A “Radical” Fallacy

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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”[1] 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.

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[1] Don’t even get me started on all the issues I have with this particular term.  

Loving A Person With Mental Health Issues

I have a mental illness. This will, I suspect, come as a surprise to exactly none of you. I’m pretty open about it in general. I’ve been thinking about doing a post or series of posts on this topic for quite a while, but been at a loss for how to approach it. So I thought I’d go with one of my favourite formats and write a handy checklist.

The way it actually feels to live with a mental illness is something that cannot easily be described to people who have not experienced it, and that’s not what I want to try to do here in any great lengths. There are already many brilliant writings on the subject. However, the thing I’ve stumbled across time and time again, in both my own experiences and those of fellow sufferers, is that often friends, family and romantic partners sincerely want to help but just don’t know where to begin. Since this is (mostly) a blog about relationships, I’m focussing primarily on intimate partners in this piece, but most of the advice can be extrapolated to also include other people close to the sufferer.

A word of caution, first. I feel I can write about this topic with reasonable authority, but my experience is my own, and I can only speak from my own perspective, informed by things I’ve witnessed and people I’ve spoken to. When in doubt for how someone would prefer to be treated, the best advice is always, always to just ASK.

So without further ado, the care and feeding of your partner with mental health issues.

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Know That They Can’t Help It

This one’s tricky, because as a sufferer I do still firmly believe that mental health, in itself, is not an excuse for bad behaviour in most cases. However, sufferers of mental illnesses will sometimes behave in ways which their more mentally typical partners may find difficult to understand. Please know, first of all, that they are not acting out or doing it for attention or trying to make you feel bad.

When I have one of my emotional “episodes,” as I’m going to call them, it’s like I step out of my body and I’m watching myself, yet I cannot control it. My demon takes over, and while most of the time I can quiet it with medication, sometimes (like, for example, when the doctors fuck up my prescription and I am forced to go cold-turkey for five days!) it is stronger than I am.

Understand that your partner cannot just “snap out of it.” They wish they could even more than you do, believe me. To quote one of my favourite bloggers, Cliff Pervocravy, “feelings are real. That’s not a warmfuzzy affirmation, that’s neurophysiology.”

Know That You Can’t Fix It

Because you can’t, and this is absolutely no reflection on you, as a person or as a partner. Mental illness is a tangled web of experiences and brain chemistry which even highly trained professionals sometimes struggle to understand or make better.

I had a friend once who, when I was put onto antidepressants, said “you need to dump your boyfriend. People in happy relationships don’t take psych medication.” I also once had a friend who said “what have you got to be depressed about? You’re in a relationship.” No. No no no! A good relationship can be a wonderful thing and help no end in healing processes or just with day to day coping, but it is not a cure-all. To suggest that it is, A) is demeaning to the sufferer and their experience, and B) places utterly unreasonable expectations on the partner.

Don’t beat yourself up when you can’t make it better, but…

Support Them in Getting Help

This might mean attending doctor’s visits with them, if it’s something they’d like. It might include gently reminding them to take their prescribed medication regularly. It might involve cheering them on when they do take steps towards getting treatment, because seeking help for a mental health problem is a huge and difficult thing. It might mean just stepping back and letting them know you’re there for them if they need any additional support alongside their work with professionals. Ask your partner how to best support them in their journey through treatment.

Look After Them…

…to the best of your ability. Nobody is expecting you to fix it (see point #2, above.) But there are things you can do to help. Things that work for me are lots of cuddles, hugs and a listening ear when I’m feeling low, as well as making me laugh or taking me out to do something fun to take my mind off it. Sometimes, a cup of tea and a chat will do wonders to lift my mood. Gently reminding me to get enough food, fluids, sleep and exercise, and generally take good care of myself is good if it’s not done patronisingly. Ask me what I need, and accept that I sometimes might not know. Allow me to have times where I am simply not okay.

Look After Yourself

This is generally good advice for life, but I think it’s worth mentioning again in this context. Remember you’re important, too – please do take care of your partner, but please try not to become completely burnt out, because this will just do harm in the long run to both of you.

Be aware of your own needs and limitations, express them in a kind and loving way, and make sure that you give yourself time and energy to take care of these needs.

Don’t Hold It Against Them In Fights

One of the things my ex used to do was pull out the “you’re just crazy” card in arguments. I’ll be blunt here, Nomad and I have fought in the times we’ve been together. Sometimes mildly, sometimes viciously. But he has NEVER used my illness against me or called me crazy. When I get down and call myself crazy, he challenges me on it – which is exactly what I need.

Please do not ever, ever call your partner offensive names or use their illness as a way to put them down or dismiss their feelings.

See The Person, Not The Diagnosis

I understand that the diagnosis of a mental illness in your partner can be frightening. The prescription of psychiatric medication can be frightening. But remember, if and when they are diagnosed, that they are still exactly the same person you knew and loved before. The label put on them by a health professional doesn’t change who they are.

In fact, a diagnosis can be a tremendously positive step – after all, how can one hope to get the help one needs without knowing what’s wrong in the first place?

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I hope this is helpful in some way. Thanks go to all the other sufferers I’ve spoken to whose wisdom and experience helped inform this piece, and to my beloved Nomad for being a wonderful role-model in how to be a good partner to someone who’s mental health might be more challenging to deal with. Part two in this little series on mental health in relationships will be forthcoming in the not-too-distant future.

Enough Is Enough

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So. It’s December 30th, and the end of the year and beginning of the new one is always a time for taking stock, taking a step back and having a look at how things stand and where you want to go next.
Since this is ostensibly a blog about polyamory, it seems as good a place as any to get this down. Basically, I’ve decided to be “monogamish” for a while. I can’t claim total monogamy, as alongside my relationship with Nomad I plan to keep my casual/friendly connection with S&A, but quite frankly, I have had enough of dating and trying to find relationships.
T and I broke up. I won’t go into details here, but suffice to say it was pretty sudden and a pretty devastating blow to me. It was a pretty short-term relationship, yes, but I genuinely loved her. And that’s my problem. I fall in love too quickly, and it results in me getting horribly hurt. I should be absolutely explicitly clear that my decision here is my own, following a long line of negative experiences, and in no way am I putting the blame on her. I still treasure what we shared and genuinely wish her well.
As time goes on, I am realising more and more that I don’t feel 0I have my trust issues sufficiently dealt with to be dating at the moment. Given that every single person I’ve ever loved, except for my beloved Nomad, has left me (at best) or been horribly abusive (at worst,) I’m really not seeing any reason to be trusting.

Similarly, when I date people, they expect sex. Of course they do. The last person I didn’t fuck on the first date followed it up by not speaking to me for eight months. I cannot and will not have sex with people I’m not in love with. It leaves me feeling cheap, dirty and used. At best, they’ll be briefly patient and then start expecting that I’ll put out – who hasn’t heard of the “third date rule?” Well fuck you, society, and your rules, I won’t be following them any more. If you want to get into my pants, you better damn well prove you’re worth it. And that means falling, and staying, in love with me. Sorry.

The community I loved and trusted has turned out to be full of fence-sitters and rape apologists when I speak out about my experiences. Given that it’s basically the only place I can reliably meet poly people (except for the internet, and let’s face it, online dating takes a different kind of time and energy,) I’m at a bit of a loss for where else to look anyway.

Please don’t try to change my mind. Please don’t tell me that there’s nothing wrong with casual sex. I know there isn’t, if it’s something that works for you. But for me, it’s a disaster. Don’t try to convince me that there are hundreds of people out there who will love me. I’m sure there are, but I haven’t met any of them yet. Please, please do not offer to be the person to change my mind. If I fancy you, you’ll know it. If I can see myself falling for you, you’ll definitely know it. Otherwise, just be a friend, without any ulterior motives or expectations.

I still identify as polyamorous at heart. Of course I’d love another relationship. I’m pretty lonely a lot of the time. In particular, I feel a void in my life when I do not have a close, intimate relationship with a woman. But dating over the last 18 months since EAB[1] and I broke up has done me sufficiently more harm than good. The pattern is the same. I meet them, I grow to trust them, I get super excited and think it’s love, then they fuck me over in some way.

So I’m stopping for a bit. I’m focussing my energy on my beloved, who I have come to realise is and always will be the love of my life, and on other things like publishing my novel and getting into grad. school. I don’t want to do this any more.[2]

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[1] That’s “Evil Abusive Bastard”

[2] For anyone who’s wondering – yes, I will be keeping up with this blog.

Towards a Social Definition of Rape

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MASSIVE MASSIVE TRIGGER WARNINGS FOR RAPE, ASSAULT, SEXUAL VIOLENCE, VICTIM BLAMING AND LEGAL SYSTEM FAILURE.

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Part One: The Shortcomings of Law
I apologise that this post is going to be rather UK centric, given that my knowledge of the law in this area doesn’t extend much outside of my own country, but I think many of the points will be universal. The law, in many ways, is a good and useful thing. However, it is also important to acknowledge its significant limitations.
If you know me in real life or you’ve been reading my blog for more than, say, three seconds, you’ll know that I class myself as a rape survivor. Whether I would be in the eyes of the legal system, though, is…. questionable.

Under Section 1(1) of Sexual Offences Act (SOA) 2003 a defendent, A, is guilty of rape if:
A intentionally penetrates the vagina, anus or mouth of B (the complainant) with his penis;
B does not consent to the penetration; and,
A does not reasonably believe that B consents.[1]

Okay. Fair enough, in so far as it goes. I’m sure that none of us would dispute that the situation outlined in the above section of legislation is definitely rape. However, it’s really only the beginning, and limiting and problematic in multiple ways.

To begin with, it specifically states that it is only rape if a penis is involved. While it is true that the majority of rapes are carried out by men (primarily on women, but also on other men,) this legislation effectively states that ONLY men can be rapists. Sexual violence perpetrated by women is often seen by society as lesser, not important, and not a real issue (because men would never say no, and the idea of a woman raping another woman is just ludicrous, right?) But how is it okay to state in law that only one gender can be rapists? What about sexual violence perpetrated by any gender that includes penetration with an object or body part other than a penis? Technically, according to UK law, that’s assault but not actually rape. This outdated law presents a heterosexist and phallocentric model of sex, in which essentially nobody except a cisgendered[2] man can be a perpetrator, and erases the experience of all the people who are survivors of sexual violence where a penis, or possibly even penetration, was not involved.

The ‘does not reasonably believe that B consents’ is clever legal wording, but massively damaging to survivors when it comes to getting justice, because it can be manipulated and misused on so many levels. My rapist has come out and said, quite publicly, that he never raped me. I am quite certain that this is what he actually believes. I struggle to believe that he forgets that all the fucked up sexual interactions we had in our six years together ever happened, but somehow he has justified it – because he seems to think I was consenting, because we were partners and I owed him, because I mostly kept quiet during to avoid getting thrown out of the house or worse, because we had had consensual sex in the past? I don’t know the reasons. But what this effectively means is that, if I were ever to take my story to a court of law, I doubt it’d meet the legal definition of rape significantly to secure a conviction, because he’d just say “I though she consented!” And how can anyone prove beyond reasonable doubt that he didn’t?
This phrasing also means that bullshit defences like “she didn’t fight back strongly enough” actually sometimes (read: frequently) get rapists acquitted in the face of significant evidence.

People say to me, and to survivors everywhere, “why didn’t you just go to the police?” To illustrate just why, I’m going to come out with a story that I haven’t told publicly before. I have another ex who tried to rape me. When he was arrested on charges of physical and sexual assault, I went to the police, effectively to back up and support the story of a woman I hardly knew. Why? Because it was right, and because I knew what he was capable of from bitter experience. It took me getting passed through several different officers and indeed three entirely separate departments (one in Hampshire and one in Oxfordshire, before finally getting passed on to one in London) before anyone would even sit down with me and take me seriously, and EVEN THEN I believe they mostly did so because an older, assertive male (Nomad) was with me at the time. What happened? They told me it was useless. That he was going to be out within days and all charges would be dropped. That I could pursue my own case if I really wanted, but it was a waste of time because my name would be dragged through the mud and he’d only get away with it anyway because I didn’t have the all important physical evidence. This is why I did not go to the police. The fact that my community have largely turned their backs on me when I even speak out unofficially is why I don’t go to the police. The societal implications that nice girls keep quiet, smile sweetly when their ex-abuser is around and happy move on is why I don’t go to the police.

We survivors don’t go to the police because the law is fucked up. It isn’t on our side. The very wording of the very brief bit of legislation defining rape in this country effectively gives perpetrators a ‘get out of jail free’ card.

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Part Two: Towards a Social Definition

We like to think, within the little bubbles of our supposedly radical communities, that we can police ourselves – we don’t need the legal system, which is mostly against us from the off, to do it for us. Right?

Well, this is where things get really interesting. We’ve established that the law isn’t on the side of survivors, but very bitter experience has taught me that I can’t, as a survivor, necessarily rely on these communities to be on my side, either. How many of us don’t know a woman who’s been pushed out of one social group or another (more often than not, a supposedly progressive space like polyamorous or BDSM community) because she spoke up about rape or assault?

Why is this? Sometimes, it’s because these groups make exactly the same mistakes as the legal system makes, dissecting every detail of a case in a desperate attempt to decide that it wasn’t really rape – or that the victim (usually a woman, though let’s not generalise) was to blame in some way. This isn’t because these people are evil, or actually believe in sexual violence. It is because they are afraid beyond measure of admitting that rapists exist in society and in their community, and that they are not creepy, leering predators lurking in dark alleyways waiting to pounce, but ostensibly “nice guys” with jobs and partners and families. It’s very simple psychology to understand that people want to blame the victim because, if they can convince themselves that victims are responsible in some way for theur own assaults, they feel safer in the assurance that they can prevent it from happening to them.

In BDSM community, it’s often ‘well, she shouldn’t have played with him, she knew he played hard and didn’t do safewords,’ or even more sickeningly, ‘if she was a real sub, she’d have shut up and taken it.’ In polyamorous and other GSM[3] circles, at least the ones I’m directly or indirectly familiar with, it’s more often simply ‘well, no-one can really know what happened, perhaps she provoked him, things were said on both sides…’ at best, or ‘did she expect to get away with not having sex when they were in a relationship?’ at worst. Either way, it’s messed up. But I’ve ranted about that before.

What I’m interested in here is looking at ways in which we in minority communities which purport to have the best interests of survivors at heart can actually do better – and the first thing I propose is that we stop, stop, STOP dissecting whether a situation can fit the legal definition of rape, and instead look at a more realistic, fluid, social definition.

Surely we cannot accept a definition in which only one gender can be rapists? Surely we must see that it is Messed Up that it doesn’t count as rape if a woman forces a man (or another woman) to have sex against their will, or that it’s not Real Rape Rape if they’re in a relationship, or if the victim agreed to let themselves be tied up, or if one or both of them was drunk?

We need to agree that sex, of any form and between people of any genders, that is forced, coerced or otherwise not performed with freely given and enthusiastic consent on all sides is Rape. Not grey rape, not date rape, not maybe/maybe not, but Actual, Real Rape. And rape is a crime, always, even if there exists some legal technicality via which the perpetrator can get away scott-free.

Then, once we have this social definition in place and stop playing these was it, wasn’t it? games, THEN we can begin to be truly radical in the support of our survivors and, if we choose, the effective rehabilitation of our perpetrators, meaning that there will in the long run be fewer rapes overall, full accountability for the rapist as well as support for the survivor, and none of the bullshit victim blaming that is so prevalent as things stand at the moment.

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[1] Source: http://www.rapecrisis.org.uk
[2] Is it “cisgender” or “cisgendered?” I’m never sure, and I’d like to get it right.
[3] Gender and Sexual Minorities.

Couple Centricity in Society and Polyamorous Community

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There’s a really interesting phenomenon which, in all likelihood, you will never have noticed if you haven’t tried to live your life in a non-normative relationship of some kind. (Actually, it may have also bitten you if you’ve ever been single for a decent amount of time as an adult, whether by chance or by choice, but I haven’t been single since I was 14 so have no personal data to go on here.) And this is the phenomenon of what I like to call Couple Centricity. This manifests itself in many ways, and almost all of them can be potentially damaging.

The entirety of Western society is fundamentally couple-centric. Everything comes in pairs – from seats in public places, to ‘his and hers’ gifts. And, seriously, have you ever tried to book a romantic weekend for three? (Not that I have, but I dare to suggest it’d be difficult!) Single people are asked why they’re still single, even if they’ve happily chosen that path and are contented with it. Women, in particular, are treated as though they are somehow less than complete until they’re married or at least in a long-term relationship. Those of us who choose to love more than one – openly and honestly – are vilified for it, while serial-monogamously hopping from one partner to another is seen as absolutely fine. Just watch any romantic comedy (which I guiltily enjoy, even knowing they’re awful) if you want any further proof.
Even the everyday language used so thoughtlessly everywhere is couple-centric and hetero-and-mononormative. Consider phrases such as ‘my other half’ – as though you are somehow half a person without your partner. Or the word ‘taken’ to describe being in a relationship, which I hate with a burning fiery passion! My boyfriend did not ‘take’ me when we got together, thereby claiming me as his property. We mutually decided we wanted to be in a relationship with each other. I am not a possession to be jealously guarded and have to say what effectively means ‘sorry, I already belong to somebody else.’
Tacitly, as non-monogamists, we reject these notions and dare to explore the possibility of a brand of relationships which go above, beyond and away from the traditional one-man, one-woman couple. The problem is that even – or especially – in polyamorous communities, I see couple centricity all over the place.

Take, for example, the classic Primary Couple who decide that their relationship must be protected at all costs – even if that involves hurt and heartbreak for countless other people on the way. Consider the people who’ve called ‘veto!’ on their partner’s other relationships because they feel jealous or threatened or as though the new person doesn’t have enough ‘respect!!!11’ for them as top dog.

Even the much-mocked unicorn hunters display couple privilege and couple centricity the likes of which I have rarely seen. They treat the mythical creature they seek not as a human being, but as a convenient fulfiller of their fantasies. And if she doesn’t love, desire and fuck both members of the couple absolutely equally? Out!

I can’t count the number of times I’ve been treated as expendable and interchangeable because I wasn’t the primary partner. This is a perfect example of both couple-centricity and couple privilege, which is also a very real thing. This notion that the primary couple is the ‘real’ relationship and everything else is just a little bit of fun on the side is leading us away from happy, functional polyamory in which everybody involved gets their needs met, and towards a model of non-monogamy wherein secondary, casual or new partners are treated as Less Than, always expected to defer to the couple on things which concern everybody involved – in other words, to be there when convenient and go the hell away when not. As someone who has often entered existing relationships as the new partner, I can say from experience and with certainty that this is a brand of polyamory I don’t wish to touch with the proverbial thirty-foot bargepole.

Now I am not suggesting that being ‘couply’ or doing things just as a couple is a bad thing – quite the opposite, I am certain that all relationships need a certain amount of ‘just us’ time in order to thrive. What I am disputing is the idea of one relationship reigning supreme in the poly dynamic, and expecting all others to defer to them at all times and in all things. I am suggesting that we move away from a model in which there is one REAL relationship and everything else is just an expendable appendage, orbiting the sun of the Primary Couple, towards an inclusive model in which all relationships are real and valid and, while never looking the same or even necessarily being the same level of seriousness as one another, post on this coming up at some point) – are all given what they need to thrive to the best ability of all parties involved.

I propose that those who claim to be relationship radicals stop, right now, treating partners as throwaway commodities with the idea that if they get bored with one, or if one stops being exactly what they want them to be, they can toss them aside and be assured that the next one will be around the corner.

There Is No Such Thing As Justice

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So a couple of quick bits of news from me before we move onto today’s post. First, and super important, Nomad and I celebrated our third anniversary on November 20th. We celebrated with a little overnight trip to the Cotswolds the weekend before, then spent the day itself together. Today December 2nd is also exactly 3 years since we first said the ‘L’ word to each other, and I still love him more with each passing day.

Secondly, I am now completely out of the proverbial parrot cage at work, and everyone has been absolutely fine with things. So hooray for a safe workplace and colleagues who understand!

Finally, I’d like to give a little plug to the new poly dating site, Multiple Match, which was set up by somebody I know online. I haven’t used the site much myself, as I’m not dating at the moment, but perhaps some of you guys might like to check it out! I’ve also been invited to guest post for the blog, and am working on a piece as we speak, so watch that space!

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And on that note, let’s move onto today’s post which, I’m afraid, is a little less cheerful in nature. This one comes with massive trigger warnings for talk of abusive relationships, rape, victim blaming and mistreatment of survivors.

There’s a rather wonderful book that Nomad and Chesh directed me to after Abusive Ex and I broke up and the truth about the nature of our relationship came out. It’s called ‘Trauma and Recovery’ by Dr Judith Herman.

In this book, the author talks about typical responses to survivors, which are relevant in both a small community and a wider societal context. It’s extremely common, she says, for witnesses to brush the survivor’s story under the proverbial carpet, choosing not to listen or pay attention, but instead to stick their fingers in their ears until it goes away. This is not because they are bad people, or because they actually think atrocities are okay. No. The reason is very simple: this response is easier. Believing or siding with a perpetrator, you see, does not require the witness to act. All they have to do is continue exactly as they were before. Whereas if you believe a victim, especially if the allegations are against a prominent member of your community, you have to do something. Something which might be difficult and uncomfortable.

Guys, we do this. As a community, we do this, and as a result we’re slowly re-traumatising our survivors, pushing them away one by one from the space which ought to be safe for them. People who talk the talk about always believing a victim then turn around and engage in the abject hypocrisy of victim slamming and blaming when the accused is someone whom it’d be inconvenient to believe bad things of.

As polyamorous people, many of whom are also LGBT or queer or kinky or gender-variant or part of some other minority group, we know what it’s like to be on the fringes of society, of what’s considered acceptable by the wider world. We should damn well know what it’s like to be punished when you haven’t done anything wrong, to be vilified while your haters get away scott-free with every atrocity they committed against you. And yet our community still engages in blaming the victim, in continuing to love the perpetrator and raise him up as one of the pillars of our group. It calls her a liar, sends him “hugs and thoughts” at the terrible accusations she’s made, expects her to smile sweetly in his presence and act like nothing ever happened, because to speak the truth would make things so awkward for other people.

I do not know the right way for us to progress. I will be the first to admit that there are no easy answers. I’m not going to come out and say “ostracize immediately at the first whiff of an accusation.” It isn’t that simple.

Judith Herman writes that “from those who bear witness, the survivor seeks not absolution but fairness, compassion, and the willingness to share the guilty knowledge of what happens to people in extremity.” I think this is it in a nutshell. We don’t want you to go on ass-kicking revenge sprees for us. That isn’t what this is about. We want you to listen. We want you to believe us. We want you to be willing to stand with us and speak out, to say that what happened was not okay and not our fault. We want you to stop sitting on the Goddamned fence and realise that you cannot claim to support us at the very same time as supporting the people who are loudly denouncing us as liars.

It’s our duty, as a fringe and supposedly radical community, to support those who are not supported by society at large, to speak out for those who cannot speak out for themselves, to stand up alongside those who are brave enough to tell their stories.

We can do better than this. Please let us try.

Ten Signs That Frightening Relationship Norms Are Alive and Well

Today, I point you to an article I stumbled across on the MSN Today site (my homepage when I open my internet browser.) It can be found here, and is titled ’10 Signs She’s Losing Interest.’ I clicked it just out of curiosity, as I often to with relationship based articles, and (as so often happens!) felt compelled to immediately rip all the Epic Levels of Fail to shreds.

So. At first, not too bad. This article contained a slew of decent-but-obvious points that I am surprised anyone needs to be told (if you’re always her last priority, if she’s constantly picking fights) but also a few choice moments of absolute What-The-Fuck-ery.

For example….
Pat on the back: A kiss can tell a thousand things, but so can a hug. If her cuddles are just a brief squeeze and she starts patting your back while she’s got her arms around you, it suggests she’s shying away from intimacy and putting you into the ‘friends’ zone.

…The fuck? This is really oddly specific and makes no sense. If something as personal as hug style can be interested as a reliable sign of a fading relationship, then… urgh, I don’t even know. This one isn’t even so much offensive as just bizarre.

Getting with her friends:  If she swaps her cosy nights in with you for wild nights out with her friends, you could be falling off her radar. Reconnecting with her mates could be a sign she’s shoring up people to spend time with if she finds herself single again, and her nights out could be her trying out the single life to know if that’s what she’d prefer.

Okay, what the ACTUAL fuck? This is horrible. Is the author seriously suggesting that women in happy relationships never go out with their friends? Fuck that shit! When I go out and dance until dawn with my friends, it’s not a sign that I am ‘trying out the single life.’ It’s a sign that I am – wait for it – going out with my friends!

This is both really frightening, in the ‘if she spends time with her friends she doesn’t love you,’ encouraging really scary, possessive and controlling behaviour kind of way… and just plain offensive in suggesting that women only care about their friends when there’s no man to have ‘cosy nights in’ with. Just eww!

No need: Whereas once you were one the one she turned to when she had a problem to talk through or a picture she needed hanging, now she’s become much more self-sufficient. If she stops relying on you, maybe she’s preparing for life without you.

Ewwww. This is vile. If she’s self-sufficient, she doesn’t love you? What? And… hanging a picture? Seriously? If I’m capable of hanging my own damn pictures, I don’t really love my boyfriend? Hey, Nomad – I can do basic, fully-functional-adult things for myself! Be careful, Honey! </sarcasm.>

Being self-sufficient, and also having a support system beyond (but including) one’s partner(s,) is not only not a sign of a fading relationship, it’s essential for a healthy life and healthy relationship! This seems to be advocating really scary co-dependency.

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Finally, I bring you this gem from the sister article of this one (surprise surprise, it’s ’10 Signs HE’s Losing Interest.’)

No one likes a possessive partner, but if the man in your life stops caring about your colleague he’s convinced has carnal intentions, it could spell trouble. It may mean he no longer wants you himself – or even that he’d like someone to take you off his hands.

Dear Relationship Columnists; please, please stop teaching your hundreds of thousands of readers that jealousy is the surest sign of love, and that if a boyfriends lets me go out with my friends or doesn’t fly into a rage about me being friendly with male colleagues, he doesn’t really love me. Just stop it. Why can you not see how disgustingly abuse-apologist this is?

Questions NOT To Ask A Polyamorist (And Answers More Polite Than You Deserve If You Do)

So which of your partners is better in bed?”

This is the absolute height of rudeness, and I am stunned that anybody needs this to be pointed out to them. The truthful answer from my perspective is “I don’t understand viewing one’s partners in this way. They’re different people. I love and value each of them for the whole of who they are, and physical intimacy with each one is unique and wonderful in its own way, for its own reasons. Breaking it down to simply ‘which one’s better?’ is objectifying to them and demeaning to the deep, complex and wonderful connections I share with them.” Would you think it was okay if I asked you very personal questions about your sex life when I don’t know you well? No? Then don’t do it to me. Thank you.

But if you HAD to pick just one…?”

These ridiculous hypothetical scenarios wind me up more than almost anything else. In the life I’ve chosen with the loves I have, it seems somewhere between ‘highly unlikely’ and ‘just not going to happen’ that I’ll ever need to “pick just one!” This is the equivalent of asking a parent “so which of your children would you pick if you could have just one?” It’s a vile question to ask. Please don’t do it. Thank you.

You’ll settle down with just one eventually though, right?”

This is the same as saying “it’s just a phase!” It is possible, though I think highly unlikely, that at some unspecified point in the future I’ll decide monogamy is the right path for me, for a short or long period of time. Really, the worst thing about this is the assumption that one cannot be ‘settled’ with more than one person. Actually, I’m very happy with Nomad and T and have no intention to add any more partners to my life for a long time… nor to end either of my relationships. So I suppose, in a sense, I am “settled down.”

What about the children!!??”

My answer: I don’t have any. I don’t want any. None of my partners have any. Not a relevant point.

More generic answer: There has never been a single study which conclusively suggests that polyamorous families are harmful to children. The few children I’ve known who grew up with openly polyamorous households certainly didn’t seem any the worse for it, and I’ve even heard some comment that they feel they have many parents as a result. Children don’t necessarily need straight, monogamous parents – children need loving, supportive and involved parents. How is MORE of those a bad thing?

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What annoying questions do people ask YOU all the time? Comment with them, and I’ll do a follow-up post!

NaNoWriMo 2012: Dealing With Polyamory in Fiction (Part 1)

It’s almost November, which can mean only one thing: NaNoWriMo 2012 begins in less than 12 hours!

For anyone who isn’t familiar, NaNoWriMo stands for “National Novel Writing Month” and is essentially a challenge to create 50,000 words of a novel in 30 days, during the month of November. For more information, check out www.nanowrimo.org. If you decide to join the madness, add me as a writing buddy; my screen name is the same as everywhere (miss_amaranth.)

What the heck does this have to do with Love is Infinite?, you probably don’t ask. Well, this year I decided to deal with polyamory as a theme in my novel! Details are still being hashed out in my head, and will be decided as I go along, but the basic storyline will follow a woman whose estranged ex-husband tried to take their child away when learning she’s in a polyamorous relationship.

I’m really anxious to do a good job of presenting polyamory in a positive-but-realistic light in the story, which means not shying away from the issues it can present, but still showing it as a valid and viable life choice. I’m particularly interested in the legal aspects of this story, as a case like the one I’m writing about has never – as far as I know – happened in the UK. As such, I have no data on how such things would be likely to turn out. (If anyone knows anything about UK family or custody law and can give me some pointers and perhaps later act as a proof-reader for legal snafus in the book, I will repay you in eternal gratitude, cuddles and cake!)

I’ll update here once a week during November, and let you guys know how things are going and talk about any of the challenges (and joys?) of dealing with polyamory in fiction.

So, dear readers, what would you like to see in a novel about polyamory?

Sexism and Misogyny and Fail (Oh My!)

So I knew there was a reason I shouldn’t click on a link entitled “How slutty can you be and still trick someone into loving you?” Turns out the reason is that I’d be led to a horrific article in the Daily (Hate)Mail and be forced to rip it to shreds on here for the enjoyment (or something?) of you guys!

Okay. So the actual title of the article is ‘Can First Date Sex EVER Lead to Long-Lasting Love?’ A great start, I’m sure you’ll agree – scare-capitals and all.

Good news for anyone who’s ever opened their eyes to find themselves lying next to someone they met the night before: turns out you haven’t necessarily blown your chances of long-term love by sleeping with someone on the first night.

Okay, two things going on here. Firstly, what’s with this “opening your eyes and finding yourself there” stuff? Oh yeah, it’s the culture of drunken hook-ups. I am deeply disturbed by the fact that we live in a culture in which it is only permissible to have casual sex, or have sex early on, if you’re too blind drunk to be in control of your decisions. Clue: if you don’t remember it, you weren’t capable of giving informed consent. Secondly, God forbid anyone – or a woman, anyway, since this piece is aimed at women – actually want a low-key fling or some casual sex! It always has to be about True Wuv Forever And Ever (or else you’re a slut.)

A new American study of 640 adults in Chicago has unearthed a surprising result: couples who slept together on the first night were just as likely to end up happy long-term as couples who put off doing the deed until they became more serious.

“Doing the deed?” What are we, twelve?

Good news for all the not-so-good girls who spend the next day’s ‘walk of shame’ paranoid and panicking that the guy won’t call because he got what he wanted.

Hello, gender stereotypes! Because men only want sex, and women have sex to try to force a man to fall in love and then sit around wailing and waiting for him to call, don’tcha know? Also, fucking hell – “walk of shame?” Seriously?

Sometimes, you meet someone and it just feels so right and so natural, sex just happens. We’re all adults, right? Isn’t it a bit old school and anti-feminist to wait for sex? In some ways, yes…

NO GODDAMNIT! It is not “feminist” to wait for sex, OR to not wait for sex, OR any of the myriad of other choices. Feminism is about choice. I hereby request demand that the sexist idiots who write this stuff do not appropriate the term ‘feminism’ for their thinly disguised misogyny.

“You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

…but I’d still advise postponing it, at least for a little while, simply because once you sleep with someone, there’s no excuse for not doing it again. You’re instantly thrust into a far more intimate space than you were.

CONSENT! Do you speak it? Consent, agency, free choice, the right to change one’s mind or withdraw participation at any point? I suppose these are much too advanced concepts for the world in which men only want completely meaningless sex, and women only want True Wuv, and relationships are just a struggle between these two never-compatible opposites.

Ideally, we’d all date each other (minus sex) until both are reasonably sure you’re compatible, want the same thing out of the relationship, and most importantly, think you might make each other happy. This requires logical thinking and objectivity.

Ideally, we’d live in a world where this bullshit wasn’t plastered all over one of the widest circulating publications in the country. Ideally, we’d all have the free choice to conduct our relationships and sex lives the way we choose to, without being shamed if we “put out” too much or too often.

Good sex rather effectively robs us of both instantly. It’s extremely difficult to look at your new partner sensibly and objectively while their tongue is working its way up your thigh.

… I don’t want my thigh licked, thanks. (Sorry.)

Psychologists call this ‘lust blindness.’ You get to involved with your partner’s body, you forget to look closely at the person inside it. It’s how people end up emotionally involved with people they later find out are bad for them – the “I don’t like him but I’m in love with him” feeling.  No-one falls in love with a nasty piece of work when they’re thinking straight.

Oh, that explains everything! The reason I fell in love with my ex even when he abused me wasn’t anything to do with the headfuckery and the mind-games and the way he could be so lovely sometimes and the fact that I was basically a child! It was all because I slept with him too soon! Thank you so much for clearing that up. Way to totally minimise and trivialise the experience of abuse survivors. Way to blame the victim there. If we weren’t all such sluts, we’d only ever fall in love with men who were good for us!

But if you put your brain on hold and get involved with their body, you can stumble out of that glorious, lust-infused haze, rub your eyes and find you’ve made all sorts of commitments and promises to someone who wasn’t worth getting intimate with in the first place.

I just…. fuck this. This myth that sex makes us incapable of behaving like fully functional, adult human beings, that having sex is the route of all bad or misguided or unhealthy decisions? Fuck. This.

Reading this and the horse has already bolted? Another key finding of the study published in the Journal of Social Science Research was that for love to blossom from first-night sex, both people had to be open to the idea of a committed relationship.

NO SHIT. For a relationship to work, both people have to be open to having a relationship? I just… I don’t know where to go with this. People get PAID to figure this stuff out? Clearly I’m in the wrong career.

So instead of plotting a hasty embarrassed exit, you’re actually better off staying put and snuggling up. Let them know you want more and you might just find your one night stand turns into a long, lovely relationship.

Y’know… if you want to! But oh no, you’re an evil horrible slut now and the only way to redeem yourself is to make him fall madly in love with you!

Okay. I’m done now. I quite like this finding-things-full-of-fail-and-ripping-them-apart thing. If you guys enjoyed this one, I might do it more often.