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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Things I’ve Learned March 20, 2012

I’m sure I mentioned this in an earlier post, but men have become more appealing of late. I think that comes from having sorted out a lot of my shit in that department and having come to understand and accept my kinks and inclinations.

For instance, I wondered if, in being drawn to being dominant towards men, I was simply reacting to the submissive-by-default status of women in what little BDSM I had previously been exposed to as well as, well, the world in general. I wondered if wanting to hurt them was perhaps more a political thing than a personal thing and maybe, deep down, I really didn’t want to do it at all. I know that my reaction to being struck, dominated, etc. is almost immediately aggressive and potentially violent in just about any context, and that should have been a clue, but such is the power of suggestion and conformity. It’s just so much easier (at least in theory) for a woman to be submissive that when you’re not, you’re left second-guessing yourself. At least I was.

Then I met a woman with whom I had amazing chemistry and whose libido was about as strong as mine. We spent at least the first three months fucking like our lives depended on it at every single opportunity. The funny thing about all that sex is that it didn’t really help us get to know each other all that well as people, but it certainly helped both of us get to know ourselves an awful lot better.

I can’t write about what she learned, but for my part, I found out that I really do like running the show. I really do like impact play. I really DON’T like being on the receiving end of impact play, but trying it and finding out was actually pretty fun anyway, and I only really concluded that it wasn’t for me afterwards. I don’t mind hurting women or dominating them, though I much prefer things to even out in the end. I get off on hurting people in ways they like. I get off on playing with people’s bodies and figuring out what works for them and what freaks them out (in a good way). I don’t mind tying people up, but I much prefer simply not allowing them to move. I love the feel, smell and weight of a whip in my hand. I love just using my hands. I love using my mouth, and especially my teeth.

And, at the same time, I learnt that a lot of the stuff that freaked me out or that I didn’t like the idea of wasn’t all that scary after all. I may not like it, but that’s ok. I have the right to not like things. But it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. It did not shatter my idea of who I was. It did not make me a bad person. It was just…stuff.

For a while, I thought it was weird that sex with a woman should help me sort out stuff about sex with men. Eventually, it dawned on me that, duh, it’s not that different. I feel safer with women in general, but I felt particularly safe with her, at least sexually, and that allowed me to let go and experiment with stuff that, in the past, I’d been far too wound up to even think of trying. I’d thought for the longest time that it just took me longer to trust men than women sexually, but really, it was me I didn’t trust. I was afraid that despite what I really wanted, I would simply freeze and then revert to the handy-dandy little  he-Tarzan, me-Jane script when dealing with a man.

*lightbulb*

I don’t have to do that. Or, if I really feel like it, I can do exactly that. The key is figuring out what I want at the time and articulating it and then letting the response be about the other person and not me.

And the end result is that while that relationship may have gone south, it’s left me in a much better place. I’ve actually started to notice men and to find lots of them sexy without knowing the first thing about them. I know most people will think that’s perfectly normal, but it has rarely, if ever, happened to me.

Now to figure out what to do about it.

 

Trouble May 5, 2011

Filed under: Polyamory,Relationships,Sex — Araliya @ 5:37 pm
Tags: , ,

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.

 

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?

 

“Kinky” February 19, 2011

Filed under: Definitions,Kink,Sex,Sexuality — Araliya @ 10:55 pm
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I have a confession. I’m profoundly uncomfortable with the word ‘kinky’. I’m just not sure what it means. I admit, the word elicits some immediate images: leather, bondage, sharp things, etc., but I also know that they are the result of the media’s representation of the term, as well as what some (but not all) self-identifying kinky people like to do.

The word itself seems to mean ‘twisted’ or ‘perverted’ and though, by extension, that can be taken positively to imply something exciting, I have a knee-jerk negative reaction to the word because it sounds pejorative. I realize this in no way bothers the vast numbers of kinky folk out there, and it really shouldn’t. It’s just a label and as such cannot fully encompass every individual’s experience.

My problem is I don’t really get why anything anyone likes to do should be labeled as more or less ‘kinky’.

There are things I personally don’t like or that simply don’t pique my interest, but the fact that someone else likes to do them with other consenting adults doesn’t make that person, to my mind, any weirder than me or anyone else. I personally don’t like eating escargots, but I don’t find people who do like to snack on snails disgusting. People’s palates are different, right? So what’s wrong with having varying tastes when it comes to sex?

A similar problem I have is the concept of sex as something ‘naughty’ or ‘dirty’. There seems to be some sort of social code that requires us to cast things that are perfectly natural as ‘bad’, so that we can ‘protect the children’ or some such nonsense. I think kink falls under the same category. You have to believe that there is such a thing as ‘ordinary’ or ‘normal’ before you can call yourself – or anyone else – abnormal and I think that’s what I have a problem with. After the kind of life I’ve had, I have a profound mistrust of the idea that some things are ‘normal’ and others aren’t. We’re all ultimately trying to get to the same place, sure, but I don’t think anyone’s way of getting there is any more or less ‘normal’ than anyone else’s.

I’m not, by the way, arguing that there is no such thing as kink. There are clearly demarcated sexual practices that fall into that category. The analogy that works best for me is that kink is the extreme sports of sex. A reasonably large number of people are happy with a jog or a walk in the park, but another lot of people like to throw themselves off tall buildings with varying levels of frequency. I get that.

I guess where I get unsure is not the ‘clearly kink’ stuff but the stuff that one person would find ‘kinky’ and another would take as par for the course.  By the same token, I don’t get ‘vanilla’ either. Again, I get the mechanics of it, but I don’t get the value judgment that seems to go along with it. Depending on the context of the conversation, either kinky or vanilla will be used pejoratively, and that really bugs me.

The more I think – and write – about it, the more I realize that what really bothers me is the concept of shame in all this. Somewhere along the way, I seem to have broken the connection between shame and sex in my head, (I can’t remember when it was ever there, but it would be hard to grow up without some sort of negative association with sex, so I’m assuming it must have been there at some point.) but I live in a world that will either shame you for being kinky or will be open and accepting of all kinks but turn around and shame you for being vanilla instead. In both cases, shaming what you’re not seems to be a very basic way to establish that you belong in one group or the other.

Shaming people for their desires, not to put to fine a point on it, is an incredibly shitty thing to do. It damn near broke my heart when my girlfriend thanked me the other day for not making fun of what she wanted to do in bed. The way she put it, clearly someone had made fun of her and had made her feel horrible for both knowing what she wanted and articulating it. Both of which should get you praise and gratitude, not shame.

So yeah, to sum up this ramble: The word ‘kinky’ (and ‘vanilla’) sits badly with me because of the value judgment it seems to contain, particularly when it’s used as a means of shaming other people. I think that kinky and vanilla are terms that, while useful for organizing interest groups and negotiating partnerships, are best left out of actual sex.

Unless, I suppose, transgression gets you off.

Oh dear.

 

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?

 

Greta on the Radio January 27, 2009

Filed under: Atheism,People,Sex,Sexuality — Araliya @ 9:51 am
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So I’m a fan of Greta Christina, as you might have gathered by now. Here she is in an internet radio interview on the Feast of Fools podcast titled Living Outside Religion. Not only did I enjoy the discussion, which ranges from talk of atheism within the queer community and atheism in general to how to interact with sex workers (hint: treat them like human beings) and Greta’s book on the topic, I really liked her voice. This is important for me because I seem to have finicky ears and people’s voices, particularly when recorded, can grate horribly even when I like their ideas and writing. There’s no way I’d be able to sit through some of my favorite podcasts if they were 55 minutes long. But the content of this interview was made all the more enjoyable because I could listen to it without fidgeting.