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.

 

Things I Don’t Get October 10, 2011

When discussing polyamory, be it on a forum, mailing list or the comments following an article in the MSM on the subject, someone inevitably brings up the ‘well I suppose it’s ok for men but women would have a hard time with it.’ The reasons given for said ‘hard time’ are generally along the lines of:

a) women don’t like sex as much as men and so having two or more men to ‘satisfy’ is difficult for the poor little darlings

or

b)men are horndogs but women like fidelity and get ragingly jealous (extra points for the ‘hell hath no fury’ line) so the idea of their men having other partners would drive women out of their minds

I’ve never understood that particular (set of) argument(s). I mean, let’s talk basic genital biology for a second. Men need a helluva lot more time to recover from orgasm than women do. Now, there’s lots of individual variation, but technically speaking, I can totally see how a woman could have sex with two men consecutively, but I have a harder time seeing how a man would manage to get it up without a break (or ‘medical’ intervention). Even allowing for an extremely short refractory period, superb health and preternatural horniness, and all of them coinciding, we’d still be talking about a very small number of men.

And let’s be clear here. In these conversations,  sex is usually assumed as men wanting to stick their penises into women. Personally, I think sex encompasses far more than that, but I have yet to come across someone concern trolling about, for instance, all those poor women who struggle to satisfy their male partners’ need for cunnilingus all day, every day. Something tells me that the oft-lamented female distaste for sex – if it exists at all – may have more to do with men being rubbish at it than women not liking it. I mean, I love chocolate cake, but if you screw up the recipe,  I won’t want to eat it, you know?

As for b), I’d like to point to the societal imperative placed on both men and women to mark their territory when it comes to sexual partners. For women, the competition is meant to be more passive – we have to be more attractive/alluring than the competition in the hope that our men will continue to choose us over them. For men, the competition is meant to be – and can become – much more active and aggressive. Take this ad, for example:

Yes, it’s very silly, but that silliness speaks to how normal we find it for men to be violent towards other men when competing for a woman’s affections. (Note also that nobody asked the woman in question who she would prefer. Her job is to stand there, look pretty and be the prize.)

This doesn’t mean that jealousy doesn’t happen between women by any means. It just means that people constructing women as exclusively jealous are basically just talking out of their asses. People get jealous. Some people get extremely jealous, and some only mildly, if at all, and all of them are normal. Besides which, jealousy isn’t some sort of permanent, inescapable state. If you’re a mature adult, odds are you can figure your shit out and deal with it successfully, or at the very least try to.

So not only is b) yet another example of the gender essentialism that plagues our societies but it also infantilises women by implying that they can’t act like adults and deal with their jealousy, should they encounter it in the first place.

But of course, these people don’t mean any harm. They’re just looking out for us poor females because gosh we’re so silly to think we can keep up with the manly men and their manliness.

*eyeroll*

 

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.

 

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.

 

Trouble

Filed under: Polyamory,Relationships,Sex — Araliya @ 5:37 pm
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I’m having trouble, dear Internets, with a partner who seems to have become too clingy and with whom I seem unable to communicate.

At first, as is usually the case, things were lovely. We spent tons of time together, couldn’t get enough of each other, couldn’t wait to see each other again.

I should have seen the problem coming though. While I did definitely get swept away, I continued seeing my other partners regularly. I may have been a bit quiet and a bit tired when we got together, but I like to think that they know I love them regardless of my energy levels. I suppose it helps that they’re introverted and have generally lower energy levels than I do anyway.

My new partner, on the other hand, did not have the same kind of relationships. NP’s partner was both glad of the time off and expected to feel rejected and lonely at times, because hey, that’s what happens when your partner starts a new relationship. Consequently, NP had all this time for me and while I made time for NP, I was aware that at some point I’d have to get back to work.

My fault. NP was sometimes hostile towards my work, and I’d let it slide. This was new and, I thought, not a real problem. H had been there since before the project started, and S had come in at the very beginning. Both of them have always been supportive and have always understood that sometimes, my work means I can’t spend time with them, can’t get to things I said I’d get to, or simply can’t pull myself out of work and engage day-to-day stuff. They are awesome about it. Rather than give me flak about being absent, I get praise and support for working, getting stuff done, etc. While it’s hard for me to be without them – or be with them while not really being there – and I’m guessing it is for them too at times, it is something they accept and work around. They have plenty else to keep themselves occupied, be it other partners, work, or their other myriad interests.

NP has other interests, but doesn’t seem keen on any of them. The Relationship seems to be it. And that is a big problem, because I simply can’t give it and NP the amount of time and energy that seems to be required. It’s just not possible – or at least, not sustainable in the long term.

It is also now that the sex-induced haze has lifted that I am starting to wonder what kind of staying power the relationship has. I am beginning to think that our admittedly amazing ability to communicate sexually does not actually translate to the other areas of our lives. We seem at cross purposes so often when it comes to talking about  things, mostly because NP’s model for communication seems mostly composed of hints and subtext and guilt trips, while mine tends more towards jus saying what you mean and being as honest as possible about why you want what you do. It’s not that NP’s fundamentally dishonest or that I am fundamentally honest or the ‘better person’ or any of that. NP’s other relationship has been going for a long time and that is their primary mode of communication. It seems to work well enough for them, so even though it would drive me completely insane, I can’t really say it’s any worse than what I do.

But as I said, it does drive me completely insane when I run into it. I don’t think it is appropriate for an adult to scold another adult, I don’t think it is ok to guilt people into doing things, I don’t think it is realisitic to expect people to know what you want without being told or reminded, and I definitely don’t think it is ok to be passive aggressive. And yet, not only do I have to deal with some of this, I am expected to behave in this way. This means that some of the things I say or the questions I ask are read as passive-aggressive or controlling or guilting when there is no such intent behind them. This means that the response I get to such questions are therefore fake apologies or sarcasm or other nastiness instead of a straightforward response. Since I don’t expect all this crap, I get thrown off and wonder what went wrong, why NP is upset or feeling attacked or attacking me. It fucks with my head.

I don’t know what to do, really. We’ve had a couple of talks about the whole communication style thing and NP’s taken on board the fact that I don’t do manipulation and passive-aggression. It’s not totally ok yet, but NP’s making an effort and has started to see where and why our conversations go off the rails.

But the clinginess. What do I do about that? Showing up at my place unannounced, showing up at my workplace unannounced, showing up when I’m working from home…it all makes me very uncomfortable. I don’t want NP to feel unwelcome in my home, but sometimes I really want my keys back. I live with H and my home is our space. S is welcome in it, as are her partners, my friends and other family are welcome, and NP is too, but all the time? And without warning? I feel completely at home in S’s house, but I wouldn’t just let myself in uninvited and sit there all day.

I know I’m making NP sound creepy, and that’s not what I actually think. I’m just irritated that my spaces are not being respected and that I am not being left the hell alone to do my work or just be alone. I wouldn’t put up with this in a monogamous relationship, and yet here I am struggling with it in a poly relationship.

At least I’ve learnt something. Once upon a time, I thought that constant, unregulated contact with someone I loved wouldn’t be so bad. I was very, very wrong.

 

The Golden Retriever of Love May 3, 2011

Filed under: Figuring it out,People,Relationships — Araliya @ 12:50 pm
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If you haven’t come across her yet, know this: Captain Awkward rocks.

Her latest post, in which she tries to help a reader cope with her anxiety around a budding relationship, is both hilarious and actually very good advice. It cracked me up because I recognize myself in both the question and the answer, saw how silly it all was, and realized I was probably not going to get over the silliness any time soon.

Her two very practical suggestions are, well, very practical:

  1. I  would resist, at this stage, getting all up in each other’s Social Media.  It’s too easy to obsess, and the more potential points of contact you have the more tempted you are to use all of them at once (or feel ignored via all of them at once).
  2. Tell your loins to chill out.  People have lives and when they meet someone great it sometimes takes some rearranging to have enough time to really incorporate a new dating partner.  If you go a week or two without a date, that is normal and okay.  It means he is a person with a life and he had plans, and you want someone to have a life.  If you go two weeks without any contact at all, not even a quick text, THEN you are allowed to feel crazy, okay?
I’m guessing most people already know this on some level, but seeing it articulated can be helpful nonetheless.
Anyway, go read the whole post.
 

Coming back around May 1, 2011

The loop seems to be completing itself again. I’m no longer ‘off’ men. Don’t get me wrong, even when I’m off them, there are usually a few I still find appealing. But for the last few weeks (months? This stuff sneaks up on me.) my brain has stopped dismissing the thought of having sex with a man  as utterly boring. Instead, I’ve dwelt on it, thought about who and what and where and all that, and it’s started to sound like a good idea again. Not, mind you, that I am no longer interested in women. I think I’ve established that women are my primary interest. I just think I’m secure enough in that now to glance over to the other ‘side’ without worrying about all the things I used to worry about.

It’s a nice space to be in, actually. I think a lot of my resistance to men is actually a resistance to the scripts and patterns I end up following. I don’t like feeling like I ‘have’ to occupy a specific role – here that of ‘the girl’ – so that the other person can play theirs. I’m generally not a fan of the gender binary anyway, and things that reinforce it annoy me. Relationships with straight, cisgender men when one is a cisgender woman pretty much IS a working model of the gender binary. You see my problem.

But, I tell myself, my relationship with H doesn’t follow the standard. Yes he is a cis man and I am a cis woman, but that tells you nothing about our relationship. So why can’t I just repeat that? There are plenty of straight men out there who don’t buy the hypermasculine, macho crap and are able to instead be decent human beings who just happen to occupy male bodies. All I have to do is stick to those – which if I’m honest, has not proved terribly difficult – and avoid the chest-thumpers.

Right?

 

Poly Lessons May 17, 2010

Filed under: Polyamory,Relationships,Sex — Araliya @ 7:47 pm
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Gleaned first hand from the past few years of being poly and in no order other than the one in which they occurred to me:

  1. It’s a cliche, but communication really is key. This doesn’t mean you have to jabber on incessantly about every passing feeling, but check in. Touch base. Ask your partners how they’re doing every now and then and then listen to what they say.
  2. Related to the above, different people have different communication needs. Figure out what yours are and ask your partners what theirs are. Work out some sort of middle ground if they don’t match.
  3. Tell your partners you appreciate them. Tell your metamours. Tell your friends too. Nobody likes to be taken for granted.
  4. You don’t lose anything by being honest and truthful. Sure some things may be hurtful or it may be the wrong time to bring them up – hanging on to stuff till you work it out is fine if that’s how you function – but if they start to weigh on you or affect your relationships, talk.
  5. Poly friends are a blessing.
  6. “Jealousy is all the fun you think they had.” (From Erica Jong’s How to Save Your Own Life)
  7. Try to find a local poly discussion group or community. It may not be your cup of tea and you may only end up going once before you run screaming, but you’ll still have gained two things:
    a. the knowledge that other people out there are just as weird, if not weirder, than you, and
    b.  some understanding of what you don’t (and therefore eventually do) want from your life/relationships.
  8. Monogamous friends who get your poly lifestyle or at least take it in their stride are awesome.
  9. Online calendars, like Google’s, are a great way to organize your time and to let your people know your availability and commitments.
  10. Different people have different needs and expectations. Ask.
  11. When you’re with someone, be with them. Time and attention are pretty much the most valuable things you can offer someone and being distracted or spending ages on the phone/reading your mail/chatting with someone else online, etc. is just rude. Barring an emergency or routine checking in, try to minimize interruptions.
  12. If you have to cancel on one partner because of another partner’s availability, be up front about it and reschedule rather than leaving them hanging.
  13. When a partner cancels on you because they’re ill or busy with work, you might want to think carefully before calling them the following day and telling them how it was for the best because you hooked up with so-and-so.
  14. The woman or man you are with is not a carbon copy of that other woman or man you happen(ed) to be with. Learn to appreciate the differences between individuals.
  15. A corollary to the above: when the person you’re in bed with objects or otherwise indicates a dislike for something you just did, the appropriate response is not “but all the other people I’ve been with really like it.”
  16. If your partners are or become friends, they will eventually share embarrassing stories about you or commiserate about what a bed hog/tease/bossyboots/etc. you are. This is not a bad thing.
  17. That said, not all your partners will be BFFs. This is also not a bad thing.
  18. You will not become instant best friends with all your metamours either, but there’s no harm being cordial.
  19. Metamours you do bond with can be and incredible source of support and friendship.
  20. Yes, people fall for metamours. This is not the end of the world, but at some point you need to decide what you want to do about it because whatever you do has the potential to change all three relationships.
  21. You do not have to ‘prove’ your poly-ness by having sex with people you don’t really want to have sex with, or by participating in kinds of sex you do not want to/aren’t comfortable participating in.
  22. Following on from that, one of the greatest things about polyamory is that, because you no longer have to choose one relationship over another, with all the attendant pressure and drama of that decision, you can assess the merits of each relationship far more calmly and act from a more rational than emotionally desperate position.
  23. Cuddle piles are awesome.

That’s all I can think of for now. Any suggestions?

 

Pass Go. Collect $200. January 8, 2009

Filed under: Polyamory,Relationships — Araliya @ 9:56 am
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Happy 2009, people.

I always feel one should have something terribly profoud to say at this time but I can’t quite bring myself to wax lyrical about the newness of the new year and all that because you know as well as I do that once the tipsy excitement of it all wears off, you’re going to go right back to living mostly just as you were before the year changed. Luckily for me though, that’s still pretty good. Way better than the beginning of 2008, when I was insecure and lost and frustrated and all those other nasties. While life is rarely completely free of such things, there are other things – love, work, friendship, community – that can mitigate their effect and those things I have received in handsome measure over the past year. So even though most of them do not read this blog, I still want to thank my loves, H, A, and S, for being in my life and for teaching me so much about life, love, relationships and how not to screw it all up. Here’s hoping that this year is just as exciting as the last for them and for everyone reading this.