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.

 

New(ish) blogs I’m reading October 12, 2011

I’ve added quite a few blogs to my blogroll and most of them fall into the kink category. Specifically, and with one exception, they are blogs by either dominant women or submissive men. Some of these, like Maybe Maimed But Never Harmed and Male Submission Art (NSFW), are blogs I’ve been following for longer than I can remember.  The others are newer finds. After Bitchy closed up shop last year and I was seriously short on the time I’d need to find another blog like that, I pretty much stopped reading anything from a dominant woman’s point of view.

That kinda sucked, now that I think about it.

Recently though, I found Clarisse Thorn via her posts on Feministe and remembered again why I liked listening to smart women talking about their sexuality, their politics and their experiences. Her excellent post dismantling the idea of inherent female submission was what really hooked me on her writing. Not only was she clear and thorough, she also linked to a whole bunch of blogs by dominant women when debunking the idea that all women are naturally submissive. That particular blog post was something of a turning point for me personally, but I’ll talk about that later.

For now I want to talk about the blogs I found through her (thank you!) and totally fell in love with.

Like Domme Chronicles, by Ferns, for instance. I wanted by now to have a few favorite posts to point to, but honestly I think it’s just better to go to the beginning and just read the blog from beginning to end. I’m not quite caught up yet (I have to work, sadly), but it’s such a pleasure to read that I find myself not minding having to put it away because that means there’s more to come back to. And while the writing alone is worth going back for, I find that hers, of all the other, similar blogs I’ve read in the past, is the one that resonates most with me.

I’ve already talked about Topologies, one of the blogs Clarisse Thorn linked to directly in her post and the starting point for my return to the world of dominant women who blog. It’s gone a bit silent over there at the moment, unfortunately, but I really enjoyed their writing and hope they’ll be back soon.

Tales of a Domme, by Dishevelled Domina  is another smart, well written blog that I like reading. Her series interviewing submissive men has been interesting and she keeps doing things like that -asking questions about aspects of BDSM that interest her (and me!) and inviting people to have thoughtful discussions about how kink ties into other things, and so on. Her tumblr (NSFW) is pretty damn awesome too.

Then there’s Stabbity at Not Just Bitchy. The blog’s only been around since June this year, but I think it moved onto my favorites list pretty much immediately. Stabbity – and let’s pause for a second to admire that handle – talks sense. Not that the others don’t, mind you, but she does it in rant form and that just warms my heart. That she (and we) have shit to rant about isn’t so great, but at least it results in good reading and discussion.

Then there’s maymay’s blog Maybe Days. It consists of shorter posts, quotes, and photos and is, like most of maymay’s work, political. That’s a broad term, but it’s hard to find a succinct way of describing someone who’s done so much and put himself out there so often for the kink community and particularly for our side, i.e. submissive men and, by association, dominant women. I know that whenever there’s an update, it’ll be something worth reading and reacting to (and usually sharing).

So in all, this is a group of smart, thoughtful, passionate people who, very fortunately for the interwebs and the kinky people on it, happen to blog. I’m delighted to have found my way to them.

 

Topologies July 4, 2011

I can’t believe I haven’t come across it sooner, but, now that I have, I am reading Topologies from beginning to end. I’m almost up to the most current post and since they don’t seem to post very often, I’m apprehensive about the potentially long wait till they write more, but…wow.

Briefly, the blog is about BDSM from the points of view of three “women who top/dom”. I use their phrasing since not all of them use those words as identifiers so much as descriptors for what they like to do.

The three women in question are Cal Stockton, Ivy O’Malley, and Delilah Wood (these links will take you to a list of their posts on the blog). Each one writes thoughtfully and carefully and it just makes my heart happy to read what they have to say. I love that they don’t necessarily have One Truth to impart (see their ‘Convoluted Terminologyposts, for an example.). Instead, they present their sometimes differing opinions like civilized adults (It’s a sad comment on general discussion online that such an approach stands out, but there you go.) and the discussion that arises from that is genuinely engaging and interesting.

It is also SUCH a relief to read the perspectives of dominant women (or women-who-top) from a non-pornified perspective again (it’s a word now, dammit). I loved Bitchy Jones and have missed her since she closed up shop last year. Having found more smart, feminist women who make with the ouchy-hurty AND critique general BDSM culture is awesome. And inspiring.

Also, the name makes me smirk every time. Love it.

 

“Kinky” February 19, 2011

Filed under: Definitions,Kink,Sex,Sexuality — Araliya @ 10:55 pm
Tags: , , ,

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.

 

Why Pride? February 7, 2011

Today I overheard a comment I’ve heard a few times before about the concept of Pride March. It is basically: “it’s so weird to have people cheer you for just walking down the street.”

This comment always rocks me back on my heels.

Seriously?

Just walking down the street?

I don’t know which kind of privilege it demonstrates more: the straight privilege of people who claim the queer label but who haven’t really understood how far their apparent heterosexuality gets them, or the privilege of queer folk who have inherited a world made safe for them by the generation(s) of queer people before them who took the brunt of the bashings, hate and discrimination – those who would have marched – if they had the opportunity in the first place – in an environment where doing so would have been tantamount to being sentenced to jail, a mental asylum, or the gallows.

I actually think it’s a combination of the two. Although there are some places in the world where it is mostly safe for GLBTIQ people to be visible and live as they choose freely under the same kind of legal protection afforded to straight citizens, these places are few and far between. Even in the US, in Canada, in Europe, in Australia – the ‘first’ world, or the ‘western’ world, or ‘the world that thinks itself enlightened’ – GLBTIQ people cannot assume such freedom or protection. If they do, it is usually in defiance or the norm, rather than in compliance with it. And it is usually, still, dangerous. Look at how few places allow same-sex or otherwise queer couples to marry or to adopt children or even to visit each other in hospital if one is incapacitated. Is this a world where we ever just ‘walk down the street’?

It’s not like we haven’t gained some ground. Around the developed world – and even in some places in the developing world – queer visibility means a degree of acceptance, or at the very least, tolerance. This doesn’t mean we won’t be discriminated against or that we won’t have violence done to us or our property, but it does mean that more straight people will be angry about it and that more of their number will actually attempt to help us, stand by us as allies, or at least be sympathetic to us. This is a massive move forward, even if it isn’t full equality.

I think a lot of us on the borderline of queerness – by which I mean people who still present as heterosexual no matter what our actual orientation may be – take the general increase in the social acceptability of queerness (or, let’s be honest here, the increased acceptability of gays and lesbians – the ‘BITQ’ bit of the spectrum seems to become invisible when it’s convenient – but that’s another rant for another day)and combine it with the heterosexual privilege we have access to whether we like it or not, and conclude that everything is just peachy.

It isn’t.

Every time there is a Pride march anywhere in the world, people are coming out and saying that they belong to or support a group of people who are routinely marginalized by the mainstream population and the government. They are saying, yes we know you think we are less than you, but fuck you and your privilege. Not only have we survived your hate, we’ve done it in style and we have every right to be proud of it and to be cheered in the streets for it.

Yes, Pride is a celebration of queer culture, but it has a serious side too. People today are still taking risks. What for some people may just be a fun little stroll down the street is still a big deal to many. There are still people who don’t or won’t or can’t participate because of their work or their friends or their family or their community. There are those that participate because they have a cause to promote, or because they want others like them to see them and know they’re not alone. There are those who participate because they want to be seen and counted, who participate because they want to honor the memory and work of those who have marched before as well as those who will never get the chance or will be harassed, discriminated against, attacked, bashed, and murdered for being who they are in the face of hate.

That is what those people in the crowd are cheering.

 

Safety February 2, 2011

Filed under: Bisexuality,Fear,Sexuality — Araliya @ 12:28 am
Tags: , ,

A thought has been bugging me lately. It first came to me when I was walking down a dark, deserted street with a female lover. I live in a fairly safe area and have walked down many dark streets in the company of women (and by myself) without a second thought. The only thing that was out of the ordinary was that the date in question is a butch lesbian, not a generally feminine-spectrum bisexual like me, my partner, or any of the other women I’ve been in that situation with.

For the first time ever, I was apprehensive. I looked up and down the street for movement and listened for footfalls or any signs that someone was approaching us. I saw and heard nothing and we eventually got to a better-lit section of town and onto the bus we were looking for without incident. I deliberately didn’t raise the issue with her because I recognized the source of my discomfort and I felt bad – almost guilty – about it.

Almost as soon as I felt that initial tendril of apprehension, I realized why I felt that way. It wasn’t just that she was a woman – I’m often out with women. It was the fact that she was a lesbian and in a primary relationship with another woman, and looked it. I understood in that moment both my own privilege as a feminine bisexual woman married to a man, and the formerly unconscious assumption that underpinned that privilege.

Because I have a male partner and because my female partner, S, has two male partners, all of whom are able-bodied and large, I (and S) move around in the world under a cloak of protection I had not realized I had. Obviously, their physical presence means that it is highly unlikely that I will be catcalled, harassed, or otherwise attacked except in extremely unusual circumstances. But the weird thing is that they don’t actually have to be there for that feeling of safety to persist. The fact that they exist and that my extended family includes even more men of their general type somehow confers a kind of protection on me that I only noticed when it was removed – if only in theory – that night.

The other reason I can assume that protection is that I present as heterosexual. Or rather, I don’t ‘look’ like a lesbian. My hair, my clothes, the small amount of jewelry I wear all signal ‘female’ and ‘straight’ to most heterosexuals. (Lesbians, I’m told, can spot me, but then they’re not the demographic that tends to do most of the gay bashing.) That doesn’t mean I’m immune to attack, obviously, but that combined with the way I carry myself certainly suggests that I have backup. People tend to leave me alone.

It’s not like I’ve never felt uneasy when walking home at night. It happens sometimes. But the way I deal with it is call either H or a partner or a friend and keep them on the phone with me till I get home. Even if something were to happen, I know I have people – male-type people – who will help me out one way or another, even if it is after the fact, and that gives me a sense of safety beyond the idea of police or the law or female friends.

Which is why, when walking down that street that night, I felt scared. Because had we been attacked, the fact that my date has a female partner and presents as butch means that we weren’t ‘protected’. That I present as generally feminine means something when I am alone or with a man, or even with S who presents the same way. But put me next to someone who looks like my date did and I don’t look so straight any more. And that frightened me because that meant that I had stepped outside the socially constructed roles that I had not even realized I’d swallowed whole. Men look like men and do the protecting. Women look like women and are protected by men as a result. But if a woman looks like a man and is caught in the company of another woman who looks like she too could be gay, all bets are off. I would not be surprised if, had we been attacked, someone would have pointed out that we shouldn’t have been walking around while visibly gay, and many people would have agreed that yes, that’s what ‘flaunting your sexuality’ gets you.

While I’ve considered talking to my date about it, I never have. I don’t know what good it would do to point out that I feel like I am less safe when she and I are out together. Because even though it is true that members of marginalized groups are more likely to be attacked or mistreated by the majority, I have realized that I would rather risk it than lie about who I am. I have also understood that while I cannot erase my privilege entirely, now that I know it exists, I can at least acknowledge it and, when possible, step outside my safe little box.