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!

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.

Singlehood

“You’ve been single your entire life. Does it ever bother you?” I asked a friend one night.

“Not really. I guess I feel lonely sometimes, but I look at the things my friends who are in relationships go through emotionally, and I don’t think I’m any worse off.”

“Are you eager to find someone who is worth going through all that stuff for?”

“Not particularly. I’ve got a lot of other things on my mind; I don’t spend much time thinking about it I guess.”

I had this conversation shortly after writing my entry about SoloPoly and Singlish. Being single was on my mind. You see, I’ve been “involved” with someone in one way or another since about the age of 13, from middle-school “boyfriends” who I would hold hands with and sit next to at lunch, to polyamorous relationships and other forms of ethical nonmonogamy as an adult. Though my Facebook status has read “single” for the last 3+ years, the truth is, I haven’t truly been “alone” in terms of romantic involvement in well over 10 years.

I’ve realized that my perception of “singlehood” is likely very different from others’. My perspective is that of someone who grew up in Los Angeles, where, by the age of 13, having a significant other was a prerequisite to having any social standing above “loner” at school. My perspective is that of someone who moved to St. Thomas at 16 and soon entered a 7-year relationship, which was completely normal in the new cultural context. At the ending of that relationship, I began navigating singlehood without ever straying too far from some kind of romantic connection. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that, but because of it, I have wondered at my ability to be happy while being completely romantically alone. I have wondered at the ability of others, as well.

There are many studies about whether being married increases a person’s chances of being happy, and a few studies, I believe, about whether just being “in a relationship” does so. A study from MSU published in 2012 actually tracked people’s levels of happiness ten years before and after marriage and compared them to a control group of people who remained unmarried for the length of the study, and found that married people experienced a spike of happiness during their first year of marriage, then declined to pre-marital levels of happiness. Unmarried people’s happiness declined over time, leaving them worse off than married people, except, it appears, in the cases of unmarried people who cohabitate with a long-term partner.

As I search the internet for more of these studies, I can’t help but notice how much of the “happy and single” movement is moved by, and geared towards, women. The friend I had the conversation above with is a woman in her 20’s. She’s happy, if not wishing only for a more challenging career. I somehow expected that, as a woman, she would have experienced some doubts and loneliness about her singleness, if for no other reason than movies and songs and TV shows are constantly telling her that she’s supposed to be in a relationship.

Apparently not. I continue to find evidence that happiness is, ultimately, up to the individual. Perhaps the single people whose happiness declined over time were feeling less happy because they believed that they should have been married by a certain age. Perhaps positive attitudes about singleness could rectify much of this reported unhappiness.

Thoughts from people with perspectives besides my own?

Isn’t It All Fair Play?

Polyamory has changed for me since I first discovered it from within a “primary relationship.” I was recently asked what kinds of rules I like to adhere to, and I had a hard time saying that I wasn’t really sure without feeling emotionally reckless. Despite the fact that I’ve read many articles and blogs by people who explain why having rules about love doesn’t make sense, it’s still hard to tell people that I don’t follow rules in regards to love without seeming like someone too dangerous to love.

My “problem,” if you could call it that, is that I generally don’t like attaching obligations or ultimatums to emotional situations, either for myself or for the people I’m potentially or definitely fond of. “Don’t be an asshole,” is probably the only rule that really comes to mind, but because everyone likes/dislikes different things, the meaning of this rule changes from person to person. While some people expect and want to pay for their own dinner, others get offended if the person who suggested the dinner doesn’t pay, for example. (I did once have someone ask me to write a “Handbook to Dating Shannon Burton”, which I still might write, more for entertainment value than anything else.)

Woman Reading a Diary

Italian food, eh? I’ll rock her socks off with my homemade lasagna!

Yes, I do have things that I would prefer you do/not do. If you know me, you’ll probably find these things out rather quickly. I’m not exactly quiet about my needs. Here are some basics, though, that some may not think to ask about:

If you love me, I want you to choose to love me each day, until the day comes, if it ever does, that you find that you just don’t any more. If that day comes, I want you to tell me.

I want you to be you. I want to love you for who you are, not some person you think I’ll like, and not some person who holds him/herself back from pursuing people or things that interest you.

Yes, people. If I like you (and even if I don’t, honestly), I want you to go out and float your boat. I want you to pursue people that interest you. I was likely at some point one of those people, and it probably turned out wonderfully for both of us, even if it was only for just a little while. If it didn’t, it was probably a great learning experience. I don’t want to stop you from experiencing something wonderful or learning something new.

Tourist Boat Near Dragon Palace Cave

I want you to choose, if someone else’s needs require that my role change, and you care for them enough to want to meet their needs, what role in your life you’d like me to take. I want you to make this choice while keeping your own needs in mind, as well.

And if you decide we need to alter our relationship, I know you’ll inform me with the knowledge that I, too, have the freedom to decide how I feel about the change, and proceed accordingly.

Does this philosophy open me up to potential pain? Uh, duh! I’m not immune to jealousy and misunderstanding. But this is attraction and love – do you really think you can jump in these waters and expect the lifejacket of assumed eyes-only-for-you, you’re-the-only-one-for-me, and happily-ever-after paradigms to save you from getting nibbled on by sharks? Nope. I’d rather be clear, open, and honest so I can see the sharks in the water when they arrive. Then we can talk about what the eff to do about it – swim to shore? Punch the sharks in the nose? Befriend them? I’m willing to have these discussions if you are.

Three-course meal? Yum!

Three-course meal? Yum!

Don’t misunderstand me: the “lifejacket” in this analogy is assumed paradigms, not to be confused with people who honestly, genuinely, have examined themselves and found themselves to be inherently monogamous or monogamish. If that’s who you are, you’re not putting on a lifejacket when you jump in the water; you are jumping in as you are…just as I jump in as I am. And you know, monogamous, monogamish, polyamorous, or whatever/whoever we are – we still risk getting bit by sharks, because that’s what happens in this particular ocean.

We just get to see what’s coming at us.

SoloPoly, Singleish, Non-Coupled Polyamory

Aaaaand I’m back!

From one set of woods to another, more Wi-Fi enabled set of woods, I am once again active online.

And loving it.

Let’s skip the polite small talk: today I’d like to write about an oft-bemoaned phenomenon as polyamory has risen in popularity visibility, as well as some terms I came across this week that people are using to describe this phenomenon and those sidelined by it.

Couple-Centric, Couple Centric, Couple Centricity

This topic had been broached by bloggers and conversationalists alike before polyamory became more well-known, because many human cultures are couple-centric. Particularly in the western world, we tend to see one of the steps to life fulfillment being that we ultimately find ourselves paired with some amazing person who “feels like our other half.” People who are single tend to be seen as “unfulfilled” or even “immature,” or even perhaps somehow damaged if they haven’t completed this oh-so-important lifetime achievement of finding “The One.”

Polyamory, for the most part, offers an alternative perspective for consideration. Polyamory’s mere existence has opened up a flood of questions about monogamy and our assumptions about human love, romance, jealousy, and whether or not being paired really is a requirement for a fulfilling life. I think polyamory might have even done worlds of good to help people see that not only is it possible that some people can romantically love more than one partner and be happy, but also entertain the idea on the other end of the spectrum: that some people might be able to be happy without a romantic partner in their life.

Sure, it might not sound pleasant (to you) – it may not make a blockbuster movie (or mightn’t it?), but, hey, with asexual and aromantic people out there, it’s a reality. It also means that, gasp!, single people might just be able to live fulfilling lives!

Couple Centricity in Polyamory

Polyamorists, predictably, groan about the difficulty in booking romantic events for three – romantic packages often are designed for couples – though personally, I find that it’s fairly easy to creatively overcome this issue if you just put your mind to it. The problem that tugs at my heartstrings a little more is actually centered around how polyamorists are being represented in the media, again and again, during this sudden rush of public attention. “Polyamory” flashes across the TV screen, and what do we see? A couple, usually a “primary” or married couple, with a third. Despite the literally infinite ways polyamory can manifest, this is, invariably, all the public ever sees.

And, while quads and clans and W’s and pentagrams choose either to complain or to wave it off, there is what I think might be a growing population of polyamorists who want to be acknowledged: “singleish” and “solopoly” people.

I first saw the terms in the comments section of an entry on Jess’ Love is Infinite blog (we have a lot in common). I was directed to solopoly.net and polysingleish.com, and eventually to the Facebook group Singleish and Solo Polyamory.

I had never quite thought of it this way, but it’s true: ever since my break-up in 2010, I have been both polyamorous and single, and it has seemed to confuse people from time to time. I’ve gotten questions like:

“Wait, can you be polyamorous if you’re not currently in a relationship with more than one person?”

“So, you’re a slut?”

“Don’t you think maybe you’re single because you’re polyamorous?”

(Answers, in order of questions: Yes. Yes, but that’s unrelated. And, no, I don’t.)

What am I taking from all this? I’m still figuring it out, but it’s interesting to meet and read things written by people who identify as “solopoly”, some of whom never intend to be a part of a bonded “pair,” some of whom who always intend to live alone, while still having meaningful, possibly even life-long relationships with, perhaps, more than one partner.

I, for one, really enjoyed my time living with someone I was in a relationship with. That’s not something I’m willing to take off the table, which is funny, since I currently make clear that for me, kids are off the table and marriage is something someone would have to make a really strong argument in favor of to sway me.

If the topic piques your curiosity, as it did mine, by all means take a look around. Let me know if you find something interesting – I’m enjoying having something new to research.

Progress and Patriarchy

Step 1: Print out manuscript

Check!

It took me over a year to do it, but yes, the manuscript of Love Times Infinity is finally printed and ready for my red pen. I have chosen to reward myself for completing this step by sharing two of my observations this week with you, because sharing feels good. I’m a sharing person, in case you couldn’t tell.

The first was something I stumbled upon while doing research for work. I’ll be teaching an outdoor education lesson on the Native American Lenape people in a week or two, and of course, I began my independent study on their history with everyone’s favorite free and readily available encyclopedia, Wikipedia. I couldn’t help but copy and paste this tidbit, even though at the time I wasn’t sure what I would do with it:

The Lenape kinship system was traditionally organized by clans determined by matrilineal descent. That is, children were considered to belong to the mother’s clan, where they gained their social status and identity. The mother’s eldest brother was more significant as a mentor to the boy children than was their father, who was of another clan.

I’ve read about a culture similar to this before: the Musuo in China, where at a certain age girls get their own room where there is a door that men they invite over can come discreetly through, and when the girls get pregnant, their brothers help raise the children. The fathers of the children are responsible for their sisters’ children, not the ones they father themselves. Like the Lenape, the Musuo are matrilineal. Unlike the Lenape, Musuo children may not know who their biological father is.

This got me thinking about how some have noted that “no matriarchal societies exist”, and how others have countered that perhaps it seems that way, because we expect matriarchy to look like patriarchy, except with women in all the roles of power instead of men. These people argue that matriarchies may actually exist, but we call them “egalitarian”, because when women are given equal power, well, things are more…equal. Thus, matriarchy = egalitarian. (I have more reading to do on this, here.)

So there my head was, swimming in matriarchal, patriarchal, and egalitarian thoughts, when, while out and about one night being an adult with fellow adults, a friend uttered the following phrase:

“Girls who claim to want it hard are cancer.”

We had been having a conversation about sex, and the different ways people like their sex, and at least two of us in the group had voiced our approval of women who are comfortable saying that they like their sex “hard.”

Then, that happened. *sigh*

Unfortunately, because we had been out and about adulting so hard that it was futile to begin an argument with that friend (I doubt he remembers even making the comment, now) I had to spare myself the frustration of calling him out and being the mood-killer by explaining why I was doing it. The feeling followed me until the end of the night, though, where I made sure to jot down a few feelings before I went to sleep.

Patriarchy hurts everyone. Men come of age in a society which cultivates an assumption that the “right girl” will be one who fits into the submissive role for women the patriarchy has established. For some men, society wasn’t needed to foster attraction to submissive women, and that’s fine. But many other men likely miss out on the great women they really want; the forward, bold, aggressive women who say what they want and say it proudly. Those women are sexy, too, but as my friend’s comment revealed, those women are also still seen by some as only sexy, and not…here it is again…”relationship material.”

And all of this, of course, hasn’t even touched what it does to non-normative relationships and trans* people.

There’s still work to do, people. Be you, be proud, and be happy.

 

A Sickie Quickie

(Apologies for the odd title; I’m sick today, which hinders my mental capacity, and this is also a quick entry, thus…you get what I’m saying.)

A friend who has much more free time than I linked me to this Jezebel article about “female purity” being bullshit yesterday. Mostly, it’s stuff I already know, and mostly, it’s stuff I’ve covered here on this blog. There were, however, a couple of gems, such as the author’s imitation of a male trying to justify not wanting to sleep with a “slutty” female:

So you’re about to have sex with a woman you’re attracted to, you really want to have sex with her, but all you can think about is her getting pounded by tons and tons of dicks? That sounds like an entirely different issue.

“No! I just mean that I struggle with the same powerlessness and insecurity that all human beings do, so as a coping mechanism I take advantage of our culture’s patriarchal power structure and exorcize my feelings of worthlessness by perpetuating shame-based proprietary attitudes over women’s bodies. Basically I’m obsessed with controlling women’s lives because I can’t control my own.”

Oh, honey. I know.

That certainly got me a-chucklin’. However, I think my favorite gem was actually in the comments, from TheBigManJoinedTheBand:

This is what I don’t get — women are impure because males have touched them. Who’s the dirty one here? And guys, don’t you get annoyed at being a metaphor for ruining another person’s worth? How can that feel good to hear?

I think I might be in love with TheBigManJoinedTheBand. I don’t even know them, and yet, the stirring feeling is there…*swoon*

Jada Smith on Relationships

Do we believe loving someone means owning them? Do we believe that ownership is the reason someone should “behave”? Do we believe that all the expectations, conditions, and underlying threats of “you better act right or else” keep one honest and true? Do we believe that we can have meaningful relationships with people who have not defined nor live by the integrity of his or her higher self? What of unconditional love? Or does love look like, feel like, and operate as enslavement? Do we believe that the more control we put on someone the safer we are? What of TRUST and LOVE?

Should we be married to individuals who can not be responsible for themselves and their families within their freedom? Should we be in relationships with individuals who we can not entrust to their own values, integrity, and LOVE…for us???

Here is how I will change my statement…Will and I BOTH can do WHATEVER we want, because we TRUST each other to do so. This does NOT mean we have an open relationship…this means we have a GROWN one.

MC900434433

So said Jada Pinkett Smith, wife of Will Smith, on her Facebook yesterday at 6:17pm.

I’m not normally one for celebrity gossip; in fact I saw this post by Jada only because a friend of mine shared it on her wall. I decided to do some research to find out if the profile actually did belong to the actual Jada Smith, and that the post was, indeed, written by her. I was immediately annoyed by the first article Google News pulled up, which was on philly.com:

“Jada Pinkett Smith wants to make it crystal clear to everyone (or at least her Facebook followers): She is in a mutually-exclusive, committed relationship with her Philly-raised, triple threat of a husband, Will Smith.”

*headdesk*

In what part of the above statement by Jada was the term “mutually-exclusive” used? She asked questions about whether relationships should be relate-able to ownership and slavery, asked whether we should be married to irresponsible, untrustworthy people, and then stated that she and Will can do whatever they want. A “grown relationship” could be a relationship in which the people involved are mature enough to do the things they want to do without hurting their marriage or families; in a marriage where one or both partners isn’t bothered by their spouse being involved in some way with other partners, that could include non-exclusivity.

But none of this matters, because everybody is taking this statement to mean that Jada and Will are, indeed, in a “closed,” “exclusive” relationship. perezhilton.com, E! Online, and US Weekly are all breathing internet sighs of relief and using phrases like “committed relationship” to clarify the type of relationship the Smiths’ have. What does that even mean? I’ve already talked about my feelings on what commitment means in this blog post from long, long (a year) ago. It ain’t so clear-cut, folks.

Everyone seems to be celebrating the reveal that the Smith marriage is monogamous, but is it? The answer doesn’t really matter; what does is the fact that if the general population would quit jumping to conclusions, putting words in Jada’s mouth, and instead think about the questions she put forth, it could do a lot of lovers a lot of good, and perhaps help a lot of lovers be better understood.