You don’t get a post for a month, and then when you do it’s a rant. Aren’t you guys lucky?? I will at least try to make it an eloquent rant.
Over the last few years, I’ve spent quite a lot of time hanging out in communities which are, to varying degrees, on the fringe of mainstream society. It started off with me hanging out defiantly in the Goth Corner as a teenager (yes, we had an actual corner,) hating and hating everyone who laughed at us and thinking we were so much cooler. Over the years, that teenage rebellion has grown into me spending the vast majority of my time in LGBT, feminist, BDSM and polyamorous spaces, amongst others. It’s come to a point where I actually find “totally normal” (by 21st Century Western society ideals) people somewhat exhausting to deal with in large doses. I like the understanding and acceptance that comes in my little socially radical corner of the world.
As a teenager, I found home among the other weirdoes, the other social outcasts, the others who banded together and said “fuck the world that doesn’t like us.” I’ve always found comfort among groups where everyone shares in at least one of my brands of weirdness.
But there’s a thing that I have been noticing more and more. In many fringe communities, another kind of exclusion has crept in. Namely, I’m talking about the fallacy of “you’re not a real ABC unless you do XYZ!”
This policing has the effect of attempting to keep undesirable behaviour out of our spaces, yes – I for one will always fight the corner that if you’re cheating, you’re not poly and you should keep your hands off our label. I know this opinion will be unpopular with some, and I’m fine with that.
However. I think it also has another, much more insidious and much more damaging effect. And that effect is that spaces which claim to be radically inclusive become instead just like the cliques of high school. Similarly, people end up trying so hard to fit in that they end up turning away from what will make them really happy, because their supposedly safe space is telling them that they are doing it all wrong.
It’s commonly seen in kinky community. You’re not a Real Sub if you have limits and safewords. You’re not a Twue Dom unless you want to be Master 24/7 all the time. These kinds of notions mean that people, especially newbies, end up getting involved in all kinds of stuff which falls anywhere from “not their thing” to “frankly dangerous” in a desperate attempt to be seen as legitimate and real within their community.
Take, if you will, the ongoing debate about the place of rules in polyamorous relationships. If you want to run your relationship with no rules at all, that’s absolutely fine. However, I find having some concrete agreements (which, as my beloved Nomad points out, is really all rules actually are) helps me to feel safe and secure and helps to bind my relationship together. Yet the look of horror on people’s faces sometimes when I inform them that something is against the agreements of my relationship is actually quite astounding! “What? You’re not allowed to do absolutely anything you want all the time? NOT POLY!” I could try to force my relationship into the newly-popular “relationship anarchy” model, but I’d be miserable and so, I expect, would my partners(s) and metamour(s.) It simply isn’t how we work.
The brilliant Meg Barker calls this phenomenon “crab bucket.” Call it whatever you like, it’s destructive and it’s dangerous.
It’s this which means that when a girl speaks out about being raped, assaulted and abused, she’s silenced and disbelieved and eventually vilified by people she thought were her friends, because breaking the illusion that everything is super safe and awesome all the time is just the worst thing ever.
It’s this which means that when people try to express their very real, very pressing emotions to their partners, they are told that real poly people don’t feel such things, or if they do they certainly don’t admit it, or if they admit it they know it’s all their responsibility to sort out without anyone else taking any responsibility ever.
It’s this which means people who don’t enjoy casual sex are accused of being repressed and unenlightened or just plain old fashioned prudish, and end up shagging a bunch of people they later regret in an effort to be seen as sex-positive enough.
I say that we say NO. Whatever you are, whatever you identify as, whatever you feel – that is real. However you want to conduct your romantic and sexual life with other consenting adults, that is valid and it is real.
The rest of the world shoves us out and tells us we don’t fit in because we’re not normal enough. Let’s not let the safer spaces of our own creation turn into the same thing.
We’re supposed to be radical and accepting. Let us start acting like it.
 Don’t even get me started on all the issues I have with this particular term.