Frangipani

Polyamory, bisexuality and maybe even some atheism

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.

 

(Sorta-)Meta-post June 27, 2011

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

 

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?

 

“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.