Frangipani

Polyamory, bisexuality and maybe even some atheism

Privilege, or Why Douchebags on Dating Sites don’t Bother Me January 15, 2014

I’m lucky.

I am really very lucky.

I’ve been hearing a lot about online dating in the last few months. Everything from how American race relations translate into who gets contacted most, and by whom, to how many men don’t seem to care if a woman is an asshole, so long as she’s pretty, to a man finding out for himself the muck women have to wade through out there has been discussed recently and there’s lots more to come.

There’s a lot of truth to what those articles say. I’ve had a profile on a fairly popular and poly-friendly site for over six years now. It’s had at least some role in making my relationships happen, and I’ve also made some very cool people through it, so I like it quite a bit.

But I also get hate mail. In my case, most of it isn’t sexual so much as just plain hostile. Men (always, exclusively men – often American and on average about 10-20 years older than me) have told me that:

  • I am sexist against men
  • I’m doing feminism wrong
  • I’m too aggressive
  • I’m uppity
  • I’m the perfect example of the worst kind of woman in the world
  • I am too pretty to need such a long profile
  • I am confusing because pretty and aggressive don’t go together
  • I am confusing because aggressive profiles and polite responses don’t go together
  • I am never going to get laid

Generally, I find these messages really funny. Sometimes I bait the guy into an exchange that unravels him, other times I just block and delete him. I’ve only reported a person once, and that was an actual threat (albeit a toothless one).

So why am I lucky?

Because I get to be the kind of person whose profile elicits such responses. And I get to be the kind of person who finds such reactions funny.

I got a message a little while ago from a man in another country that brought this point home to me. In an exchange which began with him expressing complete bafflement at my existence because, in his experience, women were cagey and dishonest about what they wanted, I ended up laying out why exactly he found me so ‘unusual’.

A) I’m not.

B) What is unusual, perhaps, is that I feel free enough and secure enough to actually express myself clearly, at least as far as what I want from a profile on a dating website is concerned. And where does this security and freedom that some men can’t seem to stand come from? Honestly? It has a lot to do with the men in my life, starting with my father and all the way on up to my current partners and friends.

I wrote a few years ago about suddenly becoming aware of the protective cloak the men in my life afford me – this is similar, but here we’re talking about emotional safety as well.

Now, I’m certainly not saying that all the good things in my life are exclusively the result of my relationships with men. People who fit under the category of ‘men’ have also harassed, undermined, insulted, threatened, stalked, attacked, and sexually assaulted me, and  Schrodinger’s rapist looms just as large in my life as in that of most other women. Similarly, some of the best, most supportive, liberating, dependable and downright brilliant people in my life have been, and are, women.

But what I am saying is that the kind of people, particularly male-type people, I have in my life inoculate me from the effects of a lot of (also mostly male) asshattery. I’m sure some of my cussedness is innate, but I’m also fairly certain that it could have been warped or knocked out of me altogether under different circumstances. The fact that I can face the world head on despite all the shit that’s out there is not because I’m special but because, on balance, I have the privilege of not having most of that shit in my actual life.

In one of my responses to Mr Baffled, after he whined about how he’s a nice guy and why won’t women just trust him, I wrote:

No, all men are not the same, but do you really think women have an infinite number of chances to find someone who they can trust? By the second or third betrayal, it’s quite possible that the woman’s reputation and spirit and self esteem has been so thoroughly shredded that she’s not going to be able to keep trying. By then, yes, it is much easier and safer to just pretend to be a robot and go through the motions and never, ever open up. This is horrible and I wish it didn’t happen, but it does. Being annoyed at women for being victims of it is pointless.

And no, being ‘shy’ is not women’s nature. It is something that they are taught to be to survive. Which should also give you a clue as to the role they are expected to play. Again, only very lucky women get to actually be able to show that they are not ‘shy’ and not be punished for it by their immediate cohort. Rest assured there are still plenty of people out there who would love to punish me for being this open, but fortunately the people closest to me can protect me to a degree. That’s the reality.

and later, after a ‘but you did it’:

Knowing I was safe came first. Then I tested it. Found I was still safe. Tested it some more. Women don’t spring fully formed out of the blue. They’re taught how to behave, just as men are and they’re taught what’s required of them, just like men are. Sadly, most women are taught that if they ever let men see them as human beings who are less than perfect, not only will nobody love them, they will be treated like dirt. To make matters worse, men and women are also taught that if a woman strays from societal expectations, they have the right to treat her like dirt. SOME people decide that this is wrong and stupid and if they happen to be the ones a woman comes across, then maybe she can start to express herself, but all the while, the knowledge that there are people out there ready to harm her if they get the chance is still there.

That’s what I mean when I say I’m not unusual – I’m pretty certain that I’m part of  a decent cohort. What is unusual is that I have men in my life who think societal expectations of men and women are largely a load of horseshit and who have the mettle to do things their own way while also not being threatened by my doing the same. To my mind, that is as it should be, but even that assumption is a privilege, for which I am grateful.

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“I’m so jealous!” November 17, 2011

Filed under: Communication,Polyamory — Araliya @ 10:08 am
Tags: ,

Mini-rant time.

I really hate it when person A describes a holiday or food or a fun activity to person B who didn’t participate and the latter responds with “I’m so jealous!” or “I hate you!” or “You suck!”

Mostly, the person making these statements doesn’t actually harbor any ill-will towards person A, and is only trying to indicate that the activity in question is something they like and wish they could do too. I don’t have a problem with that bit. I do have a problem with the phrasing though, because it’s such a negative way to express yourself. To me, it sounds like you’re saying you’re the center of the universe and how dare somebody else get to do something you don’t? Why not just a ‘good for you’ or ‘that’s so great’ or ‘have fun’ or ‘you deserve it’? I know in most cases the person who says ‘I’m so jealous’ probably feels all those things. Why not say them instead of something negative-sounding?

I suppose the j-word particularly irks me, specially in the poly context where we’ve actively worked to process and understand jealousy. You could argue that trivializing it in this way helps de-fang it – it’s just a word – and, intellectually, I’d probably agree. Generally, its use every now and then isn’t a big deal. But lately it seems that it’s being used ALL the freaking time, to the point that person A in the example above will now say ‘I’m doing such-and-such. Aren’t you jealous?’ or ‘Ooh x! B is going to be SO jealous!’ and I really don’t like it.

As if the value of whatever one is doing exists only so long as someone else is not getting to do it or someone else indicates their approval of it by saying it’s worth being jealous of. Something about that stinks.
 

Annoyed. September 28, 2011

I’m going to have to think carefully about this.

So I met this person. Or rather, this person met me and decided they were interested. I didn’t object – they’re cute and sweet and only here for a short time, so why not?

This person is not polyamorous, but knows all about me and my setup and says they’re willing to give it a shot. We’ve talked a lot, met a few times, things are good.

Except that even at this early stage, I’m having flashbacks to my relationship with A and the thoughtless things he did when it came to dating other people. I have no expectations with this new person and am frankly happy that they’re meeting other people and having a good time at it. If nothing else, it takes the pressure off me since I don’t feel like their only source of entertainment.

And yet…I don’t know. I don’t suspect any ill-will, but in describing new and exciting people, I can’t help but hear an indictment of myself. If other people are too interesting to be interested in them, then what does that say about someone who IS interested? Like A, I don’t think they’ve thought their statement through and unlike with A, we’re not even in a relationship of any kind so I don’t get why I feel vaguely ill when they say that.

But I do.

With A, I eventually spoke up and informed him that saying crap like that was insulting to me. With this person, I don’t feel like I have any business saying something like that. We kid around, flirt, talk about random crap and that’s it. So they think somebody else is exciting. So what? So do I.

I guess I feel like they’re hedging their bets and I don’t like not knowing where I stand. I also suspect that the comments are not as innocent as A’s – this person has given me reason to believe they’re a whole lot more savvy than A ever was about this stuff. But then again, maybe it’s just me projecting my own insecurities on someone who’s only sharing how they feel because I’ve been happy to listen so far.

Upon further thought, I’ve decided that next time something like this comes up, I will point out the implied criticism in the statement, but with the assumption that it was unintentional. Hopefully a simple ‘ouch’ will suffice.

And if that doesn’t work, it’s off to the reject pile for this one.

 

(Sorta-)Meta-post June 27, 2011

Filed under: Communication,Polyamory — Araliya @ 2:13 pm
Tags: ,

I was listening to Polamory Weekly the other day, which I do about as often as Minx can put up new podcasts. She’s currently revisiting her favorite episodes from the past, with the most recent one, #277 featuring an interview with Franklin Veaux from July 2007. The whole podcast and interview are excellent, but the bit that resonated most with me was when Franklin said that he felt NRE (new relationship energy) was an obstacle to really getting to know a person and, as such, something to wait out before one could get to the good stuff. Minx disagreed to a degree, presenting what I think is the more usual view of NRE as a blissful stage to be enjoyed.

I don’t think she’s wrong, but what Franklin said echoes my own view better. Personally, I don’t trust NRE. I enjoy it, certainly – the giddiness, the butterflies in the stomach, the obsession, the very high highs and the crazy hot sex. But all the while it’s happening, I know that I’m not being rational and that I should avoid making any long-term decisions until it wears off.  This isn’t a bad thing, really. I think, in a way, knowing that the rush will wear off makes me savor it all the more. But, like Franklin said, this isn’t the real ‘good stuff’.

For me, it’s what happens when the chemical rush wears off that really matters. Sometimes, the fog clears and you realize that the person causing it is someone you genuinely like, get along with, want to be with and can build a relationship with. Sometimes, not so much.

Neither result is fundamentally bad, really, but for me, the real relationship begins after the NRE ends. It’s when you’ve regained control of your faculties that you can make a real decision regarding how, or even whether, you want to proceed with a relationship.

Of course, if it turns out the person is every bit as awesome as I thought they were, I can’t help feeling a little smug in a I-knew-it-all-along sort of way. I’m only human.

And it doesn’t make it any less sad when a potential relationship doesn’t work out. Just because I have a macro lens in my head doesn’t mean I don’t actually feel all the emotions I’m going through at the time. I just also have a bird’s eye view of the process as it happens. FSM knows it doesn’t stop me being stupid about it all, hence the no-major-decisions rule.

The reason I’m thinking about all of this, aside from having listened to the podcast, is that I broke up with NP this week. Chalk that up to the NRE wearing off and us realizing we speak completely different languages, relationship-wise. I am not sure when exactly I’ll get the many many crossed wires straightened out enough to actually process it. At the moment, it feels more like it’s still spitting little sparks of “oh so that’s what they meant when they said x” and “so they thought y meant z – no wonder”.  What a mess.

 

The Gentle ‘No’ May 5, 2011

Filed under: Communication,Polyamory,Relationships — Araliya @ 5:59 pm
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Reading my last post over, I realize that I really need to learn the art of the gentle No. I am good at ignoring people and I am good at annihilating them. I am absolutely useless, however, at addressing a minor irritation. I don’t know how to simply say, ‘Hey, that kind of sucked. Please don’t do it again.’ To my ears, that always sounds like I’m telling someone off. It’s not nice to be checked and it can be a bit of a bummer, but it shouldn’t ruin the whole day, should it? Or must it? A reasonable adult can, if addressed the right way, simply take on board that that little thing they just did is kind of a no-no for you and simply make a mental note to refrain from doing it around you. Can’t they? I’d like to think that I can, and, if I can do it, certainly anybody should be able to do it. Right?

But reasonable as it may sound in my head, I don’t know how to actually do it. Instead, I put up with minor annoyances until I can’t stand them any more. At that point, my desire to not hurt the person annoying me gets outweighed by my irritation, and I let fly, often with far more force than the original annoyance warranted, often damaging the relationship irreparably. This is bad.

I need to find a way to flag things before they become problems. Often, it’s hard to spot, what with it being a tiny thing here, a little overstepping there. Or, if I do spot it, it’s hard to bring attention to without making it a huge deal.

I’ve thought of various ways I could soften the ‘no’. There’s the ‘Honey, I love you, but could you please not do that?’ or ‘Hey you know, that thing you did wasn’t cool. Not a big deal, but just, yeah, could you not do it again please?’ or the ‘me’ statement approach ‘I don’t like such and such much, so if we could avoid that, that’d be really nice.’ or even ‘Hey, when I hear that kind of thing, I feel …’ with perhaps a few bits of ‘I know you don’t mean it that way/wouldn’t do something deliberately’ thrown in for good measure. I don’t know if those are actually good statements or not – they’re just what have come to mind. I  like the advice I got once of focusing on what the person did rather than making it about who they are, and I’ve tried to do that in the statements above. I have yet to use any of them though.

What I think I’d like, really, is a warning sign. I’d like to be able to say, ‘Hey, what you just did is not a big deal, but if it gets any worse, we’re going to have a problem.’  Does that sound like I’m picking  a fight? It does to my ears, so I don’t use it.

Lather, rinse, repeat.

 

“Mine!” September 27, 2010

Filed under: Communication,Polyamory — Araliya @ 12:23 am
Tags: ,

I was horsing around with a lover and pretending to run away when she grabbed me around the waist, pulled me back down, wrapped her arms around me and said “No! Mine!” I laughed, turned around to muss her hair and then ran away again. The cat decided to join me. It was silly and fun.

But it got me thinking about that word. Mine. I’ve been with people who have a serious allergy to it. Any accidental outburst of the kind is always tempered with “at the moment”, or “well, partially”, or, even worse, an apology for not resisting the social programming that says we automatically own those we sleep with. For one person, that resistance meant he was never able to be fully present in a relationship. Instead, there was always a reminder that I was one of many, particularly if any reference was made to my being the partner he saw most frequently. It seemed, at least in his case, that giving up on the idea of ownership meant keeping everyone at arm’s length.

I found – and continue to find – that ridiculous. I get that nobody owns anyone – or shouldn’t anyway. I get that everyone involved is an autonomous adult capable of making their own decisions and taking care of themselves. What I don’t get is why that means you can’t give yourself fully in the moment. I have no doubt that when she said “mine!”, my lover was not staking a claim so much as accessing the vocabulary we use to express affection. In English, much of that vocabulary has at least a tinge of ownership to it. And why not? After all, love and affection is one of the ways in which we form families and identify those who belong in our individual inner circles. It’s how we choose who we want around to take care of us when we can’t do it ourselves. It’s how we decide to step in and support or take care of those who can’t do it for themselves for the time being. It’s why we get angry or upset when someone hurts someone we care about. It’s why we want to protect people, even as we let them fight their own battles.

We are fundamentally self-referential creatures. We assign value to things according to how important they are to us. Every choice we have the freedom to make, from what we like to eat to how we dress to whether and what we drive, where and how we live, etc., is based on what we think is important. It’s always about us. In that light, referring to someone as ‘mine’ in jest is hardly a big deal, particularly in the context of a healthy polyamorous relationship.

I also got to thinking how we are different people in different relationships. Just as we change the way we speak, if only a little bit, according to the company in which we happen to be, each relationship enables us to express an aspect of ourselves that that particular relationship fosters. I’m not saying we switch personalities entirely. I may be more confident here, more silly there, more awkward elsewhere, but I’m basically the same person regardless of who I’m with.

What I am saying is that each person we meet and interact with develops a particular view of us depending on how we behave together. At their best, our long term relationships remind us of our values, who we are, and who we want to be. In each of our friends and loved ones exists a record of who we are to them.  For one friend, I am the person who listens to her problems and suggests what she can do to fix them, while for another I am the person he can talk to freely about his work. In one relationship, I am the nurturer, while in another I am the person being taken care of and fussed over. I am always me, but, depending on who I am with, the connection is dependent on different aspects of myself. Because of that, I think that the particular me in each of those relationships does ‘belong’ in some way to the person who inspires it in the first place, but not in any restrictive way. Instead, I feel that each relationship expands and challenges me in ways I never would have expected, all of which keeps me from complacency in all my relationships.

So for me, a friend or lover who respects my autonomy referring to me as theirs is simply a mark of affection and acceptance. It means that they identify with me, or identify me with themselves, in some way. It means they are putting themselves on the line and saying ‘This is how important you are. Am I that important to you?’ And even if it is just for that moment, I say yes, you are. Because right now, you are just as precious and just as much mine.

 

Restricting Language December 24, 2008

Filed under: Communication,Polyamory — Araliya @ 10:17 am
Tags: ,

Sometimes I find language incredibly confining, particularly when expressing affection. It’s all very well when you’re speaking directly to the object of your affection, but when you speak in the same manner about them with another partner, it’s hard not to sound like you’re making comparisons. It seems the more affectionate you get, the more exclusive you sound. If, when speaking to S, I say something affectionate about  A, I immediately feel that I have to reassure S that I do love her as well because the I find that the language I have access to implies exclusivity of affection even though I mean no such thing.

As a result of this, I rarely discuss my feelings about one partner with the others*. If I did, I think I’d probably have to establish first of all that anything I said about my feeling for the partner in question has no bearing on my feelings for the partner with whom I’m speaking. That sounds tedious, but it’s something I think I need to bring up with my partners anyway, and with some more than others. I don’t know if I’m just being paranoid though. Nobody’s actually brought up that they feel threatened or insecure – it’s just a feeling I get  when, in the presence of one partner, I address another partner with an endearment that I’ve used for the former, or with an endearment that I use only with the other partner. Either way, the (usually innocuous) word suddenly seems laden not just with affection but with all this other meaning, all of which could be construed as detrimental to my relationship with the partner listening in.

Am I overthinking this?

*I generally do not discuss my partners, beyond incidental stuff, with anyone at all because I think that would be a breach of privacy.