March 21st, 2013
Times, they are a’ changing.
I am living on my own these days. The details and such are not for public forums, but I’m writing this post, because I want to say that everything will be alright.
As I often say, I have an amazing life. I have been given the opportunity to do so much. To see so much and to experience so much. I have lived in different states and different countries. I have loved a lot of people and met so many more. I have had stable employment (if not always stable hours) for the last decade, while pursuing my many and varied dreams. And the end of a single, though very important, relationship, is not going to put an end to the greatness of my life.
I do not regret the relationship. I do not regret the time we spent together, and all that we shared. I only regret the pain we caused one another these last few years, but even that has made us both stronger. Has forced us to grow and to learn.
I am not alone. I still have a loving boyfriend, and his poly-cule. I still have all my chosen family, my friends and my blood family. I have love and support all around me, including that which hubby is still providing. But, I am also ready to be on my own, independent and strong.
I’ve always been afraid to live alone. Afraid I could not make it on my own. I told my parents once, when I was young, that I needed a husband to start fires and open jars. Well, I’ve long since discovered fireplace lighters, and I’m working on a solution to that jar problem(suggestions, please leave a comment). But other than stubborn Prego jars, I finally feel confident in myself.
That, my friends, is the best feeling in the world. To know, in your heart, that you can stand on your own two feet, and stride forward, chin up and eyes on your dreams. I am eager to see where life takes me next, and to steer my course where I want it to go.
October 11th, 2012
Some unusual (for me) conversations this week. It started on Monday, when I was accused of making light of rape culture and slut shaming because I was joking about my rape fantasies. Having never heard the term “slut shaming,” I gave the person opportunity to explain it to me, and after a bit of agreeing that society is full of stupid people, we let the matter drop. Tuesday there was a discussion about the differences in age of consent and what actually qualifies as statutory rape, and the double standard between men and women. Yesterday, there were conversations about gender inequality, repression of women, sexism and dressing sexy. I say unusual conversations, because I’m not a particularly politically active person. These are not the types of discussions I normally get into, I’m not a great debater of social issues. I generally think society can go fuck itself, and I stick to having friends who are not idiots. But with all the discussions, and some of the stupidity this week, I am feeling a bit ranty.
Let me start at the top and work my way down. I tend to avoid discussing rape fantasies in public. The horrible reality of rape is a dividing line for many people. Some of us have the fantasies, others find it unthinkable. For me, it took me a long time to admit to having the fantasies. It felt shameful, wrong and terribly inappropriate. But they were there, from my earliest fantasizing, they’ve always been there. To deny them, is to deny a part of myself. Coming to be a part of this community, has involved a lot of getting to know myself and getting comfortable with myself. Learning to stop denying who I am and what I like. And I still find it hard to admit at times. But Monday, I felt I was in a safe place, and was a little offended by the accusation that I didn’t take the issues of rape culture and slut shaming seriously just because I was talking about my rape fantasies. They are power exchange fantasies, not an actual desire to be violently violated by a stranger. And certainly nothing that supports sexual violence against anyone.
So, let’s move on to those things. UpsettingRapeCulture.com defines rape culture this way: In a rape culture, people are surrounded with images, language, laws, and other everyday phenomena that validate and perpetuate, rape. Rape culture includes jokes, TV, music, advertising, legal jargon, laws, words and imagery, that make violence against women and sexual coercion seem so normal that people believe that rape is inevitable. Rather than viewing the culture of rape as a problem to change, people in a rape culture think about the persistence of rape as “just the way things are.”
I take very seriously, the problem of sexual violence, and find it abhorrent that even some of our laws are written in a way that casts blame on the victims. That “she was asking for it” is ever an acceptable response to rape, is disgusting. That not only men, but some women believe that we shouldn’t wear short skirts, because that only tempts men to rape us or exploit us, is insane. That’s going down another point that I’ll catch back up to later. The point for now, being that rape is one of, if not The most horrible crimes a person can commit upon another person, and it’s terrible that society as is stands, generally accepts inappropriate sexual advances as normal. That sexual violence of any kind is acceptable, is something we seriously need to change if we ever hope to be an evolved and enlightened society.
The FinallyFeminism101 blog defines slut shaming this way: Slut-shaming, also known as slut-bashing, is the idea of shaming and/or attacking a woman or a girl for being sexual, having one or more sexual partners, acknowledging sexual feelings, and/or acting on sexual feelings.
This concept is not new to me, Americans live in a society that was founded by Puritans. Women are socialized to be chaste virgins until they marry, and then be faithful to that man forever. Naming the problem slut shaming or bashing, seems to me, to only perpetuate the problem, but then, that’s a matter of linguistics, and focus. We are socialized to be ashamed of our sexuality, I am still fighting my way past that ingrown shame. And negative comments only make it all that much harder. But it’s once again a matter of being able to say fuck society, I am strong, and healthy and my desires are natural. This is not an easy thing to do, but we in the kink community do it all the time. This is just one more step, don’t make it harder for those around you, just because you’re jealous of their confidence or partners. And if you see others doing it, stand up for each other, show them how strong, confident and sexy we really are.
So, age of consent and statutory rape. The discussion Tuesday began with a relationship between a17 year old boy and his 27 year old teacher. Obviously, a pairing that violates the ethical code of said teacher’s contract, and all the things that go along with it. In whatever state this was, the age of consent is 16, and the parents of the boy approved of the relationship. However, the teacher was still being charged with rape, among the other counts against her. It was the general consensus that some case-by-case common sense should be shown and the rape charged left out of the legal proceedings. The conversation then moved on to a discussion of the double standard that older teenaged boys don’t need protection against older women, but girls of the same age need protection from older men.
As I understand it, every state sets their own age of consent, to me, this is the first problem. As I said, I’m not big on politics, but it seems to me that a national standard would serve everyone better than a different standard every few hundred miles. Some common sense wouldn’t hurt in setting it either. High-schoolers having sex with each other, in many states could lead to a rape charge and that person will be stuck on the sex offenders registry. I’m not even going to pretend I have the answer, or the perfect age, or the right rules for this, but it just seems something we ought to be consistent about. And I think, once we figure out what age we are all comfortable with, consent should matter. Charge the teacher with breach of contract, take her license, whatever, but if the 17 year old is old enough to consent to sex with her, do Not charge her with rape. And, as a woman, who honestly feels that women biologically mature faster than men, let’s not have a double standard for consent. If a 16 year old boy can consent to sex, you better believe a 16 year old girl has the same ability. But girls need protected from predatory men? Then prosecute them for rape if she’s said no and he didn’t stop. Protect them from the predators, but not from their own freedom of choice.
On to the last bit, the wearing of sexy clothing and the objectification and exploitation of women by sexist men. Dude(tte), you need to get out more. A lot of women wear sexy clothing because they want to, because it makes them feel good. Because they enjoy receiving compliments from men who appreciate their beauty. None of this means that the woman is objectifying herself, or that the men giving the compliments are objectifying her. It is about feeling good about yourself, and loving yourself, and not being afraid to be who you are, if that’s a sexy girl in skin tight latex, or a stunning woman in a business suit. If you’re only being viewed as an object, you need to get new friends, get out in the community where the delicious mind is appreciated inside every body. The enjoyment of sexy clothes does not detract from the desire for intelligent conversation. Yes, there are sexist assholes in the community, too, they’re everywhere, but we don’t put up with them for as long as the general public. Deciding that women should wear long skirts so that men aren’t tempted, is sexist in both directions – repression of a woman’s choices and sexuality, and lack of faith in men.
Part of these conversations came out of discussion of women in the media, on tv, video games, movies and the like. And some of that is a problem, when the woman is only there to be pretty and do nothing else. To be the damsel in distress who must be rescued, because only men can do things in life. Yes, this is a problem, so don’t watch those shows, don’t go to those movies, don’t support those products. Watch the ones with strong female characters, buy the DVDs with the intelligent men and women working together to save the day. Buy the products that show women as powerful. But judging a show by how a character is dressed, and not by how she acts/is presented, is just sexist. Isn’t that what you accuse men of doing?
June 10th, 2011
My academic pursuit this month, otherwise known as “I’m tired of packing project,” (unfortunately, yesterday, when I got tired, of packing I fell asleep instead of posting) is The Ethical Slut, by Dossie Easton and Catherine A. Liszt, which I posted about the first time I read it. This week, I read Part 1: Within Ourselves, and took down quotes I found pertinent or important to me. So, I thought I’d make this week’s post a discussion of those quotes. I divided them into five categories: Sex, Poly, Social Programming, Communication and Internal Struggles.
Let’s start with Social Programming. This group is about overcoming our social programming so we can live the life we want to live and be true to oneself. “Our programming is changeable.” “You are already whole.” “ Great sluts are made, not born.” “People… free of shame, would trust their own sense of right and wrong.” (pp. 6, 34, 59, 71) So, what do all these quotes mean to me?
I grew up in a religiously based household, taught ‘how things ought to be’ from a young age. One husband, one wife, kids, and pets. Sex inside marriage only. And no kinky stuff. So, the first quote, of programming being changeable. I don’t have to live with the programming my parents gave me. It worked for them, but it does not have to be mine as well. If it doesn’t work for me, then I can change it to fit myself. The third quote goes along with that. It takes work to overcome social programming, to make myself into what I want to be. I cannot just assume I have all the skills and understanding to live the way I want to live. I have to learn and grow and create my life.
The second quote. Being whole. Society likes to push marriage and kids onto us. You aren’t a grown up, until you’re married. You aren’t fulfilling your purpose until you have kids. And on and on. Not everyone wants to be married, not everyone wants to have kids. There is nothing wrong with either of these things. You are a whole person, in and of yourself, without the need for a relationship or offspring to validate your existence.
The final quote, came from Wilhelm Reich’s speeches to young Communists in Germany in 1936. He was speaking against free expression and sexuality, because this would prevent an authoritarian government. I think it is a good point, though. Without social programming telling us that what we feel is wrong and dirty, we would be free to trust our own judgment, our own selves, about what was good and right for us, and what was wrong. That would certainly reduce our unnecessary guilt and self-recriminations.
So, on that note, let’s move on to Internal Struggles, a lot of which come from Social Programming. “Each person owns her own feelings. No one ‘makes’ me feel jealous, or insecure – the person who makes me feel that way is me.” “Knowing, loving and respecting yourself is an absolute prerequisite to knowing, loving and respecting someone else.” “You must speak truth, first to yourself, then to those around you.” “Shame, and beliefs we were taught that our bodies, desires and sex are dirty and wrong, make it very hard to develop a healthy self-esteem.” “Do remember: your sexiness is about how you feel, not how you look.” (pp. 65, 67, 67, 93, 94)
To live this life, I have had to look inside me, to consider myself and my truth a lot more than I ever did before. I have to take responsibility for myself, my feelings, and my actions, something that in today’s society it seems to be more popular to blame others for. Yes, things people say or do upset me, but it is me choosing to react that way. Me choosing to let it bother me. Me choosing whether to talk to them about it, or brood silently. My choice to let negativity fester or toss it out into the light to die. To be in control of my emotions and my reactions, I have to know myself, love myself and respect myself enough to look for the truth in myself. I have to figure out what’s really going on inside me, so I can share it with those that matter.
A wonderful side effect of this lifestyle I have chosen, has been a much better body image and self-esteem. I grew up hiding my body, wearing baggy shirts and jeans year round. Boys hardly every looked at me before college, and I never gave them a reason to. One day in high school, my mother must have been having a bad day, because she told me I was fat. I took this to mean she thought I was ugly and unattractive. Just one stray comment and I held onto it for years. I didn’t believe that I weighed too much, but unattractive, absolutely.
Then I started dating, but I was still hiding in my clothes. Boys were interested in me, some told me I was attractive. But I didn’t believe them. I started having sex and doing kinky things. Boys didn’t run screaming from my body. That seemed like a good thing. My dad once told me I should get sexy underwear so I’d feel better about myself. That was strange. Dated some more, here and there and around the world. Still hiding. Got married, continued to hide, though I got cuter clothes from hubby and his mom. Other men were still attracted to me. That was strange to me. Why would they look at me? Talk to me sure, I’m bright and fun, but look at me?
We swung a bit and then became poly. We joined a few groups, and started going to events. I got more and more compliments, and people appreciating my body, my energy, my sexiness. I was encouraged to wear cuter (and shorter) outfits. I gained confidence in not just my body, but myself. The community is full of so many people of different body types, and people are attracted to them all. People are attracted to skin, to body parts, to men, to women, to everything and everyone. I learned that you don’t have to be perfect, or a certain size, shape, or height. You just have to comfortable and happy in your own skin. If you feel sexy(and sometimes even when you don’t), you are sexy.
Next, let’s explore Poly. “We tend to like our lives complicated, with lots of stuff going on to keep us interested and engaged.” “Is there some virtue in being difficult?” “The human capacity for sex and love and intimacy is far greater than most people think.” “What rewards can you foresee that will compensate you for doing the hard work of learning to be secure in a world of shifting relationships?” “I don’t have to fulfill every single thing my partner needs or wants.” “Faithfulness is about honoring your commitments and respecting your friends and lovers.” “You don’t have to force anyone into a mold that doesn’t fit: all you have to do is enjoy how you do fit together, and let go of the rest.” (pp. 7, 29, 36, 59, 59, 63, 73)
I’ll start at the top. Complicated lives. I’ve always kept busy. Band, theater, gaming, volunteering, writing, working, studying. My love life was often complicated, even before I came out as poly. I spent time with multiple guys, or with guys who had girlfriends elsewhere, or with different guys in different countries. I flirted online a lot, with men, women and couples. The first time hubby proposed to me, he was already engaged to someone else. I love order and organizing, but my life has always been fairly complicated. It’s not that I’m easy, I have standards, but I agree with Dossie and Catherine, why be intentionally difficult?
Our capacity for love and intimacy is huge. We love family, friends, lovers, pets, people we see on TV, even characters in books or shows. All in different ways, perhaps, but that’s a lot of love, and we always have more for new people coming into our lives. Why should romantic love be different? If everyone is honest and respectful, then, to me, everyone is being faithful. I always did like the song from Kiss Me, Kate with the chorus “Always true to you baby, in my fashion. I’m always true to you baby, in my way.”
Then we get to the rewards for all this learning and growing into the people we want to be. And the remaining two quotes answer that one. In poly, thanks to poly, I don’t have to try and be everything, and do everything, and fit into a mold of the “perfect partner.” I can be me, and they can be themselves, and we find out what needs we can fulfill for each other, and enjoy those things together.
This leads right into Communication, the most important thing, for me, in poly. “Consent – an active collaboration for the benefit, well-being and pleasure of all persons concerned.” “They may be shy in the seductive stages, and bolder once welcome has been secured. Women tend to want explicit permission, and for each specific act.” “Talk clearly and listen effectively.” “Being able to ask for and receive reassurance and support is extremely important.” “It’s vital to be able to give reassurance and support.” “Lots of hugging, touching, verbal affection, sincere flattery.” “You need to know how and when to say no.” “The historical censorship of discussion about sex has left us with another disability: the act of talking about sex… has become difficult and embarrassing.” “What you can’t talk about, you can hardly think about.” “Most of us have been struck dumb by the scariest communication task of all – asking for what we want.” “If you are not free to say ‘no,’ you can’t really say ‘yes.’” “You have a right to your limits and it is totally okay to say no to [anything] you don’t like or are not comfortable with.” (pp. 21-2, 49, 61, 61, 62, 62, 63, 95, 95, 101, 103, 106)
Several different subcategories here. Staring with general communication – being able to speak clearly as well as listen. I have learned, over the last few years, that what one person says and the other person hears, are not always the same thing. I have learned the importance of restating what I think the other person is trying to communicate, so he can agree, or try another way of explaining.
Being able to communicate needs and wants (as well as knowing the difference), and being able to hear the same from my partners has been vital to our relationships. I still have trouble taking about sex out loud, and am sometimes embarrassed to write about it. But we work together, and talk together, and we open with each other and I am more and more able to talk about it. It’s still not perfect, nothing ever is. But I am learning and growing, and overcoming the embarrassment and shame of my social programming.
Being able to ask for and receive reassurance and support, in any number of ways, can be hard. Why should I have doubts and need reassurance after all this time? Well, because I’m human, and imperfect and the little devil on my shoulder, or the little voice in my head gets too loud sometimes, and I need help shouting him down. And it has been very important to me, that my partners have been there to give me that. Even if all I need is a hug, or the words I love you, to calm me down, and even more so, when I’ve wanted a flogging or tight rope bondage.
Then there is consent. I like their definition: “an active collaboration for the benefit, well-being and pleasure of all persons concerned.” We want to have fun, be safe and healthy and work together for these things. Consent is for everyone, tops, bottoms, masters, slaves, doms, subs, husbands, wives, boyfriends, girlfriends. It is not just one person consenting to the other, it is both(or more) people consenting to each other. And being able to say no, is just as important as being able to say yes. You have to be able to say no, or yes doesn’t mean anything. There’s consensual non-consent, and there are no-limit slaves, but in the end, if you cannot ultimately turn and walk away, then you are not really consenting to be there.
On to happier topics – Sex. “Sex is nice and pleasure is good for you.” “We have never met anyone who has low self-esteem at the moment of orgasm.” “The existence of her clitoris was proof positive that God loved her.” “Sex is whatever the people engaging in it think it is… if you… feel sexual… that’s sex, for you.” “Sex is a healthy force in our lives.” “We like to think that all sensual stimulation is sexual, from a shared emotion to a shared orgasm.” “When sex becomes goal-oriented, we may focus on what gets us to orgasm to the exclusion of enjoying all the nifty sensations that come before (and, for that matter, after).” “Sexually successful people masturbate.” (pp. 4, 19, 27, 39. 40, 92, 96, 98)
We live in a culture of double standards. Sex sells – well, everything. But we are taught to avoid it, that it’s dangerous, that it’s only for marriage, that touching ourselves is disgusting. We are taught to be embarrassed by sexuality. But sex is wonderful, and it’s not just about intercourse, or orgasms. Being a kinky person, there are so many different ways that I find sensual and sexual pleasure. Being poly, hubby and I have a very strict definition of what sex is, in regards to our rules about who we can “have” it with. But that is about intercourse and sexual//reproductive health. We give and receive sensual and sexual stimulation with a lot of different people, in a lot of different ways, including our own selves. Intercourse is great, orgasms are great, but they are not the end all and be all of our sexual lives. We like things complicated, remember? I really enjoy the sex-positive nature of this book and the confidence it reminds me to have about myself and my desires in a culture that tells me I am wrong and disgusting in so many ways. I love my life, and I am happy with who I am.
September 10th, 2010
When you’re going to play with someone new, you talk about the scene, you talk about limits, you talk about health. When you’re going to play with someone you’ve been with for awhile, sometimes you don’t talk at all. You just do what you’ve always done. Play in the boundaries you’ve always had, or push the boundaries you know you can push. So what happens when the rules change? What happens when the boundaries get drawn differently? How do you take a step back and say, okay, that place is off limits for now?
I was writing about renegotiation of my submission yesterday, and the comment came to mind that it was incomplete submission. That without giving up all control, I was holding back, keeping something from him. Over the last six months, I had been striving to not hold back, to give him all the control he would take. So, for me to say that I cannot do that right now, that I have to put a limit back on the table, was difficult. The dream of no-limits submission is seductive, but it is not always possible. Even in the way we were doing it – in short spaces of time, not 24/7.
I find myself struggling with my sense of self – self awareness, self confidence. There is a picture on a book about the female brain that is a large mass of tangled phone cord. In one of my favorite fantasy books, the city designed by the female deity is akin to a labyrinth. Sometimes I feel that way about my own mind, it takes me a while to navigate and process and distill what is really going on for me. A friend commented she thought I had been getting better at this over the last few months, or at least at articulating it. She gets to talk to me only after I have done a lot of processing, though. I want to be better at on the spot self awareness. As well as the confidence to trust in myself and my instincts and act on them in the moment.
What does all this mean? What am I on about? Some of our more rough mental play hit harder than expected, and I had trouble dealing with it appropriately. I broke and let things spin out of control. Now I have to heal and grow, and pick up the pieces. I aim to come out of this an even stronger person than before. I have a wonderful life, and so many amazing people in it, who support and love me and help me grow.