, it's what the culture consideres acceptable regarding entitlement to women's bodies.
joreth: (Purple Mobius)
Pet Peeve:  I hate it when people argue against the phrase "it's not all about the sex" by talking about those times when it is about sex.  That phrase does not *exclude* being about sex.  The keyword there is "all". It means that polyamory is not ALL about sex, it doesn't mean that it's NEVER about sex.  It means that the sex is not the single, sole, or only criteria.  That's what that word "all" means - all, only, single, solo, there is no other.  It means that out of the list of criteria, every single criteria option available is "the sex".  Which, of course, means that polyamory is not all about the sex.

That phrase doesn't exclude sex, it only removes the limitation to sex.  Which means that yes, sometimes, polyamory is about sex in exactly the same way that monogamy is about the sex.  In other words, some relationships are more sex-centric than others, and some situations or contexts within individual relationships are more sex-centric than others.

Monogamy is an extremely widely varied category.  There are people who get together pretty much because they have amazing sexual chemistry and not much else.  There are people who have emotional or spiritual unions and sex may be a small, or non-existent part of their connection.  There are people that have waxing and waning elements of sexuality within their relationship over time.

Newsflash:  polyamory is the same thing because we're talking about romantic relationships involving people who have different personal definitions of "romantic" and different sexual needs and identities.  Which means, by definition, that it's not all about the sex.  Tacking on an addendum like "but sometimes it *is* about the sex" is redundant and a red herring distraction because no one ever said it wasn't about sex.

It's kinda like someone trying to explain that football isn't all about touchdowns, because there are also field goals and strategy and passing and gaining / losing ground and camaraderie and sportsmanship and life skills and leadership skills and teamwork and ... and ... and...; and then someone comes along and says "hey, sometimes it IS about the touchdowns!"  Well, yeah, if there weren't any touchdowns ever by any team or any player in any game in existence, then it wouldn't be football.  But it also wouldn't be football if the only thing anyone could do was score touchdowns and no one could block or tackle or make a 40-yard pass.

It doesn't contribute anything to the conversation to declare opposition to the statement "it's not all about the sex" because that statement doesn't exclude sex so it's not actually in opposition.  Sure, we should be talking about the sexual element in polyamory.  It's just that the statement isn't saying that we shouldn't.  Contradicting the popular phrase with "it IS sometimes about the sex" is actually a Straw Man argument because no one is saying that it's never about sex and it redirects the conversation to where someone who is trying to talk about the complexity of polyamory or perhaps the distinctions of polyamory now comes across as sex-negative or slut-shaming when, in fact, discussing the multidimensional nature of polyamory is often a very sex-positive position.

So what I'm saying is, that it's really fucking annoying when people don't pay attention to language and then seem to deliberately or willfully muddy the waters by arguing shit that no one is disputing.
joreth: (Purple Mobius)
I've said this before and I'm sure I'll say it again in a dozen different ways. But it bears repeating.

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

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

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

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

It might hurt and I might feel envious, but it's not my call to make. His time, emotions, body, and resources are his. My job is to communicate effectively so that he understands how his actions affect me and to choose partners who honor the respect I give them when I value their autonomy, as well as arranging my life to suit my own needs and idiosyncrasies instead for trying to arrange other people's lives to suit me.
joreth: (Self-Portrait)
I'm a fervent believer in the Me Manual - an "instruction manual" telling people how to deal with yourself.  It can include your quirks, your fears, your Love Languages, your kinks, your triggers, your medical history, whatever.  The point is that I am strongly opposed to treating partners and loved ones as if they have magic crystal balls and can divine what you want and don't want in relationships.  So I put together a Me Manual, detailing all of those kinds of things.  In fact, it's here, in my blog, under the tag Me Manual.

But Cunning Minx, of the Poly Weekly podcast, has a background in marketing and has put together a User Manual template that is short and to the point (also available at the end of her book 8 Things I Wish I'd Known About Polyamory).  It's much easier reading than my jumbled novel-length posts sparked by random thoughts and situations.  So I've taken her template and created my own based on it.  This covers pretty much all the same things as my Me Manual does, but in a single, digestible format.  I'll probably end up posting it on my website in the About Me section too.  But here it is:

Part A
Family Background/History
(this might explain some of my quirks)
  • I'm an oldest child.  Excellent student, overachiever, bored easily, often in competition with my younger sister who excelled at everything I didn’t & who felt challenged at everything I was good at.

  • I am a Gifted child. This means that I am incredibly smart, but I was praised for *being* smart, not for trying hard.  Consequently, I get embarrassed or frustrated when something doesn’t come easily to me, so I will often not bother trying or I’ll give up quickly and move onto other things and that my potential in many areas has not been met because I gave up and moved on.  But it also means that I have a great deal of interests and knowledge, and I’m proud of that.  And it means that I will grasp things fairly quickly and will probably have a decent working understanding of certain topics that I have formed opinions or conclusions about and may not wish to hear an opposing viewpoint if I feel that I’ve heard it already and rejected it.  It may be the first time you’ve spoken about it to me, but it’s not the first time I’ve heard it.

  • My family is the classic American “normal” nuclear family. Catholic parents who married right after high school, still together, 2 kids, dog, suburbs, one scholarly kid & one jock kid.  They believed very strongly that family was forever, so fights don’t generally frighten me & I don’t assume there is anything wrong with the relationship just because there is the occasional fight.  People who do fear fights or see them as automatic symbols of relationship distress confuse and frustrate me.

  • I'm independent. I was raised to be independent, but really, this is an internal trait that far exceeds what my parents actually intended to instill.  I like lots of alone time, I like taking care of myself, I take pride in developing the types of skills that allow me to be self-sufficient.  However, I may occasionally feel a little bit left out when everyone in my life has someone to depend on and I end up taking care of myself when I’m sick and attending parties alone.  So very small gestures of assistance or partnership are incredibly meaningful to me, as long as they are not done after I insist that I don’t want the assistance and with the acknowledgement that I am still capable of doing it on my own.

  • I have abandonment issues because of a long history of men “trying out” polyamory for my sake, only to dump me for the first girl to come along who wants them but doesn’t want polyamory.  I also have a long history of men just up and leaving with no contact or explanation (i.e. the Disappearing Act form of breakup).  I need lots of assurances that whatever new partner comes along, that I won’t be “replaced”, that my partners intend to stick around for a while, that breakups will be civil and respectful and compassionate, and that my partners have a commitment to being “friendly exes” themselves.  After a recent series of very bad breakups, I have an even larger amount of anxiety about people’s breakup skills and dedications to polyamory or to me in particular.

  • I’m adopted so I have an, apparently, unusual ability to see poly analogs in monogamous society.  Most of what I learned about how to manage multiple adult families and how to love multiple people came from my loving, heteronormative, family-oriented, monogamous family.  It also means that I’m very sensitive about intentional families and intentional family-planning.  I feel very strongly about issues of family being one of choice, not blood, and in the right to choice in parenting, and extrapolating those concepts to polyamory and other family and relationship issues.
Part B: How to turn me on -

  • Make time for me but don’t demand all of my time. Not enough regular contact and I’ll assume you’re not that into me and I’ll just go about my life without putting too much thought into how it affects you.  This could even happen after a relationship has been established.  If I feel that you don’t have time for me but I’m not otherwise unhappy about the relationship enough to breakup, I’ll just start to withdraw myself and start going about my life with less consultation with you, transitioning to a more casually structured relationship even if I maintain a deep emotional connection.

    But too much *demand* for regular contact and I’ll start to feel confined.  I want regular contact with my partners, but I also want flexibility from my partners with regards to my chaotic and unconventional schedule.  In order, my preference for “contact” is: face-to-face / in-person time; phone conversations; online chat & public social networking interaction (tied); Skype; texting & email (tied).  One exception is that public social networking interaction that is positive/complimentary/flirty/ or otherwise publicly acknowledges & reinforces a relationship is also very meaningful for me.  But that’s Words of Affirmation Love Language, whereas the methods of contact fall under Quality Time Love Language.  Both are equally meaningful to me.  If you aren’t familiar with the Five Love Languages, ask me and we’ll talk more on the subject.  It’s pretty extensive.

  • Ask your partner(s) to reach out to me. I prefer family-oriented inclusive networks, and having a metamour reach out to me reinforces the impression that my partners & metamours share my family values.  It also greatly reduces my initial anxiety at the beginning of a relationship regarding the question of whether or not I am wanted or if there are any hidden anti-poly feelings or traps waiting for me.

  • Share my values on personal sovereignty, freedom in relationships, trust, and personal security.  I am very attracted to people who are secure in themselves and their relationships to not feel the need for emotional crutches like veto power & behaviour-limiting relationship rules.  Even better if you’re not just personally secure enough to not need those things, but if you actively disapprove of those things and see the harm they cause everyone involved, not just the incoming partner who is typically the most disadvantaged in these situations.

  • Call me with stuff you think is funny / happy. I've developed an aversion to people with tremendous drama in their lives, and one of the things I've grown to appreciate is a partner who will share joy, not just pain. I’m also prone to the cynical (and I don’t particularly want anyone to try and change that about me), but I do appreciate having happy, joyful, optimistic people around to balance me out.  Making me smile or laugh is a great skill.

  • Be willing to cry in front of me. I'm touched when someone trusts me enough to cry in front of me. Show me your vulnerability, and I'll show you mine. Very few people get to see it.

  • Be willing to say "I was wrong" Admitting you were wrong with humility and without defensiveness is a huge turn-on for me. Not being able to do this is a deal-breaker.  And be patient with me when I have a hard time doing the same, that’s also an emotional turn-on for me.

  • Be willing to stand your ground when you believe I’m wrong. As the episode from Sex And The City goes, I’m looking for someone who is strong enough to catch me.  I don’t want a yes-man, but I don’t want an argumentative jerk either.  I want people who are strong and confident and who treat me like a person, not a fragile angel or a goddess or a superstar.  Listen to me, even if I'm ranting. Chances are that once I think you understand my point of view, I'll figure out all on my own that you're right on quite a few of your main points.

  • Let me leave.  If I leave the room or ask to stop the conversation when things are getting tense, it’s because I’m becoming overwhelmed and I’m feeling attacked or cornered.  I need to escape to give myself a chance to calm down and think more rationally.  When I leave, I’m not waiting the obligatory 5 seconds to see if you come after me.  I’m really trying to escape, so please just let me go.  If you have the ability to switch gears and change the subject to something lighthearted, especially if you can make me laugh, then I don’t have to physically leave the room; I just need to emotionally “leave” the argument or situation, so you can ask me to stay and I’ll stay.

  • Tell / show me you like me for who I am, not just for my hot ass and not just because I'm “Joreth”. I'm really proud of my work and my accomplishments.  In addition to a long history of men who leave when they find a “real girlfriend”, I also have a long history of men who either date me or fuck me because they think I’m hot or they’re somewhat starstruck, but they don’t seem to really like me very much.  They build up this model in their head of who they think I am or who I should be, and they tend to get resentful when I behave exactly according to who I told them I was instead of the model they made me out to be. So if you show an interest in getting to know all of me, not just the fun bits, I'll be really grateful, and it will help build trust. I’m looking for people who don’t just “put up with” or tolerate these parts of me, like my temper or my “masculinity”, I’m looking for people who celebrate those difficult or messy parts of me, even if they are also trying or frustrating at times.

  • Rub my shoulders, neck, and back, and don't be stingy with the pressure. Show me you have nice, strong hands and aren't afraid of all the tension I keep in my neck and shoulders.  Don’t use massages as a prelude to sexual encounters, as flirting, as an excuse to get your hands on my body, or try to “sneak” in sex or erotic touching.  My back is damaged & I am in constant pain (some days are better than others).  Back rubs do not equal “sex” to me, and attempts to make them erotic really anger me.  If you really want to get in my good graces, give me a therapeutic massage and keep the sex out of it.  Do it because you care about the pain I’m in and want to help, not as a selfish excuse to get something out of it for yourself.

  • Read my writings and follow me on social networking sites.  I get not having a lot of time for the internet, but I spend a lot of my own time there, so I spend a lot of me there.  If you want to really know me and who I am, be a presence in my internet life and read the things that I take the time to write.  The less in-person time we spend together, the more important this is to me.

  • Get to know my other partners.  Taking the initiative to reach out and get to know my other partners is a HUGE emotional turn on for me.  Especially Franklin , as he is someone I admire outside of just being my partner.  He often expresses the things I want to say in a more lucid way than I can.  So it’s important to me that my other partners read his works and interact with him.  But it’s also important that my partners get to know each other even those who aren’t Franklin. 

    When my partners are local, I need to be able to have Quality Time when multiple partners and/or metamours are present, so it’s important that they get along with each other even if they don’t become best friends outside of me.  When my partners aren’t local, I need to have multiple eyes and checks on my behaviour and my emotional state, so coordinating and comparing notes with each other is a valuable tool for keeping abreast of my well-being. 

    Also, being interested and willing to contact each other independently of me shows that you want the kind of inclusive, interconnected network that I want and resistance to reaching out to my other partners often signals an underlying issue with polyamory or my other partners specifically.  Even if it doesn’t signal that in you, I will read it as such because of past patterns and it will distress me if you don’t initiate or respond to contact and attempts at finding your own friendly path with my other partners.

  • The Five Love Languages are a good start to the kinds of things that I need to feel loved and how I express love.  I am multi-lingual; I need for love to be shown to me in Quality Time and Words of Affirmation the most, but very closely following is Acts of Service and Physical Touch.  I could write a whole Me Manual just on how I need each of these Languages to be expressed and how each can be used to hurt me in especially damaging ways, so talk to me about this and check in every so often to see which Language is expressing itself the most at any given time.  Gift Giving is tricky with me and it doesn’t mean as much to me as the other languages, so if you like to express your love by buying gifts, it’s best to stick with my online Wishlist or to outright ask me how I feel about something.  I’m also terrible about knowing what to buy, so if you feel loved when you receive gifts, I’ll need a wishlist from you.
Sexually: Flirting
  • Quote my favorite movies, or movies in my favorite genres even that particular movie isn’t one of my favorites.

  • Fix my computer/server issues or car issues. I consider myself technically & mechanically competent, but I am extremely turned on by guys who are as competent as I am, or more, especially in those areas that are not my areas of expertise, like computers & cars. Only do so because you want to help me and not with the expectation that I will "reward" you for helping me by offering sexual or relationship favors. Kindness is hot, entitlement is not.

  • Prefer to wear practical clothing. I especially like geek clothing, stagehand clothing, and “country” wear for casual or practical.  There’s nothing like a hot ass in a pair of worn jeans or a shirt that shows off biceps and work-roughened forearms to get me going.  I also like it when guys are ready to “do stuff”.  When something needs to be fixed, or we go outside in the heat, or we’re working, or we’re just goofing off and playing around, I like a guy who isn’t worried about damaging his clothing or dressing in clothes that won’t let him do what needs to be done.

  • But also enjoy dressing up for special occasionsIt’s also incredibly attractive to me when guys take the effort to dress up for occasions, either in costume or in nicer outfits for dinner, dancing, or other formal events.  Knowing how (or expressing interest in learning) to dress for the occasion, whether it’s up for special events or down for practical daily stuff, is attractive to me.  Do the emotional labor of paying attention to fashion and its consequences so that I, as the woman, am not the only one held responsible for attire since the consequences for improper attire of either gender tend to fall more heavily upon the woman in hetero relationships. Shouldering emotional labor is attractive. Bonus points for coordinating outfits with me.  This is not exclusive – coordinating outfits with multiple people is also win.

  • Go dancing with me. I really love a guy who dances or who is willing to learn how to dance.  If dancing isn’t your thing, being interested in watching me dance is another option.  This goes back to liking me for who I am – appreciating one of my skills which is a particularly strong passion of mine.

  • Send me sexy texts. I enjoy little random reminders of our sexual relationship, but especially when they are stand-alone flirting and do not have any expectations attached to them.

  • Use puns & double entendres. I like humor with multiple meanings, and if something can be said that is completely innocent but also taken sexually, I’ll probably find it amusing.

  • Options for Joreth-friendly dates: ice cream; rock climbing; ballroom & swing dancing; something physical or unusual; interesting meals; movies & hot chocolate afterwards to talk about the movie; photography expeditions; exploring or urban spelunking; learning something new; attending science-themed and/or educational event; attending skeptical events; exploring shared kinks (but only after we have discussed and developed a kinky aspect to our relationship).

  • Share my interests with me and share your interests with me.  I have a lot of interests, not just sex, poly and kink. If you love to cook, I would love someone to cook an elaborate dinner with or to appreciate someone’s cooking skill if you want to cook for me. If you are into interior design/home renovation, I'd love someone to brainstorm and carry out home improvement projects with. If you dance, I'd love someone to hone my dance skills with. If you travel, I'd love someone to go on trips with--sightseeing in Europe, relaxing on the beach in Mexico, exploring Tibet, rambling through Ireland or New Zealand, cruising to Alaska, discovering local Florida.  Share your interests with me, involve me in your world, and engage my participation.

  • I do not drink caffeine, alcohol, or smoke any substance, so being sober around me is a good start to any attempt at flirting, as is taking me places where sobriety will not detract from my enjoyment of the environment.

  • Be aware of times of the day when I’ll be most receptive to flirting. I probably have Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome, which is when the circadian rhythm is off by several hours.  This means that I am not a morning person, and nothing you can do or say will change that.  Getting on a “schedule” will not fix it, going to bed early won’t fix it, waking me up with sex won’t fix it.  My best times for interactions start in late afternoon.  If you can stay up late with me, bonus.

    I also probably have OCD, which means that if my mind is on something like a project or a task, I will be unreceptive to being interrupted with sexy times, although flirting without attached expectations may be appropriate, depending on the task that is distracting me.
Sexually: Sex
  • Casual sex: I have a wildly fluctuating libido, so I will go for short bursts of wanting sex all the time to long months, sometimes years, of not wanting sex at all.  This means that when I have a deeply intimate local partner, I don’t generally have enough attention or libido left over for casual sex and I find casual sex partners to be fun but ultimately not fulfilling.  So I generally don’t expend much energy in pursuing or maintaining casual sex partners.  However, I am also somewhat opportunistic about sexual activities.  If a rare opportunity comes up for a particular sexual activity that I might find interesting, I tend to want to act on that opportunity even if it means taking on a casual partner or one-night-stand to do it and even if my libido is otherwise in a low point.

    I have to be in the right frame of mind for a casual sex relationship, and I am usually aware of when I am and am not capable of such a relationship.  If I am not in the right frame of mind, I will likely be very unreceptive to casual sex propositions.  If you are hoping to have a casual sex relationship with me, it is absolutely paramount that you accept rejection gracefully and do not continue to push.  If I change my mind, I will approach you.  If you push, I am not likely to change my mind.

    If you are hoping to have an emotionally intimate relationship with me, I need the freedom to pursue the occasional casual sex relationship as certain opportunities arise without you feeling like it is a commentary on our relationship (this is particularly important if I become interested in a casual partner while I am in an otherwise low libido phase).  I accept temporary safety boundaries imposed between us due to my casual partners, as I would probably request the same of you. 

    I also prefer to have partners that do not desire casual partners themselves, at least not often, because of those safety boundaries – I don’t want to have many boundaries between myself and my partners so I’d rather be with people who do not do the sorts of things that result in me needing higher safety boundaries between us.  But I am not imposing a “no casual partners” rule for my partners.  I am just more comfortable with partners who themselves have a low desire for casual partners.  It’s a double standard, I’m aware of that, and I understand if you don’t like it.

  • Libido:  As mentioned above, I have a wildly fluctuating libido.  I am beginning to suspect I have what’s called a “responsive libido”, which is where the default position is “off” but it can be turned to “on” in response to the correct stimuli.  But it also means that even when it’s “on”, it can quickly be turned to “off” with the incorrect stimuli.  The difference, it is explained, is that people with non-responsive libidos think “hmm, I’m aroused, let’s go find someone to have sex with,” while someone with a responsive libido thinks “hey, this activity is arousing me, I guess I can have sex.”

    It’s more nuanced than that, and we can talk more about it, but the gist is that my libido will take a sharp nosedive after the NRE has worn off and it’s not a statement on the relationship or my feelings for my partner.  I will lose interest in sex and I will stop initiating.  This can be very difficult on my partners, but repeated attempts to stimulate my libido when it drops usually result in lowering the libido further.  I need partners who have a strong sense of self-esteem who can withstand the drop in sex without feeling it as an assault on their attractiveness or the state of our relationship, and who can work with me on compromises so that I can continue to show and express my love and affection without instigating the resentment that comes from implications of entitlement and neediness (i.e. low self-worth) that many attempts to boost my libido often come with.

    That all being said, with the right context and contact, my libido can often be coaxed into being “on”.  Check in with me to see if the context and contact is right at any given moment.

  • What is sex to me? To me, in general, sex is anything that I am most likely to get an STI from such as vaginal or anal penetration or oral sex or genital contact as well as anything that contributes to and/or results in sexual arousal and/or orgasm such as fromage (dry humping), “making out”, heavy petting, “snogging”,  sexting and webcaming. I do not consider kissing to be sex, but it is a behaviour that can transmit an STI, as well as other infections.  I have a chronic respiratory condition, so when it comes to safety measures, I do include kissing in STI and safety discussions even though I don’t consider it “sex” in the same way that I consider other acts.  Also, I separate BDSM scening and sex; kink for me does not necessarily involve sex or sexual contact, so in discussions about sex and/or safety, BDSM is not included unless a specific activity also falls into the category of STI transmission, sexual contact, orgasm, and possibly arousal.

    I also separate out “things that are a safety issue” and “things that are an emotional issue” with regards to sex.  So even though I don’t consider kissing to be sex, I’m still going to want to be notified about intentions to kiss and as soon after kissing has happened as possible when my partner’s other partner is not an established partner, and only part of the reason I want to be notified will have to do with safety issues. 

    When a partner has an established partner, I am much more comfortable with not knowing about each specific instance of sexuality.  But I have difficulty with change and I have my own emotional issues (discussed elsewhere in this document), so knowing ahead of time that there is potential for sexuality with a new partner, knowing that there is *interest* even if the other person isn’t aware of the interest / hasn’t expressed reciprocal interest, and being notified as soon afterwards as possible of a new sexual development or encounter is very important to me and I may ask for emotional reassurances.

  • People often ask me what I'm into sexually. And in truth, the answer is, "It depends." There are a few activities I know I enjoy, to be sure. I've discovered, though, that it's often not the activity; it's the dynamic between the people and their respective levels of enthusiasm for and skill at the activity that matters. If you do something really well or have some special skill or kink, just let me know. Even if it's not my favorite thing now, it might be with you. And my favorite thing now might not be all that great with you. Let's just see what we're into together, shall we? That being said...
Turn ons:
  • Grabbing me by the hair but not pulling.  I do not like the pain of hair pulling at all, but I do like the intensity of emotion or passion that is often signaled by gripping the hair and I enjoy the use of hair grabbing to control me.

  • ForcefulnessOnce we are in an established relationship and once I feel comfortable and safe with you and once I feel accepted by your other partners, I am really turned on by a partner manhandling me and pinning me to a wall or a bed, or pretty much anything in that vein.  Slam me up against a wall (protecting my head with your hand), push me down, hold my wrists above my head or behind my back, and don’t let up when I resist unless I say “ow” or “stop”.  If I say “no” in this context, I might not mean “no”.  You have to be able to tell by the tone of my voice and if  I’m explaining something seriously whether “no” means no or is just part of the aggressive scene.

  • Watch porn with me. Not boring straight porn. Gay and/or gang-bang porn.  And parody porn, although that might illicit more laughter than arousal.

  • Flirt with me in public.  Use double entendres and over-the-top promises or threats.  Make it light-hearted, something that can be taken as a joke.  You can even flirt by saying things that are totally off-limits in real life or that you do not actually intend.  The point is to make me smile and think sexy thoughts, not to be a serious negotiation.

  • Tease me.  Make promises/threats, touch me in almost-erotic zones, flirt with me in public, steal me away from work or public events for quick make-out sessions and then send me back while I’m still hot and bothered, draw out the foreplay until I beg to be fucked.  Foreplay can last a few minutes, a few hours, or even a few days.  Just pay attention to see if I’m enjoying the foreplay or if I’m starting to get frustrated.  If it goes on for too long, I’ll lose my arousal.  But don’t just go straight for the nipples, the crotch, or the sex.  I need to get worked up first.  However, if you’ve been teasing me well, like getting me aroused while I’m at work, then when I finally do get you in a place where sex is appropriate, you can go straight for the sex with no warm-up because the warm-up will have been happening already.

  • Be a good kisser. This is very subjective, so what it means is to pay attention to how I'm kissing you and attempt to match my style (as I'll be doing with you), as well as modifying the style for different purposes. I love deep kissing and that's a huge turn on, but I also like sweet, tender kisses, and quick I'm-just-thinking-of-you-and-wanting-to-connect-with-you kisses. I like kisses that start out chaste, and then turn flirty and teasing, and then turn passionate, just like sex. And I especially like partners who like to kiss just for the sake of kissing not only as a prelude to something else. If you're interested in some hot, passionate kissing (especially in public, or pulling me aside privately when we're in a place where that kind of kissing is not appropriate) that gets us both worked up but then ends with the kissing and we go about our business, that's almost a guaranteed way to keep me coming back for more.

  • Give me oodles of aftercare. Cover me with a blanket and hold me. Let me cry if that’s where I go afterwards.  Let me ramble if *that’s* where I go.  Let me sit in silence.  Have my favorite after comfort food ready for me – milk chocolate Symphony bar and Martinelli’s sparkling apple cider.  If that’s not available, one of the many sweets that I enjoy will work too, but that’s my favorite.

  • Make sure I get home safely, and call me the next day to connect.  Live chat online may work as a substitute, but texting is less preferable, especially if I have to work the next day.  I hate back-and-forth conversations by text, but I love small, immediate reminders of my loved ones and our time together.
Turn offs:
  • Insulting your former partners. I understand needing to complain about past relationships or being honest about the problems or flaws with past relationships, but guys who call their exes “crazy” or who can’t maintain any friendships post-breakup are a major turn off and red-flag for me. The same could be said for present partners. If you don't respect your current partners, then I'll have trouble respecting you for your choice to be with them.

  • Lack of communication. I fall in love with the brain first, so if you can’t talk to me (or your partners can’t), we probably won’t go anywhere.

  • Being too popular / high turnover. Guys with five or more partners or high partner turnover will probably find dating me challenging, since I like to take the time to get to know my metamours.

  • Dating too young. Guys who are dating in the 18-25 range tend to enjoy either the drama or glib dependence of youth, and I have a low tolerance for both in my dating life.

  • Not getting tested. Not being willing to wear protection and not getting tested regularly are hard limits for me.  Let me repeat that – this is a deal-breaker.  Getting tested and wearing protection just with me isn’t even enough.  I am only interested in sexual relationships with guys who are interested for their own sakes in getting tested regularly and using protection when appropriate no matter who their partners are or how many they have.

  • Not respecting feminism or agency or autonomy or personal sovereignty.  You might not understand that feminism is all about the latter three, and so don’t consider yourself a feminist.  That’s OK, education can clear that up.  But the issues of agency et. al are literally about my very humanity, so not respecting them means not respecting me as a human being, and not respecting me is a turn off.  Any current connection with MRA or PUA culture is a deal-breaker.  Libertarianism or admiration for Ayn Rand also don’t work too well for me.

  • Missing The Point Pedantry.  I get very irritated when I’m trying to make a point and all knowledge of who I am, my history, precedent, social convention, casual language, and poetic license get pushed aside in order to argue with me some issue of pedantry that misses the point of what I’m trying to say.

  • Co-dependency.  Just like I need my partners to respect my own agency and autonomy, I need for my partners to be autonomous, independent individuals who choose to share their lives with me and their other partners because they want to, not because they feel that they need to.

  • Unwillingness to explore sexuality.  We don’t have to have all the same kinks, and you can have tried and ruled out certain things before I came along, and you can even have thought about something and decided without trying it that you’re not interested in it.  But even with our overlapping Venn Diagram of sexual interests, we will each have interests that the other has not explored yet, and I need for my partners to exhibit a sense of curiosity and active exploration about sex and BDSM in order to remain sexually attracted to someone.  “Vanilla” sex is fine, even if that’s the majority of our sex.  It just can’t be the only kind of sex we have or I will get bored.  Since my sex partners are not interchangeable, “getting it from someone else” won’t solve my problem.

  • Chivalry.  I absolutely loathe any and all expressions of sexism, even "benevolent sexism", and that includes gender-based “politeness”.  Treating me different from others because of my gender (as opposed to our unique relationship or connection or personal preferences), even if you treat me “better” is not acceptable in any form. 

    I like nice people.  Gestures of politeness on the basis of my gender or to live up to some standard of your own gender (i.e. being a “gentleman”) are not nice.  This is not up for debate and I am not interested in hearing justifications or why it’s “different” when you do it.  If you can’t understand why I have a problem with this, we will have much bigger differences later on.

  • Woo.  I am a skeptical atheist and I have lost all patience for being in romantic relationships with people who view the world in a fundamentally different way than I do when I consider that worldview empirically wrong.  I have no problem being friends with people of different worldviews, but if I’m going to build an intimate romantic connection with someone, I have to be compatible with them on the most fundamental levels, including what reality is and how to approach life.

joreth: (Self-Portrait)
Someone asked me the following question, and this was my off-the-cuff answer (with a couple of minor additions & polishes after the fact):
What is your "price of admission" in a romantic relationship? Something that could be considered a flaw or a drawback, but that someone has to deal with to be in a relationship with you.
  • I'm independent, solo poly (even if I choose to someday cohabit and/or marry, I will still be an independent person who happens to be partnered, never "half of a single unit"). I make my own decisions. I ask for input and I consider how my actions will affect my partners, and I will try to make them part of the decision-making process if I can, based on how these decisions affect them, but ultimately, I make my own decisions about my life, I need to be seen as an independent, unique, and individual human being by my partner and the world around me, and that's that.

  • I make a differentiation between "couple" and "partnership". A "couple", in my mind, is a single unit consisting of two "halves". This is an arrangement where the relationship's identity is more important than the individual identities that make it up. A "partnership" is a cooperative connection between two equal individuals where the individuals always retain their individuality (and their autonomy) within the connection. I will not be part of a "couple", but I will build "partnerships" with other individuals who have equal power to sculpt and shape that partnership to our mutual benefit.

  • I still need public acknowledgement of my relationships and to present as part of a partnership at social functions, even though I'm solo poly.  This means that I require certain relationship markers such as public acknowledgement of our romantic relationship.  This can be achieved through Public Displays of Affection, having "dates", arriving and leaving social events together, using recognized relationship labels in introductions and in conversations (i.e. "this is my girlfriend, Joreth"), etc.  Because of the point above where I differentiate between "couples" and "partnerships", these relationship markers within a partnership are not exclusive.  We can coexist in multiple partnerships simultaneously, even in public at social events.  Just like I can have several friends or coworkers at one event and all be acknowledged as friends or coworkers or business partners, my romantic partners and theirs can all be acknowledged at the same time.

  • I'm a mass of contradictions on the surface and it may take some digging to understand the motivations that actually make my contradictions totally not contradictory.

  • I'm poly and that's not changing, although the structure of my network will ebb and flow and change over time and I will occasionally have only one, two, or no partners. The number of my partners and/or metamours is not what makes me poly, it's how I view & structure relationships that make me poly. I will never leave my other partners for someone, and I will never be comfortable dating someone who wants only me, unless he's even more solo & independent than I am and the reason he wants only me is because he spends so much time alone that he can't fit in another partner and still give me the time I need from him, and it's his choice that he's fine with.

  • I'm atheist. I fucking slam the needle on atheism. I'm anti-theist. I'm firebrand atheist. And I will mercilessly mock religion and supernatural beliefs. My friends know this about me and accept it of me because I don't pick fights with them over their beliefs, and they can choose to read my social media or not, knowing how I feel and that I will express my opinions here. Although I will challenge them if they say something to me directly that I know to be false, I am perfectly capable of holding my tongue and not *bringing up* my opinions against supernaturalism right at my friends because I can still like people as people even if I think they have silly ideas. However, I am *not* perfectly capable of holding my tongue with intimate partners and I need for them to be on board with my brand and style of atheism.

  • I'm feminist. That actually explains most of the above. And a good portion of below too.

  • I'm a ballroom and swing dancer. If my partner won't dance with me, I'll dance with others. Even if my partner *will* dance with me, it's proper ballroom etiquette to dance with others, and I happen to like that etiquette because it's primarily responsible for making me as good of a dancer as I am, since I've only had 2 real classes in dancing. And I will always feel like something is missing in my relationships where dancing is not an important shared activity. I view dancing as a metaphor for life and relationships, and vice versa. It's hard to overstate how important dance is to me.

  • I have a very dangerous job and I love it.

  • I have a job that keeps me poor, and I love it (the job, not being poor).

  • I cuss. A lot.

  • I do not want kids. Like, not even a little bit. And I'm pro-abortion.

  • I do, however, enjoy having pets. And those pets will always come first because they are dependent creatures that I have accepted responsibility for. Some days I have a reasonable handle on this, and some days I don't. So I might appear inconsistent in when I prioritize my pets above my people, but it's consistent in my own head and that's where it counts. You do not get a say in how I prioritize them, and you do not get a say in when I'm being unreasonable about handling my responsibilities.

  • I'm a teetotaler. I don't drink *at all*, and I don't do any kind of drugs that aren't prescription and absolutely necessary for medical recovery or treatment. I'm not opposed to those around me drinking alcohol or the occasional recreational experimentation (providing I'm nowhere near any second-hand smoke), but I don't date people who regularly use drugs or smoke cigarettes *at all* and I'm only going to barely tolerate social drinking and vaping. I will never stop hoping that someday my partners (who do them) will give up those things too, although I won't pressure anyone to change what they don't want to change. I will, however, assist in their efforts to quit if they want.

  • I'm a cranky, cynical motherfucker who gets into fights on the internet, even though they cause me massive anxiety and make me disappear for several days. This isn't likely to change.

  • As Franklin has once said, I'm a little bit scary sometimes. And I consider that a compliment.

  • I'm kinky. I don't have to have kink in all my relationships, but I am kinky and that's not likely to change.

  • My gender identity today is "tomboy". It may not be that tomorrow. But whatever it is, I probably still won't want to have sex with your girlfriend.

  • I am inconveniently straight. Yes, I find it an inconvenience. No, that doesn't mean that you can find some magical phrase that will "fix" this. On the rare occasion that I do engage in sexual activity with people of female biology, it's usually twigging some kind of gender play in my head, so I *still* consider myself straight even in that context. If you're wigged out by my fluid gender or by me experiencing mixed or different genders during my sex, we're really going to be a bad match. And I still probably won't want to have sex with your girlfriend. But I might be willing to have sex with certain of my metamours, under the right circumstances & with the right chemistry. If you don't understand the difference between those last two sentences, we're going to be a bad match.

  • I likely have what's called a "responsive libido", meaning that it's mostly low-to-non-existent, but can be revved up on occasion. Sex will likely fade to nearly gone over the course of a relationship and the only thing that will prevent it from disappearing all together is the acceptance of this fact and appreciation for the times when I can get it going. No wheedling, pressure, or moping about its loss will help.

  • I am not a beginner relationship partner.

  • And I do not react well to being "dealt with" or "tolerated" by partners. This "price of admission" needs to be paid gladly, gleefully, considered an honor to pay, or else I will begin to feel dismissed, condescended to, and unappreciated, and that will sour any relationship with me. The price of admission for a relationship with me is someone seeing all these things about me, truly seeing them, and saying "I'm not paying a goddamn thing. I'm so privileged to be in a relationship with you, that these are not deficits that I have to pay, they are things I am getting in return for providing you with the space to feel safe in being who you are around me. It is you who is paying me with the honor of allowing me to see who you are."
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: (Super Tech)

So this has been floating around my Facebook feed in the last week. I'm re-posting it, not because I agree with every one of them or because I don't think the show has valid criticisms, but because some of the lines are actually really good advice.

The show has a lot of problems with it, I'll be the first to admit. I believe it's important to be able to admit the flaws of the media we like. We don't have to wait for the Perfect Media, we can like stuff with flaws. I just think we have to be able to admit and accept those flaws for what they are.

But I think this show is also undervalued by a lot of my progressive circles because of those very legitimate flaws. And I see most of the devaluing of the show from people who have never watched more than a couple of episodes.

The power of this show is that it highlighted a segment of the population that does not often get highlighted, let alone celebrated. This show celebrated the single, adult, independent woman. Yes, it showed them searching for love and relationships, but even single, adult, independent women often search for love and relationships. These are not mutually exclusive traits.

Over the seasons, as the characters age and continue to date as single women, the show addressed the concepts of aging, of female independence, of designer relationships, of the fairy tales, of social pressure and the expectations of womanhood, of class warfare, of alternative life choices, of dealing with death and mortality, of reconciling poor choices, of introspection, of introverts vs. extroverts, of communication, and of parenthood vs. non-parenthood and the validity of options.

I'm not saying that every episode was gold. I'm also not even saying that I agree with the conclusions they reach on any of those subjects. I'm saying that they introduced the topics to a mainstream audience when those topics had previously gone unstated or under-discussed. Much like The Golden Girls brought to every American living room the idea of seniors having sex and the challenges faced by single women as they age, this show eschews the standard formula of happily married but quirky heterosexual monogamous couple raising children in the suburbs.

It's not very realistic in that it does retain many of the other most-common sitcom (yes, I know it's not a sitcom) tropes of hip, attractive people living in one of the most expensive cities in the world and somehow managing to, not just survive, but thrive with enough expendable income to wear designer clothes and attend fabulous parties searching for love in all the wrong places and hilarity ensues. But it doesn't cover it in the young, early-twenty-something way as those sitcoms; it tells the story from the perspective of women who have "passed their prime", who have reached and passed the age at which they should have overcome their silly, young faux pas and found The One already and settled down into that married-with-children sitcom storyline. It tells the story of trying to find love while one's ability to have children becomes compromised and the effects of aging are just beginning to be seen and dealt with.

It tells the story from that in-between stage, where the women are no longer the hip, young people we can excuse from making the mistakes they make because they're young, and the older people who have already reached the stage where aging is a given and now they have to deal with that class. The process of coming to terms with aging, and of aging in our appearance-obsessed, monogamy-and-love-obsessed society is a process rarely examined.

As I do with any serial or episodic form of media in which there are good episodes and bad episodes, I like to take certain episodes that cover certain topics and examine that single topic on its own merit. I might have to provide some long-term context of the characters to explain why they react or behave the way they do, but the episode itself is being addressed as a stand-alone for the message. Even when the characters reach a conclusion that I disagree with, I find it to be a valuable teaching tool, discussion starter, and illustration of important or complex points.

I have a series of clips taken from a few different episodes that single out certain topics and points that I've uploaded to YouTube, and I post them occasionally when the comments threads are relevant. Maybe someday I'll get around to starting up that blog series on this show. It'll be in the Media Reflections tag here in my LiveJournal, if anyone is interested.
joreth: (Super Tech)
Everyone knows that I am opposed to complimenting strangers on their appearance as a blanket rule. But some people "just can't help themselves"! Hey, "it's a compliment, you should be flattered!" "But I'm not one of Those Guys!"

So, fine, since you're doing your best to convince me that men are slavering idiots who can't control themselves in public, that you can't intuitively figure out how to be compassionate and considerate human beings without clear guidelines, and that teh poor menz feelings about giving a compliment trumps the recipients feelings about receiving the "compliment", at least learn how to compliment properly.

If you absolutely can not restrain yourself from complimenting someone on their physical appearance, here's how you do it correctly:

  1. Choose something that they deliberately did to themselves, like their wardrobe or their hair style (if they have an obvious style - mine is just straight down, that's not a "style", that's "I was too lazy to do anything with it today").

  2. Tell them that the thing itself is attractive, such as "that's a very pretty dress you have on" or "your necklace is really cool!" or "I love how you did your hair!". DO NOT tell them that their body is attractive in that item of clothing or that the thing they did to themselves makes their body attractive. And for fuck's sake, do not allude, imply, or outright state anything about sexuality. At all. "Hey baby, lookin' good in that dress!" is not appropriate.

  3. If they overreact (in your opinion) or take it the "wrong way", slightly tilt your head down in an apologetic manner and back away. You have no idea what they have been going through that led them to that reaction, so just give them space and move on. Then let it go. Do not come online and whine about that crazy bitch who couldn't take a compliment, even though you followed all the protocols us manhating feminazis insist on. Accept that it's not about you and let it go.

  4. Repeat this mantra over and over in your head: "it's not about me, it's not about me". This means that the compliment you give should not be about you - it's about the recipient, and if the recipient doesn't like it, then you did it wrong because it should be about THEM and their values and preferences, not yours. This also means that the reaction is not necessarily about you. The recipient has no way of knowing who you are or what your motivations are, so they have to draw upon experience to evaluate the world around them and make decisions.

There ya go, 4 simple steps that even the complete and bumbling morons some of you keep trying to convince me that men are should be able to handle. Pick something the recipient did deliberately, tell them that it is attractive without referencing their body or sex, back away and give them space, and accept that this whole thing is not about you personally.

Now, I happen to know quite a few man-identified persons who are perfectly capable of grasping this concept on their own, and even more who can understand it once it was explained, so I still refuse to believe those of you who seem hell-bent on maintaining that men are barely more than wild animals who tolerate domestication in exchange for sexy privileges. But this should be simple enough even for those types.

Then again, I could still be over-estimating the capacity of men. It's a flaw I have - assuming that men can be decent human beings, capable of rational thought and compassionate behaviour. It's one of those crazy lessons I learned from feminists (although I didn't know they were feminists at the time, nor did I realize at the time that this lesson was a feminist lesson).
joreth: (Nude Drawing)
Pretty decent intro to sex (I know MANY experienced adults who still need to hear this intro because what they know is WRONG).

Pretty thorough for 6 minutes. Obviously they skimmed over some stuff, but nearly everything one should know in the first talk is at least mentioned.
joreth: (Super Tech)
*sigh* Having a profile on a dating site STILL does not obligate a woman to give you the time of day. There are lots of reasons why she may have a profile and still not want to meet you, talk to you, or even be open to dating anyone at the moment.

1) Being single and having a full and exciting life that may leave little time for dating does not mean she can't still be open to the idea if someone exceptional comes along, so she may be busy with life right now, but she's still allowed to look even though it may look like she doesn't have "enough" time, according to your definition of "enough". The "right" person will fit into her busy schedule because of shared interests and mutual compromise and she is under no obligation to sit around playing the lonely spinster while she waits for you to magically arrive and add excitement to her life. YOU have to be exciting enough for her to justify making space for you in her life. Her complex life is what makes her exciting enough for you, that's why you contacted her.

2) It may be an old profile from when she was looking and she's holding onto it. It's not your business to decide when it's appropriate to let go of a profile.

3) She may be looking for different things, like friends or activity partners, and not a romantic partner, or she may even be looking just for sex and her busy life isn't an issue for a once-in-a-while booty call.

4) Lots of women (and other people too) prefer to take their time and get to know people online for a while before giving out contact info, real names, or meeting in person. Sometimes it's safer. Sometimes she's an introvert who relates better in text. Sometimes, a busy schedule and a request to send emails first is a test to see how pushy the guy is, and if he pushes too soon for a RL meetup, she'll know to drop him because either he's an entitled asshole who doesn't respect boundaries or they just want different kinds of relationships.

5) She goes through busy and not-so-busy stages and it's not worth her time to take down the profile and put it back up every time her life changes, especially if she put a lot of effort into her profile or she will lose her username by deleting it. Besides, if someone exceptional came along, she may be willing to go out of her way to change life to accommodate.

6) It could be you. Just because a woman is available, it doesn't mean that she's available TO YOU, and maybe her "busy schedule" is a hurdle she isn't willing to overcome because you don't do it for her.

This is written from the perspective of a man complaining about a woman's profile only because this is the direction of the complaints that I see most often, not because it never happens with any other combination of genders.

Look, I've written plenty advising women to please respond to the men who contact them even if it's a rejection because I want to reward the courage it takes to approach someone and because I think it sucks that we have this double standard where men have to put in all the effort and women get inundated with crappy first-contact letters.  Both sides suck.  When I'm talking *to* women, I want to encourage that they do their share of the contributing to change society.

But when women are complaining about the bad experiences they're having online, DON'T MAKE THIS ALL ABOUT TEH MENZ.  That is not the time to tell women that they should ignore their own discomfort in order to make men feel better.  That is not the time to bring up how much it sucks to be a man as if it were a competition of which gender has it worse online (trust me, it's not the male gender as a whole, even if I agree that some parts of their experience suck).  That is the time to LISTEN to the women and to do whatever is in your power to help change things.  Because I guarantee that if women as a whole felt safe online and safe to be sexual beings, the double standard that makes it hard for men in online dating would go away as a result.

If we want women to do the approaching, the first-contact outreach, to respond to first-contact letters, and to be clear about their intentions, we have to make it safe for them to do so.  If someone doesn't feel safe in expressing themselves, they will avoid doing it or they will do it in passive-aggressive or indirect ways that may seem confusing or contradictory.  
joreth: (Nude Drawing)
To avoid using toys during sex on the assumption that "relying" on them means you have failed to satisfy your partner or that you're a poor lover is like refusing to use spices in your cooking on the grounds that spices make you a failure as a gourmet chef who can't make an appetizing meal without the "crutch" of flavor.

Using toys during sex takes skill and creativity and openness and vulnerability and opens up the definition of "sex" to such a wide vista that you may one day come to wonder at what you used to consider "sex".

Sex is so much more than putting tab A into slot B. Maybe some people are content, even happy with plain mashed potatoes and creamed corn. I like bland food myself. But my world opened up when I discovered Chinese food and Indian food and Ethiopian food and Cuban food, all known for their varied and colorful spice palates. I didn't give up mashed potatoes when I discovered spice. I just enjoy so much more than mashed potatoes now, and I found new appreciation of mashed potatoes now that I can contrast them with mashed sweet potatoes and curry potatoes and Potatoes O'Brian.

I never quite developed a taste for Vietnamese food, or German food, and I still can't stand seafood. And that's ok, there's no rule that says once you start trying new foods, you must try and like them all. But after having sampled so many different styles of food, I feel that my cuisine before was bereft, and that I am a better person for having tried new things, as well as knowing myself as a person for having experimented and accepted some while rejecting others.

I am not a failed cook for utilizing spices in my cooking. Sure, it takes skill to make appetizing dishes using the same taste-muted ingredients. But it takes different skill, full of subtlety and nuance, to make appealing dishes with a variety of spices.

And a partner who embraces toys and props and settings in his play is someone who has embraced his creative side, and his analytic side, and his introspective side. And it is *those* elements that make someone a good lover.

"Your true self can be known only by systematic experimentation, and controlled only by being known." ~Francis Bacon
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: (::headdesk::)
In which I ramble nearly incoherently about entitlement and agency and autonomy and other buzzwords )
So, in case it hasn't occurred to you yet, the tl;dr version is this: communities and groups of like-minded people are not a convenient location in which we have rounded up a bevy of people for your attention or perusal. Even those groups for which the purpose *is* whatever you're looking for (i.e. a dating site), the group members are not there for you specifically. Do not treat such groups and communities as your personal pool to fish from, stocked with said fish for your pleasure. Being part of a "singles" group, or a submissive group, or a childfree group, or a poly group, or a kink group, or a whatever group, does not mean that the group exists for you to use as a collection site like a temp employment agency. Being part of one of those groups does not mean that the members are there for you. Even being sexually available does not mean that they are sexually available to you.

And for fuck's sake, stop posting personals ads on the internet unless you're specifically signed up for a personals ads service! Just have a fucking conversation with people, and through those conversations, you will eventually find people who are compatible enough with you to consider the sort of relationship you're looking for (or even a whole new kind of relationship you hadn't considered before, but you'd never have known that you'd be open to it if you hadn't just fucking talked to people first).
joreth: (Swing Dance)

OTG YES! Dirty Dancing is such a complex, multi-layered piece of art that had such a huge impact on me and several facets of my various world-views that it's hard for me to emphasize its importance enough.  This article only addresses 4 points, but I think that's just a starting point, although a very strong starting point.  The article covers having an awkward heroine who never turns into the "beautiful, popular girl" to win the guy, having a "hot guy" like the awkward heroine for who she is as a person without being blind to her until that magical "ugly duckling" transformation, giving "the sheltered 17-year-old all the sexual agency", class politics, and illegal abortion.  Set in 1963.  

It's not a "chick flick" or a rom-com, or even your typical "coming of age" story. It's a sociopolitical commentary on class struggles, women's rights, sexual agency, gender relations, communication, trust, and personal growth. Baby remains one of my all-time epitomal characters that helped to define who I am, and Johnny remains the ideal romantic partner to whom I compare all my potential partners. It's not just because he has a nice ass and abs, it's because of his integrity, his character, his personal struggles, and his values.

Dancing, to me, is not just a fun physical activity. It is a vehicle through which we can achieve personal growth and relationship enhancement, as well as a story-telling device that we can use to address controversial and taboo subjects. And this movie combines everything that I find valuable about dance - the fun, the storytelling, the catalyst for growth, the beauty, the pain, the personal expression.  I don't think it's even possible to truly "get" me without understanding this movie.  That doesn't mean that you have to have watched it in order to get me, but that you would have to be the kind of person who *would* understand this movie if you saw it in order to understand who I am as a person.  But watching it helps.

Maybe, in my copious free time that isn't today, I'll write my own full post enumerating the points and analyzing the movie the way the article does.
joreth: (BDSM)
I added this to my Netflix queue because it was either on a poly list or Netflix recommended it to me when I added some other movie that was on a poly list.  I can't remember.  I was pretty sure there wasn't any polyamory in the show, but I had heard about the famous Belle and her blog-then-book, so I thought I'd at least check it out.

I've only watched 4 episodes (the first disc of season 1), so I'm not prepared to declare yea or nay to the poly question yet, but I did want to mention two things about one episode.

In the 4th episode, Belle discovers one of her regulars is into S&M, but she has no idea what it's all about.  Curious, she seeks out lessons with a London Domme and learns how to be a professional bitch.

I say that, because it seems that if television is your only resource, you'd think that the only thing to BDSM is hot chicks in black latex & corsets ordering fat old white men in thongs to clean the toilets with their tongues, stepping on them with high heels, and then beating the shit out of them with riding crops.  Also, doing so in a "I'm pissed off at you" or "I'm bored" voice seem to be the only options.  If you think that's all there is to fetishes and BDSM, please visit

Anyway, there were 2 parts in particular that I liked.  In the first one, Belle mentions that she wants to learn about S&M because a client has expressed interest.  She explains that the client is married & the wife doesn't know about his interest.  The Domme says "well that's a shame" and when Belle looks at her questioningly, the Domme continues "so many secrets!"  Later, it comes out that the Domme is married and her husband knows.  In fact, he is often at home during the sessions - not participating, but puttering around the house, making tea, watching TV, whatever.  Belle expresses a wistful sort of envy at having someone to share her job with, not necessarily to do it with him, but someone she can confide in, who knows who she is.  The Domme's attitude is that honesty is not just the best policy, but a given.  When Belle says how nice it sounds, the Domme says "well, it's a marriage", implying that, of course they share these parts of themselves with each other, as if it never even occurred to her that she wouldn't.

I really liked that honesty-is-a-given attitude, and from the character that the mainstream audience would think of as the most deviant.  I really like when the "deviant" characters are the moral centers of a show.

In the other part that I liked, Belle takes a few lessons, then immediately redecorates her entire "professional" apartment as the kind of dungeon that non-fetishists think a dungeon looks like - dark red walls, black plastic over the windows, elaborate black candelabra stands with a dozen thick candles, and a professional, leather-covered "chair" of sorts whose only function, it seems, is to look as unlike any other normal sort of furniture so that you can't pass it off as something else (i.e. it's not a chair and it's not a massage table, but something in between).

So she invites her client over for an S&M session instead of their usual sex.  She orders him to strip, put on a thong, and kneel.  Then she addresses the audience (this show regularly uses the broken 4th wall tactic) to explain that everything has been pre-negotiated, and she means EVERYTHING, right down to the insults that she will use.  She says "yes, even the insults I will use".

I really, really liked how they made a point to emphasize the negotiation part of BDSM.  I don't think that can be stressed enough.  When people first start out, if they have any exposure to a fetish community at all, they know all about negotiation and rules, but it takes experience for it to really sink in just how much negotiation is required.  Even people who have done this for years can find themselves in situations where they forgot to cover something and get surprised when something happens (or could happen) that they didn't negotiate for.

And, here's the thing, it's not just about thinking up every possible scenario and every possible activity and then laying a bunch of rules down about it.  Sure, within BDSM, rules can actually be a healthy and important part of the dynamic (unlike in relationships in general, but that's another rant), but just making a list of rules isn't sufficient.  What's important is to understand why those rules are necessary, so that you don't have to think up a million specific activities.  If you know that condom use, for example, is for disease control, then you know to be careful about fluid transfer in general, which means no semen in the mouth, wash the floggers carefully & pay attention to blood, etc.  But if condoms are for birth control only, then an accidental or non-pre-negotiated semen in the mouth might not ruin the scene.

Now, a lot of people get overwhelmed at all the talking & negotiating that goes on in poly & kinky situations.  "It's not romantic or sexy if it's not spontaneous!  All this planning just seems cold and calculating, it takes all the passion out!"  Well, I have a bit of a surprise for you then.  All the planning & talking & negotiating is what allows for the spontaneity and surprise and wild passionate abandon.  Once you've taken care of all the logistics, you can just let things happen when the mood strikes you, if you want.  Because, if you've done it ahead of time, then you don't have to stop a scene to say "oh, wait, is this OK?"

I mean, you do want to check in with your partners and make sure everything is OK but a check-in is not the same thing as a "we didn't talk about this before so I have no idea what you're feeling or how you're going to react, and I'm not really sure I can trust your decisions because you might feel differently about this once the endorphins wear off".  It's also not the same thing as being surprise-penetrated*, thereby being dragged completely out of the fun fantasy into the real world as it suddenly hits you what all the implications are to this thing that you forgot to talk about and now you have to do a whole bunch of quick calculations in your head to figure out how this will affect you now, in an hour, in a day, in a week, in a year.

Plus, it can be extremely liberating to go into a situation where you already know what's off the table, what's definitely on the agenda, and what things you can decide on the spur of the moment to try.  There's no more guessing, no more wondering "am I really going to get laid tonight, or are we just making out & I'm going home with blue balls", no more "I really wish he'd just try this thing already!", no more "oh for fuck's sake, if I fake it maybe he'll hurry up and finish", no more "I think he's hinting about this and I don't want to, but if I tell him I don't want to, he might leave and never call me again", and no more "if I try this, will it freak her out & send her running, leaving me alone tonight / forever?"

The outcome is never guaranteed and you can still go in unplanned directions.  But with a trusted partner in a scene that you have pre-negotiated, I know that this thing that I really, really like - he's gonna do it, and this thing that turns me off every fucking time - he won't do it.  I know that when I'm in the mood for rough, that's what I'm going to get because that's what we agreed on.  I know that when I'm in the mood for soft and romantic, that's what I'm going to get because that's what we agreed on.  I know that this time, I'm in charge and I already know in what ways I can hurt him that will make him happy with the scene and in what ways I can't hurt him without ruining the scene.  I know that next time, I can give up control and let him take care of me because he agreed to only doing the sorts of things that make me feel safe when I'm not in control and he won't do the sorts of things that make me feel unsafe.

Because we have talked.  It's sex and it's kink and it's pain and it's mind games and it's all sorts of naughty fun, and the reason it's fun is because we talked first.

*People not part of the fetish community, and even people who are but who don't talk about this topic, might be surprised at just how often "surprise penetration" happens.  It's a serious problem, one that we need to shed more light on and work to eradicate from our communities.
joreth: (Nude Drawing)

**EDIT**  Apparently I wasn't clear enough so it needs to be repeated.  This post is ONLY about classifications of relationship statuses and does not cover all the variables & details about who gets to go into each category.  These categories are where I START from, not the end-all, be-all of my risk assessment procedures.  I cover those topics elsewhere.**

It has come up recently in conversation several times what the definitions of things like fluid-bonding & HPV boundaries & so forth are. So I decided now was a good time to write it all out.

My approach to poly relationships is that each relationship is its own thing and I do not concern myself with the behaviour of my partners with other people unless that behaviour directly affects me (breaking dates with me to go out with someone else who doesn't like me, for instance). I see no value or benefit to being concerned with which sex acts my partners perform with anyone else on an emotional level, and I do see a lot of harm in doing so. Sex, to me, isn't special just because it's sex. Sex is special if the person I'm having it with is special. So I have no attachment to my partners performing certain things just with me, or avoiding certain acts with other people. Sex with my partner is no less special because he also has sex with his other partners, and it's no more special because he doesn't have sex with, I dunno, the checkout girl. Sex with my partners is special because anything with my partners is special, and because my partners themselves are special.

So when I make fluid-bond agreements, or when I use the term "fluid-bond", I am putting more emphasis on the "fluid" part than on the "bond" part. Remember, the only reason for me to be concerned about my partners' behaviour is when it directly affects me. Bringing home an STD directly affects me. So I have different levels of activity between myself & my various partners based on my risk assesment of my physical safety with that partner.

When I say that I have a "fluid-bond" agreement, I do not mean that my partner and I have agreed to only transfer fluids between us. My agreements are based on boundaries, not rules, and that sort of agreement is an imposition on other people's behaviour. My agreements do not tell my partners who they can or can't transfer fluid with. They lay out the circumstances under which *I* feel safe to transfer fluids with them (and vice versa). They are free to make their own decisions on what they do with whom, and I will modify my own behaviour with that partner based on those decisions. I then tend to seek out partners who have similar levels of risk to my own so that I can enjoy relationships with as few restrictions between us as possible without worry or concern (regular testing helps with that too). If they have similar levels of risk as me, then I don't need a rule telling them how to behave. If they have significantly different sexual values than me, then a rule won't stop them when they feel it is important or "right" for them to do it.

Some people put emphasis on the "bond" part, which is some kind of unique connection between them that is symbolized by the transfer of fluids. Some people are incapable of enjoying sexual activity without a deep, emotional connection to their partners, so a fluid-bond might be a statement of the level of emotional committment between the partners.

There are too many variables for me to say automatically that this is a bad thing, but it has been my observation that the people who tend to choose this method are more likely than not to do so for reasons that [ profile] tacit highlighted in his Whats Wrong With Rules Anyway post. Saying "I am not interested in sex unless I love you, therefore being fluid-bonded says how much I love you" is one thing, but many people do not use terms like "fluid-bond" to describe what they do with each other - they use the terms to describe what they don't do with others.

But I'm explaining what I do with my partners, in terms of how I use relationship categories.

So, what is a fluid-bond, in my relationships then?

Since my reason for being concerned with relationship categories is to explain "how does this directly affect me", and in the area of sex that means STD and sexual safety, I define fluid-bonding exclusively around fluid-transfer activities that can transmit STDs. If it isn't going to transmit STDs to me, then I'm not concerned with categorizing it. Sweat and saliva do not transmit STDs. Certain viruses have been known to be found in the saliva, but those classified as STDs are either not found in the saliva, or not in high enough counts to infect someone under the circumstances of kissing. Those infectious diseases that are transmitted by kissing are either not STDs or are transmitted by contact - cell shedding - or airborne, not fluids.

HSV is transmitted by kissing. But 1) I don't consider something an STD if you can catch it from your grandma and 2) since you can also catch it from sharing drinks and other non-direct-contact ways, and it's also very rare to catch it in such a manner, I consider the attempts to completely avoid HSV to be futile* and a direct downgrade in my quality of life (i.e. the payoff is not worth the sacrifice).

So this means that, to me, a fluid-bond is willing to share any activity that transfers body fluids that can carry STDs. Blood, vaginal fluids, penile/seminal fluids, but not saliva or sweat. If a couple uses condoms and dental dams correctly & without fail every single time, a couple can have penetrative sex (PIV, anal, oral) and not be fluid-bonded. If a couple does not have Penis-In-Vagina sex ever, at all, but does engage in oral sex without barriers, this couple would be fluid-bonded, by my use of the term meaning exchanges body fluids.

Since there are so many ways to catch something that either don't involve fluids, or can be transmitted because of human error even with fluid precautions, I have a tendency to just avoid certain activities unless I'm willing to fluid-bond with that person. I'll kiss, pet, make out with, grind on, etc. with someone without too much concern, but if I'm interested in going down on them, or having intercourse, he's probably someone I am also willing to exchange fluids with. If he's so unsafe that I'm not willing to exchange fluids with him, then I'd just rather avoid those activities completely, than risk either accidental exposure or exposure to something that is contact-borne.

A lot of people are willing to have that intermediary step, where they are interested in penetrative sex of some kind, but prefer to maintain fluid barriers. That's fine. And when my partner is not sterile, I can see the need for that intermediary step in my own relationships too. But as a general guideline, in order for me to take that step closer to exposure, I want to feel confident that the risk of exposure is as minimal as possible, and if it's that minimal, then there isn't any need for the intermediary step without extenuating circumstances (i.e. contraception), for me.

So this brings us to HPV boundaries. HPV and HSV are the easist STDs to catch, and not stopped by avoiding fluid-transfers. If you avoid activities that can transmit either of those, then you will also avoid all the other STDs, and pregnancy, and a few other non-sexual illnesses. Since I've already decided that complete 100% avoidance of HSV is impossible, that leaves HPV as my Gold Standard.

Therefore, HPV boundaries are avoiding any activity that is likely to transmit the HPV virus. This means no direct oral, genital, or manual contact with the partners' genitals. Kissing does not appear to transmit HPV, but oral sex does, even with condom use. General guideline for me is if the clothes below the waist stay on, it's probably safe (allowing for exceptions, but they are exceptions to the "rule").

This allows for a lot of other sexual activities while still maintaining a reasonably safe risk level. If my partner does not have any symptoms of an oral HSV infection (and I'm fairly confident that he knows what they are & is being honest when he says he doesn't have any), then I'm pretty comfortable engaging in activities that include contact above the waist, no-contact sex (phone sex, masturbation-voyeurism, etc.) and/or some BDSM activities. I can have a long-term, emotionally intimate relationship with a partner and maintain HPV boundaries indefinitely if I think there is a good reason to do so. This means that I can actually have a sexual relationship with a partner who has HPV or HSV and not put myself or my other partners in a higher-risk situation.

If I want to explore those activities that are prohibited by my HPV boundaries, then that means that I am confident that these activities will not significantly increase my risk (in much the same way that monogamous people in long-term committed relationships are willing to forgoe condoms and other barriers). And if I deem my partner to be safe enough to not significantly increase my risk, then I'm generally willing to go straight from HPV boundaries to fluid-bonding, with only circumstantial exceptions.

Also generally speaking, one of the main things that makes me feel confident that these activities will not significantly increase my risk is testing. If my partner doesn't have an STD, then he can't give me one. Recent & regular STD tests, combined with an assessment of his behaviour, is a statistically safer way to avoid STDs even than regular condom use with a partner of unknown status. Although there is some trust involved, it is far less trust than any monogamous couple who just takes for granted that their partner is completely sexually fidelitious to them and doesn't have anything from a prior relationship. But if it is reasonable for monogamous people to "trust" their spouses and never get tested, then it shouldn't be any less reasonable for a polyamorous person to trust their partners in a relationship that is transparent, hard to hide secrets (the more people in the group, the harder to keep a secret from all of them), and where all the participants regularly get tested for STDs including prior to becoming partners.

I am far less likely to be "surprised" with an STD in my poly relationships than a monogamous person who has never been tested, whose partner has never been tested, and who does not have the safety net of several pairs of eyes checking in on the relationship participants making it more difficult to "cheat", given that anywhere from 40%-80% (depending on which study & which article you read) of people claim to have cheated on their partners at some point in their lives, that STDs can be asymptomatic and/or can lie dormant for quite some time, and that most people don't bother to get tested for STDs unless they think they already have one or have just been unwillingly exposed to one. While STD tests are not 100% accurate (nothing ever is), they're certainly much more accurate than "well, he would tell me if he had something, right? Since he hasn't, I assume he doesn't."

So, to sum up:

HPV Boundaries Maintaining HPV Boundaries means that I am restricted to activities that are not likely to transmit HPV (and by extension, any other STD except possibly oral HSV). Oral, genital, and manual contact of the genitals is off-limits. All other activities are OK.
Barriered Sex Barriered Sex means that I am restricted from fluid transfer. Condoms, dental dams, and gloves for activities that involve blood, vaginal fluids, and seminal/penile fluids. May be used for contraception rather than STD precautions.
Fluid-Bonding Fluid-Bonding means that I have no restrictions on activities for STD reasons. Willingness to exchange body fluids that can carry STDs. Condom-free intercourse & oral sex, blood play, etc.

Any of these can be modified based on individual details, such as whether a potential partner has a known infection of some kind, whether a potential partner has simliar risk aversion strategies or not, or other personal preference red flags such as a potential partner's willingness to get tested, his willingness to disclose, his understanding of STDs & sexual safety, his willingness to meet my other partners, his willingness to introduce me to his other partners and/or friends, etc. As with most of life, the actual risk calculation is quite complex and many people don't even realize all the variables that go into their risk calculation.

Lots of people also try to predetermine which activities are OK and which are off-limits, and, IMO, if you think you can just list all the activities in the world & guess your reaction to them, you are seriously underestimating the sheer breadth and depth of human sexuality. Rather, I try to come up with classes of activities, with a clear guideline for how each activity gets into that class. Then I can determine the safety of engaging in any given activity based on its class, even if I had never previously thought of that activity before, even if I can't reasonably confer with my other partners first, even if I am caught off-guard by something spontaneous. What kind of STD can the activity transmit, how does it transmit it, and is our relationship within the class that would potentially expose me to that STD?

*By "futile", I mean that it is close enough to impossible to completely avoid all possible forms of HSV transmission as to round down to "impossible". But I do NOT mean that one shouldn't minimize exposure. Taking precautions like avoiding kissing someone while they have a cold sore, using antivirals for those with active infections, etc. can be reasonable. Plenty of people will go their entire lives without ever contracting HSV. But if you think it's actually possible to completely avoid HSV entirely, you're fooling yourself. Minimize the risks, but accept the fact that you will be exposed to it one day. If you're fortunate, you might never actually succumb to it, but plan for it like you do a cold or the flu or a car accident - try to avoid it but don't think there's a 100% way to avoid it, and it's probably not the end of the world if you do get it.

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: (sex)

I saw this video today posted on Facebook and I really liked it, so I wanted to share it. But I also had something to say about it and my comment ended up being longer and more rambly than a FB comment should be (IMO), so I decided to make my own post about it.

In the video, Alyssa posits that the reason why people shame others for sex is because they're afraid that, if we give those people permission to do those things they like, then those people will try to do those things with us, and if we don't like those things that's a scary thought.

I don't disagree with her. I just think she was ... incomplete.

I think that at least one reason, if not a main reason, why people shame others for sex is less about fear of those others, and more about fear of ourselves.

I think that a lot of people believe that the way to control scary things is by boxing them up and putting them away in the attic, never to see the light of day (I know a lot of rationalists who think this is the way to deal with emotions). I think that a lot of people believe that, by exploring something scary, they may find the scariest thing of all, and that is that there is no end; that once you start down that road, not only can you never go back, but you can't ever stop either; that you necessarily must keep exploring and exploring and exploring until you HAVE TO explore previously-thought hard limits like bestiality and child molestation and rape and murder because, once you throw out the rules preventing you from doing things, what's to stop you from doing anything?

Except that people in general don't typically refrain from doing things because they are told not to. They typically refrain from doing things because they have an internal sense that they shouldn't do them. This is a very complex sense, though, which can be (and is) influenced by the culture around us, and not everyone has the exact same sense of right and wrong. In a lot of ways, we really do need some kind of external set of guidelines telling us how to get along with each other.

But in a lot of ways, that set of guidelines is born out of our collective internal sense in the first place.

Although sex does create and encourage a lot of the same chemical reactions in our brains as drugs do, contrary to pop-psych, sex is not the same as addictive drugs. People can, and do, stop wherever they want to. But the ones who are the most successful at stopping where they choose to stop are the ones who allow themselves to explore and who live by Francis Bacon's statement (whether they know of it or not) that "your true self can be known only by systematic experimentation, and controlled only by being known."

The more we know of ourselves, the better control we have over ourselves, and we can only know ourselves by experimentation and self-exploration. Ironically, those of us who explore the most fearlessly are the ones who tend to exhibit better control, while the ones who are most desperate for control are the ones who lack it because they don't tend to explore themselves.

People who know themselves, and therefore have control of themselves, don't get caught with "luggage boys" after enacting legislation against gay rights. People who know themselves, and therefore have control of themselves, don't get put under arrest for the very law they created against gay sex with strangers in public restrooms. People who know themselves, and therefore have control of themselves, don't tend to get caught using tax dollars to pay for prostitutes out of the same funds that put them in office on an anti-prostitution ticket.  People who know themselves, and therefore have control of themselves, can consciously and deliberately arrange their lives to enjoy those desires they have in a manner that includes "safe, sane, and consensual".

So I think Alyssa here didn't address all, or even the most prominent reasons for shaming others. I think one of those reasons is that people fear themselves. She makes the distinction between shame (something that people to do you by telling you that you're a bad person) and guilt (something that you do to yourself by feeling bad for a harmful act). I think that a lot of people feel the need to shame others because they feel guilty themselves - they feel afraid of the unknown and/or guilty for things they've done or want to do because other people have shamed them.

I think shame is a self-perpetuating cycle. We shame others because we have internalized the shame that other people have made us and others to feel. If we grow up in a society that says gay sex is bad, then we jump on that bandwagon and shame people for gay sex to avoid being shamed, thereby promoting that message to the next person who has to also jump on the bandwagon and shame people for gay sex, because to not do so would be to draw shame upon them.

And I think the reason why a lot of people shame others is because they are afraid of themselves, and of what they do not know about themselves. When someone tells me that they wouldn't explore some avenue of kink because "how would you ever stop?", that frightens me. That tells me that they don't have any internal sense that lets them see the difference between spanking a lover because he likes it and murdering someone. That tells me that they don't have any internal sense to show them the line between enjoying a sensation and self-harm. And since many of these people are the ones most vocal and most adamant about instilling external rules to help us all behave, this frightens me to no end because these people with no control are in charge.

I am not afraid of myself or my desires. I know what I am capable of, I know what I like, and I know how to stop. I am afraid of other people - afraid they will want to do those things to me, and by those things, I mean lock me up and prevent me from being myself because they are afraid of themselves. If anyone should be ashamed, it's them.

But I like the overall message of this video & I think you should watch it.

cross-posted at

joreth: (::headdesk::)
Is it just me, or do straight men seem inordinately concerned with what other men think of them? Of course, this is not an every-man sort of thing (nothing is). But it seems as though, every time I get into gender-based arguments with straight men, the ones I'm arguing with seem to get their motivation for being "a real man" from other men. It seems to me that, if a man is heterosexual, it would be in his better interest to take his cues on being "a real man" from the women he hopes to impress.

Take the argument I got into with a coworker, who opened up with "Hey Joreth, you're a girl, tell me, is a theme park a good date?" That very quickly devolved into him explicitly admitting that he infantalizes women for the purposes of making male strangers of a certain ethnic type who just happen to be passing him on the street nod approvingly at his behaviour, in complete disregard to the preferences of the woman he is currently infantalizing. No, I'm not making that up or exaggerating. I asked him outright "dude, you don't see how treating a woman like a child is offensive?" and he said "no [full stop]", with no other explanation or trying to hedge or make it not sound so bad. Not "that's not what I meant!" or "you're taking it the wrong way". No, he said that he saw nothing wrong with treating a woman like a child and that the reason he did so was so when "a Latin dude walks down the street and sees me, he'll nod and be all 'that's right'." ::headdesk:: I wish I was making that up, or at least building a straw man.

Then there are all the arguments about Only Yes Means Yes, where, without exception, the objections to OYMY are: "If we waited for a woman to say yes, we'd die virgins" and "No only means 'not yet' and it's up to us to keep trying until it becomes a yes." Again, I'm not exaggerating or paraphrasing or taking it out of context. Not only are those direct quotes, but they are almost verbatim quotes from every single online argument I've ever had about OYMY. These particular men are completely unconcerned with how they appear to women or what the specific woman they are with thinks of them. From a purely strategic, cold point of view, it just doesn't even make sense to ignore the preferences of someone you are trying to get something from. That sounds like a much longer wait for sex than hearing a verbal "yes".  "Hey baby, I want something from you that you will resist giving me, and my method is to ignore what you want out of the deal entirely and concentrate only on what I'm getting."  That doesn't sound like utter fail to you people?  That doesn't sound suspiciously like rape?

And, of course, there are all the objections to male dancing. "Real men don't dance, men play football." "Dancing is for sissies." "That's a girl move, not a guy move!" "C'mon, my buddies'll make fun of me!" Seriously? As one young male dancer said during the human-interest story on this season's Dancing With The Stars, "you're in a sweaty locker room filled with other dudes; I'm in a ballroom surrounded by cute girls and my hands all over hot women." That is also as near a direct quote as I can remember. For most sports, the genders are separated, and for contact sports, we get a bunch of self-proclaimed straight guys (because they have to proclaim heterosexuality, since being gay is, well, gay, or something.) all wearing very little clothing, touching each other, sometimes with full contact, body-slamming each other, and showing off their muscles. But in dancing, you get men who have to develop strength, agility, timing, and rhythm, also with very little clothing, but with female-bodied partners rubbing up against them, putting their legs around them, holding onto them, and an audience of women oohing and ahing and drooling over hot male bodies.

Plus, I've had sex with football players, and I've had sex with men from the "girlie" sports like gymnastics and cheerleading and dancing. Guys, if you want to impress the ladies with your bedroom skills, you won't do it by bodyslamming 200 pound men. You'll do it by developing the core muscles & flexibility necessary to move with fluidity and musicality that dancers need. If I was given a choice between a football player and a dancer as a sexual partner (and that was my only choice and criteria, and I had to choose one), I'd take the dancer every fucking time.

So, straight men who do this, go on ahead and do what you think you need to do in order to impress your buddies. I'm sure you and your buddies will have good times together. Meanwhile, I and all the other women will be over here with the handful of men who are doing what needs to be done in order to impress women - namely being confident in themselves, doing things because they like it instead of because it's expected of them, treating us like humans, treating us like individuals, learning our specific preferences, listening to us, not telling us that we are wrong when we make statements about what we think or feel, engaging in the kinds of activities that we like to engage in and where we feel welcome, and generally being all-around decent people. And they won't be doing it for the purpose of "impressing" us, they'll be doing it because it's the right thing to do - because they know that human beings deserve to be treated with dignity and women are merely other human beings that they just happen to find attractive.

Of course that last paragraph can be extended to all genders and orientations by changing pronouns. I'm ranting at a specific type of straight men right now, so I used the appropriate pronouns for that audience.

Apparently I should also point out that this is not intended to be a dig at sports or people who like sports such as football.  I used to play football, and basketball, and many other competitive sports - both contact and non-contact.  I understand what a person might get out of playing sports.  My point is ONLY about people choosing or avoiding to do certain things in disregard to the people participating and BECAUSE OF APPROVAL FROM NON-INTERESTED PARTIES.  Treating a woman he is interested in romancing like a child BECAUSE SOME GUY WILL APPROVE; playing football, not because it's fun, but because HIS GUY FRIENDS WILL APPROVE; avoiding dancing, not because he's not interested or can't do it, but because HIS GUY FRIENDS WILL DISAPPROVE; ignoring a woman's stated preferences for sexual relations because of his erroneous idea of gender roles, which is more important TO HIS BUDDIES than to the woman he is disregarding.  

Basically, this entire rant is about people who ignore the preferences of individuals with whom they wish to engage in some kind of mutual relationship, and the football thing was an example within this context, not a commentary on football or people who play football.

Casual Sex

Oct. 11th, 2011 07:25 pm
joreth: (sex)

Greta Christina wrote a post listing 5 reasons why she not only likes casual sex, but why her casual sex was a positive activity in her life. That has prompted me to write my own.

In her article, she points out that people keep getting baffled by the idea of women who have sex for its own sake. People insist on believing that women "have sex for love, commitment, poor self-control, to manipulate men, to please men, to make babies, to sooth their low self-esteem, and just about any reason at all other than their own pleasure. (While men, of course, are rutting horndogs who just want to stick it in the nearest wet hole available.)"

And, while those reasons certainly do exist for many women, that is not the only reason why women have sex, and, I would dare to say, not the primary reason why women collectively have sex. If anything, I believe those are more often justifications that women give for why they have sex, because they are not supposed to admit to liking it (although there are, of course, women, and men, who do not like sex).

As she says, "They're not asking, "Why do some women have casual sex?" They're asking, "Why on earth would some women have casual sex, when it's so clearly a bad idea that will do them and other women harm and is obviously not in their best interest?" And they're doing this despite research showing that casual sex isn't, in fact psychologically harmful for young adults. They're basing their questions on the common assumption that women's natural state is to keep their legs closed unless they've got their hands on marriage or commitment... and that women who don't are some sort of baffling phenomenon that needs to be explained."

So she thought she'd explain it. And I also thought I'd explain my own reasons in my own words. My own reasons are actually very similar to hers, so on the one hand I'm throwing my weight in to say "yep, other women have sex for pleasure too". But my reasons are not identical to hers, so on the other hand, I'm also saying "there are lots of reasons why women have sex, and procreation or to manipulate men are not always among them."

  1. Fun. This is Also Greta Christina's number one reason. I have sex because it's fun. I have casual sex because it's fun. It feels good to have someone that I find attractive touch and rub bits of me that respond positively to touching and rubbing and it feels good to elicit similar responses in someone else. I have body parts with nerve endings that seem to exist for no other function than to provide physically pleasing sensations and an innate drive to find at least one other person to stimulate those nerve endings. The whole idea of people being baffled by the reason for sex being "because it feels good" or "because it's fun" or "because I want to" is just nonsensical. I know that there are other reasons for having sex, and I'm even going to give my own other reasons. But to be confused by this reason just baffles me.

  2. Experimentation. This is also Greta Christina's number two reason, but it happens to be mine too. As she says, while having casual sex with a lot of different people, I was also having lots of different kinds of sex. I ballroom dance (I promise this is related), but I don't exactly have ballroom training. I have what's called "social dance" training. That's where they teach a bunch of non-dancers some traditional ballroom steps, but then they mix and match the dance partners so that you never get to learn any particular person's style so well that you actually skip learning how to dance and just learn that partner. The object of "social dance" is to be able to dance socially, not to win competitions or put on performances. It's not enough to know where to put your feet. You have to also know how to read the signals your partner is giving you. This is so that you can go to any dance event, like the company holiday party or your cousin's wedding, and be able to cut a rug no matter who you're dancing with.

    This is what casual sex did for me. I didn't just learn technique, and I didn't just learn a particular partner's preferences. I learned how to read my partners, how to experiment, how to try new things, and how to communicate about trying new things. I learned some things about sex that I would never had learned if I hadn't had some of the casual sex partners that I had, and consequently some of my current partners may never have discovered that thing they like that I introduced them to, that I learned from casual sex.

    And I didn't just learn things about other people. I also learned things about myself. I learned that some things about myself that I thought were weird were totally normal, and some things I thought were normal were actually pretty weird. That was a good thing, because it taught me how to better communicate to my partners those things that are particular to me that they might not have experienced before with their previous partners. I learned what works for me and what doesn't, and I learned that some things that I thought "worked" and "didn't work" for me were not universal truths, but things particular to that partner. That taught me to not give up and to try things a couple of times before deciding that it's not for me. And consequently, I learned about some really awesome things that weren't that great the first couple of times.

    Greta Christina makes a very good point when she brings up the fact that it was easier to explore and express her "freakier desires" with fuckbuddies than with romantic partners. When we are not emotionally attached to the outcome of the experience, or the longevity of the relationship, it can be a liberating feeling, which may contrarily allow us the freedom to express things that are harder to express with a trusted, emotionally-connected partner. It sounds counter-intuitive, I know. But if you really really really want your partner to stick around, you might be afraid of revealing something that could send him running for the hills. Whereas if you don't care too much if you freak this guy out, you might feel safer telling him your deep dark secret because it won't hurt as much if he leaves because of it. Ironically, the lack of or lesser amount of emotional intimacy can sometimes increase our feelings of emotional safety.

    And one of the things that casual sex taught me is that I do not like that counter-intuitive feeling of lower intimacy = greater safety. So I learned, from my casual sex partners, how to be more free, more expressive, and more exploratory with my romantic, long-term partners. In fact, I intentionally sought out a long-term romantic partner who would help me to break down this particular wall. Which, by the way, is something else that casual sex taught me - how to approach and go after relationships that I want and to feel comfortable in engaging in relationships that serve a particular function or purpose, providing that the other person is aware of and agrees to that function or purpose.

    I've learned A LOT about love and relationships from casual sex.

  3. Pleasure without unwanted commitment. Yep, again, this is also Greta Christina's third reason and mine too. But the reasons why we didn't want commitment and why we were single are different. Most of the time, being single wasn't exactly a "choice" for me. Most of the time, being single was because I couldn't find someone who was interested in me, or who was interested in me but wanted different things from a relationship than I wanted. I'm a very independent sort of person (no, it's true!) and a lot of young men and teens seem to be afraid of independence. I was engaged twice before I was old enough to legally drink, both at the urging of my male partners, not because I fell for any of that "a woman isn't worth anything without a husband" crap. My parents were adamant that I not get "tied down" until after I graduated college and started a career - a career that I was expected to maintain after marriage, and my catholic high school was all about female empowerment and female contributions to society that included, but was not limited to, producing the next generation. So both of my engagements were not because I was the one pushing for them.

    But I never really wanted to be "single" either. I just wanted to have relationships with people where I didn't get lost in the relationship. I wanted to still be me and I wanted him to still be him, but I didn't seem to be finding that. I kept finding people who wanted to be "us", as if we were a single entity. Y'know, two halves of a whole and all that. I've seen what happens to people when they lose themselves in a relationship and I think that's horrifying.

    On top of that, for a large portion of my dating life, I was in school or working a job with unusual demands, so I just didn't have the resources to be that responsible for another person's emotional fulfillment. I had papers to write and projects to finish, and later when I started working, I had to cancel appointments and dates because work called and I had to go. Romantic partners all seemed to want more of my time and attention than I had to give, and they were making their emotional satisfaction with the relationship dependent on how much time and attention I gave them. Casual partners did not do that. I even had some very intimate and emotionally close relationships with some of my fuckbuddies. But that lack of intention, that lack of pressure to serve someone else's needs that comes from a casual relationship allowed me to do those things that were important to me like school and work while still maintaining some kind of connection to another human being, as well as have fun sexy times that I am so biologically driven to desire.

    I'm finding, now that I'm older and polyamorous, that there is much less of that kind of intense, fearful stranglehold on me as a romantic partner. Maybe other people have different experiences. If I were to judge by Sex And The City, I might think that men have the exact opposite problem as they get older, with women becoming more intense, more fearful, and more strangleholdy, as they start to think that their options are dwindling and they're running out of time. But I don't think that's universal, and I think a lot of people, including women, are finding more of a comfortable interdependence with their partners as both they get older and as our society matures. So with the apparent abundance now of men who aren't trying to "lock this thing down" and who don't expect me to be responsible for their every happiness, I find I am much more likely, nay, actively interested, in developing closer emotional bonds with people as well as more intentional commitments. And, as a consequence, my plate is full and I just don't have the time for casual partners anymore because I have a job, I have hobbies, I have sex, and I have emotionally intimate relationships that are now all taking my limited time.

  4. Confidence. Greta Christina actually lists her #4 as "independence and confidence", but I was already independent. Casual sex didn't teach me that. If anything, casual sex taught me how to be interdependent instead of so independent. But it did give me confidence. Growing up, I was the geek that everyone picked on, except I wasn't accepted by the geeks either. I was too skinny, too introverted, too smart, and too socially awkward to be accepted by the cool kids, and yet I was terrified of being lumped in with the geeks so I didn't fit in with them because I didn't seem to be smart enough and I wasn't interested in comics or band or gaming or astronomy or any of the other geeky things that bound them together. From an early age, I was told I was ugly and weird and I'd never have a boyfriend.

    So when the first guy who expressed an interest in me came along, I was flattered and flabbergasted. And when he dumped me after making out with me but before his friends could find out that we were "dating", I was heartbroken. Eventually, though, I started to realize that people did like me. Some people thought I was attractive (which I still have trouble believing, to this day) and some people enjoyed being around me, and sometimes both of those types of people were found in the same individual. But the ability to turn someone's head and to make him feel good in bed, and his desire to make me feel good in bed made me feel strong, powerful, likable, and attractive.

    The problem with this explanation is that it sounds as though I am using sex for self-esteem. And maybe I did when I was a teenager. But the implications with labeling it "using sex for self-esteem" is that this is an inherently flawed and possibly dangerous method for bolstering self-esteem, that it won't work, that it's a desperate grab for something by desperate (read: pathetic) people who will never reach what they are grasping for.

    And that's not how it was for me at all. I learned confidence and self-love through casual sex in much the same way that I also learned confidence and self-love through public speech class and drama and, surprisingly enough, through the sci-fi community and conventions. For some reason, if a person wants to develop self-confidence, and they take a drama class, we don't think of them as being "desperate" or warn them that drama will only make them feel worse about themselves in the morning. Like Greta Christina, casual sex taught me the power of adventure. Through experimentation and exploration, I learned to be adventerous, both in bed and out of bed. And being adventerous is being self-confident. I am willing to take risks, to explore, to try new things, because my confidence has taught me that even bad experiences, as Greta and my old college film producer both say, can make for good stories. This extends to every area of my life. I got into rock climbing because of a casual sex affair, and now I walk an 18-inch steel girder 60 feet in the air because it's fun and it's thrilling and because I know I can. My self-confidence doesn't make me reckless. If anything, I have also learned what I can't do and what I shouldn't do. As Francis Bacon says,

    "Your true self can be known only by systematic experimentation, and controlled only by being known."

    Casual sex taught me that long before I ever heard the quote. Knowing what I can and can't do, and knowing that adventure and curiosity brings more experiences and more self-understanding, makes me self-confident.

  5. Polyamory. This is different from Greta's #5, but I think it's related. Casual sex led me to polyamory. I had all the same fucked up ideas about relationships that any other person can have, growing up in this society. I thought that, when I started to fall in love with someone new, it must mean that I was no longer "in love" with the person I was dating at the time. I thought that merely being attracted to someone new meant that there was something wrong with my relationships. I wanted sexual diversity and excitement, but thought I was wrong for wanting them. I wanted both lack of "commitment" and emotional intimacy, but believed I could only have one or the other.

    Every time I got fed up with the suffocating side-effects that comes from dating emotionally-insecure and immature monogamous people, I would swing to the far extreme and go for totally emotion-less casual sex partners - and as many as I could find. Eventually, I would get irritated at the lack of emotional intimacy and find a single person I could bond with to provide it. Which would then spark another round of getting-antsy, suffocating possession, too much expectation, etc., which would push me into more casual sex relationships.

    After a few rounds of that, I saw the pattern. Monogamy taught me what I didn't want out of a relationship - that suffocation, that sense of possession, that emotional insecurity in my partners, that desire to place all their expectations out of life on me, that loss of identity for the merging of two personalities. This doesn't mean that all monogamy is like that. It means that, through my monogamous experiences, this is what I learned that I don't want.

    But casual sex taught me what I do want - diversity and intimacy simultaneously, freedom and responsibility simulteanously, adventure and stability, and the encouragement for each individual to explore and grow and become more of themselves without the fear that doing so would harm the relationship. This is what I got out of my casual sex relationships, and it is what taught me that these sorts of seemingly opposing wants were possible. This is what my polyamory looks like. Even though I rarely have casual sex partners while I have "serious" relationship partners, those things that I wanted from my relationships, and got from my casual sex partners, is what led me to discover the word, the practice, and the community, of polyamory, which led me to my current polyamorous family, which is everything I ever wanted in relationships, even before I knew what I wanted.

I have nothing but positive feelings for my casual sex experiences - even those that didn't work out the way I wanted them to at the time. They were good for me in many ways and I benefited from them greatly. If given the opportunity, I would have casual sex experiences in the future too. The only reason I don't now is because I'm polysaturated - I don't have time, emotional energy, or sexual capacity for any romantic or sexual relationships other than the ones I currently have, an that includes even low-maintenance casual sex. As long as both people have similar goals and expectations for the relationship, I recommend casual sex as an enjoyable experience with the proper safety precautions.

Greta ends with "It gets better". Like her, not all of my individual casual sex experiences were good and not all were done for healthy reasons. But, also like her, not all of my relationships were good and not all were done for healthy reasons. But, again like her, I got better as I went along. I learned and I grew and I had fewer of those bad experiences and more of those positive experiences. Just like my serious romantic relationships. Each one was an improvement on the one before it, with only a sprinkling of setbacks here and there.

And my serious romantic relationships got better because of my casual sex experiences. My serious romantic relationships are better because of the confidence I gained and the insight about myself that I gained. They're better because I learned about interdependence and stopped holding on so tightly to strict independence. They're better because my sexuality is diverse and I'm more knowledgable about my body. They're better because I learned how to communicate and negotiate better. They're better because I learned to just enjoy sex and pleasure for their own sakes, and because I learned, through having casual sex and non-traditional relationships, that things don't have to be permanent to be valuable, which, in turn, has made me receptive, and therefore available to enjoy so many more types of relationships, and so many more types of experiences, than those only-til-death-do-we-part-has-meaning-and-value types.

Not everyone will have good casual sex experiences, and not everyone will be able to enjoy them. And that's fine. But casual sex is not inherently bad, and, in fact, has quite a few benefits going for it, for those open to exploring them. Casual sex benefited me and my current long-term, serious, committed relationships are better because of the casual sex experiences I've had.

joreth: (sex)

I want to write about some of my complaints about porn, but I want it to be clear that this is not a criticism of porn itself. First of all, I like porn and I do not agree that porn is inherently bad, for whatever value of bad any given activist wants to give it (i.e. misogynistic, degrades women, breaks up marriages, unrealistic expectations, etc.). Oh, I'm sure anyone can find examples of whatever complaint they have about porn, so I'm also not dismissing that these "bad" things exist, I'm just saying that I think "porn" encompasses a huge spectrum and does not have to be whatever bad thing someone accuses it of being.

Second, I am not criticizing the quality of porn itself because I'm not actually a good judge of what is "good" and "bad" porn. To me, entertainment has 2 metrics: quality and enjoyability. Quality seems to be something that people think of as an objective metric - there are standards to which an object is held, and if it meets those standards, it is "good quality". Classic literature that we are forced to read in high school falls under this heading. There are some types of art that I can assess as "quality", but some types of art that I can't. Movies and books are types that I can't, and that includes porn.

Enjoyability is not the same as quality. Back to those classics of literature that we have to read in school, I didn't like many of those books. Many of the movies and books that I actively enjoy, I'm told are crap. I don't care. I like what I like and I don't like what I don't like. You can keep your Picaso in his blue period or whatever and I'll keep my cheap print of the seascape at sunset because it makes me happy.

So all of this is to explain that I cannot distinguish between "good" porn and "bad" porn, I can only tell what I like and don't like. I can tell when a movie has decent production quality, and I can tell when there isn't even an attempt at acting, but generally what I like doesn't seem to be what everyone else likes. So, my point here is that what I am about to discuss is not whether something is "good" or "bad" in porn, but in how it affects me personally and what I enjoy. I'm writing about it, not as a book or movie review where I want to recommend or warn people about a particular work, or even a particular genre, but to explain one person's quirks, for 2 reasons:

1) In case there are others like me who feel alone in their tastes so they will know that they're not alone;

2) For people who do not share my tastes or interests to simply be aware that there are people like me who exist, so that maybe some bit of accommodation can be made for the variety of human interests.

So, now, onto the complaints about porn.

This is not about anything specific, it's a trend I see in movies, books, fanfic, erotica, kink, romance novels, anywhere there is a story about sex that includes pleasure for the female. And it's a trend that makes it very difficult for me to find porn or erotica that I like.

First, some background on my personal sexual tastes and habits )

And now, the complaints about porn really starts. )
joreth: (Super Tech)
Only Yes Means

Yes We've all been raised under the umbrella of No Means No, that campaign by feminists in the'70s to combat rape and sexual assault. It's the idea that when anyone says "no", there is no "but your eyes are saying yes" or any mixed message at all that a rapist can fall back on. No means no. Period*.

And I completely agree. There is no argument from me here whatsoever.

And yet, I do have a problem with this campaign. The problem I have is not that I disagree with it in any way, but that it doesn't go far enough. It does not solve the problem. When a masked man jumps out of the bushes and drags some girl screaming to the ground, he is very well aware that no means no. And when a "nice but clueless" guy pressures a girl into sex because she's giving him mixed signals, he's well aware that no means no too, he just never heard it. In fact, I wrote before about the study that suggests that people understand rejection even if the word "no" is not actually used. So "no means no" is not the real problem. The jackass "she totally wanted it" sort know damn well that no means no, and they're deliberately ignoring it.

The bigger problem is in those grey areas, those times between two people who have some sort of pre-existing relationship, where ambiguity fucks up the picture.

We have a social agreement of ambiguity, and I think that's the real, underlying problem. It has to do with things like The Rules, and lyrics from the Billy Joel song "nice girls wouldn't tell you what you should do", and popular media (like romantic comedies and love songs) that says our One True Love will be a mind-reader so we shouldn't have to be explicit. If he can't read our minds, then he's not The One, because he doesn't know us.


I have two stories that are very similar, but I have opposing viewpoints on them.

In the first story, some of you may already be familiar with the incident on Fetlife. A woman had a pre-existing resistance-play relationshp with a man who is experienced in kink and in the kink community, and also in poly and the poly community. They had negotiated their boundaries, set the ground rules, and all was pretty good. Until one night, he lulled her into thinking no play was going to happen, and then immediately jumped into a resistance scene. Well, OK, awkward, but still within their boundaries. Except that she wasn't into it. For some reason, she found herself unable to say "no"; in fact, she found herself unable to say anything at all. So she tried to tell him that she wasn't into it by just going limp and not responding or fighting back.

This, by the way, is a very common defense technique, and one I have utilized myself on many occasion. It's still my default, instinctual reaction, not something I do consciously, but only when I feel pressured or threatened. I lose the ability to speak and I go completely passive as my mind wanders off somewhere safe, where this bad thing just isn't happening to me. Mine was developed when I was a teenager because the guys in my neighborhood only hurt me worse if I fought back. So I learned to just hold still and eventually they would get bored with my lack of response and go away.

Anyway, so there she was, limp and unresponsive, and adjusting her mind to accepting the situation until he tired and let her go. When suddenly, he did something that they most certainly had not pre-negotiated. He penetrated her without protection. They had never had PIV penetration before and certainly had not had risky activities without protection. As a prominent member of both kink and poly communities, this is not a case of "he didn't know better" and "she didn't say no". This was flat-out stupid.

So, the girl shied away from accusing him of rape and admitted her part in getting herself into that situation. She admitted that she never actually said "no" and that resistance-play was part of their relationship. But, in this situation, with people who are clearly part of a culture that makes a HUGE fuss about consent and negotiated boundaries, I think of this as sexual assault. He, of course, defends himself with "but she didn't say no".

And THAT'S the problem with this concept.

The other story involves a friend of mine from high school. She and I and about 5 guys we knew (2 of whom were our boyfriends) were out at Denny's late one night, when another guy with a group of his friends walks in, and my friend goes quiet and sort of shrinks in on herself. We ask what the problem is and she tells us that the guy who just walked in raped her a few weeks prior. Well, it took both her and myself to bodily wrestle our boyfriends and the rest of the group out of the restaurant to prevent them from going over to his table and beating the shit out of the kid right then and there (he was maybe 17 or 18 years old, she was 16 or 17, our boyfriends & friends were all 18-21 - this could have gotten them jail time).

We get our menfolk outside and somewhat calmed down, and I ask my friend to tell us what happened. So she told us about meeting these guys on the bus, or in the mall, or somewhere stupid like that, and hanging out with them for the entire day. That night, they all went to a motel and rented a room, where someone brought beer and they hung out drinking and watching TV. Some movie came on that she got into watching, but the guys wanted to go out and do something. So she said that she would stay there to watch TV, and the guy in question volunteered to stay with her.

So they sat and drank and watched TV. Eventually they started making out. She had been flirting with him all day, so it's really not unreasonable for him to have thought she might be receptive to making out. And she was. But the making out led to sex. So I asked her if she ever told the guy no. She hadn't. I asked her if she ever did anything to imply no. She hadn't. I asked her how in the hell was he supposed to know that she didn't want to have sex. She had no answer.

Our boyfriends and the other guy friends in our group stopped chomping at the bit to go back and beat up the rapist. Suddenly, they could see themselves in the same position - a girl who doesn't want to but won't say so, a girl who flirts, who drinks, who makes out with them, who does nothing to stop the sex from happening, who then cries "rape" the next day when they honestly had no idea she wasn't into it and would genuinely have stopped had they known.

I have a lot of sympathy for this kid, and I still maintain that what happened wasn't rape. Maybe it was non-consensual or maybe it was buyer's remorse, but I have a strong aversion to painting this kid with the label "rapist" because we have no evidence that he wouldn't have immediately stopped if she had just said so. I am very hesitant to put him in the same category as the guys I grew up with who beat the shit out of me and popped my arm out of the shoulder socket and locked me in closets and pinned me against walls. And with the totally fucked up legal system regarding sex crimes, I definitely do not want to ruin his life over a mixed message that I can completely understand him misunderstanding.

This story is also part of the problem.

There are a variety of reasons why people do not say no when they should. Sometimes it's because they internalize the Madonna/whore concept. Sometimes it's because they don't really know what they want. Sometimes it's because they don't want to hurt someone's feelings. Sometimes it's because they're afraid to say no. There are consequences to saying no. In the best case scenario, the consequence to saying no is hurting someone's feelings for rejecting them. But all too often, the consequences are much worse than that.

There's the consequence of being accused of being a tease. There's the consequence of being talked into sex, of him "wearing her down". There's a social consequence if the story gets out, either the "truth" that she's a cocktease, or a lie that she had sex anyway. And, there's the rare-but-not-as-rare-as-we'd-like-to-think consequence of being physically assaulted.

This doesn't just go for women towards men. It works this way for all genders, and it even works this way in non-sexual settings. For instance, how many of us are familiar with the phrase "I'd love to, but I can't"? We all tend to phrase our rejections in ways that imply conditions beyond our control, rather than not wanting to. It's part of the social contract - we don't want to hurt someone's feelings, or there may be worse consequences to a rejection unless we can come up with an excuse that justifies the rejection. I know that I, and many of my readers, say that we would love it if people would be more honest about rejection, because an excuse just makes us want to find a solution but there's nothing we can do about "I don't want to". But the social conditions of our culture preclude that.

And this is where Only Yes Means Yes comes in.

I would like to continue the spread of "No Means No" as a concept and to encourage people, women especially, to stand their ground and be more forthright about their boundaries. But "no means no" requires people to do just that - police their boundaries. And by the time a person is in a position to be policing her boundaries, she (or he) is already in a vulnerable position and often not able to. It makes the potential victims responsible for their own safety. "No Means No" is still absolutely true. But it's not good enough.

We ought to be putting the burden of responsibility for other people's safety on those who would be compromising that safety. And that's what "yes means yes" is all about. This concept assumes that the answer is ALWAYS "no", unless and until you hear a clear, unambiguous, explicit "yes", instead of assuming the answer is "yes" until you hear a "no" or that the answer is "keep trying until I say stop". So that there are no grey areas, no fuzzy borders, no mixed messages, no ambiguity. This doesn't just go for the first time, and it doesn't just go for penetrative intercourse. It goes for all sexual activities, all the time, even with pre-established relationships.

The biggest opponents of "Only Yes Means Yes" tend to be men who claim that they won't ever get laid if they wait for a yes because women  don't ever say yes, even when they want sex. First of all, boo hoo. If the only way you can have sex is to find women who are afraid to say no, I'm really not very sympathetic to your sense of entitlement. Second of all, if all the men in the world just up and stopped fucking anyone who refused to give consent when they really did want sex, I guarantee this whole "nice girls don't say yes" bullshit will go right out the window.

Now, since all the men in the world will NOT just up and stop fucking anyone who refused to give consent, I understand that those individual men who do might find themselves, initially, having trouble finding female partners. Because there is still slut-shaming and it will take time for the idea of active consent to percolate throughout society. Women can often be afraid to say "no", but they are also often afraid to say "yes". But women owning up to wanting sex is a rapidly growing demographic in our society, so I'm certain that these hard-up guys will find women who can say yes if they hold out for it, as long as they're not doing the creepy-guy-entitlement thing that puts so many women off. And, in that case, it's not an issue of not finding women who give active consent, it's an issue of creepy-guy-entitlement.

I've also written before about an encounter an ex of mine had on a date. He had asked out this girl a few times, they seemed to be real dates, and they had kissed a little. After a while, when he felt it was time to progress past the kissing stage, he found himself sitting on her couch after another date. She was sending him mixed signals. She was flirting and laughing and leaning towards him, but she also had her knees up between them and was hugging a pillow. So he asked her for a kiss. She complied, but he said her kiss was very passive, as per her usual M.O. He could not tell from body language if she was interested in him or just humoring him.

So he just asked her outright if their relationship was going anywhere and if there was hope for some sex in the future. She answered "well, it's all about the chase, isn't it?" Again, I find myself feeling a lot of sympathy for the guy here. What the fuck is that supposed to mean? Does she want him to pursue her through her ambivilent signals? Is that a hint to keep pushing? What a line a guy has to walk! He said he had visions of addressing a judge saying "well, no, she didn't say 'yes', but she strongly implied that I should ignore her resistence to me." Yeah, that's going to go over well in a court of law!

So he said "no, if I have to chase someone, that means she's running away from me," which I still think is the best answer to that kind of question. That was their last date. As of the last time I spoke to him about it, he still wasn't entirely sure if she was trying to reject him without rejecting him, or if she really wanted to play some kind of coy maiden game. But he didn't feel he had the freedom to find out which. And if she genuinely wasn't interested in him, he genuinely didn't want to force his attention on someone who didn't want it.

So, we have a culture in which many women (and some men) are stuck in the middle, damned if they do and damned if they don't, where they can't say no, but they can't say yes either. In both campaigns, No Means No and Only Yes Means Yes both require a society-wide paradigm shift. But No Means No requires people to defend themselves against unwanted attention. Which they should, but is going to be much harder to accomplish than Yes Means Yes, which requires people who already want sex to admit that they want sex. I think that paradigm shift will be easier to accomplish and healthy for society in general. It would remove those grey areas of date rape where it really isn't a clear cut case of assault, it would make things more fair for men who are typically put in the pursuer role whether they want to be there or not and when there isn't a clear signal of whether they *should* be there or not, and it would require people, but women in particular, to own their own sexuality, to know themselves, and to communicate their wishes to their partners. And if everyone is required to actively consent to sexual activity, there can't be any more slut-shaming, or else no one would ever get laid and the next generation will never be born.

Only Yes Means Yes does not solve all the world's problems, nor even all the rape problems. There would still be actual, real, violent rapists who don't care if their partners say yes or no, and there would still be cases of authority abuse where the rapist uses his position of authority to coerce his partner into saying yes. This is not a magic bullet or a cure-all, there aren't any of those. But I think the No Means No campaign has done its job and reached about as far as it can reach (in those societies that subscribe to it) and now it needs to be coupled with Only Yes Means Yes. The two work together, but Only Yes Means Yes takes us further into a sexually healthy society than No Means No can do alone.

I did not come up with this campaign. In fact, I couldn't even remember where I saw it when I started talking about it some time ago.  But apparently there's a book called Yes Means Yes!: Visions of Female Sexual Power & a World Without Rape . There's also a blog with several bloggers contributing, including the editor of the book (link to the book at the blog). I haven't read either the book or more than a couple of posts on the blog. I'm not even positive this is where I first saw the campaign. But I'm not the one to come up with this concept. I'm just embracing a concept that I think has the potential to end a very real social problem - ambiguity in sexual relations and repression of female sexuality.

There is also a fantastic article called Manufacturing Consent: Is It Rape? all about the ways that people (he focuses on women) are coerced into giving consent. It goes into explicit detail and categorizes the different ways that people can find themselves giving consent when they really aren't consenting. If we are to move towards a society that embraces active consent, these are the dangers we need to watch out for. These are the ways the active consent system can be abused. Personally, I take my cues from the standards the BDSM community claims to hold (even if they sometimes don't). When I'm in the mood to play one of these chase-me games, when I want a little "romance", or even when I want the freedom to say "no" and not mean it, I say so up front. I negotiate with my partners when these types of games that so many of us actually enjoy are appropriate. And THAT is active consent. Clear communication, unambiguous answers, explicit negotiation. With these tools, I and my partners can give active consent and still allow for the "fun" of ambiguous play. And I believe that Only Yes Means Yes as a paradigm, as a social contract, is how we achieve this harmony, this compromise, of so-called calculating consent and the fun-times games some people like to play.

There's also a new symbol, for those who are into symbols. In order to facilitate spreading the word, I will be sporting a new badge in my LJ sidebar and encouraging others to display similar symbols where appropriate. Below are a collection of images, derived from a new symbol intended to represent the concept of Only Yes Means Yes, originally created by someone on Fetlife that was then modified. Take them, use them, modify them, or make your own. I'm encouraging the use of any stylistic Y or "yes" or "OYMY" to represent the concepts of Only Yes Means Yes, female sexual empowerment, active consent, and open communication about sexuality. But if you're not into creating symbols and logos, you can use these:
Red stylized Y (font: Algerian). The red comes from the color of the title on the book's cover. Single color round symbol with stylized Y (font: Algerian) and the two rape awareness slogans. This image is intended for public domain and left as a single color to give individuals the freedom to apply their own creativity with colors or changing the text. Red stylized Y (font: Algerian) on black circle with the two rape awareness slogans. Color scheme comes from the book. Red stylized Y (font: Algerian) on black circle without the two rape awareness slogans. Color scheme comes from the book. Red stylized Y (font: Algerian) on black BDSM triskelion with the Only Yes Means Yes slogan. Color scheme comes from the book. The No Always Means No was removed from this variation because in BDSM, sometimes "no" does not mean "no". However, in BDSM, when "no" does not mean "no", some other word is established to substitute for "no", so the concept is still valid, it's just a different word. One could say "The Safeword Always Means No" instead. Red stylized Y (font: Algerian) on the black and blue stripes of the BDSM Pride flag with the Only Yes Means Yes slogan. Color scheme comes from the book. The No Always Means No was removed from this variation because in BDSM, sometimes "no" does not mean "no".  However, in BDSM, when "no" does not mean "no", some other word is established to substitute for "no", so the concept is still valid, it's just a different word. One could say "The Safeword Always Means No" instead.
A horizontal slogan that can be used as a web banner that includes the red stylized Y (font: Algerian) and both rape awareness slogans.
All of these images are also available on physical items to help spread the concept like t-shirts and coffee mugs at Only Yes Means Yes - website.


This video was brought to my attention in the comments, and I think it deserves to be included here.  It's a standup comedy routine about a guy who is faced with a girl who won't ask for sex and expects the guy to just "go for it".  The video seems to end on the punchline for the bit, and it is the punchline, but the bit continues for another line that I happen to think should have been included, so I'm adding the transcript of that line beneath the video:

He goes on to say sarcastically: "I'm gettin' kind of a rapey vibe from this girl I dunno. I suspect she might enjoy being raped, maybe that's her thing.  I don't want to ask first and ruin it so I'll just take a shot and rape her, what the hell.  What's the worst that can happen after all?"

No means no is important.  But it's not enough.  We must be able to say yes when we mean yes and we must all stop assuming that consent is given until it's taken away.  Instead, we must assume that consent is not given until it is.  And thank you to all of you who think your partner's consent to sex trumps your feelings of entitlement to that sex.  If she doesn't say yes, it's a no.  If she wants to say yes but can't in some unambiguous manner, she needs serious help.  Wait until she gets that help and/or look elsewhere.

*For the moment, let's leave BDSM out of it. Yes, there are times when the word "no" doesn't mean the concept "no", but in those situations, they are explicitly agreed upon where all parties involved understand that, and there is usually some other signal that takes the place of the word "no" and clearly means "no" in its place, so the idea behind the slogan still holds, even if the sounds made do not sound like "no".
joreth: (anger)
I just watched the most godawful movie ever.  Well, to be fair, this movie was not on a poly movie list, it was recommended to me by Netflix when I added a bunch of movies from some poly movie list.  And, historically, Netflix's suggestions based on poly movie additions are shit.  So I was expecting this to be bad.

This movie completely lived up to all my expectations.

Building contractor Marty Barnes has always wondered what it would be like to share a bed with two women and, to his delight, he persuades his reluctant wife, Laura, to try it. The experience fulfills Marty's wildest dream ... until Laura morphs into a walking sex machine who seduces every woman in sight -- including Marty's secretary.

So yeah, you all should be able to guess what happened.  And I'm pretty sure that whatever you're thinking right now is exactly what happened.  There were absolutely no surprises for me in this movie at all.  It went exactly where I thought it would go.

First, we have the asshole husband who begs and pleads and pushes his wife into trying lesbianism for his own benefit, using every bullshit stupid excuse I've ever heard ... "it'd be good for you", "you have the homecourt advantage, you'll like it because you're a woman so you already know what to do", "no, it's not for me, it's for us", "it'll bring us closer together", "I want you to feel free to express yourself", blah blah blah.  Bullshit.  

So, after pestering her forever, she finally starts thinking about it.  Laura comes up with the usual list of rules that movies written by men seem to think are important to women, including "not a stranger, but not any girl I know whom you like".  Eventually they settle on Laura's part-time co-worker at the hair salon, Didi, who is an out lesbian and who very clearly has the hots for Laura.  

They invite Didi over for dinner one night, and she puts the moves on Laura while Marty encourages them.  After a couple of freakouts and a ton of liquor, they end up in a threesome that involves Marty, panting and happy, dancing downstairs at the thought of just having had a threesome, while the two ladies continue to go at it upstairs, apparently oblivious to Marty's absence.

Now, we all know the fable of RBAMP and the Ballad Of The Unicorn Hunters, so we know how Didi's part in this story plays out.

Naturally, Laura has the best sex of her life and starts seducing every woman she meets, including Marty's secretary, his business partner's wife, his sister, and the wife of an investor that he's desparately hoping to convince to invest in his construction project.  Because all a woman has to do is have sex once with another woman to be turned into a sex-crazed, predatory maniac.  It will automatically be the best sex ever and any woman within range will fall under the influence of lesbianism.  It's an STD, you know - gayness is contagious, that's why the fundies are so afraid of it.

Here's what I hated about this movie:

1) Marty pushed his wife into doing something she didn't want to do, for his own selfish gain.

2) The entire fallout was blamed on Marty for having "broken the dam" and suggesting this in the first place

3) It's better to never experiment or explore, to lock up all your desires lest they carry you away like a runaway train into a dark tunnel filled with depravity and no self-control because once you start down that track, you won't be able to stop.  First it's lesbianism, then it's kinky bondage, then it's practicing surgery without a license (yes, seriously, he said that)

4) The assumption that lesbian sex is automatically better than hetero sex because of the "homecourt advantage"

5) The assumption that all it takes is good sex to turn someone into a complete nymphomaniac who can't control her own behaviour and has to have sex all the time with no discrimination

6) That this only happens to hot women

7) The blatant use and disposal of women for the married couple's personal pleasure

8) All women who are seduced by or interested in a hot wife will automatically be willing to have sex with the husband too

9) Marty immediately became suspicious of every woman in the world because he imagined Laura was going to seduce her

10) Marty was right and his paranoid accusations were justified

11) The implicit assumption that lesbian sex doesn't "count"

Yes, that was there too.  It was there when Marty condemned his business partner for cheating on his wife with another woman, telling him that he's going to hell and that god was watching, but when he came home from work early to find his wife in bed with his secretary, Laura wasn't going to hell.  Laura talked openly about her experimentation with women and Marty found it annoying, but not because he felt he was being "cheated on", but because he started to feel inadequate.  The double standard that a man having an affair with another woman was evil but a woman having an affair with every goddamn woman in town was just a nuisance pissed me off.

As a side note, the cheating partner pissed me off too.  He justified his cheating on his wife being "fat".  We get to meet his wife.  She's a size 9.  Maybe.  I'm betting that she started eating because she realized she was stuck with an ignorant, shallow, callous, fucktard and pizza and brownies offered her more satisfaction and comfort than her asshole husband.  He then had the nerve to tell Marty later, when Laura seduced his "fat" wife, that Marty was no better than him because, although he was cheating on his wife, Marty was too, but at least the asshole friend had the good sense to not do it in front of his wife.  Grrr.  Back to the story.

To top it off, Laura even admitted later that she was just "experimenting" and that she really only wanted Marty.  As far as I can tell, this was the one good thing to come out of it - not because she went back to being monogamous, but because she finally started to tell Marty what she needed to feel good in bed.  Laura gave up women, but started instructing Marty on how to please her.  This, of course, made Marty feel even worse about himself.

For those of you following me on Twitter, here is the part that was responsible for my tweet "OMG TEH STOOPID IT BURNZ!":

Marty is trying to entice Dave, a jerkoff from high school who is now a millionaire to invest in his construction project.  After Laura gives up women, Marty suggests that Laura "run her little rap" on Evie, Dave's wife, in order to get Evie to talk her husband into investing.  Marty stops shy of suggesting that Laura pimp herself out for the money, because by this point, he's begging Laura to stop fucking women.  But he does tell Laura to get friendly with her.

So Laura and Evie go out for lunch, where little miss Republican Trophy Wife comes on strong to Laura.  Laura freaks out and tries to avoid Evie, until Evie shows up at her house one day and instructs Laura to come upstairs and fuck her, and be quick about it since Evie has a cubscout meeting to attend.

Upstairs, Evie strips down to her teddy and garters and starts ordering Laura around.  She pulls out Marty's good ties and yells at Laura to shove Evie down on the bed hard, and then tie her up and gag her, which Laura reluctantly does.  Marty chooses that moment to walk in on them.

Leaving Evie tied and gagged, Laura runs after Marty so they can have a screaming match in the hallway where Marty accuses her of being a sex pervert and Laura yells back that it's all Marty's fault, that he "broke the dam" and that Marty is really the one who tied up Evie.  Laura never once says that it was Evie's idea that she get tied up, but that doesn't stop the narrow-minded Marty from being a prick who thinks all kinky sex is a mental disorder.

Then it gets even more stupid.  Dave, the rich husband, comes by the house looking for his wife.  Laura goes to the door to see who's there, then runs upstairs and whispers to Marty who it is.  In a panic, they decide to leave Evie tied up, pretend to act normal, and deny all knowledge of Evie's whereabouts.


All they would have had to do is have Laura run back in the bedroom, tell Evie that her husband is there, untie her, let her get dressed, open the door, and explain to Dave that Laura and Evie, who are now friends, were just about to go shopping, and the whole thing would be over.  After all, Evie is just as invested in keeping this secret from Dave as the psycho couple is.

But no.

Marty opens the door, Dave asks where Evie is, and Marty says "how should I know where your wife is?"  Dave says "her car is in your driveway."  Marty has no answer for that and tries to distract him by getting him outside.  Suddenly, at that moment, Laura's first fling, Didi shows up.  Marty leaves Dave to Laura and tries to get rid of Didi.  So Dave asks Laura where Evie is, and Laura says she doesn't know, so Dave mentions that Evie's car is out front, and Laura's answer is "oh, well, I'm not a car person, so I don't know why it's here."


Meanwhile, the only scene in the whole movie that I liked takes place outside.

Marty is trying to get rid of Didi, who seems hurt and confused as to why Laura is now avoiding her.  Marty decides to explain it in this way:

"Don't take this wrong, but my wife doesn't want to join your little club. ... Yeah, your little club.  See, she had a trial membership but now she doesn't want to renew.  This is not about you, no offense, nothing personal.  I gotta go."


Do you people not understand how cruel this is?  Those particular unicorn-hunting married couples looking for the hot bi babe for their own enjoyment don't seem to understand that this is how that hot bi babe is being treated.  No, I don't care that you craft your breakup speeches with more tact.  She is being treated as the hired help, and when you're done with her services, or dissatisfied with her ability to properly spice up your marriage without actually affecting your lives outside the bedroom, you throw her away.  Sorry, no offense, nothing personal.

It IS personal.  She is a human being with feelings.  

Anyway, the reason why I liked that scene is because of Didi's answer:

"You know something?  All you guys, you think  you know so much about lesbians, you think you're so into lesbians but you're not.  You're into what you wish lesbians were, cock-hungry nymphos keeping themselves busy until the Real Man hits town, but that's not the reality.  The reality, Marty, is that you pushed and you pushed and you pushed, and now your wife eats pussy better than you do."

So, now, because I know you're all DYING to know how the movie ends, the spoilers:

Dave isn't buying any of Laura's bullshit about not being a car person and drinking too much espresso, and suddenly Evie, still tied up and gagged upstairs, starts screaming and banging the bed against the wall to get someone's attention.  Dave runs upstairs, discovers his wife tied and gagged, and immediately attacks Marty while his wife crumples now that her hidden secret lesbian life has been discovered.

Laura finally breaks up the fight by knocking Dave upside the head with a giant book and explains that Marty isn't the one into crazy kinky shit, that it was Laura who tied her up but it was Evie's idea.  So Dave naturally turns on Laura and calls her a wacked-out twat and leaves.  Meanwhile, Evie is STILL tied up upstairs.  Marty tells Laura to untie her, Laura refuses and tells Marty to do it, and they get into a shouting match in the front yard over whose job it is to untie the poor woman.

Marty loses, so he heads upstairs to untie her and takes the opportunity of having Evie's undivided attention to suggest that, since this encounter will probably result in divorce, that Evie should take half of Dave's money and invest in his construction project.

In the final scene, Marty comes to pick up Laura at work to take her to lunch, and we see that Laura has hired a replacement for Didi - a male hairdresser named Henry.  At lunch, Laura starts the exact same conversation with Marty that started this whole mess, suggesting that Henry may be bisexual and that some exploration on Marty's part would be "good for him".  Marty looks at her, dumbstruck, and finally asks if she's joking.  Laura says yes, she's joking.  Well, that she might be.  And that's where it ends.

I loved Didi's answer to the horrific but all too standard treatment of the hot bi babe, and I was pleasantly surprised to see the tables turned on the sexist, selfish asshole of a husband at the end.  But neither was worth watching the movie for.  Really, neither was worth reading this review for either, but at least you didn't have to waste 2 hours to hear the good parts from me.

So Sex Monster was not on a poly movie list, but it was recommended by Netflix as being "similar" to movies that are on a poly movie list.  Whether it's similar or not, this movie is not poly and it was not good.  

~Reviews by Joreth - I watch the crap so you don't have to.
joreth: (sex)
I think the big problem I have with stories like the Sleeping Beauty saga and Story of O is because they never establish the main character's personal interest in BDSM.  In many of these stories, she's a timid, passive sort of girl, with an air of innocence that suggests that she knows nothing of sex or kink.  This means that she can't have chosen it for herself.  She goes along with the punishments because she is told to, by someone who has authority over her, or by someone she wishes to please, but not because she has fantasies of being spanked or some desire to give up control to someone else.  Stories like these seem to imply that all you have to do is introduce a woman to the submissive role, and she will automatically find the pleasure in the pain, or that the desire to please is inherent and makes the pain pleasurable.

Sometimes there are side characters who knew what they were getting into and went joyfully, and sometimes you even find side characters who are submissive men or sadistic women.  But the main character is just some girl who is told to submit, and she does so with no real motivation given other than she's "s'posed to".  Maybe she internalized the "love, honor, and obey" bullshit, or maybe she's afraid or overwhelmed at the newness and strangeness of the situation, or maybe she doesn't know how to exert her own wishes, or maybe she doesn't even know her own wishes because she doesn't know herself at all.  These stories lead me to believe that this was not her choice, but once there, she magically discovered a taste for submission and pain.

As someone who likes pain and resistance play naturally, I call bullshit.  Just once, I'd love to see a story of a girl who is inexperienced, maybe she had Abstinance Only education and is completely unaware of any sexual behaviour other than missionary position for procreation, an inexperienced girl who meets a worldly and charismatic man who wins her trust and awakens in her a sexual desire.  Gradually, he gets her to relax and experiment and, one day he convinces her to visit a BDSM club with him.  Only, instead of walking in and her lover ordering her on her knees to service the other patrons, she gazes in wide-eyed wonder and longing at the tall, statuesque woman in head-to-foot leather, impatiently tapping a riding crop against her thigh while her male subbie grovels at her feet.  When the lover introduces our protagonist to the local Florentine expert, she inquires not how the whips feel, but how he spins them.  Instead of blushing prettily and baring her breasts to be bound, she surprises herself by suggesting, in a halting voice, that the rope master try a particular weaving pattern that she learned at summer camp when they made little plastic bracelets and keychains, on a rather fetching older lady who is bouncing eagerly, awaiting her turn at the hands of the rope master.  And then the lover hands our budding young kinkster over to be trained, not as his slave, but as his master because it is HE who craves the whip and the rope and the desire to please.

Just once*, I'd like to see some girl be introduced to kink in a story and have her gravitate towards the top or Dominant positions, or even as a bottom but not a sub.  Just once, I'd like to see a girl in a submissive position in fiction negotiate her own boundaries with a top, to show that she wants the role she is about to be put in.  And just once, I'd LOVE to see a fucking dom actually care about what the subbie wants, and to take the time to discuss and negotiate with her or him what the subbie wants and how to create the scene for the subbie's benefit.  That'd be a nice change.  And it might help those poor subbies who get into kink with no experience but a few books read, to understand that THEY are the ones in charge and THEY are the ones who set the rules.  Being a sub does not mean being a doormat.

The Story Of O seems to be about as poly as The Ethical Slut.  Which is to say, not at all.  Both stories are only tangentially related to poly by way of having lots of sex partners.  I do wish people would stop recommending both as poly.  

Throughout this movie, the characters kept using the word "love".  I do not think it means what they think it means.  O is that innocent young girl who gets dropped off at a submissive training house by her boyfriend, Renee, with no explanation and no backstory and is immediately gang-raped.  She spends her time there being whipped and raped and ogled and talked about as though she had no hearing and no feelings.  After a while she falls in "love" with her master.  With no conversation, mind you, nothing that tells each other anything about each other - she only knows how hard he whips and how hard he fucks.

Then her time is up and she goes back to her boyfriend, whom she "loves", and it is the love for him that prompts her to "love" every man she is given to.  Eventually, we find out that Renee has a twisted, co-dependent relationship with his much older step-brother, Sir Steffan.  They share "everything", she is told, which implies that she is now to be given to Steffan.  She is to obey him exactly as she would obey Renee.  Although, the only real difference between this order and every other time she was given to someone, is that Steffan is to become her regular master, not a one-time gift to someone Renee deems worthy of bestowing O's charms on.

Over time, O falls in love with Steffan and, I believe, is the only time she actually loves anyone, in a sense that at least resembles the way that I use the word "love".  So, it would seem that her relationship with Renee and her growing love for Steffan make this a poly movie, right?

Well, except that her feelings for Renee dwindle at about the same rate that her feelings for Steffan grow.  After a while, she stops thinking of herself as belonging to both Renee and Steffan and thinks of herself as belonging only to Steffan.  She even tells him, at one point, that she never knew love before she met Steffan, which negates all that "love" she supposedly had for all the men she was given to, her training master, and even Renee.

Soon, O falls in lust with Jacqueline, a model that O photographs for magazines.  Steffan lays out the plan for O to seduce Jacqueline & get her into their kinky underground subculture.  Everything O does with Jacqueline is scripted by Steffan and done to make Steffan happy, even though it was O who first desired Jacqueline for herself.  Finally, O delivers Jacqueline into the tender care of the same training house that she was brought to, and O spends the evening gloating with Steffan over the success of their plan and how much Steffan loves O more than any woman, more than he thought was even possible to love a woman, followed by O puffing up with power over having conquered the man who conquered her.  To symbolize their mutual ownership of each other and no other, they bear brands of each other's initials.

Tell me, where is the poly in that?  Well, now that I think about it, ownership, couple-privilege, a primary pair-bond, confusing sex for love, and using a hot bi babe for their own selfish desires without concern for the emotional torment she goes through DOES sound like the unicorn hunters that plague the poly community.  So, I guess if I wanted to be snarky, I could call it a poly movie for that reason.

I wouldn't say this is a bad movie.  To be honest, the fantasy submissive story that doesn't take into account things like periods and moods or how unhygenic it is for everyone to sit bare-assed on leather couches, and that doesn't give us a clear personal motivation of the submissive isn't my cuppa tea.  So the movie could be a really good example of a fantasy submissive story and I wouldn't get it.  So don't decide to see or not see this movie based on my own total lack of enjoyment of it.  Just don't watch it as an example of polyamory.  It's not.  It's BDSM, it's erotica, it has plenty of female nudity, and it's non-monogamous.  But it's not poly.

*Exit To Eden is an exception to this.  The main characters *did* seek out the training houses on their own, the female character, after thorough training as a submissive, eventually became one of the most famous and cruel dominants, and the male was forced to give up his ego and bravado to accept the submissive side of himself that he kept denying. Whatever else you say about Exit To Eden (and there is plenty negative to say about it), the story did not fall into the stereotypes of the girls-are-all-subbies-men-are-all-masters or the girls-just-need-to-be-exposed-to-pain-to-awaken-natural-desire-for-it tripe.
joreth: (polyamory) - Netflix - IMDB Database

I'm not sure which poly movie list this was on, but I don't think it was poly. It wasn't a bad movie, and it was definitely about multiple sex partners, but I don't think it was poly.

The summary at Netflix says "When rich teenagers Tenoch (Diego Luna) and Julio (Gael Garcia Bernal) meet the alluring, older Luisa (Maribel Verdu) at a wedding, they try to impress her with stories of a road trip to a secret beach, and ultimately convince her to come with them. What follows in director Alfonso Cuaron's Oscar-nominated film -- one of the most talked-about pics of 2002 -- is an escapade involving seduction, conflict and the harsh realities of poverty."

The two main characters, Julio and Tenoch, each have girlfriends that have gone to Europe for the summer. The teenagers meet Tenoch's cousin's wife, Luisa. They find out that she is interested in visiting a beach, so they make up a mythical perfect beach that no one knows about and invite her to come with them to find it, hoping to score with her but ultimately knowing that they never will.

Luisa visits a doctor, and later that night gets a drunken phone call from her husband, telling her that he cheated on her. So she calls up Tenoch and asks if the offer to visit the beach is still open. The three of them take off across the Mexican countryside to find a beach that doesn't exist.

Along the way, we discover that the boys have each slept with each other's girlfriends, and that Luisa seduces them both. Each revelation sets off a spark of jealous rage, culminating in Luisa jumping out of the car and attempting to ditch them both. She only returns after they agree to her long list of demands, including that neither boy fights, contradicts her, or even speaks without her permission.

Eventually, they find a beach and spend a couple of days frolicking in the water and getting drunk, which seems to repair everyone's friendship. Luisa seduces them both again, only this time at the same time and they have a threesome, including some guy-on-guy activity. But the boys wake up the next morning, appearing to regret it, or at least, regretting the copious amounts of tequila they drank the night before.

Luisa decides to stay at the beach with the new friends she's made among the locals, and the two boys go back home. There's still a little more to the story, but since I watched it for its poly content, and that is the end of the possible poly content, I'll stop there.

I didn't like the characters. The two boys are rich, spoiled, entitled, potheads who spend their entire time drugged out of their heads, drunk, and masturbating. When they're not actively masturbating, they're talking about women's body parts or insulting each others' body parts. They don't seem to have any other interests at all besides pot, beer, and tits. I'm not even sure how they got girlfriends in the first place, except I seem to remember being a teenager and not really having much in common with some boyfriends except that we liked to fuck.

They were jealous and hypocritical and boastful and deceitful and, well, teenage boys. Luisa seemed the most complex of the characters, but she just wasn't quite enough to carry the whole movie by herself. Her motivation for randomly accepting an invitation to spend a week driving around a foreign country with a couple of boys she didn't know, and to further seduce them both with no lead-up and no prior interest or attraction, makes sense in light of the glimpses we did get into her life. It's just that the scenes were too filled with the boys cussing at each other and generally being obnoxious teens, that I couldn't really like the movie.

I will say, though, that foreign films can do sex scenes better than American films. This movie opens with the two boys fucking their girlfriends, and although the dialog is terrible, the scenes feel realistic. Maybe it's the use of handheld cameras, or the lack of cheesy music and soft filters, or maybe it's the frantic teenage-boy fucking, but I thought the sex scenes, for all that they were softcore, were the best parts of the movie. Even awkward sex, done right, is better than smooth sex done wrong.

So, it was an interesting film. It was a sexual exploration movie. If you're into that, you might want to see this film. But it wasn't a poly movie. It wasn't about relationships or love. It was about sex. Which has its place, just not on a poly movie list.

Wrong Road

Jul. 18th, 2011 06:27 pm
joreth: (Bad Joreth)
Wrong Road
Notice the paths that happy and successful people take, and avoid those paths. Favor the popular paths since those will help you achieve average results at best, and average results should safely prevent undesirable feelings of fulfillment. The best roads are those that leave you feeling like you’re walking in circles till you’re too tired to walk anymore and must retire. Roads that are flat or which slope downhill are often good choices, and they tend to satisfy the popularity requirement as well. Avoid any paths that lead over hills or near mountains; the elevated views are disturbing. Head towards terrain you dislike since it’s easier to hate your life when you hate your surroundings. If you can manage to get lost as well, that’s wonderful.

In conversations where I explain what I have done or seen done that leads to success, either in relationships, in work, in life in general, whatever, I often get the following response: "Some of us are not as enlighted as you, so we won't take your advice." And yes, people have actually used the phrase "as enlightened as you", and not because I ever made that claim myself.

Now, I get that, in some circumstances, Person A can look at Person B and see a happy, successful person, but not want to actually be like Person B. I mean, I see plenty of happy and successful Hollywood actors, but I don't want to be an actor. That's not what I'm talking about here. I'm talking about Person A wanting the same outcome as Person B, but not wanting to learn how Person B got there. Basically, Person A is reinventing the wheel, only he's making it square.

What this kind of response and attitude says is this:

I see that you are happy and successful at something that I want to be happy and successful at. But rather than trying to take the lessons you have learned and apply them to my own life, I am going to do the exact opposite in the hopes that doing exactly what you did not do, I will somehow learn the skills and lessons that you learned and end up with the same result as you, because what you did is scary and I want all the benefits without the growing pains. I want what you have, but I will not take even remotely similar paths to get what you have, and I will expect those paths to end at the same destination. Meanwhile, I will be utterly dismissive of everything you have learned about how you got where you did.

These are the people who want to learn how to be less jealous & more secure, but do things that are designed to foster, encourage, and protect insecurity. These are the people who want to protect themselves against STDs but stick their head in the sand so that they're practically inviting STDs. These are the people who want to get ahead in business, but go out of their way to burn bridges and alienate the support that all people "at the top" need to stay at the top. These are the people who want lots of money but don't want to actually *do* anything for it, like, work. These are the people who want social change but end up supporting the status quo by their actions, or inaction. These are the people who whine about how much their life sucks while opportunity after opportunity pass right by. These are the "nice guys" who can't "get a girl" who argue with women explaining to them what they're doing to turn them off. These are the people who want so desperately to be With Someone that they can't see how that desperation is exactly the thing turning people away.

To paraphrase Miss Poly Manners, there might, indeed, be no single Right Way, but there ARE plenty of Wrong Ways. This is one of them.
joreth: (Super Tech)
There's a big deal happening in the skeptics community because Rebecca Watson was propositioned in an elevator at a conference, told the story publicly, and concluded with "don't do that guys". The entire community exploded in opposite directions, with clueless men saying "what's the big deal? Just tell the guy no" and women and men who "get it" trying to explain why this was so bad.

The biggest complaint is that poor, privileged men got their feelings hurt by a woman saying "don't proposition a woman at 4 AM in an elevator where she can't escape" because, they think, it must have implied that men can't ever speak to or look at a woman anywhere, at any time, ever, because all men are always a threat to all women. Always.

And that is not what the women are saying at all. It's not that all men are automatically a threat. It's that we have been told BY MEN from the day we are born that someday, some man is going to come along and rape us. Not only is he going to try to assault us, but it will be our own fault. Because of what we wear, what we say, or where we are, some man is going to be so overcome with lust at something that WE DID, that he will assault us, and that it is our own responsibility to avoid this attack by choosing our clothing, our behaviour, our words, our locations to prevent some guy from losing control of himself.

No, it's not that every man is a threat. It's that SOME man is a threat, but we have no way of knowing WHICH man he is until it's too late. And that the reason why he is a threat is because of something that we did to bring it upon ourselves, and that we live in a society that will scrutinize our every move and our every thought to see if it can find exactly what we did to bring it upon ourselves, so that the poor man can be absolved of his responsibility for assaulting us (just ask any woman who ever pressed rape charges how carefully her own background and behaviour was dragged into the harsh light of the courtroom so the defense attorney could find some shred of "she was asking for it" to get his client off the hook).

We are told these very things about ourselves and about men being threatening ... by men. By our fathers, by our police officers, by our clergy, and it is reinforced by every one of those skeevy men out there who responds to our rejections, no matter how polite or careful or blame-shifting we try to make them, with accusations of "slut", "bitch", "dyke", or with pressure to change our minds. First, we're told that men are a threat to us, then we're told that it's our own responsibility to police our own boundaries and make sure that all men know what they can't get away with, and THEN, when we dutifully buck up the courage to reject someone (no one likes to feel rejected so many of us don't like to do the rejecting because we don't want to hurt someone's feelings), we are penalized for it by the man's behaviour. We're called names, we're shouted at, we're gossiped about, or we're ignored by those who have been told that "no" is just another word for "maybe".

We are told that "good girls" don't say "yes", so some men are convinced that we are only saying "no" because we're not supposed to say "yes". Other men believe the "no", but don't believe that it is a permanent state. In other words, if they just keep asking, eventually it'll change into a "yes". So even if we DO manage to reject someone, we're still not off the hook. We still have to vigilantly maintain those boundaries, like a fort with an enemy at the gate, probing for weaknesses, just one little chink in the fence where he can weasel his way in.

I don't like to think of men in these terms; I'd like to give them the benefit of the doubt. But this is what I have been told, and this is what many women have been told about men ... by men. Who hasn't heard the line about a father telling his daughter that "boys only want one thing", backing that up with "because I was a boy once and that's how I thought". Rather than an entire nation of fathers trying to change their sons' views on how to treat women now that they have wives & daughters that they don't want assaulted (we'll just overlook, for now, that these fathers didn't care about assaulting someone ELSE'S wives or daughters), these fathers are, instead, trying to lock up their daughters to "protect" them from all those predatory boys and men, apparently just sitting at the front door, panting and drooling, waiting for the daughters to take a step out the front door so they can pounce. Women are penalized by being treated as prisoners for the crimes of all these men that we're led to believe are just waiting for us. We're locked up indoors, under clothing, and behind demure expressions all to prevent some man from assulting us. And in some countries, this isn't even hyperbole.

Young women are given earlier curfews, or made to give the information for where they expect to be and what time they expect to be home, or scrutinized by their mothers to ensure that their clothing doesn't send the "wrong impression" when young men are not often given the same treatment. We are subjected to this treatment because our parents believe that we are at greater risk for assault than our male counterparts, in spite of the fact that men are quite often the victims of violent crime such as robbery and beatings. Even though, statistically, men are more likely to be the assaulter in all violent crimes, other men are not told to fear going into a steambath, naked with other men, on the off-chance that one of those men will try to rape him (unless he's a conservative fundie, who DO seem to think that just because another man is gay, being naked in the same room with him is naturally going to lead to being raped by the gay man), beat him for thinking he's gay, or steal his wallet that he left in the locker room. Women, however, are told that we cannot go into certain areas with men, such as a steambath or a locker room, because one of those men will try to rape us, beat us, or steal our purse.

And I'll even concede that this does happen more often to women than men. I have no statistics at my fingertips and I don't feel like looking it up, so if someone wants to insist that women are assulted by men more often than men are assaulted by men, I'll give you the benefit of the doubt, for the sake of discussion. I don't believe this is the case, but I'm not willing to argue this point right now. The main point is that our society's solution to this problem is not to change the society to make this unacceptable, nor is it to tighten up security in these areas to allow women the freedom to move about the country as they choose. The solution is not to frown and shake our fingers at men and call them "naughty boys". No, the solution is to make the WOMEN curtail their activities, their clothing, their behaviour, their speech, whatever they have to do to prevent the rare man who might be hiding amongst all the "nice guys" just waiting for his chance to beat us, rape us, kill us, while men are not given the same effort at telling them not to go certain places or dress in certain ways to avoid an assault. So women have to treat everyone as a threat in order to protect ourselves from the actual threats.

Let me tell you a few stories of some of your oh-so-non-threatening bretheren:

1) I and two of my female coworkers went out to the Hard Rock Casino one night after work to hang out - just us ladies. None of us are shrinking violets and we're pretty well able to take care of ourselves, being all butch and manual-laborey, but we're also fairly easy on the eyes, if I do say so myself, and still subjected to the same social programming as everyone else. So we were hanging out at the casino lounge, having our first drinks (mine was non-alcoholic) when an obviously drunk man came over to our table. I don't recall the exact words he used at this point, but I do recall that he had trouble pronouncing them and that they were supposed to be complimentary. At any rate, he expressed admiration for our appearances and then proceeded to indicate interest in sexual relations.

Well, I was much younger then, and still trying to be polite, and I fell into the same old trap that most women do, of giving an excuse for my rejection that clearly says "no" without saying "because you're a douchebag". Most women use lines like "I have a boyfriend" or "I have to get up early" or some other line that says "I can't" rather than "I won't", to try and soften the rejection. I and one of the other girls told him that we were all lesbians and in a committed slave-relationship with the third girl. She was our Mistress and she did not share us and we absolutely could not do anything without her permission, which she would not give. So A) we were the wrong orientation, B) we were in an exclusive relationship, and C) it was the type of relationship that makes straight, vanilla, drunk fratboys at bars uncomfortable.

He looked confused and wandered off, only to return a few minutes later and press the issue. We continued to insist that we were not interested in men at all and we were "taken", to which he responded by trying to talk us out of both, including the "you just haven't met a Real Man yet" trope. Finally, he leaned over to me and tried to kiss me. Right there in the lounge. I ducked and slid off my chair and ran to the girl who was posing as the "Mistress", where I sat at her feet while she put her hand possessively on my head and glared at the jerk.

His eyes opened wide and he slurred "oh, you mean, like, THAT kind of relationship?" I looked up at him and frowned, saying "yes, I am not interested because you are not what I want" or something similar. He stumbled off with a dazed expression on his face.

I wish I could say that was the end of it.

He came back AGAIN and this time tried to kiss the other "slave" girl. She jumped back and this time all three of us pulled out our knives. At the "snick" of my switchblade, he looked up, put his hands in front of himself, and backed up. We decided we'd had enough and left. We never made it to a second drink.

2) I know a bunch of guys through work or school, and this story is told as though it is a specific encounter, but the truth is that I've had this exact same situation on multiple occasions with multiple people. I decided not to write down each one individually because they really are so similiar that I would end up cutting and pasting all but the age and location.

Hanging out with male friends often involves watching movies. When we are poor, or young especially, watching movies usually happens in someone's bedroom, usually due to sharing living spaces like dorm rooms or apartments with roommates, or even as teenagers living at home with parents. There are some circumstances in our society where mixed-gendered socializing just happens in private rooms like bedrooms and there's nothing inherently or automatically sexual about it. When I was 12, my Nintendo was hooked up in my bedroom because my dad hated competing with me for the TV in the living room. My next door neighbor was male. There was nowhere else for us to play video games but in someone's room. That's just how it was.

So, hanging out with a male friend, watching a movie or playing games, or sometimes just talking, occasionally ended up with him aggressively hitting on me in a bedroom. This almost always happened out of the blue, not as the result of some sexy talk or flirting. It was more like I would say something, then he would say something, and I would look at him because he was talking, then he would launch himself at me. If this was the first time this particular guy did that, I would be startled, and probably freeze for a moment, allowing him to get a kiss in, but then he would press his advantage and try to fondle my breasts. At that point, I would knock his hand away and back up, and we'd probably go back to watching movies or playing games.

If a guy had tried this once, he would almost always try it again. By the second time, though, I would not freeze when he came at me. I would dodge him and tell him "no". For the guy who was willing to try it after having been rejected previously, this type of guy would not fall back at the rejection, but he would continue to lean in for a kiss and reach for a breast. If I managed to block his hand from my breast, he would then grab for my crotch. If I succeeded in blocking him there, he'd go again for the breast. By the time I managed to disintangle myself from Mr. Octopus, he would attempt to keep me from leaving by promising to stop if I would just stay and finish whatever activity got me there in the first place, like the movie or video game. Sometimes he did stop. For that visit.

When I was younger, this was just how things were. So I did not know to not visit that "friend" again. I did know enough to insist that he not treat me that way, to say that I wouldn't come over if he was going to behave this way. He would always say he promised not to, and maybe he would keep that promise the next time, but there was always another encounter with these guys until I learned to cut off friendships with guys who behaved this way.

I'd like to say this was all exclusively in my teens, when boys were clueless and dumb or that I lived in a particularly fucked up neighborhood. But my most recent encounter like this happened 3 years ago. I was 31 years old. I believe he is a couple of years older than me. He is still not an unusual occurance.

3) Back in California, where the public transportation system is actually worth taking, I used to wear a silver band on my ring finger of my left hand. That was because I could hardly ever make it through a bus ride without some guy sitting down next to me, trapping me against the window, and asking for my phone number to "hook up".

As I explained to a friend recently, who had never been propositioned for a purely sexual relationship (she thinks - I think she just didn't recognize the propositions), this is not the same thing as getting involved in a conversation with a person where you talk about yourselves or some topic of interest, and he asks for a communication method to continue to the conversation. When a man sees a girl he thinks is attractive and just wants a physical relationship with her, he won't bother to get to know her at all. He will begin his approach with "damn baby, you're lookin' fine! Can I getcha number?"

Yes, seriously.  Often this is yelled from passing cars to women walking on the sidewalk, or from random strangers in a mall.  Yes, both occasions happened to me.   Yes, more than once.  Yes, that was a quote, not a paraphrase.

I'm sure there are some men out there who just don't know about these assholes, and who genuinely see a woman they find attractive whom they want to get to know on a personal level. And these clueless men will ask her for a date or her phone number right off the bat with the intention of actually starting a dialog at a later time or in some other place. But the problem is that, from the woman's perspective, these men are nearly indistinguishable from the "your dress would look AWESOME crumpled on my floor in the morning!" types.

If you are genuinely interested in getting to know the woman as a person, there is no need to postpone that discussion for a later phone call or dinner date. Get to know her NOW. At least ask her name and ascertain just one topic that you might have in common to make it worth both of your whiles to bother with a phone conversation or a coffee date. Because without that, without having something in common to discuss, the both of you are completely interchangeable with any other human since there is nothing about either of you to distinguish each other from anyone else. You are both, literally, nothing more, at that moment, than a body. And THAT'S why this approach is so creepy - it is not flattering in the slightest to most women to be considered as nothing more than a convenient body, no matter how complimentary you think you've phrased it.

4) I'm a huggy person, but like many men, I can't tell when a hug will be well received, when it's appropriate, or when it will be mistaken for a sexual proposition when I don't intend it as such. So I don't hug unless someone offers to hug me first. But I am generally welcoming of hugs.

Many men take the permission to hug as permission to see what else they can get. First, this kind of man will offer a hug goodbye. Since I've accepted, the next time he sees me, he'll offer a hug hello. Gradually, that hug will become tighter and more intimate - a full body hug instead of a shoulder embrace. Then, he'll brush cheeks as he hugs. Soon, he'll start kissing the air by my ear when he brushes my cheek while he hugs me with the entire body touching. Eventually, that air-kiss will turn into a kiss high up on the cheek along with that full body hug. And after a while, I will have to make a concerted effort to turn my head sideways as the kiss migrates further away from my ear and closer to my mouth, to the point where I'm standing in the classic Viennese Waltz pose, bending backwards and tilting my head towards the ground, gazing somewhere just behind my left shoulder, just to make sure he doesn't try to merge with my body right there in public or suck my soul out from my mouth.

And it's always a gradual thing, as the man becomes more and more friendly and I grow genuinely fond feelings towards him, it becomes simultaneously more complicated and difficult to avoid this kind of pressure. When it's a stranger, it's easy to back off and not allow him to invade my personal space. But when it's someone I consider a friend, or at least a friendly acquaintance whom I have fond feelings for, it becomes more difficult to defend my personal space, for two reasons. First, because personal space *does* diminish correspondingly with how close two people become emotionally, and second because now there is a friendship that I might not want to damage in spite of the discomfort of having my personal space be invaded. The more assertive I am, the more potentially damaging it could be to a friendship that I might value, yet the less assertive I am, the more likely it is that someone I am emotionally close to might mistake my friendship and lack of assertion for permission. It can be a difficult conundrum that many of us do not want to have to choose between asserting our boundaries and losing friends, but sometimes, that is the case.

And some may even say that if your friendship is so damaged by one party asserting her boundaries, then it's not a friendship worth keeping. I know I've certainly suggested similar to friends who really feel pressured by people who should not be pressuring them. But the reality is that life and relationships are messy and complicated, and our culture's indoctrination on how Men And Women Should Behave sets up a totally impossible set of contradictory instructions that sometimes, really earnest but clueless people just get tripped up over. Many of the men I know honestly do not want to be sexist and honestly value women, but because of their position of privilege, they have a hard time actually seeing why a casual statement they made is sexist when a woman gets offended by it. Likewise, a given man could earnestly wish to be respectful of women, particularly women he values as friends, but just not realize or understand that something he is doing is comming across as pressure or threatening because *he is not in a position to be on the receiving end of that behaviour* and so can't see it that way.

I'm not excusing them, don't get me wrong. I'm saying that *wanting* to be non-threatening is not the same thing as *being* non-threatening, and when you mix in contradictory social instructions with personal insecurities, rejecting the physical advances of a person I actually like otherwise is a veritable social and emotional minefield - his advances may be undesired, and maybe even a symptom of a very big problem, but I might still find value in our friendship & in him as a person and not want to damage it irreparably while I am forced to police my boundaries.

5) I used to go to nightclubs more frequently, but especially back in CA where they don't allow smoking in clubs. One night, I was sitting at a table, having a drink & and rest in between dances, when a guy sidled up to me and started hitting on me. I could tell right away that he wasn't my type, only I'd be hard pressed at this late date to remember the details of why. But the bottom line is that he indicated an interest in me and I turned him down. He actually said "what are you, lesbian?" as if he could only comprehend a woman not wanting him if she only wanted women.

I've heard rumors about me from men in my social circles or other coworkers who speculated about my sexual orientation, and these rumors always stemmed from men who I've rejected. I've been called a bitch and a dyke for turning someone down. The funniest ones are when I'm called a slut, since, if I WAS a slut, I wouldn't have just rejected the asshole who just called me one. Pointing that out to a guy in a bar got him laughed at by the other men nearby, so that was a bit satisfying.

But there is a penalty for rejecting someone. Most of the time, the penalty is just feeling bad for hurting someone else's feelings. But occasionally, rejecting someone's advances results in some damned uncomfortable public scenes, and every so often it results in much more than uncomfortable PRIVATE scenes - the kinds that make us fear for our safety.

6) Again, when I was much younger and much more willing to avoid confrontation by giving an excuse instead of a flat-out rejection, my sister and I would occasionally go to nightclubs together, along with a friend or two of hers. On her 21st birthday, she and I and her best friend went out, and she told me that she did not want to be bothered by men that night - this was a Girl's Night Out where she could just dance and drink and forget about things for an evening. She asked me if I would pose as her possessive girlfriend if any guy tried to hit on her, and I agreed because I was young and didn't realize that "sorry, I'm a lesbian" is usually heard as "hey baby, hot bi babe action over here!"

So the three of us got on the dance floor and started dancing. Almost immediately, some big guy came up behind my sister and started dancing suggestively with her - we called it "freaking" when I was a teenager, where it's basically vertical spooning frottage on the dance floor. My sister kept moving away, and he kept moving closer. She started moving towards me & dancing suggestively with me, giving me The Look to indicate she wanted me to intervene. So I moved in between them and said "sorry, she's mine".

As you can guess, that didn't dissuade him. Instead, it seemed to turn him on, as he kept trying to dance between us and saying things implying threesomes. Eventually I had to stop, put a hand on his chest, and say "I told you that she's mine and I don't share, now back off." He got huffy and demanded to know what my problem was. I said my problem was that he didn't know when to keep his hands off someone else's property. By this time, the bartender, who was a friend of my sister's and the reason we were at that particular club in the first place, sent a bouncer over to pull the guy away, who was getting all puffed up and blustery about me cockblocking him. If the bouncer hadn't intervened, this very well could have turned into a physical altercation with a man who refused to accept a rejection, if his assertive body language is any indication.

7) As I mentioned earlier, many women use some kind of excuse that implies that we CAN'T accept someone's advances, rather than we WON'T. I dunno, I guess we think it makes the rejection easier to accept, like it doesn't hurt someone's feelings as much. One of my exes used to be a bouncer in a strip club, and he told me how the dancers were constantly propositioned for more than just lap dances. He says that the overwhelmingly favorite response was to tell the customer that she had a boyfriend. Apparently, it allowed the fantasy that she COULD be more continue to exist while still being clear that she WON'T be more than a dancer. But, almost as common as the boyfriend-response, was the customer's response of "you don't have to tell him!" The private reaction (never to the customer's face!) to that was, as my ex used to say, "well holy shit, I don't? Why didn't I think of that? When I think of all the customers I COULD have gone home with, if only I had realized that I didn't have to tell my boyfriend, I just feel stupid now!" That line should be read dripping with sarcasm for full effect.

There has been a lot of talk about going beyond "no means no" to "yes means yes" and about women being more assertive in their rejections. But a few research papers suggest that, even if a woman doesn't use the actual word "no", a rejection is still clearly understood by men in general, which means that men who use the excuse that she didn't say "no" really mean that they chose to ignore it. The conclusions in these papers make sense to me. If you take any social situation other than propositioning a woman for sex, most people have no problem understanding a rejection even when it doesn't use the word "no". When you ask someone to hang out sometime, or to go to a movie, or to have coffee, if you remove the heteronormative dating associations and say "my wife and I would love it if you came for dinner" or "a bunch of us are going to this movie, wanna come?", if the person you're asking says "I'd love to, but...", pretty much all of us recognize that as a rejection.

Sometimes, if the rejection sounds too much like a real conflict, as in the giver really does want to go but can't, and the excuse given is one we can solve, we don't just let the rejection lie, we offer a solution. For instance, if you ask a friend to see a movie, and he says he's broke and can't afford it, well, you might offer to pay for him if you have the spare cash & you really want to see the movie with your friend. But whether we try to offer a suggestion or not, the phrase "I'd love to, but..." is clearly understood by all of us that the person you are talking to is, in fact, telling you "no".

Now, there genuinely are times when a person can't tell that it's a no. For example, I have an ex who once asked a girl out on a few dates. One one date in particular, they were sitting on the couch, and he asked outright for a kiss because he couldn't tell from her body language what she wanted. She kissed him, but he said she didn't seem too into it. So he asked her if this relationship was going anywhere or not. Instead of saying "no", or even giving him a "it's not you, it's me ... I'm too busy with work for a boyfriend right now, and my cat needs my attention, and I have to wash my hair every weekend for the next 20 years", she said "well, it's all about the chase, isn't it?" Yes, that was her answer.

How was he supposed to take that? Was that a hedge, a rejection without saying "no"? Or was that her way of saying she wanted to play the coy-maiden-gets-chased-by-assertive-man game? Cuz, y'know, sometimes that's fun. So he said "no, actually, it's not about the chase. If I'm chasing a woman, it means she's running away from me. So which is it, are you interested or not?" I don't think she ever gave him a clear answer, but he took that ambiguity AS an answer (good for him) and stopped asking her out on dates.

So don't think I'm giving all women a free pass here when it comes to earnest-but-clueless men who really want to do the right thing. I'm not. I DO think we all ought to be more clear and explicit about our boundaries - I've written tons on that very subject. And I am a big supporter of the "yes means yes" campaign, which has at its heart the philosophy that only a clear and unambiguous "yes" should ever be taken as a "yes" and that everything else is a "no". It's meant to subvert the idea that men are not responsible for assaulting women if, for some reason, she hasn't uttered that single syllable, because there is a social penalty for saying that word, or maybe she's drunk or high or unconscious. It's ALWAYS a "no" if she CAN'T say "no".

But generally speaking, we have a fairly well-understood social convention of expressing rejection in a myriad of ways that do not use the word "no", and, generally speaking, we all pretty much accept these rejections in all cases, except when it comes to men propositioning women for sex. Only in this one area do people claim to not understand that they were given a rejection and it falls on the person offering the rejection to defend themselves from an actual assault rather than the person being rejected to ask for clarification or, at the very least, fall back on the safest possible interpretation and just assume she said "no" hidden in her "I'd love to, but..." somewhere.

8) Most of my strong opinions come from experiences where I made some bad choices.  I'm not sitting in my ivory tower armchair quarterbacking other people's relationships.  I learned the hard way how some of these things work.  I made many of the same mistakes I try to tell other people they shouldn't do.  I've gotten into the very messes I try to prevent others from getting into.  I stand here with my strong opinions and my strong will because there was a time that I did not, and I paid heavy prices for it.

I met a guy while working backstage, so you'd think that it wouldn't be a surprise to him that I was a tomboy, right?  You'd be wrong - hence my online profiles & dozens of blog posts reminding everyone just now not-girlie I am.  I met a guy and we seemed to have everything in common.  We were in the same industry, we liked the same movies, we wanted the same things from relationships, we had similar religious backgrounds - we seemed perfect for each other.  Except he wasn't honest with me about who he was or what he wanted.  He didn't actually want a girl who was better at fixing things than he was.  He didn't want a relationship with an equal partner, he wanted traditional gender roles.  He didn't like an inquisitive, curious, skeptical girlfriend, he wanted one who accepted what she was told on face value.  And he most certainly did not want a partner who viewed her own body as autonomous, he wanted a partner who took "what's mine is yours and what's yours is mine"  literally.

After we moved in together, the stress of managing a household, going to school full time and still working to pay the bills but still being the "housewife" and making sure he got fed and the dishes got done and the trash got out, all eventually piled up and my sex drive dropped.  I was just too damn tired to be interested in sex.  I was only getting about 4-6 hours of sleep every night as it was, and I didn't want to sacrifice any of that time for sex.

After the first few nights of saying "not tonight honey, I have to wake up early tomorrow", he started pressuring me.  He'd whine and try to talk me into it.  Let me just say that there's nothing more of a turn-off than a guy begging for sex when I'm not in the mood to begin with.  After about a week of nightly arguments in bed, he started waiting for me to fall asleep and then started touching me when he thought I was unconscious.  When I turned on him & yelled at him to leave me the fuck alone, he said he was only trying to arouse me, that he wouldn't ever do anything against my will or when I couldn't give consent.  We'd get into a big fight about it that would end with me telling him not to touch me until I said he could, and he'd finally leave me alone to sleep.  That night.

The next night would be the same thing.  When I reminded him that I had told him not to touch me, he would say that he hadn't touched me all day, so therefore he held up his end of the bargain, and now it was my turn to provide sex.  Naturally, I said that was not what we agreed on, and it sparked another argument, cutting into my valuable and rare sleep time.  This argument would end the same way, only to have a repeat the next night.

Some nights I gave in just because my experience had taught me that he could argue for longer than he could have sex, so if I wanted sleep, it would be faster to give in than to tell him "no". Of course, he then got pissed at me for not being into it, which would sometimes spark another round of arguing, as if picking a fight with me would fix the lack of interest in sex or the inability to get aroused. I have no idea how many nights this went on, but it was the same thing every night for weeks.  

I was a wreck.  I was exhausted, I couldn't concentrate in school, I was depressed, and I started making excuses to be away from the apartment.  So he started making rules to prevent me from going anywhere without him.  Naturally, I  ignored those rules, but that only caused more arguments at home.  One night, I finally got out of bed with the intention of sleeping in the living room.  He told me that if I did that, he would damage my property in his anger at being rejected.  It was then that I finally understood that I was in an abusive relationship without ever having been hit.  Between the nightly unwanted gropings, the begging for sex, the threats to my property, and the refusal to allow me to have friends or go anywhere without him, I was well and truly trapped in an abusive relationship.

I spent that night sleeping in the adjoining bathroom, because I could not sleep next to him and I could still keep an eye on my property.  That was the first of several such nights.  But I started looking for a way out.  It was hard to leave.  I couldn't afford to live on my own because I was only working part time while attending school.  I was afraid to move back in with my parents because it would injure my pride.  I moved in with him against my parents' wishes and they continually disapproved of him, so I had spent my whole relationship with him defending my choice to be with him.  It made it very difficult for someone as proud as me to come back to my parents and say that I was wrong, can I  please have my old room back?

Fortunately, our roommate decided to move out because he couldn't stand our nightly fights.  Without him, we did not make enough money to keep the apartment, according to our lease agreement, so we got evicted.  I could move back in with my parents under the excuse that we had to move out but couldn't find anywhere else to live in the short time we had to vacate.  My parents said that I could come back home, but I would not get my old room back - my sister took it because it was bigger, &  I would have her old room - and absolutely he could NOT move in their house with me.  I accepted those terms and managed to escape by blaming my parents and the departing roommate.  We couldn't move in with his parents because his parents hated me as much as my parents hated him, and I somehow managed to not find any other apartments that would have us before our move-out deadline approached.

That solved the nightly sexual assault problem, but I still had to figure out how to break up with him.  Once I was away from him, all my property was safe, and I had a place to sleep without him in it, I found my bravery and I broke up with him on my birthday.  It was my gift to myself.  But that relationship taught me that even people I trusted, people I had known for years, could still sexually assault me, and that it would be seen as my own fault because agreeing to prior sexual activity is often seen as an agreement of future sexual activity.  Many people still believe that sex is an automatic part of the marriage contract.  He and I were engaged to be married, therefore I "owed" him sex, and he couldn't assault me because he had every right to expect that he could request sex of me.  I dare anyone to go what I went through and come out of that maintaining that position.

So no, not all men are a threat to all women. But all women are under a constant state of threat because that threatening man could be any one of you and we won't know who he is until it's too late. We are under that constant state of threat because some men really do behave in threatening ways, and because we are constantly reminded BY OTHER MEN that this could happen to us someday. We are also told that the only solution to these kinds of threats is to monitor OURSELVES to make sure we do not do something that might provoke an attack.

To those guys who are totally non-threatening in all cases, all the time, with every woman and in every situation, I do understand that it sucks to be thought of as a threat by women when you have done nothing to deserve that assumption - really, I do. But please forgive me if I'm just a little less concerned with your dilemma when the worst that happens to you is that women cross the street to avoid you, when the worst that could happen to me is that I get killed, beaten, and raped - and if I'm lucky, it'll happen in that order.

If you want to see the automatic fear removed from women's eyes simply because of your gender, you'll join in the chorus of female voices demanding that the rape culture be ended. Because a woman making that demand is often dismissed as a shrill, man-hating shrew by those very men who most need to change. But other men who disapprove of rape culture offer a much higher social penalty for those men than women whom we have already established those men don't respect. I suspect that I would like to see the day when I do not have to automatically suspect someone of potential threat just for his genitals even more than you would like to see the day when you are not automatically suspsected by someone of potential threat just for your genitals, so your public support of ending rape culture would be very much appreciated by all except those few who stand to benefit from it.


Anyone who wants to dismiss the use of the phrase "rape culture" would do well to follow Rebecca Watson and see what kind of shitstorm her mild request has started.  Keep in mind that she never called the elevator guy a rapist, never compared her situation with the horrors of Muslim women or any other third world society, never said anything about "all men".  She only said this was annoying, so "guys don't do that". 

For this, she is being accused of being a man-hating bitch, an attention-seeking whore, and she has been flooded with rape and murder threats.  She has posted a few screen captures in her various online feeds.  Guys who think that my experiences above are rare have never tried being a female on the internet.  

Rebecca didn't even post one of my angry rants.  She just said, "guys, don't do that".  That's it.  It IS annoying to have spent all day talking about how many women don't like to get hit on at atheist conventions, to have just left a group of people, telling them how tired you are, to have someone in that group who heard you say how tired you are and how you want to go up to bed now detach himself from the group, follow you into an elevator, where you are alone in a foreign country at 4 AM, and then ask you to come back to his room.  Frankly, I think she handled it with much more aplomb than I would have.

But the reaction to her using this situation as an example was so much more severe than either the original offense or her response to it.  A "rape culture" is one where its members, male or female, think it is perfectly acceptable to trap a woman alone and proposition her.  A "rape culture" is one where it's members, male or female, think it is perfectly acceptable to respond to her offense by threatening to rape her at the next convention.  A "rape culture" is one where its members, male or female, think a line like "I'm totally going to cop a feel on @RebeccaWatson at the next con" is humorous and an acceptable joke.  A "rape culture" is one where its members, male or female, feel justified in sending messages that say "I want to drug you and fuck you" to ANYONE, but especially to a woman who has just made it clear that this is offensive behaviour.

I get that men can be in abusive relationships too.  I've written plenty about that.  There's no excuse for abuse, no matter what gender to what gender.  But there are very few men out there who have to put up with the sheer volume of "just words" that Richard Dawkins seems to think are so harmless.  If I could make these men experience what it's like to be a woman, not for a day or a week, but a lifetime of harassment, I guarantee that they would not find "just words" to be such a minor crime, or that "rape culture" is such an offensive phrase.  Rape culture harms everyone, not just women, and it's not just men who commit the crimes and offenses.  All reasonable, thinking women understand that.  It's only a certain group of men who are reading sexism into the word "rape" who think that the phrase applies only to men as perpetrators and all women as victims.  Rape, abuse, molestation, fear, these apply to everyone and they should apply to no one.

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April 2019



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