Five Ways In Which Polyamory Is Like Grad School

Image

I’ve been away for a loooong time! Sorry, dear readers – I have a really good excuse this time! I’m nearing the end of the first year of my Masters programme, and I kinda accidentally got promoted at work. So busy times!

Things are generally well with me; in fact, my beloved Nomad and I had a little private commitment ceremony a few weeks ago, honouring our relationship and the direction it’s taken and making promises to each other for our shared future together. I have a beautiful custom-made commitment bracelet which I never take off.

Anyway, without further ado, it’s a lighthearted post to get me back into blogging. The deep and serious stuff will come soon, I can assure you!

Five Ways In Which Polyamory Is Like Grad School

1. It’s not for the faint of heart.

A complex and non-traditional relationship structure, much like an advanced programme of study, is a major undertaking. This is not beginner level stuff, it’s wonderful but it’s hard. Anyone going in should do so with their eyes open and knowing exactly what’s in store and how much work the desired outcome will require.

2. It will sometimes eat your life and require you to consume copious quantities of caffeine…

…But you love it anyway.

I thrive off staying up late into the night working, even when it’s utterly exhausting. And there is little in the world I like more than staying up all night just to spend time with my Beloved and fall asleep when it’s getting light. Being rushed off your feet for much of your time is pretty much par for the course in either of these life choices (and try doing both at once! That’s a whole WORLD of fun!) (And I mean that sincerely, not sarcastically as it may read.)

3. People will ask you “how can you do that?!?”…

All. The. Time.

They’ll either look at you in awe and ask a million questions, or regale you with all the reasons why they’d never choose that path.

4. …And your answer will be something like “I couldn’t NOT do it!”

I don’t know if this is true for anyone else, but when I feel really passionately about something it is as though there is a tugging in my very soul pulling me toward that thing. I could no more give up my studies, stop writing or stop being queer and polyamorous than I could stop breathing.

5. There are times when you will want to quit… and may more times when you will be glad you didn’t.

As mentioned before, this stuff is HARD. When you’re on your third night of no sleep with that damn essay that just won’t go right, you will want to say “fuck this! I don’t need this qualification anyway!” When you’re struck with an attack of jealousy or have just broken up with someone, you will probably want to say “this would all be better if I were just monogamous!”

But when you step back and realise you followed your heart and chased your dream and worked through all the adversities in the way, you will be so very glad you stuck it out.

Four “Romantic” Ideas That Are Really Not

Image

“I can’t live without you.”

It is only on a technicality that this sentence is any different from “if we break up I will kill myself.”

And to anyone basically sane, that sentiment isn’t romantic – it’s downright terrifying. Think about it. You might think you’re being sweet by telling your partner that they are the only thing that makes life worth living. And if things are good between you, they might even think it’s sweet, too. But what if things go sour? What if one of you really just doesn’t want to stay in the relationship anymore? Would you walk away from someone, however much you wanted to, if you genuinely thought you were the only thing that stood between them and suicide? I know I wouldn’t.

Being dumped sucks. But it sucks a lot less than someone staying with you purely because they think you’ll put a bullet in your skull if they walk away.

It is also entirely possible I am overthinking this in the extreme, and people who say “I can’t live without you” don’t literally mean “if we break up I will kill myself,” but I think that’s far too thin a line to be treading in the practising of healthy, mutually-consensual relationships. Just don’t do it. Please.

“I know you better than you know yourself.”

No. No you do not.

In every single situation I’ve been in where I have heard this (always from a man, funnily enough) it has never succeeded in doing anything other than getting my back up. The most recent person who said this to me was a so-called friend who insisted that I really, really wanted to sleep with him and was just in denial to myself, and routinely insisted that he knew exactly what was going on in my head before I even knew it myself. It didn’t take me very long to lose it, let me tell you.

It’s a very effective way to remove someone’s personal agency, it’s the height of arrogance, and it is NOT romantic.

You know what’s romantic, as well as just a decent way to behave? Accept that the expert on any individual’s personal experience is THEM. Listen to them and believe them when they tell you where they’re coming from. Do not say “no, what you really think/feel is this.”

There are two people in the world I sometimes feel can read my mind, and they are my beloved Nomad and my best friend J. And y’know what? They have known me intimately for years and as such have a very good picture of me and how I think and feel. But they don’t tell me what I feel, or tell me that I am wrong about my own experience. That’s a thing you shouldn’t do to anyone.

The expert on me is me. If that hurts your ego, you’re not mature enough to date me.

“You should JUST KNOW…

…what’s wrong/exactly what your partner wants in bed/if someone wants to have sex with you/if you’re serious or casual or exclusive.”

This trope is often spouted in glossy-magazine level relationship psychology bullshit, in which people are advised to passive-aggressively communicate with their partners through a mixture of body language, veiled hints, and leaving a magazine or romance novel open at a particular page on the coffee table.

And I can understand why. The idea of “just knowing” is a seductive method of trying to avoid the difficult, often complicated and sometimes messy business of actually communicating within a relationship. If something’s wrong, don’t get pissed at your partner for not knowing exactly what it is without being told[1]. If there’s something you really want in your relationship but aren’t getting, however big or small, you cannot reasonably expect your partner to know without you actually telling them. However much you love each other, you’re not mind-readers.

Not to mention this trope is dangerous. If you’re supposed to just know when somebody wants to have sex or what they like in bed, and asking is seen as ruining the moment, then consent kinda flies out of the window, doesn’t it?

Be an adult. Use your words.

[1] Obvious exceptions apply. My ex appeared genuinely baffled about why “having unprotected sex behind my back for six months” wasn’t really cool with me.

“If you really love someone, you want to keep them all to yourself.”

This ties in with “jealousy is a super romantic sign of love,” which I’ve ranted about all the issues with before. Nay-sayers use this one to dismiss polyamory as a phase or a thing that people do before they find The One, when it is expected that they will settle down into a Proper Relationship[2].

Look, if you’re monogamous and feel that, when you love someone, you don’t want either of you to be romantically or sexually involved with anyone else… that is a valid choice! That’s fine! I’m not going to start telling you that you’re just unenlightened or old fashioned or any of that rubbish. You’re monogamous. That’s fine. I respect your choice – please respect mine! Please do not tell me that my love is not real, or that if my partner really really loved me he’d fly into a jealous rage at the thought of anyone else so much as looking at me.

Jealousy is not the surest sign of love. Possessiveness is not the surest sign of love. Living your life in the way that is truest to yourself and your partner(s) and what will make you all happy is love.

[2] Which usually roughly translates to “hetero and married with children.”

In Defence of Polyfidelity

hands

Hello dear readers! Sorry it’s been far too long once again. I have a really good excuse this time! Grad school totally ate my life! If you’re still here, thank you for your patience and loyal readership. Anyway. Onto today’s topic.

__________________________________________________________________________________________

Poly: many or several.

Fidelity: faithfulness, commitment.

I’m lately finding myself very much in a polyfidelitous stage of life – that is, I’m happy with the partners I have (currently my beloved Nomad and my sweeties S and A) and not seeking or open to any new ones. This is also a conscious decision, thought through and made because I believe it is the best thing for me and my general health and wellbeing.

Polyfidelity is looked down upon – tacitly if not explicitly – by some corners of the polyamorous community. In my experience, the implication seems to be that if one is not open at all times or available for new relationships, then one is less poly as a result. Because poly is about openness and exploring new relationships, isn’t it? Well…. except when it isn’t.

My current situation is partly a necessity, a matter of limited time and energy resources – I am a slave to my education and this, with three years of a Masters programme and then plans for a PhD ahead of me, isn’t changing any time soon. I also have a full time job, as well as personal creative, activist and fitness projects to work on, lots of hobbies… and I like to eat, sleep and have dates with my partners occasionally, too! I think another relationship at this time would be a sure-fire recipe to turn the Jess into a full-on blathering wreck of insanity.  Polyfidelity is a wonderful way to make sure my current relationships get the time and energy they need to function happily and healthily, and to ensure that I am personally fulfilled romantically, while the barrier to anything new developing means I can forget about dating new people and focus upon the things which more urgently require my time and attention.

When I was nineteen and new to the “scene,” I tried really hard to be a Good Proper Polyamorous Open Relationship Type Person by doing a lot of fooling around with a lot of people with whom I was horribly incompatible. ‘Cause that’s what poly people do, right? We’re all so Enlightened and Evolved and Sex Positive that we have casual sex all over the place.  Sure – except for those of us who don’t. It took me a long time to learn that not enjoying casual sex and not being able to disentangle sex and love from one another does not mean that I am less polyamorous or less capable of having a fulfilling love and sex life. I just had to learn which methods of practising love and sex worked for me.

I tried really hard to be a proud slut like I thought I was supposed to. It didn’t work. Now I am working on being a proud “prude” instead. (I put prude in inverted commas because it’s a word that has been used to put me down many times, but which I am trying to reclaim and take pride in.) The voices in my head that tell me I’m Doing It All Bad And Wrong still raise their ugly heads occasionally, but I am getting better at silencing them. I am Happy. My partners, to the best of my knowledge, are happy with me. I am not doing anything unethical. Anything else be damned. Those are the only considerations that are important here.

People say of us polyfidelitous folks things like ‘that’s basically just monogamy with more people.’ Thing is, I don’t buy into this recent trend among polyamorists of bashing monogamy. There are actually – and I probably shouldn’t admit this on a polyamory blog – a lot of trappings of traditional monogamy that I really admire. I don’t think that in order to be radical and intentional with our relationships that we need to discard absolutely all traditions and conventions. We just need to pick and choose the ones which work for us personally, and discard the rest. And for me, believing in ‘traditionally romantic’ things like happy endings and love which lasts a lifetime tends to lead me to the sorts of relationships I desire and helps me to grow into the kind of person that I want to be. (On the other hand, the notions that this kind of love can only exist with one person ever, or that True Love never requires work, are unhelpful and don’t tally up with my experience of the world, so I reject those bits. Isn’t it cool that we get to choose?)

I’ll tell you a secret. When I was eighteen and first coming out of the closet as bisexual and beginning to understand that non-monogamy was an option, I had this recurring fantasy of coming home every night to my husband and my wife. It was the typical, overly-romanticised domestic bliss… just with three instead of two. I may have grown up a lot since then and my wants and desires and dreams matured somewhat from that little dream, but there are common themes which are present even in what I want and strive to build today.

Despite what a lot of polyamory nay-sayers assume, I am a hardcore believer in long-term commitment. I very much admire my parents’ marriage of 25 years – even though marital monogamy isn’t a path I’d choose for myself, their love and commitment to each other, their family and their shared life is truly awe-inspiring. On the more poly side of things, my dear Nomad and my wonderful poly-sis Chesh have been together for close to twenty years, most of that time polyamorous, and have stuck by one another through thick and thin. I admire love which endures and lasts in all its forms, and I place very high value on commitment and longevity of relationships. When I get together with someone, my intention is that it will be long term. I don’t ‘do’ quick flings. For me personally (and this isn’t a more generic value judgement) I simply don’t see the point. I value intentional community, family, tribe and that wonderful thing which has been so elusive in my life until recently… security. I just want those things potentially with more than just one person, that’s all.

And at the moment I am finding fulfilment and the deep sense of security and belonging that I need in the fact that my personal romantic sphere is closed. My heart is full of love and joy with the people already in it. And, for the time being, that’s that. Because, for me, polyamory has never been about being open at all times. It has always been about sharing my life and all of my love and commitment with the people I love and the people I choose to build my logical family with.

I should say that my choosing to be polyfidelitous does not mean that I require my partners to be so. However, I do tend to gravitate towards people who appear to be capable of a high level of commitment and consistency and don’t have a very fast and frequent turnover of partners. (When you’re poly and a hopeless romantic hoping for a happy ending, the person you’re courting being in a stable 15-year relationship is really damn attractive!)

Of course I don’t mean to say I am closed off forever and ever for the rest of my life amen. I try not to make sweeping generalisations (though, as my Beloved will attest, I am really bad at this!) because they hardly ever turn out to be true. But this is where I am now. And y’know what? It’s pretty damn nice.

A Polyamorist’s Guide to Dealing with The Media

Black Microphone

Earlier this week, the BBC published an article about polyamory. It was… actually very good! A friend sent me the link and I went into it, as I always do with media coverage of any alternative sexuality issues, with an extreme level of caution. But, honestly, it was the best representation I’ve seen in the mainstream media in a very long time. Possibly ever. Not perfect – everyone featured was youngish and white, and as-per-usual the norm of straight men/bisexual women reigned – but it came across as honest, balanced, and coming from a perspective of open minded willingness to listen and learn, instead of the usual finger-pointing ‘look-at-these-freaks.’ All in all, very good, so well done, BBC!

The one downside of an actually good article means I can’t rip it to shreds here instead of thinking of an actual topic to cover for you guys. But this all got me thinking back to my own past experiences with the media, and I thought I’d put together a checklist for what I’ve learned if you, as a polyamorist (or member of any sexual or gender minority) decide to allow the media a peek into your life. It was difficult as there’s a lot to say, but I have condensed this into my top tips.

ASK AS MANY QUESTIONS AS YOU CAN

Find out everything you possibly can about the TV show, article, or whatever is being produced. Ask who will be writing or presenting it, and seek out as much of their previous work as possible. Ask around, if you can, for feedback from anyone who has had experience working with them. Forewarned is forearmed. If things don’t look right (or if your representative is going to be Peaches Geldof,) run for the hills. Have absolutely all the facts before you give them any information at all, and certainly before you sign any contracts.

ESTABLISH PAYMENT UPFRONT

Ask if you will be paid for your time or for agreeing to be featured. You really ought to be unless the feature is going to run in a tiny non-profit journal that about five people will read. Whether you’re happy to do media appearances for free is completely up to you. I have done in the past, but if I get approached again I will be asking to be paid. If you want to be paid, stick to your guns – don’t let them tell you it isn’t normal for case studies to be paid, because it is. At the very least, establish from the outset that any expenses incurred (such as travel) will be covered by them. Get this in writing. However….

DON’T BE BLINDED BY AMAZING OFFERS

I once pulled out of a TV appearance because I felt what they were doing – turning my community into a freak-show – was so ethically reprehensible. They offered me, at the last minute, a not-insignificant amount of money to drop everything, go to London and do a studio shoot with them THAT DAY. Being a poor student at the time, I wavered, but ultimately I said no and have never regretted that decision. Whatever underhanded producers might offer you, your integrity is worth more.

KNOW WHAT YOU’RE SIGNING

Check over any release, contract or similar before you sign anything. Take it away and peruse it thoroughly in your own time. If possible, ask a friend who speaks legal jargon to help you understand it. This might not be an option for everyone but, if you can, seek out some free legal advice. Don’t let them pressure you by saying that time is short or that it’s just a formality and nothing to worry about.
Case-study releases and contracts are legal documents. Don’t sign whatever they shove into your hands. Say ‘I need to take the time to be certain of what I’m signing,’ and stick to it.

BE PREPARED TO BE ABSOLUTELY OUT

You might think the odds of anyone you know ever seeing it are slim, and depending on the size of the publication or TV station or whatever, you may be right. However, there is always a chance. If you’re going to be named, pictured or both in the media in relation to polyamory, every one of your closet doors is going to be blown wide open. If you need to be closeted, stay far away from media appearances. Don’t give away anything you’re not cool with your mother or your boss finding out. And on that note…

THERE IS ABSOLUTELY NO SUCH THING AS “OFF THE RECORD”

Anything you say to a TV producer or journalist who’s investigating your lifestyle can, and probably will, end up being used. Once you’ve given them the material, you most likely can’t control it. You can control it by being very careful only to say things you’d be happy having your name publicly attached to.

DEMAND TO VET THE FINISHED PRODUCT

Establish this upfront – if there’s a contract, have it written in if you can. It’s harder with a TV show, but a journalist should be able to give you their piece to peruse before it goes to press. That way, you should be able to iron out any “that’s not what I said!” issues before they send it off to the editor and print a hundred thousand copies.

FINALLY – LISTEN TO YOUR GUT

If something seems off, it probably is.

 ________________________________________________________________________

Has anyone else had interesting experiences with the media, good or bad? What would YOUR top tips be?

Being Your Own Primary Partner

selflove

I wish I could remember who said this, so I could ask them if they’d like to be credited with it. As it is, my memory is terrible and it’s probably a couple years since I heard it, so…. wise person, if you’re out there, do feel free to make yourself known.

‘I have one relationship right now; it’s with myself. I am my own primary partner.’

This was said in a polyamory themed workshop, and it struck me as such an incredibly good way of looking at things that I have been mulling over the idea for quite a while, and wondering how best to approach it in an article.

You have to love yourself before you can truly love anyone else, so the saying goes. I don’t actually entirely buy into this, as I think self love is deeply complex and often a lifelong journey. However, what I do believe is that one needs to be able to have a functional and healthy relationship with oneself in order to be able to have functional and healthy relationships with others.

The sad truth is that most relationships do not last forever. We would all like them to, of course – but in reality, relationships end. Even if you spend sixty or seventy years together, unless you die on the exact same day, one of you will – at some point – be without the other. Losing a relationship, whether through splitting up or through death, is heartbreaking. Nobody is denying that. But one can pull through such a loss and, eventually, be okay. But who is the one person you will always have to live with, no matter what? YOU. So, given that you’re stuck with you, it’s probably best to learn how to treat yourself well.

When I say ‘be your own primary partner,’ I’m using what I consider to be a healthy definition of ‘primary.’ It also doesn’t come at the exclusion of having primary, life-partner and extremely serious relationships with other people.

If you’re in a serious relationship with someone, you take their wants, needs and desires into account when making decisions. Right? Afford yourself the same courtesy. Stop, slow down and, before you make a decision, ask yourself ‘is this what I really want or need? Will this be good for me? Will this help me to grow into the best version of myself that I can be?’ If not – think very hard before doing whatever it is.

This is not to say that you should act selfishly or without regard for anybody else. Hopefully, even in a primary relationship, that person’s needs and wants are significant but not the only driving factor in your decision making process. There are others who need to be considered too. Be compassionate to yourself AND others around you.

Be kind to yourself. If your primary partner was feeling upset, hurt, jealous, angry or any other “negative” emotion, you wouldn’t attack them for it, would you? I hope not. Instead, you’d do your best to listen and help them to alleviate these unpleasant feelings. You’d validate and be gentle and reassuring. Be similarly kind to yourself. Don’t beat yourself up over your emotions. Don’t constantly tell yourself that you’re wrong or not good enough. You deserve so much better than that!

Go out of your way to look after yourself. You’d do this for your partner – so why shouldn’t you do it for yourself? If you’ve had a bad day, draw yourself a bath and go and soak your cares away for an hour (or insert whatever relaxing, de-stressing activity you’d prefer here.)

Make your health and wellbeing a priority. Would you allow a partner to go around with an illness or injury for any length of time without nagging them to get it checked out or treated? No? Then don’t allow yourself to, either! If you’re sick, put yourself to bed until you get better.

Nurture your interests and talents. In an ideal romantic relationship, the people involved support each other in pursuing their own interests and talents. So give yourself time, space and permission to pursue the things that mean the most to you. This might mean taking a class, it might mean having an evening to yourself once a week to work on your crafting/writing/programming/whatever project. Whatever it looks like, make an effort to give that to yourself. You deserve it.

Buy yourself gifts. Doesn’t have to be big. A bar of your favourite chocolate after a tough week or some pretty flowers to brighten up your home will give you a little boost if you’re feeling down – or even if you’re not.

Surround yourself with people who make you feel good. It’d break your heart if your beloved partner repeatedly associated with people who made them feel bad about themselves. So why would you allow yourself to do the same thing? Have stern words with yourself and cut those toxic people out.

Further ideas for having a healthy relationship with yourself? Add them in the comments, please!

How to Reject Someone – and How to Take Rejection Well

rejection

Hello, dear readers! I apologise for the unannounced long hiatus. Things have been a little crazy in the World of the Jess and are about to get crazier, because… *drumroll please* …I got into graduate school!  I’m going to be studying for a Masters in Creative Writing at Edinburgh – and, as it’s a distance learning course, I don’t even need to leave my beloved Oxford home. So in between that, working my full time job, and keeping my relationships going (plus trying to have a social life, keep up with my own writing and, y’know, sleep once in a while!) my already busy life is going to be getting busier. Even so, I hope to get into a regular blogging schedule once more, as I have many articles in the pipeline which I want to share with you guys.

One other and super important note before I get into the main post – I want to wish my beloved partner and wonderful metamour a very happy anniversary for tomorrow! For love that lasts and keeps on growing stronger, these two are my inspiration. So, Nomad and Chesh, here’s to you – I love you both!

And now, without further ado, onto today’s topic…

 _________________________________________________________________________________

Rejection isn’t nice. We all know that. Being rejected when you ask someone for a date, sex, a scene, play, or anything else, can be painful and often feels humiliating as well. Equally, rejecting someone who’s expressed an interest in you is no fun. But there are things we can do to make this unpleasant reality of life and relationships a little easier from both sides of the equation.

 ___________________________________________________________________________

How to Reject Someone

Be kind and respectful – but firm

‘I’m flattered, but no, thank you’ or ‘I’m flattered, but I just don’t feel that way about you’ is a perfectly valid response and requires no further explanation or justification unless you particularly want to give it.

Thank them for their honesty…

…and bravery in sharing their feelings with you. Tell them (if it’s true!) that you think they’re a great person and/or value their friendship. If you feel safe and it seems appropriate, perhaps offer them a friendly hug. Then give them a little space to process their inevitable hurt feelings.

Don’t get into more conversation about it than you want to have.

Someone is always going to wonder why they’re being rejected, and may ask for a reason. Give one, if you like. ‘I’m simply not attracted to you’ is a valid reason. ‘I’m not dating at the moment’ is a valid reason. These and any other reasons shouldn’t require any additional explanation. Whatever your reasons might be, even if you don’t know exactly what they are, they are absolutely valid. Do not allow the other person to tell you they’re not, or to look for a way around them.

At any point, it is okay to say ‘I don’t want to discuss this any further’ and walk away. ‘No’ is a complete sentence!

Finally: look out for your own safety!

The vast majority of people will not become aggressive or threatening when rejected. However, unfortunately, some will. Trust your instinct. If something feels unsafe, it probably is. If someone becomes aggressive or seems like they might, get out of that situation via any means possible. At this point you no longer have any obligation at all to be nice to them!

 _________________________________________________________________________________

How to Take Rejection Well

Don’t push it

Again, ‘no’ is a complete sentence – and it ALWAYS means no. Asking once is absolutely fine. Asking more than once is pressuring and coercion, and isn’t okay. Confession time here: someone who liked me once asked me out (while I was physically backed into a corner – don’t do this!) and then spent months of the friendship that followed making “jokes” about wearing me down. Don’t do this. It is, however, okay to say ‘if you change your mind at any point, let me know.’

Don’t argue with their reasoning

Whatever reasons they offer – if they do, and this isn’t an obligation – do not try to change their mind or get them to see why you actually are perfect for them. This is a profoundly awkward situation to put someone in and it isn’t okay. Any reasons they may have are valid, even if you don’t understand them.

Realise there isn’t anything wrong with you

Just because, for whatever reason, you’re not this particular person’s cup of tea, doesn’t mean that you won’t be a brilliant match for somebody else!

Thank them for their honesty…

…and for looking out for their own boundaries, as well as for being kind about it (assuming they were!) Tell them (if it’s true!) that you value their friendship (or whatever their place in your life is) and that you hope you can continue to be friends.

Process

By all means, take a bit of time and distance to process your bruised emotions/ego. Seek out other loved ones, friends or family to help you through this if you need support. However good a friend they are, the person who rejected you is NOT the appropriate person to go to with this.

And finally, it shouldn’t need saying, but…

…don’t get angry, don’t raise your voice, don’t do anything physically aggressive (and this includes putting that person into a situation where it’d be difficult for them to leave.) If you feel your emotions getting out of control, remove yourself from the situation before you do something harmful.

Things NOT To Say to a Rape/Abuse Survivor

shutup

 

Big, MASSIVE trigger warning for abuse, rape, victim-blaming and retraumatising.

_______________________________________________________

“What were you wearing?”

“How much had you had to drink?”

“Why were you on your own?”

“You went to his house, what did you think would happen?”

“Are you sure you didn’t lead him on?”

“Well, you were flirting.”

“It’s not rape if he’s your boyfriend (/husband/partner.)”

“It’s not rape if you’re a sex-worker.”

“It’s not rape if you’re BOTH drunk.”

“It’s not rape if you weren’t physically forced/threatened/injured.”

“He probably thought you wanted it too.”

“Are you sure you’re not just having morning-after regret?”

“There are two sides to every story.”

“Yeah, that wasn’t cool…. but it wasn’t, like, rape rape.”

“I believe you, but I don’t want to hear it. He’s my friend.”

“I believe you, but you need to let it go.”

“I believe you, but no-one else will unless you press charges.”

“Why didn’t you go to the police?”

“Everyone knows he plays hard and doesn’t do safewords.”
“If you were a real submissive, you wouldn’t mind.”

“You should be flattered – you were so desirable he couldn’t control himself!”

“He would never do that, he’s a Good Guy.”

“No-one will believe you, he’s a pillar of the community.”

“I’m sure it was just a misunderstanding/miscommunication.”

“Consent is fuzzy and complicated.”
“Did you say ‘no’ CLEARLY enough?”

“You sleep with so many people, why does one more make a difference?”

“I thought you were a proud slut?”

“I thought you were sexually liberated?”

“Are you just saying it was rape because you cheated on your boyfriend (/husband/partner?”)

“Emotional abuse isn’t really abuse.”

“Stop throwing big words like “abuse” around just because he was mean to you sometimes.”

“Abuse is only when someone hits you.”

“Do you have any proof?”

“I know he raped you, but…. it’s cool if I stay friends with both of you, right?”

“I know he raped you, but…. it’s cool if I invite him to parties you’re going to be at, right?”

“I know he raped you, but…. it was an amicable breakup and you’re still on good terms, right?”

“It’s not fair to tell mutual friends what he did to you. They won’t want to take sides!”

“You shouldn’t talk about it; that’s just creating DRAMA!!!”

“You were young, you probably don’t remember properly.”

“He was young, he can’t be held responsible.”

“Well after you refusing for so long, who can blame him for getting a bit pushy?”

“You shouldn’t gossip/spread rumours, it’s not nice.”

“You shouldn’t say things like that, his new girlfriend won’t like it.”

“He’s not abusing his new girlfriend, so he obviously never abused you.”

“If you don’t press charges and his new girlfriend gets hurt too, it’ll be all your fault!”

“Are you really going to ruin his life for the sake of one silly mistake?”
“Are you really going to ruin his life for YOUR mistake?”

“If you get him convicted, he’ll never ‘X’ again!”

_____________________________________________________

I’m sure there are more. Add your own to the list in the comments!

Fear.

wall

I do not hate men.

Let me say it again, loudly and clearly, in case you missed it the first fifteen times. I DO NOT HATE MEN.

In fact, I love men! The ones I’m dating, the ones I’m related to, the ones I’m friends with. There are lots of men I love in lots of different ways. I identify as a feminist because I believe in equal rights and equal treatment for all genders. Let me reiterate this a third time. I. Do. Not. Hate. Men!

What I will readily admit is that I am afraid of all men, until I know them well enough to be reasonably sure there’s nothing to be afraid of. And, contrary to much popular belief, fear and hatred are not even remotely close to being the same thing.

I do not hate men. I am frightened of men. And I know I am not even close to being alone in this.

“But you don’t have to be afraid of me! I’m a Nice Guy!”

Yes, you very well might be. You’ve probably never deliberately harmed a woman in your life. You believe in consent and equality and all that stuff. You might very well be a perfectly wonderful human being. So why, you ask (and it’s a reasonable question) am I afraid of you simply because you have a penis?

In short, it’s because I don’t know you’re safe until you prove it. Contrary to what you might think, rapists and predators don’t come with a glaring neon sign above their heads. What makes them so dangerous is the fact that they look and act just like you. They’re not slathering beasts[1] stalking around dark alleyways. They have friends and jobs. Some of them have wives, girlfriends, children.

This is what makes them so dangerous.

To our eyes, when we first meet you, Potential Rapist and Perfectly Nice Guy look exactly the same. We don’t know which one you are, and it’s often much safer to assume the former until we have reasonable evidence to suggest the latter.

The thing is, if you are indeed a perfectly nice person, YOU know with absolute certainty that you have no intention of hurting me. What you have to understand is that I have no way of knowing that.

A close male friend said to me recently something like “the look in your eyes when you think I’m going to hurt you breaks my heart.”[2]

Is it unfair that you, as a man, have to prove yourself Not A Rapist before lots of women will trust you?  Yes, it probably is. But it’s not because we’re horrible misandrists or actually think all men are evil. It’s not because there’s some Grand Feminist Conspiracy to keep you from getting laid. It’s because bitter experience has taught us not to trust too soon, too easily.

The fact that you – most likely – do not have that bitter experience is a manifestation of the male privilege society awards you. Please check it. Please don’t tell women they’re oppressing you by being initially wary of you. Please understand we do not hate you.

I wouldn’t be wary of letting a male friend anywhere (emotionally or physically) close to me, if someone hadn’t once pretended to be my friend, just to later decide I owed him sex and abandon me when it wasn’t forthcoming. I wouldn’t be quite so terrified of relationships with men if someone hadn’t raped me repeatedly as a symbol of ownership, and then told me that having had consensual sex with another man made me worthless to him. I wouldn’t assume you don’t give a damn about me as a person and are only after a piece of Hot Blonde 22 Year Old if so many people hadn’t proven exactly that to be true.

I guess what I’m saying is please don’t blame the women who are wary of you. Blame the men who made us that way.

_____________________________________________________________________

[1] Term borrowed from Cliff Pervocracy. Read the full article here.

[2[ Quoted with permission.

FREE e-book

shadowsfinal

The more observent among my readers will notice that I haven’t been blogging as much recently. The reason is super exciting: I’ve been busy releasing and promoting my very first novel!

I’m having a very short promo at the moment, and the book is absolutely FREE until midnight TONIGHT! After that, it’s just £2 ($3.) If you enjoy my writing, I’d love to have your support in downloading a copy of the book.

____________________________________________________

UK users, go here: http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/aw/d/B00B5HVP92/ref=mp_s_a_1?qid=1362925125&sr=8-1&pi=SL75

US/everywhere else users, go here: http://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d/B00B5HVP92/ref=mp_s_a_1?qid=1362925125&sr=8-1&pi=SL75

__________________________________________________________

A real post will be forthcoming soon, I promise.

To Marry, Or Not To Marry?

polygamy

So this morning, on my way to work, I listened to a really interesting Poly Weekly episode on marriage. This episode was inspired by Mistress Matisse’s recent article in The Stranger, which I also urge everyone to go and read.
I was going to message Minx with my thoughts following the PW episode, but I had so many thoughts on all of this that I decided I’d just make it into a blog entry instead. Plus I don’t blog enough anymore. So here goes.
Matisse does a good job of deconstructing the difficulty of defining what poly marriage even is, so I’m not going to rehash that here. Just go read it. She also points out the sheer practical and logistical impossibilities of getting something like this into law. She points out the absolutely mammoth task the queer movement had to go through – and is still going through in many places – to get same-sex marriage legalised, and points out that “fundraising infrastructure is key – and queers have it, poly people don’t.”

But the thing that interested me the most in all of this, and the point I most wanted to respond to, was that Matisse and Minx both point out the simple fact that no-one seems to be lobbying particularly hard for poly marriage. In fact, within the poly communities they each mention – and in the ones I frequent, from what I can see – there appears to be a large amount of simple apathy towards the subject.

Sure, someone might occasionally “dream out loud,” as Matisse says, but let’s be honest here – how many of us are fully paid up members of the Poly Marriage Now club? I know I’m certainly not. There’s a lot of issues that are important to me, but to be absolutely honest, this just isn’t one of them.

Marriage in general is an interesting topic to me. I have personal reasons to be somewhat uneasy with the idea, given that I was engaged to an Abusive Asshole from the ages of 18 to 20[2] which was, I now know, much too huge a commitment to be undertaking at such a young age and with such a relative lack of experience. There was, of course, a time it was normal to be married off by 18. We do not live in that world any more. People these days typically have more relationships, and get married later – with many opting not to marry at all, including those in long term, stable relationships.

I haven’t entirely ruled out getting married someday – in some ways, it’s something I feel that I’d quite like. But the things I want are the opportunity to have a big, special celebration of my commitment to my partner(s) with our friends and family around us. Unless it came down to a “we need to do this so one of us can stay in the country” (or similar) type situation, the legal aspects of traditional marriage are of very little significance to me.

And in this way, there’s an interesting dissonance in my head. One of the aspects I find difficult about the idea of traditional marriage for myself is the idea of ONE of my relationships being legally (and to an extent, socially) recognised in a way which explicitly closes any and all of my other relationships from being recognised in the same way. In this sense, the idealist dreamer in me thinks that being able to legally marry more than one person would be wonderful.

However. I also accept that allowing polygamy[3] is at best an absolute legal and ethical minefield, and at worst pretty much impossible.

Why, you ask? To begin with, where does one draw the line of what is legal and what isn’t? Can you marry a second person without your first spouse’s consent, or do they need to give it? How would anyone differentiate between consent which was freely given and consent which was coerced? Does everyone involved in the group or family have to marry each other for this to be allowed (ie a triad or quad,) or only the people who are actually sleeping with each other?

When I was 18 and naive, I’d have been all for crusading for legally recognised polyamorous marriage. I liked the idea of being married to my boyfriend and my girlfriend and my husband and my wife and my sweetie and all of us living together in one big happy poly family, with our commitment recognised under the law. I’ve changed a lot since then. I’ve no idea what my future holds, of course, but my best guess right now involves one of three things happening;

1) I choose to remain unmarried.

2) I someday marry a partner, but enlist legal help to draw up contracts/agreements with anyone I’m in a long-term/very committed/life-partner style relationship with to ensure that as many of the relevant rights as possible are afforded to those people as well as my legal spouse.

3) I opt for a type of “marriage” or commitment ceremony or similar recognised by my religion, but not recognised by law, which can therefore potentially be entered into with more than one person concurrently.

So yeah. I’m not going to be campaigning for the legalisation of polygamy anytime soon. I’d rather take what we have and work with it. I’d rather create and invent new ways of doing things, ways which fit within the dynamics and the relationships that we’re actually having, rather than try to mould a centuries-old institution to fit us.

Though most of the advice is fairly US-centric and as such largely useless to me on a practical level, I’m fascinated with the Alternatives to Marriage Project and wish there was something similar in the UK[4.]

We’re in pretty unchartered territory here, people. We’re reinventing what is commonly understood by love, fidelity and faithfulness. Why can we not also look at reinventing and re-imagining commitment?

__________________________________________________________________________

[1] I want a “Poly Bar.” Is that just me??
[2] Thankfully, I came to my senses before I married him.
[3] Used here in the literal meaning of the word, “marriage to more than one person,” NOT as a synonym for polyamory.
[4] I’ve even toyed with the idea of creating it myself, but I have neither the time, energy, nor legal know-how at the moment.