On Inspiration

If I inspire you to do only one thing, let it be to be the happiest version of yourself as possible.

If I inspire you to do two things, let them be to do the first, and then to inspire others to do the same.

Me

Dear (Possible) Future Husband

Every once in a while, I am awestruck by just how drastically different my life and mindset are from someone else’s. It’s very humbling, and very mind-opening, and it just happened again at lovedbyjam’s WordPress blog, with the post “dear (possible) future husband”, which was shared by a few of my Facebook friends.

I am going to attempt to re-write the post, now, but from my mindset. I highly suggest you read her post first. Ready? Go!

bighappyfunhouse.com

Dear (Possible) Future Husband,

I’m going to start of by saying #sorrynotsorry.

I’m not sorry for my past. For being generous with my heart. For forming perceptions based on experience. For learning to trust those who are trustworthy. For having high expectations of you. I’m not sorry for my present. For being “insatiable” as some lovers have called it. For constantly searching instead of being patient.  For not spending every waking thought on you. I’m not sorry for my future mistakes. For not submitting (except when there’s a safeword involved). For letting my emotions drive me at times. For occasionally trusting intuition over logic. For things beyond my control that stop me from keeping promises I damn well knew I could keep when I made them.

I’m not sorry for you. For the beautiful people you see every day, and the beautiful relationships you may have with them. For the girls who rightfully flirt with your sexy self. (I am sorry for the lie that “manhood” is being physically strong and not showing any emotions, but you and I both know that my anti- gender stereotypes game is strong!) I’m still not sorry for having high expectations of you, and don’t mind if you never meet them, as long as you always try. And just like I’m not sorry for my past, I’m also not sorry for yours, because mine made me who I am, and you love me, and yours made you who you are, and I love you.

So, #sorrynotsorry, but there’s more. I’m not scared.

I’m not scared of the bad times, because I know we’ll grow from them. Nor am I scared of not living up to your expectations, because I know you’ll let me know, and you’re worth figuring it out. I’m not scared of being a bad wife…because, um, hello, I’m awesome. And I’m not scared of being a bad mom, because how can I, if I have no intention of becoming one? I’m not scared of fighting, because make-up sex. And I’m not scared of possible financial stresses, because I know that ultimately that does not matter (even though it causes many divorces, so maybe it does matter, so really, I’m not scared because I’m pretty financially independent, thank you very much).

So, I’m #sorrynotsorry, #sorrynotscared, but you know what? I am excited.

I’m excited to meet you. I’m excited for you to experience my awkwardness. I’m excited for the mountains (and the oceans). For the jokes and laughs. For the happy tears. For our future children, if the Lord wills it. For serving the Lord together. For cooking dinners for two instead of one. For dancing and singing in the kitchen. For worship and fellowship in the family room. For the deep conversations. For working the mission field, whatever that may look like. I’m excited for the valleys (and the lakes!). For the trials that will shape our relationship. For the times that we can only get through because of our love for the Lord and His grace. For the times where all we can do is turn to His word because we are without words.

I’m #sorrynotsorry and #sorrynotscared and excited. You may be two months or fifty years away. Maybe our future will never happen. Maybe you and I are each destined to change other lives in other ways. I hope that, whatever the case, you are living your life in a way that makes you happy, just as I am living mine in a way that makes me happy, no matter how many temptations that means each of us gives in to. I hope that we are both leaders in our lives, but both know when it’s appropriate to follow. Most of all, I hope that you’re not wasting your time writing a letter like this to me, because there are more important things in life than sitting around waiting for another person to bring meaning into your life when you could be doing it yourself.

Love,
Your (possible) future wife.

He Means Well

I’ve had a few interactions with men in the last week which have irked me. These were all good people, “decent human beings,” as I like to say. But I think their male privilege had blinded them to the fact that women experience the world differently than they do. In only one instance did I try to help the other person see things from an alternate point of view…but the inability of that well-intentioned man to put himself in a woman’s shoes became quickly apparent.

I was hesitant to write about this today, because I feel it’s fairly off-topic for this blog, but as my roommate pointed out: this disconnect gets in the way of understanding and love. If putting this out there can help bridge that gap and allow for more love, then perhaps it isn’t so off-topic after all.

The first situation involved a relatively serious conversation about rape. The gentleman I was talking to then uttered this gem:

“I only weigh like 150lbs, there’s no way I could rape someone.”

Yes, he was implying that he was light enough that anyone could shove him off. I’m about 80% sure he wasn’t kidding. He had this sort of “look at me, I’m harmless” argument that he felt made him a safe guy to be around. “Women are safe with me because I’m too weak to overpower them,” he seemed to think.

I just…couldn’t. I didn’t have words in that moment, but I do wish now that I’d said something along the lines of, “Hey, I guess you might not know this, but rape is not just about physical domination. Women, men, trans people, and children have been raped by women, men, trans people and yes, children of much less physical strength. You don’t need to be strong or heavy to rape. I don’t want to imply that you could rape someone, of course. I just hope that the reason you couldn’t rape someone is because you WOULDN’T. Because it’s wrong. It’s terrible. Don’t do it, and don’t imply that if you were stronger or heavier you’d be capable of it.”

Don’t.

So there was that. The second time I found myself in a conversation that made me squirm, I was more ready with my words. I was chatting with a new friend over drinks, and we were comparing experiences meeting new people and navigating the friendship-FWB-relationship lines.

“Women never know what they want, though” he said. “So many times, I take a woman out, we have a great time. We meet up a second time. Things seem to be going somewhere, and then *poof*, she disappears. No more texts. No more calls. Nothing. And no reason given. It’s frustrating.”

As a woman who has been on the other side of that, I tried to offer some possible explanations. It could be many things, of course, but personally, I’ve found myself in that position when I’ve met someone that I’m not attracted to at first, but keep seeing anyway thinking they might grow on me. Once I realize that it’s just not happening, I start to move away. In the past, that sometimes meant ending communication. Today, I like to think I’m better at being honest about why and communicating my reasons, but I was once a “disappearing act.” When I think about why I would do that, it was mostly to avoid confrontation. In my experience, men wanted to know what they did wrong to cause a lack of attraction, and when they found out they’d done nothing wrong and I STILL wasn’t attracted to them, they’d get angry. I have been called childish, stupid, a dumb slut, and other things by men I’ve turned down after meeting. Who wants to hear that? Safer to be silent.

Today, I can recognize insults like that as reflective of a problem with the man, and not with me, but in my younger years…and certainly for many other women like that younger version of myself…it felt safer to just fade into the background. Now I just go on less second dates; if I’m not attracted to you on the first date, then I’m probably not going to be on the second one, so I’ll save us both time.

I did try to get the man sitting across the table from me to understand this, but he…just…couldn’t. He thought it all sounded immature. I don’t think it’s immaturity. I think it has more to do with women being expected to not start conflict, not shake things up, and to please everybody. The moment we know we’re going to make a man who is interested in us unhappy, we feel guilty. All he did was treat you well, and you’re not attracted to him? How dare you!? The common reaction of men to label women who aren’t interested in them as “bitches” certainly doesn’t make being upfront and honest an attractive option.

So there’s that.

My last interaction was one-sided, as it was simply a Facebook post that I didn’t bother commenting on. He had a lot of supportive comments on it, though, which terrifies me a little.

The post mentioned that there would be an advertisement about domestic violence during the Superbowl. The highlights of the post were basically: We’re not ending DV any time soon, if the ad convinces one person to rethink the way they treat their spouse, great, but this is otherwise a waste of time, men are victims too, DV is a psychological problem that a commercial can’t fix, and people lie about DV in divorce cases all the time.

So. Not. The. Point.

I can’t even begin to delve into all of the “no” here. There is already so much literature on domestic violence, and I am much less articulate on the topic than the many people who have put work into making it a more visible issue and encouraging victims to seek help. I didn’t have the energy to reply to him on Facebook, and I don’t have the energy to go into it here, either.

Please, world, take the time to open your eyes and consider other people’s perspectives.

Live Your Dream, Abridged

While exploring what people seemingly think they are supposed to do in order to appear busy, attractive or likeable, I concluded that this all just seems like a giant façade. It’s getting in my way of getting to know people who I actually like.

http://elitedaily.com/dating/rules-dating-outdated/777713/

Getting in the way, indeed!

Hey y’all! As usual, I’ve been gone for quite some time. The writing bug has been a bitin’, but I’m not gonna lie; so has life. I’m sorry to have abandoned you as I’ve explored my corner of the globe and the people in it for the past few months, but also, I’m a little #sorrynotsorry.

What brought me back here was not a personal epiphany, or huge development in the world of poly, but an article posted by a friend on Facebook, with the quote posted above. I’ve agreed with the sentiment for a while now, and while the author doesn’t seem to ascribe to any form of polyamorous outlook, at least publicly, I enjoyed reading her views.

Regardless of whether you find yourself leaning more toward the monogamous, polyamorous, open, single, or any of infinite other possibilities within the realm of relationship statuses, I think that it’s worth your time to shun anything that gets in the way of getting to know the people you want to get to know. I think it’s a damn shame that some people think that there are “rules” to getting to know people, and who will stop getting to know someone they are otherwise interested in if they don’t follow these arbitrary rules.

Forget the rules; if you want to call someone the same day they gave you their number, who’s to say they won’t be excited to hear from you that same day? I’m only one voice of many, but if someone makes you that excited, perhaps you deserve to know if they are equally excited to hear from you. If they aren’t, perhaps it’s not a match. Who knows? Crazier stories exist than the couple that “recovered” from a same-day call back.

In the meantime, until you meet the person (or people) who make you feel that way, keep being you and loving you. When you’re busy living life the way you love living it, time flies by, and people see you for who you are and love you for who you are. Be you to the fullest; do it the best way you can. I’m cheering you on and doing the same.

Back to living the dream!

 

Girl Power?

A friend recently posted this article from xojane to my Facebook wall, saying she found it an interesting read. The author, Alecia Lynn Eberhardt, feels that women need to stop using “I have a boyfriend” as a way of getting out of situations with guys who seem interested in more than casual conversation. Eberhardt insists that using the mention of another male, present or not, real or not, perpetuates the idea that only another male matters in the situation, that a woman standing alone saying “I’m not interested” is not reason enough to stop attempting to get to more than just casual conversation. She encourages women, single or not, to stop saying “I have a boyfriend,” and instead stubbornly repeat “I’m not interested,” until it is understood that women can decide by themselves, for themselves, whether they want to pursue anything further with someone.

Seriously, she's not interested.

Seriously, she’s not interested.

In response to this article, I found I’ll Stop Citing a Boyfriend When My Consent Starts Mattering, by Heina Dadabhoy. Dadabhoy lists the number of reasons why repeating “I’m not interested” could be an unsafe option for women talking with men they don’t know. While she agrees that is certainly isn’t right that women can’t just be respected for saying “no,” she doesn’t think it’s safe for women to start expecting it and acting on it. (This makes me think about the Bechdel Test, where the last criteria is, “Do the women talk about something other than men?” Movies have been making it seem like the only important things women have to say are about men for years.)

Where do we go from here? I feel like Eberhardt probably wrote her piece because she feels what I often feel: a need to know what we can do, here on the front lines, in everyday life, to improve the broken image of women. She found evidence of the breakage, and suggested a patch, but therein lies the problem: it’s a patch, and a patch on the evidence, not the problem itself. Men not respecting women who turn them down is simply a symptom of the larger problem – women not being respected in general. Until we fix the larger problem, we’ll have to keep treating the symptoms (refusal to respect what women say, do, think, feel, etc. based simply on their gender), and sometimes the treatment of the symptoms is unsafe, as Dadabhoy pointed out.

How do we get to the real problem? How do we tackle it? I tend to think that media has a huge role in this large issue, but I don’t work in media and, as someone who works on a campground, I don’t even consume much of it. I’m limited to Eberhardt’s option: treating the symptoms I see around me. I work with schoolchildren almost every day who, before hitting puberty, have already decided that in teamwork situations, the boys should go first and then help the girls, whose primary job is moral support. I often bring it up and discuss it, pointing out that all-girl and all-boy groups have accomplished the same tasks they did, and maybe I get through to a couple, but if I only see them that one day, who knows whether the message sticks?

One thing that I find nice about the polyamorous community is that, overall, people recognize that it is a community where women are empowered by their ability to explore their personalities, wants, needs, and sexuality freely, since they are breaking so many relationship norms. Psychology Today even published a study on the topic. Polyamory may be one place where women are finding their voices; if media won’t allow it, what other spaces can we claim?

 

 

“The Line” Between Monogamy and Nonmonogamy

So, A-number-one, as some friends would say, it’s been a while since I’ve updated. Hello. Hi. I am alive, well, and thinking about sex, love, and relationships sometimes but not always, because life is grand and full of awesome and busy and still awesome.

Yes.

B-number-two: that doesn’t change how bad I feel about not updating. I am sorry. I am updating tonight because of a confluence of two unrelated events that were, in my head, related and became necessary to blog about.

Here goes.

I can’t explain how much I enjoy the company I’ve been keeping as of late. I have been happily living and working with people who, in many ways, are very similar to myself, and in many ways, very different from myself. It’s been an interesting flexing and constricting of my personality muscles. It’s been an opportunity to stop and examine the effect of my actions and words on others, and grow. It’s been an unusual situation of being housed with a number of people with very different life experiences and viewpoints than my own, and that’s provided much perspective.

Today, I talked with a friend, revisiting the topic of labels. She has a pretty easy time understanding my indifference towards labels like “boyfriend” and “girlfriend,” whereas others, not so much. It was interesting to not only hear her take, but also hear the questions she had to ask. Would I expect different things from someone I called “boyfriend”? Would it change things?

I don’t think it would, except to change the difficulty from having to explain that not having a boyfriend/girlfriend doesn’t mean that I’m not emotionally invested in someone, to having to explain that, though I call someone “boyfriend”/”girlfriend”, I don’t expect things of them that most people would expect from a person with that label. It’s a pick-your-poison situation, and I guess I like handling the “if I don’t label it, you don’t feel obligated to understand it” poison.

In a completely unrelated parallel universe of my existence, another friend had, days ago, recommended I check out Sex Nerd Sandra, and when I finally got around to it tonight, her most recent podcast was on, you guessed it, Struggling With Monogamy!

In it, one of her guests poses the questions:

But what’s a relationship? And how do you know when you’re in one? And when do you decide that you’re actually in a relationship with someone?

And points out:

Monogamy and nonmonogamy; it’s not as clear-cut as it might seem.

True dat. There’s an honorable mention about polyamory at the end of the podcast, if you’re interested, but it’s mostly along the lines of “oh yeah, people these days are poly, like, ‘yeah, I’m vegan and fair trade and poly…'” before the conversation gets cut off for time. Too bad. The conversation had revolved around stuff I’ve already spent loads of thought-time and blog space on, so I won’t regurgitate it, but if it interests you and you’re new to the nonmonogamous conversation, have a listen.

Last, but not least, C-number-3: I am working on a book about sex for a, ahem, less-experienced friend of mine who would like a book on said topic. It is a very exciting venture, even more exciting at the moment than Love Times Infinity, the novel, so it’s been getting loads more attention. Hopefully, if I get it all put together, I can make it available in an ebook version, and let you all have at it.

You’re welcome.

Until my next break from climbing trees and smelling like campfire; keep smiling!

Childfree

I’m going to go slightly off-topic today, both to have something to post, and to satisfy my own need to voice my thoughts.

Having kids is not the only challenging life choice.

There, I said it.

Living child-free is becoming a more common, more talked about, and dare I say it, a more accepted thing. Slowly but surely, people are getting used to the idea that some people might not want to raise children.

“According to 2010 U.S. Census data, the number of childless people age 40 to 44 is close to 20 percent — compared with 10 percent in 1979.” (cited)

I’ve often used the excuse “I’m selfish,” to avoid lengthy conversations about why I don’t want to have kids. I’m gonna open the honesty box here and say: that’s not true. I’m not especially selfish (like everyone, I can have my moments), and even if I were, that’s not the reason why I don’t want to have kids.

The Guardian has an article, The Choice to be Child-Free is Admirable, Not Selfish, which sums up my feelings on the topic pretty well. The conversation I want to have revolves, I think, around two points:

1.) Neither the choice to have nor the choice not to have kids is “better”, “smarter,” or “more right” than the other. Every person needs to decide what is best, smartest, or most right for themselves.

and then, once we can agree on that:

2.) Not having children is NOT the “easy” choice!

And that is not to suggest that having children is the easy choice; we all know that raising kids is HARD. (Those of us who don’t have kids have been told countless times that it’s even harder than we already think it is.) Just because raising kids is hard, though, doesn’t mean that not having kids is easy. Ignoring the social stigma that still lingers around being child-free, there is still a lot of pressure attached to this life choice.

Parents tell you that their kids are their world, their kids give their life purpose, their kids will carry the family legacy, etc. For those who have decided that child-rearing is not for them, the responsibility of giving life purpose falls entirely on themselves and whatever endeavors they come up with to fill the time they’re not spending changing diapers, chasing toddlers, or trying to decode teenagers. People seem to envision life without children as an easy life spent in hammocks with adult drinks in fancy glasses actually made of glass, and while that may be true some of the time, if that is ALL a person’s life is…well, alcoholism and depression can be just as tough to live with as children, with much fewer rewards.

Living child-free, REALLY living that life, is HARD. Filling each day of your life with meaning is a challenge. To be able to wake up each morning and feel that whatever you are doing that day has purpose is tough when you can’t say, “Well, I’m working this Monday-Friday, 9-5 job to feed my family, and then I’ll come home to that family, and on the weekend, I’ll spend some rejuvenating time with that family.”

When you don’t have children, you have no excuse to work a job that isn’t fulfilling, other than that currently the job market is awful and you have crushing student loan debt – hardly as rewarding a reason to work an unrewarding job. Having kids is much more motivating.

So, cut child-free people some slack, because they didn’t choose the easy way out. Neither did you. We’re all working hard to make our lives matter, and there’s no point in trying to step on each other to get it done.

Duke

I’m sure that the blogosphere is and has been blowing up about the Duke University freshman who is a porn star, but I’ll be honest: I haven’t really looked outside of my own little circle of blogs I follow, and within it, I haven’t seen a single mention. That really surprises me, given the blogs I read. It also means that a lot of people in my circle of friends are probably oblivious to the topic and the conversations I’d like to have surrounding it.

So, here’s me, having a conversation with myself about it.

Over at xojane.com, the woman in question submitted an absolutely amazing, well-written, honest and direct response to the negative attention her story has been getting, in a piece titled “I’m the Duke University Freshman Porn Star and for the First Time I am Telling The Story in My Words“. I absolutely loved reading it. You should read it. It’s good stuff from an articulate Duke student, which I think makes it even more powerful.

I am well aware: The threat I pose to the patriarchy is enormous. That a woman could be intelligent, educated and CHOOSE to be a sex worker is almost unfathomable.

That’s it right there; people are so aghast because, as an articulate Duke student, why on earth would she choose PORN?!

…the answer is actually quite simple. I couldn’t afford $60,000 in tuition, my family has undergone significant financial burden, and I saw a way to graduate from my dream school free of debt, doing something I absolutely love.

SHE LOVES IT! She absolutely loves it! And who wouldn’t? Sex is awesome! Being filmed having sex, if that’s your thing, is awesome! And think about it, as the Duke Chronicle article about Lauren* (name changed) points out: “With an estimated 450 million visitors each month, porn sites account for 30 percent of all data transferred across the Internet.”

Clearly, people, lots of people, watch porn. If Lauren gets off on making it, and people get off on watching it, who’s losing here? Why are people so up in arms and upset?

In addition to explaining her personal experience with filming porn, Lauren also brings up issues bigger than herself: the fact that, though she has had a wonderful experience in porn, many women do not, but the problem can’t be addressed if we keep pretending that these women “deserved it” for choosing to be sex workers. She brings up slut-shaming and rape apology, which she has encountered outside of the pornography world, but not within it. She addresses the issue of society convincing women that sex is shameful, something to withhold, something to make hard to get – but not too hard, lest you land on the “prude” end of the female sexuality dichotomy rather than the “slut” end.

Wait, what? Exactly.

She’s intelligent and aware. She asks anti-pornography feminists, and everyone, to “deconstruct why they treat female sexuality with such disdain,” to ask ourselves why “we condemn women who have had multiple sexual partners outside of a marriage.”

Great thinking points, great talking points. I like this girl.

I can say definitively that I have never felt more empowered or happy doing anything else. In a world where women are so often robbed of their choice, I am completely in control of my sexuality. As a bisexual woman with many sexual quirks, I feel completely accepted. It is freeing, it is empowering, it is wonderful, it is how the world should be.

Trending

trends

I’ve had a tab open on my computer with this graph displayed for, oh, a week or so now. It’s from Google Trends, and I was having some fun, and just couldn’t bring myself to close the tab.

What can I gain from this graphic?

It is, at first, hard to read. The highest spike, the yellow one for the search term “open marriage,” is hitting a line labeled “100” at it’s highest point. It appears that 100, though, is simply the value assigned to help us understand the popularity of search terms in the rest of the graph by comparison. i.e.: The blue line’s highest point is at 95, meaning that, at it’s peak, the search term “polyamory” was only 95% as popular as the search term “open marriage” ever was, and “open relationship” only 77% so.

The bar graph on the side, though, marked “average,” suggests that, over this 10-year period, “polyamory” did actually get searched more often than “open relationship” and then “open marriage,” respectively. Interesting.

“Ethical slut,” though supposedly a popularized term by a book published in 1997 and re-published in 2009, has a surprisingly low register, even in 2009. The term “nonmonogamy,” I should tell you, didn’t even earn a blip on this graph.

This makes me remember a conversation I had with a friend once (a very monogamous friend in intent, I should say, and not so much in practice, though never, to my knowledge, unethical). The friend said something along the lines of, “you know, I never hear anyone mention any of these terms….polyamory…ethical slut…but you. I think you’re just in a tiny circle of people who think this way, and you think it’s a lot bigger than it actually is in the real world.”

Harsh. Possibly true, I guess – thought it’s just as possible that he is a part of his own circle that is shut off to these kinds of ideas, or that we both suffer of a combination of both of these problems. If, however, the banner of this blog, my linking my posts to Facebook, and my day-to-day conversations help introduce these terms and, by the transitive property of information, their meanings and the concepts therein, then so be it. I’m always happy to be a bearer of information to the curious, or the instigator of curiosity.

Go ahead, Google search some stuff you see. I want to see the peak on Google Trends.

Beyond the Fad: Polyamory and Relevance

As I write this, my fourth post to this blog in as many days, acknowledging a newfound urgency to express the things I’m thinking, I also find that I need to admit one of the reasons I wasn’t posting for so long:

I worried that polyamory had become a fad.

It was a moment of weakness, I admit. I faltered under the weight of the fear that all I wrote might be summed up by readers to simply be anecdotal contributions to the trendy new lovestyle that has garnered so much attention in the media, including TV shows like “Polyamory” on Showtime. I stopped working on my novel because I decided that, by the time I was done writing it, finding an agent, and doing the work necessary to get published, I would have “missed the boat” – the fad would have passed, polyamory would be old news, and no one would want to publish the book.

Discussion and visibility of polyamory has skyrocketed in the last year or two, and while the benefits of that include visibility, the drawbacks include the fact that people enjoy simplicity, and trying to simply define something as complicated as polyamory just doesn’t happen. Instead, people define it by comparing it to things they already know – infidelity, swinging, commitment phobias, sex addiction, etc. I feared being lumped into those definitions.

I should have been stronger. I should have waved away the possibility that I’d be just another voice in the polyamorous cacaphony, just another polyamorous person whining with other polyamorous people about being misunderstood.

But this blog, and my book, and my writing in general, are not about that.

This isn’t about polyamory and its visibility. This isn’t about convincing people that polyamory is okay.

This is about love; about rethinking relationship norms. That will always be worth writing about, even if the whole world suddenly became polyamorous. Ultimately, my biggest hope for every single person who reads what I write is that they stop to think about the way they love, and decide for themselves what ways of loving work for them. If polyamory is not a model for you, I have no intention of trying to “convert” you; I simply want you to know that for yourself because you actually took the time to think about it.

Blogging about polyamory has never, for me, been about getting more views and attention by playing into a popular topic. When I started doing it in 2007, it wasn’t a popular topic at all. Just because it has become one shouldn’t deter me. If it is a fad, then like all fads, it will pass. When the dust settles, I’ll still be here, plodding along, thinking about love, sex, and relationships and how people can be happier with all of those things in their life.

Hopefully, if it is a fad, it will be one that changes some love lives for the better.

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