August 3rd, 2011
I was going to do the posts close together, but things keep getting busy. So, here’s the second post on The Ethical Slut, part II. This one focuses on Jealousy and Fear.
“No one can own another person.” (117) An important thing to remember, whether or not you are poly. You do not own your partner. (We aren’t talking about Master/slave ownership agreements here, that’s another discussion.) You are not responsible for their actions, and your every moment is not about each other. It would be a rather boring life for most of us to spend every waking moment with only one other person. There are jobs, and friends, and family and hobbies and a myriad of other things that are part of life. You share your life, poly or not, with many people, things and activities.
“Jealousy may be an expression of insecurity, of fear of rejection, fear of abandonment, feeling left out, feeling not good enough, or feeling inadequate.” (134) “[Jealousy] is a part of you, a way that you express fear and hurt.” (137) Jealousy is a normal human emotion. Everyone has jealousy at some point in their lives over something. It’s natural. And it can tell you when something is important to you. If it wasn’t important, you wouldn’t react to it.
“We imagine we know his thoughts, when in fact we are thinking about our fears.” (121) Our imaginations are great creators of fear. Sometimes, our imagination just leads us to silence or inaction. I can’t be that, he’ll say this. I can’t do that, she’ll think this. I can’t ask that, he’ll say no. How do we know? We don’t, we’re just projecting our fears onto our partner.
“You actually don’t know what your partner is doing. The images you see in your mind are the perfect reflection of your own fears.” (149) Our imagination gives us false impressions of what our partner is doing with others, or while out of our sight. We are afraid of what they are doing, afraid we’ll be hurt by it. “It helps to ask, “What am I afraid might happen?”” (131) We might imagine that the other person is better at it than we are. That they’ll enjoy it more with that other person. That we will pale in comparison. We might be afraid that he won’t want us anymore, or won’t want to do a certain thing with us anymore. We can really let our imaginations run away with us. That’s why communication is so important, before and after. So that we can stay in touch with the reality of a situation.
“What are the specific images that disturb me the most?” (148) It is important to figure out what triggers your fears, insecurities and jealousy the most. To identify major issues, so they can be named(often this, is enough to take the power away), discussed and perhaps disarmed. Or, if not disarmed, perhaps agreements can be made around them, to the benefit of all involved. No one wants to make their partners unhappy.
“Jealous might actually be envy.” (134) “When I’m not taking care of getting what I want, it’s easy to get jealous and think that someone else is getting what I am not.” (137) Are there things that you want that others appear to be getting? Are you asking for those things? Can you work out a way to have the experience you are missing so that you aren’t envious of the other person? It is important to take care of yourself, and your wants and needs. Don’t give jealousy any more footholds than it already has.
“Sometimes jealousy has at its root feelings of grief or loss.” (134) This goes back to economics of starvation, for me. Feeling like I’m losing something if someone else gets the same. Jealousy over fear of loss. I have to remind myself that someone else getting something does not take away from what I already have. And, it can even strengthen it.
“If you try to pretend that you are not jealous when you are, others will perceive you as dishonest, or worse yet, they may believe you, and see no need to support and protect you.” (138) “Denying your jealousy can lead you to act out harsh feelings in ways you will regret later.” (138) Expressing jealousy can be painful, but denying it can be damaging. It isn’t easy to admit you are feeling negatively about your partner, but letting negativity fester only makes things worse. If you can admit to it, you can then talk about it, and get through it. Together. A shared burden is easier to carry.
“The way to unlearn jealousy is to be willing to experience it.” (139) “You can feel jealousy without acting on it.” (140) Like any other emotion, jealousy does not have to take over. You can feel it and see it and deal with it, without letting it control you. This can take practice though, and time. And you have to want to. You are in control of you, even when you feel out of control. Ask for help when you need it, and jealousy is nothing to be afraid of.
“You and your partners need to practice talking about jealousy.” (151) I’m not sure how to practice, but talking about jealousy is the best way I know to get through it. Getting your feelings out, having them acknowledged and supported, if not agreed with, and then having help getting through them, is a great feeling. But that’s the next blog post, Emotions and Validation.
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.
October 15th, 2010
I failed at the writing an extra post to make up for last week’s non-kinky post. I spend at least forty-five minutes every day, writing for him because I promised myself I would. Because I was having trouble communicating, and writing is the medium I feel most comfortable in, and I felt it would facilitate better communication over all. I think it does and I think it has, and so I keep my promise, to myself and to him, to write at least five hundred words every day. These writings are very personal, occasionally nonsensical, and include every day things and other people. Sometimes they are profound, sometimes they are flowery, and sometimes they are just as randomly off the wall as last week’s post on social networking. Some days I wish I could just get up in the morning and write all day, send him his words, send my other partners their own words, and write beautiful blog posts, and let the rest of the world just float by.
Complete Shibari: Land and Sky is quickly rising to be my most popular post. It only has thirty views and two posts to topple until it reaches number one. I really wish I’d done a far better job with that post. Maybe I’ll actually get the books during the holidays and work up a better review. It’s not terrible, especially as I’ve never written a book review in my life, but I feel it doesn’t do the works justice. I’m eagerly awaiting his third book(Stars) to be released, too.
So far this post isn’t any better than last week. I keep thinking if I just keep writing, it’ll get better, I’ll come up with something intelligent to say, some great topic to post on, something insightful at the very least. I was chatting with a friend of mine earlier, saying that “Jealousy, Neediness and all those other things you try to ignore” was probably not a coherent topic. Last week I was dealing with bits of jealousy popping up. But instead of dwelling on them and letting them rule me, I quickly recognized and squashed them. With logic and compersion. Jealousy is not something we can get rid of, it reminds us what is important, but controlling it instead of being controlled by it is the key.
This week, I’m dealing with neediness. I hate it when I feel needy. Of course, I need other people and need love and attention. Sometimes, though, I feel like the need consumes me and jumps up and down like a five year old shouting for attention. It doesn’t help that this is an incredibly inconvenient time for that to rear its head. Five year olds rarely care if the time is right or horribly, horribly wrong. So, logic and empathy to squash that for now. I have many ways to fill my needs, and patience will get me everything I need in plenty. As proof, I’ll end this post with a list of things from the last three weeks that made me happy:
Over the knee spankings
Oral sex wherever we happen to be
Carrying and holding a drink in my open palm
Drumming with anything that comes to hand
The leatherman on my skin
Seeing and helping with someone’s first suspension
Teaching and sharing the violet wands
A phone call from far away
A latex skirt
A kiss on the forehead
An unexpected spanking
A relaxing evening
A good discussion
June 24th, 2010
In college, there were times when I was in love with not-yet-Husband, and dating other men. He first proposed to me while engaged to someone else. I did not say no, not until I met her, anyway. When he proposed the second time, and I said yes, it was on the condition of monogamy. I accepted that he was flirtatious, and loving towards others, but we made an agreement that there would be no other relationships when we got married.
Two and a half years in, and we were both finding ourselves interested in other people on a level more than just flirtation. We talked about swinging, playing outside our marriage. I played with one friend, trying to keep emotions out of it, but when he decided he could not continue, I was hurt. Friends invited us to a swingers party where I was fairly wide-eyed and quiet the whole night. Then we moved.
We looked around online for potential play partners. We played with one couple, and we met another, but neither turned out well. Then we found the local kink community. I agreed that Husband could be true to his poly nature, and I would continue with the label of swinging. I was afraid of getting hurt again, swinging felt safer, it was not about love, or relationships. It was about experiences and having fun.
Then I met Lover, and Him. We started playing, in various forms, and it quickly became apparent that emotions would always be involved, that there was always risk, that the trust required for the way I wanted to play was not something to be given casually.
Husband has formed various relationships, girlfriends and play partners, looking for what he wants to add to his life. Together we explore our rules and agreements. We deal with jealousy and time management. We grow together and we follow our own paths. I love him, I am in love with him, I will love him forever and always.
I had a hard time with labels and defining relationships outside my marriage. Lover started as a play partner. Love grew between us, but in different ways. There are many kinds of love, and my love for him does not feel like the romantic, forever love of a Husband or a Boyfriend. It feels like the love of a cherished and trusted friend, a confidant. I chose the word Lover for him because I do love him, and we do play and make love, but it is a different kind of commitment that I feel for him.
Him, Rigger, Mentor, Dominant, Boyfriend. He and I have gone through many stages of our relationship. Growing closer over the last two years, taking things one step at a time. We began trying to define things around the turn of the year, or rather we tried to move forward without truly defining things, and found that it would not work anymore. After some stumbling, we defined what we had and what we wanted, and what boundaries that created for us, to keep us and our relationships safe. I love him, but more than that, I am In love with him. In the life-sharing, forever kind of way, and I am incredibly grateful that his wife is accepting of my love for him.
Compersion is an important concept in how I do poly. I love my Husband, my Lover and my Boyfriend, and because I love them, I want to see them happy. Their other partners bring love and happiness to their lives, so I am happy for them, and those relationships. I do not always want the details about how their other partners are making them happy, but sometimes it is fun to share the excitement and experiences, and it is definitely fun to share the energy created by those experiences. Jealousy still crops up, and relationships are not always happy, but over all, I know that love is not divided between us, it grows and expands to include everyone in our lives.
Polyamory has been a quite a journey, and I am still exploring the path.
June 3rd, 2010
Public Humiliation – I knelt on his boot, surrounded. They talked of friendship and history and alcohol. Or they were, before I landed on his boot. I could not really hear them, after. He ground it into me, a stern look keeping me in place. I rode the old black leather, trying to keep my tight denim skirt covering me. His hand on his knee, one finger, two fingers. I glanced up at him in a panic, he grinned. “You better.” Three fingers and I did. Eyes closed, people casually chatting around me, I did. Over and over again, slave to his counting fingers. Mortified, terrified, aroused and his.
Begging – Please. Please, no. It’s never enough. Offer something else. But how do you offer something else when he’s clearly enjoying himself? How do you offer something else when your brain is locked in fear? How do you offer something else when you don’t want him to stop, but you’re too scared to be silent? Begging will make him happy. It is what he is asking you to do. If you don’t want to offer something else, ask for what you are afraid of.
Creativity – Something new. Always something new. Take what you have done and push it one step further. Take a great scene and add to it. Take your fear one extra step. What have you not yet done? What are you afraid of?
Fear – Hand to my throat. Tensing, gasping, internal struggle to be still. I love it when he holds me down by my throat. Stun gun. Whimpering more when he threatens than when it hits. Twitching more at the noise than the shock. Crying, begging. Fear of the pain stronger than the pain itself. Nylon hood. I like the hood. Duct taped around my throat, not too tight. I was fine, the whole scene went well. We were done. PANIC! Instant full body panic as he lay on top of me. Shaking, gasping, crying, thrashing. 1-2-3. Focus moved to an orgasm and calm returns.
Poly – Love is not divided, instead it grows. Communication does not prevent jealousy, but it can help to resolve it. Poly is not for everyone, it isn’t easy, and there is no one right way. You can’t tell someone how to “do poly” only how it works for you. The Ethical Slut provides some good insight, language and tools for any relationship.
I am still tired from the con this past weekend. Sorry about the randomness of this post. I’ll pull something more coherent together for next week.
December 16th, 2009
It starts with being clear and honest with myself. That may sound like the easy part, but really, it can often be the most challenging. I lie to myself all the time, how about you? I can handle that. I won’t get jealous over that. I just want everyone to be happy. I don’t know what I want. I don’t really want anything. I’m okay. Things are fine. It is hard to get past the knee-jerk reaction of everything is fine. It takes effort to look deeper, to examine my wants, needs and desires. It takes work to admit to myself that things are not the way I want. I am a writer, and sometimes, I find, that the only way to know what I’m really thinking, is to put pen to paper and start writing. And keep writing until it’s all there. Every last bit of anger, hurt, joy, love, need, desire, complaint and exultation.
Then comes the next step. Clear and honest communication with my partner/friend/lover/Dom/sub/family/whoever. Once I know what’s true for me, I have to share it with them. I have to tell them, via text, chat, email or Out Loud, what is going on in my head, heart and life. I also have to accept that they may not understand, and that they have just as many things going on in their hearts, heads and lives. I have to strive to be as clear as I can be, but also to listen openly to what they are saying back to me. Communication goes both ways.
An example. Scene negotiation. If I am asked what I want, and I say I don’t know, that’s not helpful. If he suggests something I don’t want, and I don’t tell him so, then the scene will go bad for us both. If the negotiation goes well, but the scene starts to go badly, I have to be able to clearly and honestly communicate that, or the scene will just get worse. If a scene went badly, clear and honest communication afterward can keep it from happening again.
Another example. Poly. I often tell people who ask, that Poly is all about clear and honest communication. Communicating what the boundaries are. Communication can reduce or resolve jealousy. Communication can keep partners from drifting apart. Communication keeps people safer when going to meet someone new.
What are ways you use to achieve clear and honest communication?