Friday, December 20, 2013

On Phil Robertson and What the Bible Says

Image courtesy of Us Magazine
This week, A&E suspended Phil Robertson, star of Duck Dynasty, from the show, following remarks he made about homosexuality. Fans have responded with outrage, although some fans applaud A&E's decision.

So I want to speak directly to those Christians who think the following: first, that Robertson's right to free speech is under attack, and second, that he is being persecuted for his religious beliefs. I know there are many of you. I hope you'll hear me out.

To the first point: freedom of speech. The American Constitution guarantees citizens the right to say whatever they like (within certain limits) without fearing prosecution or imprisonment. That's it. Robertson hasn't been arrested; there's no discussion of taking him to court. The protected right to freedom of speech doesn't at all mean you will face no consequences or judgment for what you say. It doesn't mean others won't condemn you, or that you won't be held accountable for your words. It just means you won't go to jail. So, no, Robertson's freedom of speech is under no threat.

As for the second point: Robertson is not expressing a belief outlined in the Bible. At least, not one consistent with the entire text.

Yes, the Bible does say that it is "detestable" for a man to "lie with a man as [he] does with a woman." (Leviticus 18:22) But that same chapter also has quite a bit else to say, which most Christians seem to have no problem with. The Bible instructs Christians not to eat "unclean" animals, which includes pigs (Leviticus 11:7-8). It also warns against wearing "clothing woven of two kinds of material" (Leviticus 19:19) and having tattoos (Leviticus 19:28).

Getting a bit tricky, isn't it?

Christians all over the U.S. spout bigotry, as Robertson did, in the name of their faith, claiming to be clinging to religious beliefs. Yet many of these same people watch football at least once a week, where players from both teams wear uniforms made of Spandex, a blend of natural and synthetic materials. Lots of these folks order pizzas to enjoy while they watch their sport, eating sausage and bacon, made of pigs. A few of them even get images representing their beliefs inked on their bodies. Wow, what sinners!

The entire list of things you shouldn't do is quite long, actually, and most of us violate them on a fairly regular basis. So really, unless you're spewing as much vitriol about people frying up bacon and eggs for breakfast as you are about them having gay sex, you're cherry-picking the bits of the Bible you want to uphold in order to justify your bigotry.

All of this ignores the entire point of Jesus. I'm not Christian now, but I once was, and as I understand it, Jesus existed only to make sure you're still okay if you do all the stuff God said not to do. You can stop burning your offerings and paying penance because Jesus did the hard part for you. All you have to do is apologize. This, and only this, separates Christianity from Judaism. The Christian messiah has arrived. There is no more need for atonement of sin. Christians are saved. They are forgiven. Even if they keep sinning, which the Bible guarantees they will do, they are still forgiven if they believe Jesus is the son of God.

The things Jesus really told Christians to do were to love each other (John 13:34-35). Not "tell each other how bad they are and how they're sinning." (It's actually pretty explicit about that part, that whole "judge not let ye be judged" in Matthew 7:1.)

Jesus himself kept much closer company with the worst of the sinners than with the highest of the clergy. He surrounded himself not with the most righteous and holy people, but with those society had shunned for their sin (Luke 7:36-50, Luke 19:1-10, Mark 2:13-17). His message was one of love and compassion, not of judgment and condemnation. He practiced unconditional love, and told his followers to do the same. Indeed, to stand out from followers of other religions, they were to love more, not less. They were to love not just each other, but absolutely everyone (Matthew 5:43-48).

Jesus' message was abundantly clear. Love each other, without condition, without question. A person's sins determine nothing about their value. All people are worthy of God's love, and Christians are called to mirror that love, to show compassion for others. "Love the sinner; hate the sin" does not mean "tell the sinner why they're doomed and try to convince them to change."

Other people's sins are simply not your business. Let them speak to God on their own about their struggles. It's not your place to intervene on God's behalf.

If you truly hold Christian beliefs, what you should say to gay people is, "I love you." You should say, "You are welcome in my home. No one here will judge you." Not only will you be doing as Jesus commanded, you will connect with those you love. You may even bring them into your faith. Isn't that what you really want?

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Have Sex on the First Date If You Want to, Obviously

Photo by Kena Sen
This blog post is called "Why You Should Always Have Sex on a First Date."

My answer: because you want to. That's pretty much the only answer that matters. And for that to work, you have to strike the "always" from the title, because I have certainly been on first dates where I had absolutely no desire to have a second date, much less fuck the person.

But let's pick it apart, shall we?

Sexually Compatible

Trophy Wife (that's the author, for those of you who aren't clicking through the link) says it's important to establish sexual compatibility on the first date so you can "get the fuck out of there" if your date has a weird fetish like plushophilia (completely ignoring the fact that the reader may, in fact, have this fetish).

Well, first of all, sexual compatibility is far less about sharing the same fetishes and far more about having roughly equal desires and levels of comfort with experimentation. It's also a little bit about an indefinable "chemistry" or some intangible thing that I've never quite been able to nail down.

And knowing whether your sex drives are similar, whether you enjoy similar positions, whether you read each other's cues well...that takes time. It doesn't matter if you have sex on the first date, you're going to have to do it again and again and again before you can determine if you really will fuck amazingly well together.

And if you don't share the same fetishes? Oh well. I'm sure your date will be fine if you don't indulge their quirky kinks, especially if you don't mind them finding other partners who do.

Maybe you're going to discover that you really don't mesh well in bed and sex for the two of you will probably never be great. But why is this vital to learn before going on another date or two? Were you having such little fun with this person you can't stand being in their presence unless it ends in a wildly pleasurable fuck? I dunno about you, but I don't really want to take those people to bed in the first place.

Penis Size

Okay, just shut up. This isn't middle school. The size of a man's penis doesn't really matter. If it's too small, he can use his mouth or fingers instead. If it's too big...he can use his mouth or fingers instead. This really isn't an issue.

Also, welcome to 20fucking13, where some people date women. Some women even do this. Shocking, I know. Trophy Wife is laughably oblivious.

Avoids Awkwardness

Trophy Wife thinks sexual tension makes things awkward. I think it makes things hot. I know I'm not alone in this; TV shows have been continually failing to let their costars hook up for years so they can draw the sexual tension out and create endless "will they/won't they" scenes.

Those first, tentative moments of wondering whether that look means something, of discovering yes, it really is okay to put my hand there, of those nearly electric sparks that pass between you when your bodies get close? You will never get those back. Savor that shit. Enjoy it.

The real kicker in this bit is this line: "Not sure about who is going to pay the check? Feel free to push that bill right over to him because, guess what? You sucked his dick last week. He can at least pay for dinner."

What the actual fuck? Presumably you didn't suck his dick as part of a business transaction (by the way, if you did, we don't really call that dating). Also, I expect he probably did some nice things for you too. Let him pick up the check if he offers and you want him to, but don't pretend you deserve dinner because he got sex. You got sex too.

And again, Trophy Wife seems to have forgotten all about lesbians. Who picks up the check when no dicks got sucked?

Investment of Time

To Trophy Wife, dating is only worthwhile if it's leading to something more. Apparently, sex is a gauge of this somehow. Never mind that you can't really tell that much from sex about compatibility about anything except sex. I have been with some people who were fantastic in bed and were downright awful as boyfriends. Plus, two or three dates doesn't seem to be much of an investment, but maybe that's just me.

The only time she really nails it is when she says, "If it feels right, do it."

That's all you need, really. If you're on a first date, and you want to have sex, and they want to have sex, go right ahead. Enjoy yourselves. Don't feel guilty afterward; you've done nothing wrong.

But don't let this woman lead you into believing you're doing dating wrong if you're not fucking everyone you want to have a second date with.

Personally, I fucked my boyfriend Ryder on the first date, and it was awesome, and I really wanted to keep seeing him for that and a pile of other reasons (like having multiple shared interests, and he made me laugh, and we had similar outlooks, and I had a great time being with him). And I went on something like twenty dates with my boyfriend Rusty before we had sex, and I still found out that we were compatible in multiple ways, and he was kind and generous, and he makes me laugh, and I have a great time being with him. Also, we have great sex.

So, wow, relationships can go really, really well if you have sex on the first date. Also, they can go really, really well if you don't have sex for many, many dates. They can be a shitstorm of hideousness that no amount of good sex can save, and they can be just sort of not exactly right but wow was the sex hot.

Sex isn't a gauge. It isn't a checkbox. It isn't a favor or an obstacle. It's just itself, and the best reason to have it is because you want it.

So yeah. Have sex on first dates if you're both into it. Or don't. It's okay to wait if you're not sure. It's okay to wait if you really, really want it but your date doesn't. It's okay to wait if both of you really, really want it but you're shy and awkward and that would make things difficult for you. Or if you just want to draw out that buildup and make your first time incredible.

There aren't rules to this stuff. And if you take advice from someone who tells you it's important to know the size of your date's dick so you can determine if he's worth your time...well, don't expect brilliant results.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

I Don't Have an Open Relationship

I guess it's time for me to get all worked up again.

This shit pisses me off.

Yes, on the one hand, it's good to start discourse about ethical nonmonogamy. I like that the author mentions several well-known folks who have hinted at or outright declared being nonmonogamous. We have to keep talking about it if anyone is to know it exists.

But.

The whole article talks about being in an open relationship or an open marriage. As if you still only get one relationship, and everything else is just some sort of bonus door prize.

It's still all about the idea of the couple and what they do. It's not "Will Smith has open relationships" or "Jada Pinkett-Smith has open relationships." (To be fair, they did say this of Dolly Parton, but I assume that's only because none of her partners are famous.) It seems as though none of Will's or Jada's other partners matter.

I take personal offense at this. It takes kind of a lot to offend me, so kudos are probably in order. Good job. You, Tricia Romano, managed to actually infuriate me. Enough to write a whole blog post about it, even.

I'm offended because I will never be part of the "couple" who has "an open relationship." This simply isn't possible for me. The way I began having ethically nonmonogamous relationships was by meeting (and subsequently falling in love with) two truly amazing people at the same time, both of whom were already nonmonogamous and in other relationships.

Ryder is married and lives with his wife. He has another long-distance partner, and had a second long-distance partner when I met him. Rusty lives with his girlfriend and was dating another person (maybe two, depending on how you count it) when we met.

I never "opened" my relationship with someone. I didn't start a monogamous relationship and decide to see other people too. I met two amazing men and we entwined our lives together.

This, I think, is the fundamental misunderstanding many monogamous people have about the rest of us. We don't do this as couples. We're people making our own independent choices about who we share our lives with. We ensure the people we do this with are comfortable with us sharing our lives and love and beds with people other than them. We don't act as couples, we act as individuals. We make our choices based on treating each other with dignity and respect.

From a perspective like that author's, I am a hobby, a side-quest, a supporting cast member in the lives of two people in an open relationship. I am what they do on the side. I am the extra lover. I am the "whatever he wants."

No. Fuck that. I am a whole person, and I matter just as much as anyone else. As much as I would never wish my metamours (my boyfriends' other partners) would be viewed as "the other women my boyfriend dates," I don't want to be that either. None of us are "others." We are a family, intricately, complexly linked via multiple bonds of love and trust.

And it's not like we don't participate in each other's lives. While I'm sure there are people who don't involve themselves in their partners' other relationships at all, I can't imagine living that way. I feel deeply connected not just to the people I love, but to the people they love, and the people those people love, etc. Our network stretches broadly, and all those folks are my family.

Actually, family is a good analogy, now that I think of it. I've mentioned before the idea of loving more than one child at a time as an illustration of how you can love more than one person simultaneously. Saying someone is in an open relationship is like saying someone has an open parent. It's like calling your brother "my mother's other son." Or saying that Jo and Beth had "other sisters."

So I say, to the journalists who think it would be cool to write about some celebrity couple's "open relationship": consider that the other people involved with those folks are people too. Consider that we have our own feelings and needs and wants and we all deserve to be treated with decency and respect. Consider how you would feel if you were relegated to the role of someone's "other" relationship. Yeah, we don't like it either.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Filling the Meter

Image courtesy of Pete
A question many people unfamiliar with polyamory often ask me is, "Don't you love one of your boyfriends more than the other?"

The simple answer is no. We poly folk often use the analogy of loving many children. Of course you can love more than one person at a time, and our society knows this well because people don't give up their firstborn for adoption when their second child comes along. This analogy pretty much holds true.

The more complicated answer is that love is big and I feel lots of it for both my boyfriends. Each day, my needs from each vary.

I'll give you an example. The past couple of weeks, my poly family has been enduring a truly harrowing emotional experience, affecting all of us to different degrees. It's been difficult for me, but not as difficult as it's been for others. I've been very lucky to have lots of support and give lots of support during this time.

For much of this time, Ryder has been out of town. Rusty and I have had lots of dates, and I've leaned on him for my emotional needs many, many times.

So now my Rustyometer is full. My Ryderometer is sorely lacking. I love Rusty and am so truly grateful to have had him near me, so I could cry, hug, laugh, and have all those other emotional releases. But I haven't been able to do that with Ryder, and the ache in my chest for him is so real it's physically painful. I need him right now, in ways I don't need Rusty right now.

Today, my need for time with Ryder is greater than my need for Rusty. This doesn't mean I love Ryder more. It just means I've met my needs where Rusty is concerned.

Interestingly, this is the opposite of our typical situation. Ryder and I usually get more time together because our dates often fall on weekends. Without maneuvering around work schedules, we end up spending much more time together than Rusty and I spend on our weekday dates.

I expect, although I don't know, that other people in poly relationships have similar experiences. Your meters for each partner may not be the same size. Mine are roughly equal, but I can easily imagine having a partner that you both get what you need from each other with far less time together. Thus, you might need more time with one than another to keep your meters adequately filled.

This isn't the same as loving one person more than another. Once upon a time, my Mothermeter was incredibly large. I needed lots of time with Mom in order to be okay. As I've gotten older, that meter has shrunk, and it takes much less time together to fill it up. Does that mean my love for my mother has diminished? Hardly. If anything, I love Mom now more than ever. Every new experience we have, every insight into her effect on my psyche, makes me more joyful to have her as my mom. My needs have shrunk, not my love.

With Rusty and Ryder, my meters right now are enormous. I can hardly keep them full, and only a constant discussion of schedules and who has what date nights keeps things manageable. Someday, perhaps, our meters will shrink, and then maybe there will be more room in our lives for other people. This will not indicate a reduction in our love for each other, any more than my having two meters indicates I'm lacking a single, larger one for just one of them. It will just mean our needs are met more easily.

Or, perhaps not. Perhaps I will always have enormous meters for each of them that stand to fall perilously low if we miss a couple of dates or tragedy befalls our family. This, we will manage. Because they will also have other people in their lives, so as much time as I spend with someone who isn't each of them, they have that much time to spend with someone who isn't me.

Probably worth noting: I am always happier when my absent lovers are with someone awesome than when they are alone (unless, of course, they are having scheduled Alone Time, which we all need). If I can't be with them, I certainly hope they can be with someone who makes them happy. Their happiness is my happiness.

I do feel that my needs from each of my boyfriends are as great as my needs from any monogamous partner I had in the past. While it takes twice as much effort to keep the meters full, the result is twice as much love. This was the thing that most surprised me when I began dating them: I didn't have two half-relationships, I had two complete relationships. Twice the dates. Twice the attention. Twice the love. Twice the sex. No, actually, maybe ten times the sex. My family really enjoys sex.

But you get the idea. Multiple relationships don't spread the love of one across many souls, they load up love until you are overflowing with it, until you're so drenched in it you can hardly breathe. And it's wonderful.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Why I Didn't Realize I was Raped

Trigger warning! If detailed descriptions of rape bother you, please do not continue reading.

I've posted a good deal lately about consent and rape culture. It's no secret that I'm adamantly in favor of changing the way people talk about (and have) sex.

But there's more to this story.

My journey to my current mindset is long and meandering. It has a lot to do with becoming poly and joining a community of sex-positive, equality-seeking folks who place a high value on respect and autonomy.

The more I learned from these people, the more I understood about rape culture, and the more vociferous I became to change it. It's wrong, I believed, the way we blame victims, and shame women who enjoy sex, and teach children all the wrong things about sex.

Then one day, not that long ago, I was struck by a realization: I have been raped.

Twice.

I'll relate each story individually. I am not changing names because the men who raped me are not innocent and I have no desire to protect them.

Several years ago I went on a date with a man I met on a dating site. He told me his name was Ryan. I can't vouch for the veracity of that, but we'll go with it.

Ryan and I started our date at a fantastic local restaurant. We discovered we had a lot in common, including being somewhat addicted to video games. Interestingly, Ryan worked for Blizzard, the company who makes World of Warcraft. He told me about all the amazing, dorky schwag he had at home, provided by Blizzard as incentives or rewards for good work. He offered to show me. I accepted.

We drove, separately, to his apartment, not far away. Inside he showed me a small statue of a dragon he had received for several years of service. He then started kissing me. A lot.

Soon he was trying to undress me. I protested: I didn't really want to. I was on my period. It was late and I needed to get home. I said no pretty much every way there is of saying no.

Ryan didn't listen. He kept kissing me and taking my clothes off, until eventually he was having sex with me.

After he came (I didn't) he asked me to leave.

A few weeks later I went out with another man I met online, KJ. We met at a bar he recommended, which turned out to be loud and crowded. After a couple of drinks, he asked if I'd rather go somewhere else. He offered that his condo complex had a hot tub. That seemed like a good idea. We headed there.

I changed into my swimsuit at his house (I keep one in the car, just in case). We hung out in the hot tub for a while, talking and kissing. I said it was late and I should get going. We went back to his house.

Inside, KJ started kissing me. At first I went along with it. But eventually he was on top of me, his body pinning me down. I said I wanted to leave, probably a dozen times. He acted as though he hadn't heard. He stayed on top of me as he took off my swimsuit. He didn't get up until after he had fucked me. As with Ryan, he was the only one who came. Also as with Ryan, immediately after, he asked me to leave.

I never reported either of these rapes to police. Why? Because it was years later that I realized they were rapes.

At the time, I thought it was bad sex. Miscommunication. Jerky guys. I was never terrified, which is what I thought you're supposed to be when you get raped. I never panicked. I didn't fight or try to run or scream for help. I wasn't really scared. I was annoyed, and insulted, and a bit angry. But not scared. So I didn't think it was rape.

And this is exactly what's wrong with our current culture.

I'm not a stupid person. I got good grades in school. I have a college degree. I work in a challenging field. I can describe to you both the process by which your body breaks down food for energy and just what the hell a dangling participle is.

So why the living fuck did it take me years to understand that men who had sex with me after I repeatedly told them no had raped me?

Rape is awful, certainly. But it isn't always scary. It's very rarely a stranger in a mask. It's not even that commonly someone you dislike. Most of the time, the victim knows and even likes the rapist. Like me. Had I not found my rapists attractive, I would not have been on dates with them. Had I not liked their company, I would not have extended my dates with them.

But my attraction to them, my enjoyment of our dates prior to them raping me, absolutely does not mean that they didn't rape me. I understand that now.

I never once said I wanted to have sex with either of them. In fact, with both, I said no multiple times, in multiple ways. I wasn't frightened of them, but I didn't give consent.

We must change the conversations we have about consent. Consent isn't lack of a fight. It isn't wearing someone down until they give in. It isn't pretending not to understand what "no" means. It isn't threatening someone until they change their mind.

Consent is yes. It is unequivocal, unambiguous, obvious.

And rape isn't just one experience. It doesn't have to be terrifying. It doesn't have to be life-changing. It doesn't have to be violent. It doesn't have to make you hate yourself or anyone else. It doesn't have to make you feel dirty, ugly, or ashamed. It doesn't have to make you ill.

It might do those things, but it might not. It can happen just as easily to men as to women.

Being fucked by someone who didn't listen to your repeated requests not to have sex isn't bad sex. It's rape. Being held down by the body of a person bigger than you so that you can't leave until you give him what he wants isn't bad sex. It's rape.

I was misled. By a culture that focuses more on saying no than saying yes. By a society that paints rapists as evil villains instead of the normal people they are. By media portrayal of rape as a violent, bloody assault involving screaming and kicking and crying.

I get it now, but it took me a long time to get it. I'm sure I'm not the only one.

Sex without consent isn't bad sex, it's rape. This shouldn't be a puzzle, but it's surprisingly difficult to recognize unless you've learned specifically how to see it.

Which means it's the responsibility of all of us to teach each other about consent. To stop glamorizing "sexy silence" and emasculating men who ask permission. To ask each other what's okay, and actually listen to the answers. To quit applying labels like "tease" and "bitch" to women who go on dates that don't end in sex, even if there was obvious mutual attraction.

Otherwise, we're all complicit.

Friday, September 27, 2013

The Romeo Rose Trainwreck

Actual photo from Rose's website
By now you've likely seen Romeo Rose's website. If you haven't, go take a look. (It's often under too much traffic to work, so check the mirror if you get an error.)

TL;DR version: this guy apparently sucks at finding his own girlfriends, so he wants to pay you $2500 to find one for him. Bonus $1000 if they get married!

(Let's stop for a moment to snicker about his outrage that a pimp contacted him. Because paying someone to find you a girl? Why would that EVER imply a pimp would be involved?!)

So, we'll leave aside the racist and general douchey stuff because mocking racism is just too easy to really be fun.

What I want to know is this: when did it become okay to sell women?

I realize this isn't trafficking. Far from it. However, what Rose proposes is a financial transaction between himself and another person in which he offers money in exchange for a woman. The woman, presumably, gets only the pleasure (torture?) of being his girlfriend.

I'm gonna go out on a very short limb and suggest that, if a woman were to present herself to him as a dating option, he probably wouldn't pay her the 2500 bucks.

How in the holy hell did he ever decide this was okay?

"Wait," you may be thinking, "sites like eHarmony and Match.com charge fees. How is this different?"

True, some dating sites do charge fees. But both people involved agree to those terms. Matchmaking, in which a neutral third-party acts as a go-between for potential mates, is a fair way to look for a partner.

That's not what's happening here. This is two parties, Rose and Person X, deciding to send a woman with no vested interest in the situation to date Rose. She may not even know what's going on. Nowhere does he stipulate that his dates must know about his site or the transaction.

In fact, he explicitly condemns the idea of someone finding him a girl and splitting the money with her after payment is received. Again, to him, this is prostitution. If only the pimp gets paid though, apparently it's okay. But let's not say "pimp" because that's gross!

The only good thing about this website? Now I know what this guy looks like, so I can be sure to avoid interactions with him.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Consent--No is Less Important than Yes

Photo courtesy of Doug Wheller
Over the past couple of weeks, there has been an internet brouhaha over rape culture and slut-shaming, inspired by Kim Hall's open letter to teenage girls. Many folks have sounded off with incredibly good stuff (like this post from a father to his son, this post showing another mother's reaction, and this post detailing the way another mother handles teenage sexuality). I've posted twice in response: once in direct response, and again regarding what rape culture doesn't look like.

And that brings me to consent. We hear all the time about how "no means no," and it's true, but the fact is, it's rare that anybody says "no." Maybe eventually they do, but things have already gone too far at that point, and the rapist probably already knew that person didn't want to have sex with them.

So let's stop this nonsense rhetoric about "no means no" and start talking about "yes means yes."

This is not a new concept. People who have really awesome sex, especially those who speak or write publicly about it, just can't shut up about enthusiastic consent. Why? Because it's totally clear and unambiguous, and leads to really awesome sex.

The "no means no" line implies that a lack of "no" is the same as consent. If a woman just lies back and takes it, she must be consenting. Never mind that she might be unconscious or afraid to make things stop. Never mind that she might have been threatened, coerced, or otherwise forced into letting things happen. She's not flailing at you with her fists and screaming, so she must have consented.

"Yes means yes" turns this on its head. It means that, if your partner doesn't outright state their desire to have sex with you, you don't have their consent. No more "it wasn't rape because she wasn't awake to say no." No more "it wasn't rape because, after I held her down so she couldn't leave, she let me have sex with her."

People don't say "no" for all kinds of reasons. They don't want to hurt your feelings. They're nervous. They're afraid of what might happen if they turn you down. They're unsure of what they want. Regardless, silence isn't taken for consent in most situations, so why should sex be different?

If you asked your girlfriend, "Do you want a Hawaiian vacation for your birthday?" and she didn't say anything, would you buy plane tickets? If you asked someone at the grocery store, "I only have one item, do you mind if I check out ahead of you?" and they stared determinedly into space, would you cut in front of them? Why is it that "you didn't say no" applies only to sex?

There's some misconception about asking for consent and getting a yes that it somehow makes things less sexy. This, friends, is total bullshit. What could be sexier than whispering in your partner's ear all the things you want to do, and asking if they're ready to do them? Or hearing them tell you exactly how they want to fuck you, then responding enthusiastically? Enthusiastic consent makes sex better, both in that you'll get turned on by your partner's sexy "yes, oh please, yes!" and by knowing what to do to please them. You simply cannot go wrong.

Also remember, you are not asking for permission, you are investigating desire. It's far, far sexier to say, "Do you want me to fuck you now?" than it is to say, "May I fuck you now?" It also opens better communication. Maybe your partner's answer will be, "No, I want you to give me a blowjob, then I want to give you one." Maybe it will be, "I want it, but not just yet, warm me up with your fingers first." Or possibly, "No, baby, let me fuck you." No matter what, you'll know exactly how to proceed, and you won't have killed the mood in the process.

It's important to point out that getting consent never goes away. No matter how long you've been together, no matter if you're married or living together or just had sex a minute ago, you need to get consent every time. Consent for previous sex doesn't count for current sex, and consent for one act doesn't count for another.

So tell me, do you want to have sex with someone who lets you fuck them, or with someone who wants you to fuck them?

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Men I Know Who Aren't Rapists

Photo courtesy of Paul Bica
I posted last week about rape culture and how it's buoyed by telling girls to be ashamed of their sexuality and telling boys they can't help themselves when it comes to sex.

Let's talk now about adults. I'm an adult, and I only have sex with adults, and, really, I almost exclusively interact with adults. And all of us grew up hearing the "boys will be boys" and "good girls are virgins" lines. Yet some of us learned to think differently. I want to tell you what can happen when, as a community, we empower all people to control their own bodies and sexualities.

I have been a member of microcommunities that place a high value on autonomy, respect, and responsibility. The principles on which they operate state that each person is solely responsible for their experience of the world. The only way someone can force you to do something is through physical force, coercion, or extortion, all of which are illegal and rightly should be punished. Thus, people in these communities don't believe the myth that girls should be pure or that boys are lustful, uncontrollable animals.

Within these communities, at some events, I have been naked. Sometimes it was for art, or self expression, but mostly it was just because I like being naked. I understand that it may have aroused some people. Hell, sometimes, that was the point. Sometimes, when I was naked, I was also having sex. In front of people. Men, even. Some of whom I didn't even know.

And do you know what? None of them raped me. Not even close. I never even felt as though it was a possibility. Some of these men have seen me like this on multiple occasions, and, far from lusting after me uncontrollably, they treat me with respect and dignity.

I'll give you a second to consider that. I have had hot, wild, animalistic sex in front of men I barely knew and, afterward, they treated me with the respect that should be afforded to all human beings.

I have been a giant slutty slut in all my slutty glory right there where these guys could see it, and it didn't make them think any awful things about my character (that I know of) or treat me as less of a person or violate me in any way.

Sure, some of them may simply not find me attractive. But, based on statistics alone, probably some of them do, and they still have managed to behave as the rational, thinking, empathetic people they are, rather than vagina-seeking missiles with no control over what happens when they get a boner.

They are great guys, and I don't mean to undermine their character in any way, but they are also normal guys. They have jobs and families and like beer and sports and, well, yes, sex. But they don't think that their penises give them excuse to treat other people badly, and they don't see sex as something they are entitled to if they want it. Not because they are great thinkers with amazing self-control. Because they simply learned to think of people as people and not toys.

If this is possible with these totally normal guys, then it's possible with other totally normal guys who aren't part of microcommunities like ours. Clearly, men can be aroused by other people and still not demean, harass, or abuse them. They can see women as desirable yet still also see them as people and treat them with respect and dignity. They can control their sexual urges, and, if they wish to act on them, make sure they get consent first. (More on consent in a later post!)

If they can do this when a woman is having sex right in front of them, they can do this in any circumstance. There is simply nothing at all a woman can do to cause a man to rape her, and anything you've heard to the contrary is untrue.

I know it's possible some of you are reading this and thinking that I am engaging in very dangerous behavior. Some of you think if I get raped I will have had it coming to me. I desperately want to hear from you. Please comment so that we can have a conversation. I want to know why you think these things.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Why This Well-Meaning Christian Mother is a Symptom of Rape Culture

Photo courtesy of Oteo
I recently came across this article, which I'd love for you to take a few minutes to read. In short, a woman who is the mother of several teenage boys gives advice to the girls they are friends with on Facebook: stop posting sexy photos of yourselves or she will block your accounts so her sons can't see them.

This may seem harmless enough. She's protecting her sons, ensuring what's best for them, right?

Wrong. This attitude is representative of rape culture. Let's examine why.

It presupposes the idea of "good girls" and "bad girls." "Good girls" aren't interested in sex. They keep their virginities intact, to one day be given, like gifts, to the men they marry, or at least men with whom they have meaningful, long-term relationships. When they do have sex, they do so to make babies and to please their men, but never because they really like it. If they happen to like it, they keep quiet about that. "Bad girls," however, are casual and nonchalant about sex, throwing away their purity on whoever is close by. They are dirty and full of disease, and nice boys should avoid them at all costs.

The author says, "We think you are lovely and interesting, and usually very smart." But she determines that posing with "the extra-arched back, and the sultry pout" and "not wearing a bra" betray that these girls actually are not lovely, interesting, or smart. In her mind, a girl can only possess these good qualities, qualities that every girl hopes to have, by not being sexual, and not displaying any sexuality.

In reality, none of this is the case. Young women, like young men, discover their sexualities in their teens, typically. As they begin to understand their attraction to other people, they realize that some people are attracted to them. This is a brand new thing for them, and of course they want to experiment with it. They discover how to show off body parts they've only recently grown into: breasts, hips, waists. They play up their facial features with makeup. They learn to flirt, and to be flirted with in response. They find the pleasure we all find in kissing deeply, in fondling, in sexual play. They begin to have orgasms, and consider whether those can come from intercourse.

The second disturbing assumption the post makes is that boys will be boys, and the only thing we can do is to limit their exposure to temptresses. Says the author, "Once a male sees you in a state of undress, he can’t ever un-see it." She asks, "You don’t want the Hall boys to only think of you in this sexual way, do you?"

This woman, who clearly loves her sons dearly, gives them no credit at all for being thinking, reasonable humans. She assumes that their sexual desire is so out of control, so beyond their capacity to manage, that posing for a sexy photo means they can't help but have sex with you.

What kind of message does this send to young people? To this woman's sons? That they can have no control of their sexual behavior? That seeing a girl "in a state of undress" gives boys excuse to objectify her? That once a woman becomes an object of sexual desirability, she loses all value and is thus no longer worthy of being anything but a fuck toy?

Why is it okay for boys to have rampant sex drives that can barely be held in check, but girls are not allowed to want sex? Why is a boy who wants sex just a boy, but a girl who wants sex is a stupid, uninteresting slut?

Further, if a boy has been told his sex drive is beyond his control, and he can't help wanting to have sex with girls in sexy poses, how is he to respond when one of those girls actually wants sex? This assumption gives him no ability to say no. She's naked, he's hard; the only conclusion he can reach is that he must fuck her, even if he actually has reservations.

All of this is pure nonsense, and incredibly harmful. Sexual exploration and discovery is a normal part of being a teenager, for both boys and girls. Both genders think they know far more than they actually do about it, and both tend to make lots of mistakes. Both desperately want to be desired and accepted.

But perpetuating this idea that all boys want sex to the point of having no ability to hold themselves back, while only slutty, unworthy girls want sex, creates the environment in which rape happens. If he's been told he can't help himself, why should he try? How can a young woman not think it was her fault if a boy forces himself on her, if she was so terribly tempting?

We must change the way we talk to young people about sex. More than that, we must change the way we think about sex. Sex is normal, healthy, and the reason all of us exist. It isn't a gift to be hoarded by women and clamored over by men. It isn't a commodity women trade for security and safety. It is a basic activity that is fundamental to human nature, and, like eating and sleeping, we control when and how we do it.

We must expand the conversation from telling girls how to say no. Girls and boys alike should know how to say no, but they should also know how to say yes. They should know how to tell someone what they want and what they aren't comfortable with. They should be able to define their own limits, and respect limits others set.

Most importantly, we must teach them that they are the only ones who control their bodies. No amount of sultry poses can force a boy to have sex with a girl. No lack of clothing can relinquish a girl's right to say no.

Let's change the conversation we have with our kids about sex, and see if we can put an end to tragedies like Steubenville.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Out

I have made a decision. I am going to stop hiding the person I am, the choices I make, and the beliefs I hold dear. I have hidden these things as a result of fear. I still feel that fear. I am terrified of losing friends. Clients. Family members. I am afraid of being personally attacked (and I don't just mean verbally). I fear being singled out, denied my rights and safety, hunted down and abused for things over which I have little or no control.

But I will no longer lie about them or keep them to myself.

Today, I blend my business and my identities. Today, I "come out."

I am polyamorous. This means I have multiple committed, loving relationships simultaneously. It also means that, sometimes, in addition to those, I have casual relationships (these can, of course, turn into committed ones). Right now I am dating two men, both of whom I have been with for about a year and a half. I love them both deeply and cannot imagine my life without either. They both have other partners as well. I have written fairly extensively about polyamory in this blog, so if this post is your introduction to it, please feel free to peruse my old entries. I hope they will be informative and enjoyable.

I am bisexual. I don't know when I realized I was attracted to women, but in retrospect I have always felt things for women that I couldn't describe properly. I have dated only one woman, and then only casually, but I quite enjoyed it and I hope to do it more in the future (with her or with others, or both). I have been repeatedly rejected by women who refused to date "newbies," which I still do not understand. I have also been solicited by a number of couples who wanted to be able to fuck the same girl. I have turned all of these people down. My sexuality is not a stereotype or a trope. I am a person, not a trophy.

I do not believe in a god. Not only that, I genuinely believe there isn't one. I am not agnostic. However, I'm not manic about it. I don't require that you disbelieve in any gods. I don't really care about gods or religion. It has little to do with my life. I make my choices about right and wrong based on the good or harm they cause, to others and/or myself. I am not lacking a moral compass just because I don't believe in a deity. In fact, I believe my choices are more moral and more guided by principle now than they ever were when I was a Christian. Additionally, disbelief in an afterlife has inspired me to do more with my life. I know this is all the time I have. I refuse to save up my great acts for some promised heaven. I intend to do good with my life, not hope for better after death.

I am a feminist. I know that women continue to be treated as inferior to men, in both personal and professional situations. I despise the culture I live in that encourages rape, reduces men's sexuality to that of a wild animal, and exalts the virgin as some sort of demigod. I am the victim of multiple sexual assaults, as nearly all women are. I am furious that this is the case. I hate that we live in a world where "no" may mean no, but silence means yes. I hate that women are seen as meek, caring, quiet, creative creatures while men are seen as strong, aggressive, outgoing, analytical ones. I hate that people want to classify everyone as "male" or "female" and respond to them as such. I find it silly that many people take my interest in cars and the military to be indicators of masculinity. I find it equally silly they think men shouldn't wear skirts. I find men in skirts amazingly sexy. Yes, skirts, not kilts. Although I find men in kilts amazingly sexy too.

I am kinky. I like pain and domination, in a sexual way. I also find the community that has built up around these desires to be fairly incompatible with my views regarding feminism, so I am no longer active in it. This is an ongoing struggle for me. Luckily, I have found partners who continue to play with me in private settings, so I can keep this part of my life fulfilled.

I experiment with drug use. I used to be totally against illegal drugs of any kind. However, I spent my time in college in a dizzy haze of booze. I realized that the government's approval of mind-altering substances has nothing to do with their effect on my health. I have come to understand that drug use and drug abuse are not synonymous, and that certain substances can enhance or change your views of the world. I see these as positive, affirming, creative experiences. I continue to refuse addictive drugs like heroin and cocaine, because I am aware that I am the type of person who can easily become addicted. If I feel that I have explored my mind and surroundings as much as I can, I may stop using drugs. I may not. I don't understand why they are illegal.

This list is not exhaustive, but represents the greater part of the things about myself I have kept from people. Mostly I have not lied. Mostly I have been vague or silent. I have often told myself I was protecting you by these actions, sheltering you from difficult truths you were unprepared to handle. I was truly protecting myself, but it was a comfortable lie to tell. In doing this, I have underestimated you. I have devalued your intelligence and empathy. I have not given you credit for being able to make the same choices I have made. For that, I am sorry.

I want you to know that I have not made my choices easily or lightly. Some of the things I described above I cannot change. Some of them were incredibly painful to realize. Please understand me: these things are important and I have considered their ramifications carefully.

And that's why I am scared. I fear rejection, as all humans do. I fear judgment from those I love. I fear violence from those I know poorly who find my life to be unacceptable.

But it's important to me to be open, honest, and transparent. I will employ this policy in ALL aspects of my life. I will never force you to talk about these topics, but I will not lie or be vague if they come up. If you ask me about them, I will answer honestly.

I hope that this will deepen the connections I have with people who are important to me. I hope that you will love me more, not less, for saying these things, for making known these truths. This is the real me. Not that person you thought you knew before. Not the image I have let you believe was real. This one.

I respect that this is not everyone's wish. To that extent, if you have ties with me and you fear the things I fear by being associated with me, I will protect you. If you are a close friend or family member and you need me to be quiet about these things for the sake of your job, your friends, your community, or something else important, I totally will. My choices are not your choices, and I will not force them on you. If you are my client and you want me to just please do the job you're paying me for and not mention the rest of my life, that's completely acceptable. You won't hear from me about my personal life.

But you know now, and I know you know. And I will stop hiding. I will stop lying. I will stop pretending.

From now on, I will simply be. And I hope you will love me for it.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Taming the Green-Eyed Monster: Tips for Those Considering Polyamory

Photo courtesy of Alyssa L. Miller
For people who have been monogamous and are considering opening their relationship, a major concern is jealousy. It's the most common question posed to people who are poly. How do we deal with jealousy? Do we feel jealousy?

Of course, everyone feels jealousy. Monogamous people feel jealousy. Everyone gets jealous. People feel jealous of their siblings, of their coworkers, of their friends; it's not limited only to romantic relationships. So of course, people who are poly get jealous, just like everyone else.

Thus people who are poly come up with mechanisms to handle jealousy in the context of romantic relationships. These are probably unique, and different from the way monogamous people handle jealousy. So if you are monogamous and thinking of opening your relationship and you're concerned about jealousy that's a very good start. You're already thinking about it. You're anticipating it. So here are some tips that you might employ to deal with it.

My best advice is to prevent or reduce jealousy before it even starts. This can be done by, early on, having discussions about what will help you not feel jealous in the first place. Try to do this before either of you has any actual, specific interest, so you're not thinking about a specific person. You're just thinking in general, hypothetical terms. And try to focus on statements of doing instead of statements of not doing. What your partner doesn't do with someone else is an endless list. You can't cover everything and you'll be upset with yourself when they do something you forgot to mention, and you'll quickly have to write it in. So try to stay away from the "do nots" and focus on the "dos."

Some examples of a "help me not feel jealousy" list could be:

  • I would like to know the name of the person that you are going out with before the date.
  • Before you have sex, I would like for your partner to have negative test results six months or more recently for all major STIs and not have had any new partners in that time. (Sex safety is a very important thing to people who are poly!)
  • I would prefer that you meet in public when you start your date.
  • I would prefer to meet your potential dates before you go out with them.


Having that list already made before the date (write it down if you need to!) can give you reassurance that your partner is providing the things that you need to help minimize your stress.

There is an idea I think a lot of monogamous people have, because they've only been in monogamous relationships, of themselves sitting at home on their couch, bored and jealous, while their partner goes out and has the best sex of their life. I'm sure that that happens. I know that it does; I have been in that situation myself. But the reality is that, when you are seriously involved with more than one person, you become very, very busy, and you forget that your partner is on a wonderful, fulfilling, sexually charged date with someone else, because you are too busy doing the thing that you are doing and really enjoying.

So before either of you starts dating someone else, start doing some things on your own. Do these things separately, not as a couple. I know it's very easy to fall into "couple habits" when you are partnered up. But get your own hobbies that don't involve that other person. Join a sports team, or play board games with other people, or join a karaoke league or quilting club, and do not include your partner. Specifically exclude them from that activity. And then deliberately try to schedule their dates with other people during that time. So your partner has their dates with other people while you are at your karaoke league and you have your dates with other people while they're at their racquetball game. Because when you are sitting around dwelling on your jealousy, you're feeding it and making it stronger. When you're actively engaged in doing something you enjoy, with people you enjoy doing it with, you won't have very much attention to devote to the fact that your partner is out with someone else. And, if it does occur to you, you won't have much time to think about it before you need to think about something else. This is not smothering it and it's not quashing it. It's just not allowing you to dwell on it and make it any bigger.

But as I said, you are going to feel jealousy. It might come up when you don't expect it--maybe not when your partner is on that date. So when it does come up, sit with it. Acknowledge it. Realize that this is happening and it's real. And it's okay. You can either embrace the feeling, or you can confront it, or you can just mull it over, but don't ignore it. And try not to feed it. Try not to go down a spiral of imagining all the things that your partner is doing with someone else, because that is only going to make things worse. Remember that you have felt jealousy before and survived it. You have felt this before; this is not a new emotion. And you have felt it with people that you are still on good terms with. You've felt it with your family members or friends or coworkers. This will turn out okay too.

It seems a lot of people who are monogamous have some very rigid ideas of what they think will cause their jealousy. They think this because they haven't actually been in these situations. They say things like, "Well, I would have no problem if my husband fell in love with someone else, I just can't abide the thought of him spending a Saturday night in someone else's bed," or, "I would be fine with my girlfriend kissing someone, but I just don't want her to suck anybody else's cock," or, "You know, I'm totally okay with my boyfriend having all the sex he wants with all the people he wants, but I can't imagine what would happen if he watched Game of Thrones without me." And the truth is, you're wrong. Maybe those things really would set you off, but things you never even considered will set you off too, and you won't know until you encounter them. It may be that, in fact, waking up and having to make breakfast alone maybe is the biggest deal you could have possibly encountered and suddenly you're consumed with jealousy about it. Maybe it never occurred to you before.

Right now, you might say something like, "Oh, I can't imagine having Christmas without my partner." But at some point you may be passionately and deeply in love with someone else and very committed to them, and you may prefer then to spend Christmas with their family, learning about where they came from. And you may be happy for your partner to spend that same holiday with another person, having a similar experience.

So having a set script of what will and will not make you jealous is just completely unrealistic. You need to realize that it's going to come up, and it's going to happen over things you didn't expect, and you can mitigate it beforehand by having some agreements and some idea of what is going to happen, and by keeping yourself busy when things that are likely to produce jealousy are happening. And remember that, at some point, the situation is going to be reversed. At some point it's going be you going on a first date with someone, having the excitement of the first time you have sex, and it's going to be your partner who is dealing with how they feel about that.

So keep those things in mind when you're on both sides of this equation, and behave in ways that are respectful toward each other. Make sure you're doing what your partner needs. Just because it wouldn't bother you doesn't mean it won't bother them. Avoid those things you know will bother them as much as possible.

And finally, the idea that sharing your partner's body or heart with another person makes you vulnerable to having them stolen from you is completely ridiculous. If the person you are with is the type of person who will leave you for someone else, they are going to do that no matter what kind of relationship you are in, whether it's monogamous or polyamorous. And if they are not that person they are not going to do that, regardless of the type of relationship you are in. You need to trust that you know what type of person they are. If they are the type of person to leave you for someone else because they think that person is better, then you should go ahead and face that now, because they will. And if they are not the type of person to leave you for someone else, then have faith that that is not going to happen any more in a polyamorous situation when they love someone else deeply than it is when it's just the two of you. Trust in their commitment to you and their love for you, and know that they will behave in a committed and loving manner toward you, regardless of the circumstances.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Regarding the War on Women

Recently, Ohio and Texas made national and international headlines when women's rights once again came to the forefront of state legislatures.

In both of these states, a woman's right to choose what happens to her own body is under attack. In Texas, conservatives seek to cut funding to family planning clinics statewide, limit the time a woman has to choose to terminate a pregnancy from 24 weeks to 20, and force doctors who perform abortions out of business.

In Ohio, the GOP has not only defunded family planning clinics and rape crisis counseling centers, but has redefined "pregnant" in such a way as to outlaw many types of safe, effective birth control, such as IUDs.

Disguised as "protecting women's health" or "protecting unborn children," these laws are actually legislation designed to punish women who have recreational sex.

The double standard when it comes to sex laws is so staggeringly ugly it's no surprise that women legislators have begun to fight dirty.

Stop and think about the state of reproductive health care in the U.S. Under the Health Care Reform Act, employers are required to provide health insurance for their employees. Religion-drenched organizations like Hobby Lobby wish to deny their workers access to birth control. Sadly, they now have that ability. However, under the same health plans that deny women access to contraception, men can get pills for erectile dysfunction.

So women cannot get medicine that, in addition to preventing pregnancy, can help regulate uncontrolled bleeding, stabilize mood, reduce the severity of skin disorders, and prevent cancer. Men, however, can get pills that offer little benefit other than allowing them to have sex.

The message: if you are a man, it is your right to have as much sex as you want, regardless of the consequences. It's a matter of health. But if you are a woman, you may only have sex in order to make babies, and any other sexual activity should be punished in the harshest manner possible. By having sex, you risk forfeiting your life and health. Sex is a right for men only.

Does this infuriate you as much as it infuriates me?

Monday, July 1, 2013

"Nice Guys" Are Passive-Agressive Douchebags

I'm usually a big fan of The Good Men Project. They say interesting and often useful things. So I'm completely dumbfounded as to why they would publish Andy Bodle's self-pitying whine-fest about a pretty girl who turned him down.

It's a well-written and nicely composed whine-fest, I'll grant you that. But fuck! He thought he was madly in love with a girl for nearly a year but didn't bother to mention this to her, instead cultivating (what she thought was) a deep, meaningful friendship in which they supported and cared for each other. And he's surprised when he springs on her, soon after a party at which she hooked up with someone else, "Hey, by the way, I'm in love with you!" and she doesn't feel the same?

Here's the thing, girls absolutely do not fall for jerks. We loathe discovering that the guy we've recently started dating is, in truth, an enormous asshole. We hate being treated badly, we don't enjoy being cheated on or lied to, and we can't stand when men reveal that we were a notch on their bedpost on the way to something younger and hotter. That shit really goddamned sucks.

We adore guys who treat us like royalty. We love men who comfort us when we're down, who are thrilled with us when we succeed, who cuddle us while watching movies and dance with us when we go out. When we discover that our new beau has these qualities, we are absolutely over the moon. No woman says, three weeks into a relationship, "Well, he hasn't called me a slut or cheated on me once. I'm not sure this has long-term potential."

You men who think girls only go for "bad boys" and never "nice guys" like you (and I'm pretty sure this is only a problem with hetero boys), it's not "nice guys" we don't like. It's you.

You are, in fact, not nice. Wheedling your way into a woman's pants by pretending to be her friend is not nice. Expecting sex in return for a shoulder to cry on is not nice. Wishing she could read your mind and realize you love her but never actually, you know, asking her out is not nice.

That's passive aggression, and it's one of the biggest turnoffs in the world.

Contrary to what you might think, women do have male friends they don't fuck. Some men genuinely are nice, and some of them like to have women friends, to have conversations and stuff with. Some men don't have a secret agenda of getting every pretty girl who gives them a modicum of attention into bed. Some men (gasp!) actually just like women and enjoy their company. We like being friends with them.

And if all you ever do is offer friendship, don't be surprised when we completely fail to fall in love with you. If you're expecting friendship to lead to sex, too goddamned bad for you. That's not the way it works. To quote a friend (who I'll credit if someone points out who first said this), "Women are not vending machines you put 'nice' tokens in and sex comes out."

Furthermore, "nice" is not a selling point, so quit offering that to women as if it's some holy grail. Niceness is, in fact, a basic requirement. It's like trying to get a date based on being clean. If your best quality is that you're "nice," expect to get passed over for men who would never call themselves nice, but actually are nice, in addition to things like clever, funny, interesting, and talented.

We expect better. And we're not remotely sorry for your silent suffering.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Being Fair Is NOT Being Equal

For those of us in multiple relationships, "fair" can be a loaded word. "It's not fair that she gets to sleep over but I don't." "It's not fair that you don't use condoms with him but you do with me." "It's not fair that he gets weekend dates with you while I only get weekdays." "It's not fair that we never take trips together but you do that with your other partners."

Sound familiar? Most of us hear things like this all too often.

The fact is, sometimes those things may be true. And you may feel you're being treated unfairly when you find that your metamours (your partner's other partners) receive different treatment than you do.

But please understand, fair isn't the same as equal.

Did you catch that? I'll say it again: fair isn't the same as equal. Fairness in relationships is ensuring everyone gets what they need, not ensuring everyone gets the same thing.

It's easy to recognize that fair and equal aren't synonymous when you consider, say, public transportation. People in wheelchairs are given special consideration on the bus, and sometimes even have a dedicated bus pick them up to ensure they get where they need to go. It's not an equivalent treatment that ambulatory people receive, and for good reason. Those of us not using wheelchairs have no need for such specialized equipment. Thus, fairness is ensuring that people in wheelchairs are able to use public transit just as everyone else is.

Similarly, not all partners in poly relationships will be treated equally. This doesn't imply unfair treatment of one or more people (although that certainly may happen).

In my own relationships, I've noticed that one of my partners needs a lot of contact throughout the day, while the other does not. Because of this, I text Ryder while on dates with Rusty, but I limit how much I text Rusty when I'm with Ryder. This isn't because I love Ryder more or don't value Rusty. It's because not hearing from me for a few hours doesn't bother Rusty, but it makes Ryder anxious.

Conversely, Rusty often has to rely on me for transportation for dates. He shares a car with another partner, so if she needs the car for something, he won't have use of it. I'm happy to pick him up at the beginning of our date and drop him off after, and I rarely do this with Ryder (Ryder and the partner he lives with share three vehicles, making it easy for him to have access to wheels).

These are just some of my experiences. Examples I've seen of unequal yet fair treatment in poly relationships: living with one partner but not others, having several dates per week with some partners but only a few per month with others, engaging in certain hobbies with one partner but not the other, owning a business with some but not all partners.

You may be struggling with this inaccurate idea of fairness right now. Perhaps one of your partners has asked for something and you can't figure out how you'll give it to all your partners. Perhaps you've learned about something your partner shares with another partner, and you feel slighted that you don't get it as well. You can stop worrying! No one is being treated unfairly just because things aren't equal.

Are there other ways in which unequal but fair treatment manifests? Please share your experiences!

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Why NRE Sucks!

I recently wrote about why NRE is awesome. I still think it is. I stand by what I said then.

But NRE also sucks, and here's why: it significantly impairs your decision-making ability.

Being in love is exactly like being on drugs. And, while that makes you feel great and want more, it also makes you make poor choices.

Think back to all the things you did while "in love" that you later looked back on and wondered what the hell you were thinking. It's not a short list, is it?

Here are some things people do when "in love" that are really and truly terrible ideas:

  • Neglecting other people you care about in order to focus attention on your partner (especially children, parents, friends, or other partners)
  • Breaking agreements with other partners because you want something with your NRE partner
  • Slacking off at work to focus more attention on your partner
  • Compromising your principles to benefit your partner or the relationship


These are unquestionably bad ideas that you would never give credence to if you weren't so dopey with yummy neurotransmitters.

The good news: you're not a horrible person. We all do this shit. We all get so caught up in getting our fix with our partner that we stop taking care of the details of life.

The bad news: you're the only one who can get yourself out of whatever mess you've gotten into. You're responsible for your actions. Have you made some really bad decisions because of NRE? Time to own them.

This week, spend Saturday night with your kids instead of on a date. Work some overtime to make up for that long lunch you took with your sweetie. Apologize to your other partner(s) for letting them down when you stood them up to go out with your new flame. Discuss separating your finances from your new squeeze who doesn't ever seem to be able to keep a job and has moved into your house.

It's important to enjoy the blissful feelings NRE gives you, but temper them with a hefty dose of logic and reason. Remember that your bliss won't last, and consider if you'll still feel good about that decision once you're back to baseline.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Emotional Vampires

Let's talk about vampires.

Not the Stoker kind, or even the Twilight kind (okay, REALLY not the Twilight kind). Instead, let's discuss emotional vampires.

Emotional vampires take what they want from people to satisfy their own needs, then move on. They may call these attachments "relationships," but those they drain probably see them as "mistakes."

Emotional vampires don't consider the feelings, needs, or desires of those they use. They lure them in with good looks, or sex, or infatuation, or something else shiny and pretty. Once their victims are hooked, vampires use them to get what they want: validation, sexual fulfillment, status, money. They take what they want without regard for the consequences to their victim.

Then, when they're done, they disappear. This can be an actual distance vanishing, in which the victim and their circle of friends never see the vampire again, or an emotional one, in which the vampire simply cuts off contact with their bewildered victim.

In either case, the victim is usually left stunned, wondering what just happened. They may decide to blame themselves for things going wrong ("If only I hadn't texted so much!") or desperately pursue their vampire in an attempt to reconcile. They may become fearful of future emotional attachments to others, leaving them lonely later in life. A few will likely realize they've been horribly used, and attempt to move on as best they can.

Beware these vampires. Learn to recognize them before they drain you. Some warning signs:
A vampire:
  • Promises a perfect, wonderful relationship in the early stages of courtship.
  • Has a lot of exes they never see or speak to.
  • Stops speaking to you for long periods of time so they can "think about their feelings" instead of discussing problems with you.
  • Is constantly facing an emotional crisis that demands time and attention.
  • Is only available on their schedule; is never available if you ask to see them.
  • Sets double standards on the terms of your relationship (e.g. it's okay for them to flirt with other people, but not okay for you to).
  • Takes no responsibility for the consequences of their actions.
  • Never attempts to make things right with those they've wronged.

Have you been involved with an emotional vampire? Please share your experience!

Thursday, March 28, 2013

For LBGTQ Kids: You Matter

With Prop 8 and DOMA before the U.S. Supreme Court this week, it seems gay marriage and equal rights are what everyone is talking about.

I want to talk about something related, but not about marriage equality.

I want to speak directly to any LBGTQ youth who might ever come across this blog.

You are a good person. You have value and are worthwhile. You deserve to have the life you want. You matter.

I know it probably makes no difference hearing that from someone you likely don't know. I don't even know if I have any LBGTQ readers, much less young ones. But maybe if I say it to the ether, someone will say it to one of them. Maybe it will be you. They need to hear it.

Every year, thousands of LBGTQ youth are kicked out of their homes. These kids are far more likely than their hetero counterparts to experience personal attacks of violence, prolonged periods of homelessness, and substance abuse. LBGTQ youth are a whopping 6 times more likely to commit suicide than hetero youth.

These statistics do not reflect some defect inherent in LBGTQ kids. They reflect a defect in our society. All of these problems stem from rejection of LBGTQ youth by their family, peers, and teachers. They are bullied, beaten, raped, and murdered for simply being who they are.

This is completely unacceptable.

If you have experienced these sorts of attacks, let me tell you now: you did not deserve it. Nothing about your gender, sexual orientation, dress, mannerisms, or lifestyle warrants attacks on your body, home, or safety. If someone has done this to you, they are a monster. Even if that someone was your parents, your friends, your coach, your pastor. Nothing you have ever done deserves that sort of abuse. There is no excuse for anyone to behave that way towards you.

You deserve to be treated with respect. You deserve to have a safe place to live. To keep a job. To have a family. To shop for clothes and groceries without worrying you might be harmed or killed. You deserve life, just like anyone else.

To those readers who have been lucky enough not to be attacked, I urge you to become an ally. If you witness someone being attacked for their presumed gender or sexual orientation, stand up for them. If you know of a young person who no longer has a place to live because their parents do not accept them, help them find a place to stay. If you meet a person who is LBGTQ, welcome them.

Sadly, even being an ally carries a risk. You may be attacked with as much vehemence as LBGTQ people just for standing up for their rights. Please consider that this isn't a choice they can make. They have no control over being who they are.

We can all choose to do the right thing. To be loving, compassionate, accepting people. To value people as people, even if we don't understand their lifestyle. To protect kids from harm, even if we disagree with them.

The name of this blog is real love. Let your love help change society into something that isn't diseased. Understand that LBGTQ kids may feel totally unloved and unwelcome in the world, and do something to change that.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Lines in the Sand

Everyone has boundaries and limits in their life and relationships. They can be physical (such as not allowing others to drive your car) or emotional (such as using words like "partner" instead of "boyfriend" and "girlfriend").

Recognizing, communicating, and enforcing boundaries with your partners is essential to maintaining a healthy relationship. Let's address each individually.

First, you must recognize your boundaries, and determine how firm they are. Some will be non-negotiable. Some will be flexible under certain conditions. It's important to make this distinction.

For example, one of my boundaries involves cohabitation: I do not live with partners. This, for me, is inflexible. I am very solitary and greatly value my living space, and it's vital to me that I be the only one who sets the rules about what goes on in my home. This includes everything from who is invited over to how much clutter is present.

When I first started dating Rusty and Ryder, I had an additional boundary of no sleepovers. This stemmed from a previous, abusive relationship which had left me feeling highly vulnerable. After I worked through some of those issues on my own and established trust with my partners, we renegotiated this boundary and it no longer exists.

So keep in mind that boundaries are fluid, both yours and your partners'. Just because it was once true doesn't mean it must be true now, and it's okay to let your partner know that something has changed from what you had previously determined.

Which brings us to the next point: communicate your boundaries. Don't expect your partners to guess at what's important to you. Trust me, they'll guess wrong. Tell them what you need, and what is too much. Don't be afraid of hurting their feelings; it will hurt them far worse to do something they thought was okay and unintentionally make you unhappy.

When communicating your boundaries, be clear and be firm. Don't hint at what you mean, especially for issues involving sex. Some people find talking about sex uncomfortable, but the people you have sex with need to know what you consider out of bounds.

So if what you mean is, "I don't like anal sex and don't want to have it," say that, don't hint or insinuate. Leave no room for doubt about what is important to you.

Even if your boundaries are fuzzy, communicate that clearly as well. It's okay to say, "I'm not sure how I feel about anal sex. I haven't really tried it. I might not like it." If there's information you would like from your partner, ask for it. If there are things that bother you but you're not sure why, let them know. The more information your partner has, the easier it will be for them to do what you need. Also, having a discussion with your partner when you're not really sure where your boundaries lie can actually help you figure out what is important to you and why. Sometimes just talking about it is enough to give you clarity.

Finally, enforce your boundaries once they've been defined and communicated. If you've told your partner you're not okay with sleepovers and they fall asleep on your couch, wake them up and ask them politely to leave. Any time your boundaries have been violated, explain to your partner what the violation was, remind them of the conversation you had in which you communicated what was and wasn't okay, and insist that they maintain your boundaries in the future.

By the same token, respect your partners' boundaries completely. You can, of course, ask the reasons behind what they ask of you, but be prepared for the answer to be "I don't know, I'm just not really comfortable with it." Check in with them regularly if you feel a boundary might be renegotiated, or is sensitive enough you feel it needs extra care. If you find yourself unsure of whether you're violating your partner's boundaries, ask, "Is this okay? Could I be doing something better?"

Don't be afraid to communicate your boundaries, and don't be offended when a partner communicates theirs. "I'm not comfortable having unprotected sex" doesn't mean "I don't like you."

Respecting the limits your partner has regarding themselves, their property, and their behavior within relationships is a basic element in a healthy relationship, as is having your own limits respected. Remember, you have the right to protect your body, your money, your home, and your safety. You do not have the right to violate that which belongs to your partner. If you share some of these things (like a home and finances), ensure you have clearly established the boundaries about what is and isn't okay to do with them.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

No More Excuses

I've argued the case against letting other people tell you what or how you're feeling, and I stand by those arguments. But today I'm going to present the flip side of that coin.

While I would never presume to tell you what you're feeling about a situation, I can observe your actions. If you say, "You don't understand the way I conduct relationships," you may indeed be right. But when what I observe is that you give no value to the opinions or feelings of your partners, you act to protect your own interests at the expense of others, you tell other people what they can and cannot do in the relationships with people other than yourself, or you hold your partners to a different standard from which you hold yourself, I'm going to think that you are behaving badly, not simply loving differently.

It's time to stop making excuses for this bad behavior. "He does the same thing to me." "You just don't understand us." "I've always done this, and it's always worked fine for me." "If you don't like it, leave." "She finds it cute when I get jealous."

It can be hard to sympathize with those whose feelings you are totally failing to consider. You think, "Well, I would be okay if someone did this to me," and that makes it okay in your eyes. But if it's clearly not okay with your partner, you're not seeing the situation properly.

Here's an example: let's say there is a couple, Jenna and Alice. Jenna grew up in an abusive home, and Alice knows this. Jenna has been conditioned to do whatever someone says anytime they raise their voice, because consequences for disobedience when she was a child were severe. Alice had no such upbringing, and frequently yells during arguments. She's never upset if Jenna yells back, and she feels that yelling "lets off steam" and helps resolve conflict, because the argument always dies down immediately after the shouting starts. Jenna, meanwhile, feels manipulated and controlled, because Alice constantly gets her way by yelling whenever the two of them disagree.

This may be an extreme example, but it gets to the heart of the matter: just because shouting doesn't bother Alice, that doesn't make it okay. Alice knows that Jenna is sensitive to shouting, yet she does it anyway because it gets her what she wants.

Loving behavior would look like this: when Alice and Jenna disagree, Alice takes extra care to maintain a quiet, calm discussion, even when things get emotional. When she feels herself becoming angry and fighting the urge to shout, she asks for a break from the conversation so she can regain her composure. During times when no conflict is occurring, Alice makes sure Jenna knows that she may sometimes have to put arguments on hold in order to keep things calm, and if this happens it's because she wants to be sure everyone's voice gets heard.

Which of these two situations sounds more like your current relationships? Do you and your partner(s) take extra care to consider each other's needs and feelings, or do you insist on having your way regardless of the consequences? During arguments, do you try to force your partner to see it your way, or do you try to work towards a solution that satisfies you both?

Think for a moment about how you conduct yourself in your relationships, and examine whether you are behaving in a way that shows love. How might you make more effort to ensure your partners' needs are met and their voices are heard?

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Why I Loathe Reductionist Science

An article recently made the rounds in social media circles, called "There's No Such Thing as Everlasting Love (According to Science)," which can be found here: http://www.theatlantic.com/sexes/archive/2013/01/theres-no-such-thing-as-everlasting-love-according-to-science/267199/.

I'm no fan of this article. My main complaint with it, and with other publications of its ilk, is its reduction of the human experience to chemical release or electrical patterns in the brain and body.

As both a scientist and a human being, this offends me. I can know that I undergo a flood of dopamine, seratonin, and oxytocin while cuddling with someone after sex, but that absolutely doesn't describe my experience of post-coital snuggles. These bodily functions are definitely a portion of the experience, and it can be good to know what occurs in the brain and body during intimacy, but to reduce the entirety of our experience of abstract concepts like love, happiness, or contentment to a purely physiological description is incomplete and ridiculous.

I have, in moments of bliss while snuggling in my loved ones' arms, enjoyed deep feelings of connection, contentment, relaxation, and hope. With some partners, these feelings have been buoyed by the knowledge that these people were objectively good to and for me: they were kind, generous, loyal, and respectful. My biologically-based emotions were exponentially reinforced by the thought that this was a good experience, building something lasting and important with someone very worthwhile.

I have also had enjoyable feelings while sharing moments with people I knew would not stay in my life: a feeling of connection as a group who will never meet again all share a joke, a palpable feeling of simultaneous experience of a great live show with an enthusiastic audience. They were wonderful experiences, but I would never call that love, or claim to be in love with those relative strangers. The very idea that you can have "moments of falling in love" with people you hardly know cheapens the experience of what we think of as love.

For me, love is a complex, subjective, exceptional experience that cannot happen quickly or fleetingly. I am certain that no one else has my experience of love, just as much as I know my love with one person isn't the same as my love with another. Each love I feel--for my mother, my boyfriends, my friends, my pets--is unique.

There are things science can't explain, and I don't mean gods or supernatural phenomena. I mean our human experience of life, the abstract concepts we all understand but have difficulty defining: love, joy, heartache, hope, peace, determination. I am not even interested in a physical or physiological explanation of these things. When my idea of hope differs from yours, how can an fMRI possibly explain what happens when we feel it? How does it help anyone to know when their amygdala is involved in sensory processing? What relevance does my knowledge of neurotransmitter release have on my experience of it?

I do realize that understanding for the sake of understanding is a worthwhile endeavor, and that identifying outlying individuals who may be deficient in a certain neurotransmitter or brain function can be important for treating mental illness. But to observe a brain in an MRI and call its readout "love" is to cast aside what truly makes us human: our narrative of our own lives.