Frangipani

Polyamory, bisexuality and maybe even some atheism

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*

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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?

 

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.

 

On Labels, Bi-Phobia, And The Importance Of Community – Part II January 31, 2011

This is Part II of an overlong post. Part I is here.

I recently had a conversation with a lesbian-identified bisexual who pretty much embodied the bi-phobia I’ve encountered in lesbian circles before. This woman chooses the label lesbian because, even though she has the occasional male partner, she is married to a woman and came into her own in the lesbian community. Based on her interactions with women on a dating website who called themselves ‘bisexual’, she announced to me – after declaring the existence of a bisexual community support group ridiculous – that (female) bisexuals were clearly only sex maniacs who were looking for a woman to add to threesomes with their boyfriends and that ‘bisexual’ just meant basically duplicitous and untrustworthy fakers.

I managed to stay calm during this exchange. It had been a pleasant conversation up until that point and the statements she made were said mildly – she was simply stating her position. For my part, at the end of her little speech, I pointed out that attitudes like that were precisely why we needed both bisexual activists and bisexual community support groups in the first place. She shut up. We moved on.

But the more I thought about it after the fact, the angrier I got.  Who the hell was this woman to define bisexuals like that in the first place and then tar us all with the same brush? Hell, if I used her method of data-collection (i.e., base my opinion purely on the lesbians I’ve spoken to online) I’d have to conclude that lesbians were all bi-phobic bigoted flakes who couldn’t spell. Here I was bending over backwards trying to understand the attitude I was getting and arguing that it was understandable even if it wasn’t fair, blah, blah, blah, while this horrible creature felt entitled to blithely shit all over what she knew to be my identity. Oh yes. This wasn’t a ‘just among us lesbians’ type of discussion. She knows I am bisexual and that I belong to a bisexual community. She just doesn’t think it’s ‘real’ enough to deserve any respect.

I think one of the things that irritated me most about the whole encounter was that, fundamentally, her sexuality and mine are so similar, ie, we both consider ourselves lesbians who are occasionally interested in men. I suppose I thought that should have served as common ground for the tentative friendship we’ve been thrown into (this is purely platonic. Various events in our lives have thrown us together, but I have no sexual interest in this woman.). But the difference between us is that I am married to a man and, when I came out, I found support and acceptance in the bisexual community. Not only that, but I was outright rejected by the lesbian community and only found the bisexual community because one of the bi-phobes posted a rant about how bisexuals should all fuck off to this bisexual community and leave the ‘proper’ lesbians alone. The only reason I have any contact with lesbians now is because the poly community functions as a sort of bridge.

I think I also realized, in the days that followed that conversation, why the  label ‘bisexual’ is one I want to hold on to despite how I feel about men and women.

She spoke of the lesbian community as hers in a way that I know it will never be mine, and that made me sad. But then I realized that the reason her attitude towards the bisexual community made me so angry was that it was MY community she was talking about – not just mine in the abstract but mine as in the way the lesbian community is hers. When I was struggling with my sexuality and trying to figure out what the hell I was going to do about it, it was the bisexual community that took me in. It was the bisexual community that introduced me to the poly community and it was in the overlap between the bi and poly communities that I found my partners and my friends. Not all the polys are bi and not all the bis are poly, but I can move through both communities with equal confidence and without being questioned. I prefer women and I have a preference for long-term relationships over casual affairs or sex-only relationships, but not once has anybody in either community ever accused me of not being bisexual enough or poly enough. And not only are my personal interpretations of bisexuality and polyamory accepted, H, who is not bisexual nor actively polyamorous has been embraced by the community as well. That, I think, seals the deal. When a community is not only willing to take you as you are but also take in the people you love, no questions asked, you know you’ve struck gold.

Despite how my orientation develops, I cannot turn my back on the bisexual community and I cannot relinquish the label. Instead, to the extent possible, I want to support the community and work towards better bisexual visibility and representation. Every community comes complete with assholes and while the bisexual community is certainly not free of them, it took meeting one from the lesbian community to make me realize which I’d rather put up with.

 

On Labels, Bi-phobia, and the importance of community – part I

This post was getting ridiculously long so I decided to split it into two, slightly more reader-friendly posts. This is Part I. Part II is here.

When I started this blog, I called myself bisexual and basically figured I was as attracted to men as I was to women*. Over the years I have come to realize that my orientation isn’t as 50-50 as I thought. Today, I think a more accurate description of me would be that I am a lesbian who occasionally fancies men. Most of the time, however, men outright repulse me. Or rather, they’re lovely to be friends with, but the concept of having sex with them repulses me (except, of course, when it doesn’t). I don’t have an explanation for it. This is just where my sexuality seems to have settled, at least for the time being. I can’t say for sure that this is exactly where I’ll be in a couple of years, but as I get older I feel like these shifts signify a growing-into rather than the exploration of even a few years ago.

I am, however, still married to a man and I have no intention of changing that. What can I say? I picked a keeper.

Needless to say, this complicates my status. When I said earlier that I am more accurately described as a lesbian, I meant that my orientation for pretty much everything is primarily towards women. Life, love, sex – everything is just easier with women. And by easier, I don’t mean less complicated, but simply something I feel like giving my energy to. Whether I am at home or out in public with my girlfriend, I feel like I’ve just let go a long-held breath. When someone in the street obviously thinks I’m gay, I feel no need to correct them, unlike when they think I’m straight. Being assumed to be heterosexual feels like being backed into a corner and suffocated. Being assumed to be homosexual gives me this incredible sense of relief.

But then I run headlong into the minefield that is the lesbian community. To be fair, I should state up front that I have met and in some cases had relationships with polyamorous lesbians who didn’t have a problem with bisexuality, or at least with my being married to a man, so clearly they do exist. However, the overwhelming majority have been bi-phobic, and some very aggressively so.

Now, I do get that since being ‘bisexual’ was deemed cool by whoever it is who decides such things, lesbians have been repeatedly approached by women claiming to be bisexual who were in it only to get their boyfriends off, who were just fooling around or experimenting, who were only marking time till they could have a ‘real’ relationship with a man, and so on. Basically, lesbians have been jerked around and women calling themselves ‘bisexual’ have often been the cause. I understand how that can lead to a general wariness around women who purport to be bisexual – once bitten and all that.

But at the same time I have to wonder – do lesbians never jerk each other around? Has a lesbian never left a lesbian for another lesbian? Has a lesbian never entered into a just-for-now relationship that the other partner though was for keeps? Given the healthy balance of exes the lesbians I know seem to have, I’m going to assume that lesbians can and do do all of the above to each other. So why blame bisexuals?

I think the problem lies in heterosexual privilege. Out lesbians have committed to a lifetime of potential if not actual discrimination. In most countries, they can’t marry their partners, have little to no protection under the law, and have to deal with the social stigma attached to being gay. They don’t have a choice in the matter. I think the hostility towards bisexuals comes in part from the fact that we can, at any point, retreat into heterosexual privilege. I am married to a man. That affords me a certain amount of social protection, whether I like it or not. Even if I shouted my bisexuality from the rooftops, the fact that I am in a straight relationship means that my queerness can be ignored wholesale. I can ‘feel’ as lesbian as I like – socially, I have a kind of protection that no out, exclusively homosexual person does.  And even if I wasn’t married to a man, the fact of my bisexuality represents a sort of escape route if things get too dicey over in lesbian-land – an escape most lesbians do not have and could not access without denying who they are.

Part of me wants to give up the label ‘bisexual’ and embrace ‘lesbian’ for all of those reasons. That my marriage to H prevents me from doing so frustrates me no end and I wish there was a solution that did not involve divorce, because that ain’t happening.

But then I run into self-righteous, bi-phobic lesbians and I remember why my community means so much to me.

Continued here

*I am for the moment leaving aside the valid criticism of the assumption that there are only two sexes and that a bisexual person is one attracted to ‘both’ sexes. There are interesting discussions on that topic that I will write about later.

 

“Coming Out” October 15, 2009

Filed under: Bisexuality,Coming out,Polyamory — Araliya @ 7:49 pm
Tags: , ,

How much do you tell people? When do you tell them? How? Should you tell them anything in the first place? Why?

I’ve been poly for over a year now and haven’t run into any major issues with my relationships. I’m happy with my partners, they like each other, I like their partners, it’s all good.

But when I talk to my colleagues or to an acquaintance, how do I work in the partners? Thus far, I’ve spoken about my boyfriend/partner to some, about my girlfriend to others and about my husband to most. In some instances I’ve mentioned both my husband and my partner/boyfriend, but generally the persons I’ve been speaking with have assumed I was talking about the same person. Given that these are throwaway conversations with people I don’t intend to have any kind of deep-and-meaningfuls with, that’s not so bad. Flying under the radar and all that.

But what about contacts that are a bit more than that? What about people who, because we see each other more often, eventually mention their kids and what they did that weekend, or the funny thing that happened with their in-laws, etc.? At some level, you’re expected to reciprocate with stories of your own lest you seem uninterested in theirs. And I’m not uninterested. These are nice people who are fun to talk to and while they’re not on my BFF list, I don’t want them to think I’m being standoffish or that they’re boring me because neither is true.

My boyfriend gets mentioned more often than my girlfriend because, as I said earlier, people tend to confuse him with my husband, and that works fine for me. ‘Girlfriend’ however is a word that would draw attention and possibly questions or confusion from people who’d assumed I was straight. Now, on the one hand, so what? They made an assumption and it turned out to be wrong. Happens all the time. They’ll live. On the other, I dread the poly 1o1 conversation because I don’t want to have to explain the ins and outs of my lifestyle, or worse, have to give a summary and then have the person assume a whole new set of things.

But then again, why should I care what they assume? Why not just put it all out there and expect them to catch up on their own? There’s plenty of information out there – why should I have to explain anything? In general, I’d tend to agree with that, but then you could argue that the best way to avoid the tedious task of explaining things is by simply not mentioning them in the first place. It’s a bid disingenuous, after all, to throw something out there that’s clearly ‘out there’ by current social standards and just blink at people and say ‘what?’ all innocent-like when they don’t get it.

In retrospect, it was far easier to come out to existing friends because I already knew who I needed to tell and to whom it just wasn’t relevant. With new friendships, it’s a lot harder because you don’t know what level they’ll eventually find and it’s a bit hard walking the tightrope between full disclosure and oversharing. You don’t want to spring something on them that they really don’t need (or care) to know, but you don’t want to leave it too late and make them feel like you’ve been misrepresenting yourself or just plain lying to them all along.

Throw in other potential issues like professional contact, legal requirements, the likelihood of your lifestyle being used to discriminate against you, the impact of word getting out to whomever it is you’re not all that cool with or with entities or organizations  or communities that might create issues, etc., and it can get a bit worrying. I know there’s no delineated ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way to do it, but I wish there were some sort of general guideline, because I really don’t know what to do sometimes.

 

I’m still here November 23, 2008

I am indeed still here and still working much stuff out, but work, deadlines and life in general have been taking up all my time. I have quite a few bits and pieces so, as a way or sorting through them and getting myself organized and writing on topic, here are some of the things, in no particular order, that I want/plan to write about in the (near) future:

  • Further issues with ‘ordering’ in relationships – This time from the practical standpoint. Yes I loathe the terms ‘primary’ and ‘secondary’ but I suppose they do have some practical application.
  • Living arrangements – What I’ve seen, what I like, what I think I want/could handle, what I couldn’t deal with.
  • The mandatory jealousy post – Just about every poly blog seems to have at least one post on jealousy and while I suppose it is something of a cliche, it’s also just plain useful when jealousy does strike to have all these different perspectives, accounts, and advice out there. Given how similar and yet how varied everyone’s experience of jealousy seems to be, I hope my account can in turn help someone else get through their own battle with this particular bugbear.
  • Partners’ partners – How close can metamours get? What if you can’t stand each other? Is it important to meet them at all? If so, when? Why? Why not? Does one particular policy tend to work better than another or should it be completely ad hoc? What do/can you expect? What should/shouldn’t you do when you meet? etc.
  • Forays into ‘kink’ – Honestly, I don’t know where kinky actually begins and I suspect it’s different for different people. I’m not very easily shocked and I don’t consider most things ‘weird’ anyway, so my world is more divided in to stuff I will do and stuff I won’t, and my willingness or otherwise is decided by how interesting or appealing I find something, not how extreme or challenging or strange it is. I also deliberately didn’t use the term BDSM because it feels far too big and clunky for someone who’s only just taking the tiniest of tiny baby steps into the wonderful world of sadism.
  • Sexuality – Specifically, how mine has evolved, how I’ve been growing into it and getting comfortable with expressing it personally, socially and in some instances politically. I’ve begun to see coming out not as the end point or arrival, but the announcement of one’s departure on a kind of expedition into completely uncharted territory. I’m not done exploring yet by any means, but I’ve certainly learnt a lot already.

I think that’s it so far. Hopefully I’ll get at least some of these written before I start adding to the list. Thanks to the people who’ve been stopping by regularly. With more efficient planning, I should be able to offer up some new stuff for you to read soon!