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
My stated goals and my behavior doesn’t align. Over the weekend, I spent far too much energy engaging in a conversation about consent and submission than I wanted to, all the while spending a lot of my offline time thinking about privacy and boundaries, specifically around about who has input on my personal life.
And it occurs to me that the things that are important to me are in conflict with each other.
I want privacy. I want a personal life that is personal, and a relationship that is autonomous. I also recognize that sometimes the very thing I want contributes to abusive structure. Take domestic violence for example. Domestic violence is so persistent because we have this initial aversion to judging other people’s relationships. It happens in the private sphere, it’s personal; we’d be embarrassed to ask about other people’s private lives, so abuse gets a pass. That’s bad, I think we can all agree there.
I still want to be more private and reclusive in my relationships. I know that my sex would be better, and my relationships more healthy, at this moment in time if people I’m not dating didn’t get a say in them. In order for me to adopt as 2nd nature this boundary – this way of “oh hon, you sound worried, you don’t need to worry about me, I’m all set,” instead of “here is why the sex I’m having is good/safe/ethical/etc.” – I need to care a lot less about the sex lives of people I’m not sleeping with.
Both of these things are valid. Both of these things are expressed differently at different scales too. I as an individual I want more privacy. We as a social species will always be influenced in one way or another by our social context. And these things change over time. I started this blog because sharing and learning from others was what I needed in 2007. But I really, really want to take some space for myself. And I want my relationships to be less influenced by sources that are confusing, varied, and in contradiction with my values and with each other.
My yoga teachers always said that they call it a yoga practice because you have to practice coming back to the mat and to your breath. I think privacy and autonomy are also a practice in that way. I’m going to try to spend less time with other people’s lives and opinions and more time with my own. And I will fall off the wagon like I did this weekend, and it will be ok. I’ll try again.
And the priorities might change. I might find myself in a place where influencing the larger conversation once again becomes more important than personal growth, or contributes to personal growth. That’s allowed. It’s really just about deciding what I need most right now and then doing that. So, um, I’m gonna go do that now…
I’ll probably still post. I’m just gonna focus on simple, clear, how-to type stuff rather and theoretical underpinnings of life, the universe, and kink.
How can you possibly care more about some abstract threat of false rape accusations than you do that your best friend, a woman you love, might be raped.
And why, if you really were concerned by the impact on the accused did you switch your tone suddenly when you realized that argument won’t work. That I will never prioritize the falsely accused (statistically small a number as they are) over my own safety and that of other women (approximately 20% of whom are raped in America). Why did you get all smug and tell me if there was the chance of false accusations, real survivors won’t be trusted so the tool hurts survivors. By that logic, police reports also hurt survivors. As do hotlines and church pastors taking confessions. Moreover, shouldn’t you be outraged that anyone would disbelieve a rape victim? If increasing trust in survivor accounts is your goal, shouldn’t you be elbow deep in the fight against people who hide behind slut shaming or “he said/she said”?
Or maybe you should be crying out against false accusations of vandalism, drug dealing, even murder. In any event, your tone made it clear your believed you were winning the argument and more than your own words.
I’ll be honest, I started loving you a little less after that conversation. I still love, of course I do, but if I had to give you a reason why we aren’t meant for each other, it’s not that we like different sex – we can get through that – its that you tried to tell me my being raped was worse than someone being accused of rape falsely. It’s not, and it’s complicated.
Wait, don’t tell me about how false accusations ruin lives. I know that. First, imagine me being raped. Really pause and imagine. Imagine where it might happen, am I wearing my standard jeans and black shirt uniform? Am I dressed up? Imagine me fighting, or because we’ve talked about this, imagine me not fighting when all I can think is “so this is what rape feels like.” Imagine holding my hand while I file a police report. Would you get to hold my hand or do police reports have to happen in private, I wonder. (Last time, #IDidNotReport)
But you’re scared too. That’s what I learned from that conversation. What I didn’t know, didn’t have empathy for when we started. You are scared that some woman will get angry at you and say you raped her. You imagine this would ruin your life, this angry woman and the power of accusation she holds. Do you think it’s strange at all that a woman who is angry at you has only this in the way of power?
Remember that other thing you told me? That thing I told you was unethical? That thing was like a false rape accusation – why did that cross your mind? How did you feel when playing that card felt ok? I’m gonna go out on a limb and say you felt powerless and you were grabbing at straws. When you think about false rape accusation, load that conversation with everything you felt in that desperate last resort moment. Because they do happen, and they are the last resort of some caged animal.
You aren’t scared of being falsely accused of burglary or murder, are you? You are personally scared of being falsely accused of rape. That fear is not unreasonable, you are allowed to be scared, you are especially allowed to be scared of desperate upset people playing their last card.
However, the chance of my being raped is an order of magnitude higher than that of you being falsely accused. And even if it wasn’t, I would expect more of you. I would, and do, expect you to build a safer world for me when you tell me you love me.
So we can talk about your fear, we can honor that and we can work through it, but your fear does not trump mine. It certainly doesn’t trump my safety.
*No, I’m not just having a super important conversation with the person who is listed on every legal piece of paper I have as my emergency contact, beneficiary, or both. We talked about this. A lot. It just didn’t feel right to post until we’d put the issue to bed, or not to post at all when I hear less personal arguments about this all the time.
Ferns posted a short note recently about her expectations of submissive partners. I have to say, my response surprised me. Logically, I could reason my way into “sure, yes, they want to submit, maybe they should do things you ask for even when they don’t want to.” Hell, I have to assume that sometimes, when a boy who is comfortably sleeping wakes up to my bouncing and makes me coffee, or when my now ex partner waited some 50 odd days for an orgasm in part due to my insistence, at some points that is what someone acting against their wishes looks like.
My gut response though, is a resounding WTF? You are playing with an adult presumably in a country with laws similar to our 13th Amendment. Your play happens in the real world. Anything short of respecting your partner’s boundaries is coercion at best. If you have an issue around trust that’s resulting from your partner breaking commitments, you have an issue around trust. That’s totally valid, I’ve had that issue, it sucks. But it’s not a BDSM issue. Hell, I was going to have less interest in other people’s relationships, so I should walk away.
Personally, I’ve said before and I’ll say again, I’m not your mother. I’m not here to Domme you into your fitness routine or getting to work on time. The power dynamic I bring to my sex is a core part of what I need in my sex life and in my long term relationships, but ultimately, I want to date, and sleep with, an adult. And I’d like to do it in the real world and save the LARPing for the future dystopian swamp lands it belongs in.
It’s a still warm Fall morning and we’re curled on his couch holding our coffee cups.
Me: I want to try monogamy, but I’ve never done it before. I don’t know how to do it.
Him: I’ve done it before. You’re not allowed to have sex with other people, and you’re not allowed to flirt with other people, and you’re not allowed to kiss other people…”
Me: That’s a lot of not alloweds.
We chat some more in those one-step-removed terms you use with someone you like a lot but are only just getting to know. You know the way that lets you both maintain plausible deniability – answering the question “are our wants compatible” without asking the question “do we want to do this together.” Our wants seem compatible, so that’s nice.
Here’s the funny part though. All those not alloweds, sure, sounds like there’s a lot of them, but weirdly, I’m not bothered by them. Six months ago I poked my head back into the theme of am I poly. And then I spent a bunch of time thinking about it, and chatting about it with people, and thinking some more. A couple of themes started to emerge:
1) Poly people, despite having a huge diversity of relationship styles, were a lot more defined than monogamous people. Poly people told me that what I described wasn’t monogamy. Monogamous people told me about their compromises (a genteel word for any flirting, kissing, or even sex that may or may not happen outside of their monogamous marriages).
2) I started seeing all sorts of little (and huge) ways that poly was not about autonomy, but rather about the partner with more power leveraging that power to direct the course of the relationship. I started seeing poly people give their previously monogamous partners “my way or the high way” ultimatums and realized I’ve been guilty of this myself. I started noticing how people treat and talk about non-primary relationships, and wondered if these secondaries really don’t mind you only seeing them for sex on the 3rd Tuesday of every month, or if maybe they are just taking the best they can get? And really, is the 3rd Tuesday of the month the best they can really get, or are they/their community selling them short?
3) I realized that I really want very little to do with other people’s relationships. Maybe I’m exhausted. Maybe I’m a natural at this monogamy thing, but one thing I hadn’t realized is how personally invested I have been in other people’s relationships. Not in a good supportive way, in a social policing way. That…that’s not something I feel good about. It sorta makes sense that I’d figure that out now, after all, poly and kink are both outward facing identities as much as they are personal practices. Being monogamous sounds like the kind of thing my partner and I would decide on, and, well, no one else really needs to be involved, do they?
Most importantly though, I am learning to think about what I do want, not what I don’t want. And I am creating space for the reality that I was very happily poly for most of my adult life. It worked, and it was lovely, and it was a choice I made and was blessed with partners who did that with me. I would simply like to make a new choice now. One where I don’t have to schedule around my partner’s other girlfriend or try to balance the needs of two lovers. One where minimizing opportunity costs is no longer something I’m concerned about because my goal is to find the right person for this particular moment of the journey and then focus inward. Focus on nurturing that relationship, in all of its nuance, through a journey that makes sense for both of us. Plus with only one lover, there might be enough time to finish my knitting projects!
So yeah, I probably won’t be “allowed” to sleep with other people, but the funny part is that two things changed since I started thinking about this: 1) that suddenly doesn’t sound restrictive, and 2) I let go of my own fear of being the ball and chain putting artificial boundaries on my partner out of some sense of insecurity, and saw this for what it is: asking for what I need.
Early this year I thought the theme was “what 2012 giveth, 2013 taketh away.” Happily, I’m learning that the theme of 2013 is shedding the things I thought I was so that I could dig a little deeper and figure out who I am now.