I wrote a ton about suicide, but I put it all in a notebook I can’t find because I moved cross country. The piece I remember best is this idea of concentric circles of grief. I did not get to mourn, in a direct sorta way, for Conor. I got to hold his daughter and wash dishes for the person who was not washing dishes because she was talking to his widow. And because I was washing dishes for the person who was talking to his widow my friends finished my packing for me, and so it went in ever expanding circles of impact. I held the people I love. The person I was most worried for called me and we sat on the phone silent, him in Philadelphia and me in Maui, unsure if the other knew, not wanting to be the first to say.
Someone wrote a behind the scenes piece about how depression is a disease and most of us aren’t doctors, which I read, and reread, and watched my friends read. We shared lists of mental health resources with the people who were left who probably weren’t the people who needed them. I tried, and probably failed, to not ask personal questions – tried to give Conor and his family the privacy and dignity they deserve. I thanked the person who came over when I was at my lowest, and reflected on how very lucky I was to pull out from depression. I had a fight with an ex about the nature of suicide and how I relate to it. I had a fight with an ex who thought I was wishing it away, when I was, sadly, preparing for it to happen again.
I moved my stuff, and carried boxes, and rebuilt furniture, and missed – and still miss – my tribe.
So I read this thing, which actually sounds like a lot of other things I read, and like a lot of things I read it positions the sex the writer enjoys having as “SO MUCH KINKIER” than the sex I enjoy having. And each time I read something about X being kinkier or queerer, or generally all around nicer than Y, I have two reactions. The first gut reaction is one of, hmm, not anger, defensiveness perhaps? “My sex is kinky enough thank you very much” defensiveness. Or if I’m in the so much more group, a reaction of “don’t use me as your banner, person who doesn’t know me.” It’s a gut reaction.
The second, the brain reaction, is twofold: 1) you have just defined More Kinky(tm) as the goal state or more desirable state, why? Is being kinky is personally important to you? Basically, it’s a reaction of “you seem hurt by this game, why are you trying to win by the rules that are hurting you?” And 2) Meh, other people’s gradations of how kinky something is doesn’t matter. I’m not sleeping with them, they can be the most kinky, or the least kinky, or the differently kinky, it’s cool. Ok, also 3) Huh that got my hackles up, I wonder if I have more identity tied in with kink than I’d like to? Probably. This caught me, sorta like a rough nail on fabric, not anything particular, just noticing my own reaction.
It made me think of readers who might feel that way, and what I want to say to that is: have the sex you want with the people you love. Revel in the joy of it and in that coming home feeling of being seen in your entirety whatever that means for you. Don’t apologize for the sex you do or don’t want to have, in fact, if you’re a woman, take stock of how often you apologize for existing in the world, you might be surprised. If it’s important to you to be So Much Kinkier, then you are that. But when you get there, ask yourself why that’s important and what gatekeeper told you you weren’t kinky enough. Be what you need to be, but don’t become the gatekeeper – that way lies madness (and the status quo).
EDIT: Actually, wait, someone went out of their way to write about the sex that is fulfilling and exciting to them. Yay. May it be everything they want and need it to be; hot, loving, radical, or whatever rings true to the people involved.
A little more than a year ago, I was sitting in a beer garden with some friends, a couple of people I was dating at the time, and maybe even some new kids I didn’t know well, and we were talking about, academically, marginalized youth. Actually we were talking about traveler kids, punks, and different ways of being poor or in poverty. And what it meant to be “in” with an out group.
Someone mentioned facial tattoos. In the early days of punk rock, when things were more radical, and probably still today for people who are much more radical than I will ever hope to be, a facial tattoo was a way of affirming one’s commitment to the edge. You have not only opted out of the status quo, but you have effectively shut the door on ever being able to access it again. This made sense. In fact, I had always wanted a facial piercing, but hadn’t gotten one because I had also wanted a job.
The day after that though, I was in the bathroom, looking in the mirror, and I realized I had reached a point in my career where no one will ever question my competence or right to be there based on a facial piercing. So I got my eyebrow pierced. I joked that it was my job security piercing and I adored the cross-signals it was sending.
Unfortunately, today I had it checked out, and sure enough it is growing out. Eyebrows are surface piercings so this is not entirely unexpected. I can re-pierce it after a few months if I’d like, but before I leave the west coast – and my piercer – I have to get it removed. I’ll miss my little symbol of not-belonging. For both reasons actually: as a celebration of my career and as visible deviance. For now I’m thinking about what role this little bit of surgical steel plays in my identity.
I’m also thinking about what it might feel like to be so sure of a thing, so passionate and committed to it, so as to close the door on all the comforts and privileges of a past life.
This morning I came across yet another article about how only 3 in 100 accused rapists see any jail time. This is riding on the coat tails of yesterday’s annoyance about creepy reddit so I am, not unexpectedly, annoyed. Or disgusted. One of those for sure :)
And I’m also annoyed because I really freaking love the Predator Alert Tools that maymay and Co. created. Specifically, I love the Facebook add-on which scales the protective behavior I already do, and the OkCupid app because it’s an easy at-a-glance alert. What I’m pissed off about, is that like many a technical solution to a human problem, adoption was spotty. Actually, from speaking with the creator, it wasn’t spotty so much as not attempted – the tools were a proof of concept.
Proofs of concept, however, don’t reach the regular Jane, and social tools need high conversion rates early on to be seen as worth while, and in this case, to generate the content needed to protect users from sexual assault. It’s ok, I’m not saying the people working on this suck or anything, these tools were made in a metaphorical garage with minimal resources (you can help). If Google+ can’t cope with the roll out/adoption challenge and it has the backing of an Internet mongrel, I’m surprised small social enterprises happen at all.
What I am saying, however, is that this absolutely hands down matters. For OkCupid less so, because you can piggyback off of OkCupid’s existing community since all the questions are crowd sourced but from the general question pool, not from specific PAT-OkCupid questions. Here you have a direct link between people who install and run the plug-in and people who are helped by it. The challenge you have is easier, really you just need to get the influencers in college dorms (and with age of first marriage going up, urban book clubs and wherever mid-20s women gather) to try it out. If they tell their friends, or better yet, use it while a friend is shoulder browsing, you’re 75% of the way there. PAT-OkCupid is a technical challenge, make it fast enough and non-obtrusive enough and it’s worth a try. Roll out a feature that lets users add specific filter questions on their version only (he wants kids, he loves dogs, whatever) and you can alert users to potential sexual predators while they’re using a better filtering convenience tools.
The Facebook app is harder. It requires users to give a little in order to function. User generated content is hard to bootstrap already, I can only imagine how hard it is to bootstrap such private and sensitive content. I have to say, I was royally miffed when this was marketed as “by survivors for survivors,” but people who identify publicly and conscientiously as survivors are most likely to create this kind of content. Unfortunately, that framing is extremely off-putting to most outside the social justice clique. I hate to say it, but this is a fantastic engineering solution that was incubated in too niche a bubble and missed it’s mark. Well, actually, that may not be true – if it’s target has always been social justice die hards who want to share their story and help each other heal it’s probably spot on, it just doesn’t address my problem: how to we proactively flag inappropriate sexual behavior and put preventative information in all women’s hands?
Again, I have to applaud the creators for doing so much with bare bones resources. The tools themselves are a solid foundation, they achieve their goal of being proofs of concept, and they certainly spark conversation. Where they miss the mark, in my mind, is on adoption and market growth – areas the creators weren’t interested in to begin with.
Anyway, back to the if I ruled the world scenario (I just love that scenario!) You have these tools that from a technical perspective are really cool, and they use technology to scale an existing human behavior, and they help women avoid sexual predators: that’s awesome! But they seem pretty niche, which is less awesome because it means fewer women will use them to avoid sexual predators. So, what would I do if I had a dev team and all the money in the world (or the mythical million dollars which runs a small team for one year…)
- Focus development on making the tools faster and more reliable. I hate to say this, but faster browsing today beats avoiding coffee with a douchbag tomorrow :-(
- Position the tools as convenience or information sharing, not as a crusade against sexual assault or a survivor support group. Most rapes are not reported, there are a lot of reasons for this not least of which is a desire to move on with one’s life. We also have some pretty negative perceptions of what walking through the world as a survivor means even when we are trying really really hard to not blame the victim and to give them space to heal. Finally, and I know this sounds weird, but sometimes doing the things you’re supposed to do to not get raped feels dis-empowering. Just think about all the times women are told not to wear that, or not to walk there, you get the idea.
- The people who are most invested are most invested for a reason – they’re also the most likely to be butt hurt when it doesn’t match their vision. That’s why I’m up to 930 words on the topic, but it’s also why there is soooo much chatter about every little detail of these tools from the choking question (come on dude, haven’t you used Yelp before!) to moderation (because you clearly don’t realize that these conversations happen already). Which gets me to the point: cultivate the passive users too. This is harder for the Facebook app, again cause content, but rather than going after every evangelist in the social justice scene, grow a large user-base of folks who just want a better flagging mechanism. 1) They’ll be helped from day one, and 2) you can rally them later around a big issue, or slowly over time.
- Build relationships with the sites themselves, with college rape crisis centers, and with consumer brands. This is a serious blue sky if I ruled the world thing. It’s not what the creators of these tools are about, and I know and respect that. I also know they’ve reached out to the sites themselves and didn’t get a response (shame on you OkCupid). However, this is my blue sky solution and in that solution I want Jezebel to promote it. I want mid-range women focused brands (brands like Healthworks, which recently partnered with rape prevention programs to offer self defense classes) to sponsor the damn thing, and then I want OkCupid to be pressured or shamed into integrating this and other rape prevention methods (perhaps post-date reporting) into their services. By the way, some of this is way far out, but other things, such as promoting PAT-OKC on college campuses, is the easiest place for you to get involved (there’s a list of groups to reach out to here, but PiratePad is down as of this writing).
It’s easy to theorize about how a thing should be different when someone has already done the hard work of making it to begin with, so what concrete, non-theoretical, things can we do today to make sure that rapists have nowhere left to hide?
TL:DR – You fucking douchbags how are you not outraged?! Here, this person did a thing, go do things like that.
I think I’ve said this before, but there has been a lot of chatter coming through my world recently about creepy reddit – a subreddit devoted to creeping on random snapshots of women, either taken without their knowledge in public, or used out of context (since shut down). And I’ve been meaning to pull together a couple of links about how we don’t trust women for C. The bottom line is this: I get that the idea that you might be accused of rape is scary. It is also statistically small, much smaller than you imagine.
Meanwhile forums devoted to being creepy about women exist. Revenge porn exists. Oh, yeah, rape exists. So, first off, how about you lower the chance that you’ll be accused of rape by working to make rape itself less ubiquitous and therefore a less common threat in popular culture both as an action and as an accusation. Secondly, if you are deeply and vocally concerned by the reputation impacting power of the Predator Alert Tools, and yet have remained unconcerned about the things mentioned above, just so we’re clear: you’re part of the problem and I look forward to that rug being pulled out from under you.
I love this article on XOJane about cheating in a poly relationship. I love it because there I was, vaguely following the threads of a blog post about how I’m too tired to be radical about my sex, and this weird, new-found comfort of, well, just having the sex I want. Behind closed doors. Far away from “am I queer enough?” And I’m scrolling through the internet between making dinner and figuring out the password for the renter’s insurance website when I stumble upon this. And suddenly all that stuff at the edges of my mind about how I’ve had a million conversations in the poly scene about how it’s all about communication, and yet there seems to be never-ending complications and miscommunications, comes into focus. It’s nice, like, “nope, I wasn’t nuts, the situation was just nuts and that’s good to know,” nice.
And this relationship, as it’s described, was basically a steady diet of lies, verbal abuse, and gaslighting. Most of my poly experiences were far more honest and respectful. But even with a relatively high hit rate on honesty and respect, I was always impacted by my partner’s other partners. That was ok for a while. It was ok while I wanted to be a secondary for example. And it was pretty great when the other women and I were compatible in our own right – the woman who’s picking me up from airport when I move myself and all my bits of precious cross country for example, we used to date the same guy. He’s great too. But you see, that’s called friendship and that’s built in its own right, not because we’re pining after the same dude. I get to pick my friends. That’s important, I’ll say it again: I get to pick my friends.
I could, in theory, pick my metamours too. People have suggested it, and I’ve thought about it, and you know what, it doesn’t feel ethical. There’s a person on the other end of my partner’s cock. Not a metamour or a member of the poly scene. A person. That person has feelings, needs, wants, birthdays, and Christmas traditions. Precious few people just want to have casual sex with you on the 3rd Tuesday of every month, but don’t care you if you remember their birthdays. Some do, sure, if that’s you, congrats. But most humans bond, it’s what we do, we’re social animals. And when humans bond they get emotional and when multiple humans bond in complex patterns, well, it gets messy. And when all was said and done, it’s the messy that got me, not the sex or the jealousy people talk about.
If the messy is worth it for you, that’s cool – more for you. But the idea of caring about only one person’s emotional state and sexual quirks feels blissful. I want my relationship to be my home base, not my hobby. For my hobbies I have a sex blog, a pile up of random quantified self data, some raspberry shrubs, and I’m learning about meat chickens (apparently different then egg chickens!). For my relationship, I want a stable, interconnected sort of autonomy where I do get to pick who impacts my relationship.
Oh, but I can’t close this post without saying that I still think women having the sex they want, with the people they like, without apology is exactly the kind of radical I’m willing to work for in the world.
P.S. The real question is how am I going to make this possible for other women without being the voice of “you should have your Empowered Radical Sex(tm) like this”?
Be kind. Be kind to yourselves and to each other because there are plenty of people who will be unkind. Spend that extra afternoon with a friend who has had a hard year. Listen. Listen past people’s anger and find the root of their pain and then find compassion for that. Or if their anger upsets you, walk away. Know that their anger isn’t about you, it lives entirely within them as your anger lives within you.
Most of all, have compassion for yourself and know that there will be better days.
And if this hippie massive contributed to your feelings of depression, email me, I will make you cookies :-p