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.

To Date or Not To Date: Monogamous People

As a single polyamorous person, I’ve read and heard a lot of advice and preferences from other poly folk about the dating world. One phrase I’ve come across quite a few times is, “I don’t date monogamous people.”

I’ve never quite liked it. First off, so many polyamorous people lived monogamous lives up until a certain point. Isn’t it possible that the currently monogamous person you find yourself attracted to possibly has the capacity to be polyamorous, just as you did? If not, could you at least credit them with the emotional intelligence (you are attracted to them, right?!) to decide whether a polyamorous partner is something they could be happy with, be understanding of? If they say no, then that’s that, if they say yes, who knows what could happen? A relationship only exists for as long as both partners want it, and I trust the people I love to let me know if they no longer want it. If we both do – let’s!

Secondly, I’ve always believed that we can’t help who we fall in love with, and that as long as you love someone, and they love you, most obstacles can be overcome. It can be hard, but aren’t relationships always hard at some point? That’s the challenge of relationships, isn’t it? Relish the joy and ecstasy of being in love with someone at the cost of often having to reconcile the fact that you are, in the end, two individual beings with different needs and wants. Relationships are full of compromises; some are big, some are small. This is a big one.

But perhaps I only feel all of this because I am an optimist. When it comes down to it, this is one of those obstacles that is much harder for one partner than the other. Monogamous people often try to do things to prevent their partner (and themselves) from falling in love with someone else and leaving the relationship; polyamorists need to be allowed to love others. Because most romantic pairs are scrutinized under a monogamous light, a polyamorist who dates a monogamist could, in times of duress, be seen as someone who is “getting more than they’re giving,” in the relationship, even if it’s not true. Societal standards are tricky that way.

Perhaps people who choose not to date monogamists simply don’t want to invite the possibility of that being a perceived dynamic. They don’t want to potentially set themselves up to be “the bad guy.” Or, perhaps they simply find it easier to date people who have already explored themselves and their capacity for love, and people who identify as polyamorous have usually at least started that journey. I, ever optimistic, like to think that I fall for people who are capable of deciding whether they want a relationship with me, a polyamorist and ethical slut, or not. I expect them to know what they want, be able to communicate what they want, and decide if I fit that.

Maybe I have high standards, after all.

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.

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*

“Relationship Material”

interview

What is “relationship material”? I’ve been thinking about this ever since writing my second post on slut-shaming, where I mention that someone warned me that a guy I was interested in was not “relationship material”.

“Relationship material” usually, I think, refers to someone’s viability as a romantic partner. The problem is that everybody has different needs from a romantic partner. This is most visible in dating sites, where individuals (or a quiz) can identify who is “relationship material” for them. All kinds of needs can be set out: “Someone independent with a job and a car,” “Someone who values traditional gender roles,” “Someone who likes the idea of moving every couple years,” “Someone who is okay with the fact that I’m married,” etc.

I think online dating sites often highlight the issues with having a third party decide who is “relationship material” for another person. They make it obvious that individuals have individual relationship needs, and then try their best to design algorithms to identify these needs and find “matches.” Members can often identify what they are looking for, with options such as “hang out,” “friendship,” “long-term relationship,” “no strings attached,” “marriage,” etc., and often, I see written on these profiles, “Let’s just see what happens.”

“Let’s just see what happens,” leaves, literally, infinite possibilities open, from good conversation partner, to one-night stand, to friend, to best friend, to friend with benefits, to life partner, to this-person-wants-to-have-bikini-oil-wrestling-at-their-wedding-and-I-do-too!, to any of the other infinite points on the spectrum of possibility you can fathom. This attitude, I believe, is more reflective of the real-life dating world. You get out there, you present yourself to the world, and you see what happens. Maybe a fun conversation at the bar, maybe a one-night romp in the sheets, maybe a wedding down the road.

All of these things are types of relationships. They are all wonderful possibilities. We can learn something from all of them. Wouldn’t you hate to miss out on a great experience and new person in your life because someone (or some website) thought they were not “relationship material” for you based on what they read in an online profile? (I am reminded of the “How I Met Your Mother” episode where Ted’s friends look up his date online, and find out she’s a total BAMF, and he freaks out thinking he’s not good enough.)

And try to think of some “universal qualities” that we all want out of any relationship. Think you’ve got some? I’d like to hear them, because with all of the kinks and cultures out there, there’s always someone, somewhere, who doesn’t want exactly the thing you’d think is universal.

So, when someone says someone else isn’t “relationship material”, I can’t help but laugh inside. How could they possibly know?  The person in question may have qualities that the speaker finds unattractive or undesirable in a relationship, but that’s just their own perspective. Love and friendship often blossom from the unlikeliest of places, so what authority do they have to make that call?

I love many people in my life. I love family, friends, lovers, lover-friends…most defy all effort to accurately label. I do not have anyone in my life that I call a “boyfriend,” or “girlfriend,” but all of the people in my life who are there for me when I am in need, and vice versa, no matter what that particular “need” is at the moment, are people that are “relationship material” to me in some way. I have so many varied and even conflicting needs, that I wouldn’t dare ask one person to meet them all, because it would be impossible. But the various and very different people in my life, when combined together, do meet them all. I guess my “relationship needs” include, “be a part of the team.”

Slut Shaming & My Fear of It

As defined on Urban Dictionary:

Slut Shaming:

An unfortunate phenomenon in which people degrade or mock a woman because she enjoys having sex, has sex a lot, or may even just be rumored to participate in sexual activity. Often it’s accompanied by urban legends such as the common virgin misconception that the vagina becomes larger or looser with use– in fact, sex has no effect on vaginal size.

However, since most people would rather women be MORE sexually active than less, slut shaming is counterproductive to the aims of most men and quite a few ladies.

I know that many in the polyamory and ethical nonmonogamy community are already familiarized with this term, but the thought occurred to me today that it’s a term I haven’t defined and talked about here for the people in my life who read this blog and aren’t involved in the online communities I frequent.

Slut shaming is counterproductive, as demonstrated in the example that accompanied the Urban Dictionary definition:

Guy 1: Ha ha Megan had sex with two guys, she’s such a SLUT!

Guy 2: You idiot, do you want her to stop having sex? We should be encouraging this. Your slut shaming will simply discourage more women from sleeping with us and we will be virgins forever.

And even more than perpetual virginity, slut shaming is counterproductive to gender equality. More on that in another post, hopefully.

I will admit, slut shaming is something that I fear a bit. I didn’t know that there was a term for it until recently, and now, knowing that there is one, I feel more empowered to identify what is happening in a situation, if it ever happens, and call someone on it.

Still, the fear lingers. Why? Because even if the effect slut shaming tends to have (sluts stop being so slutty) is unlikely to affect me, there’s the fact that I spent my whole adolescent and young adult life surrounded by slut shaming, and it’s ingrained the idea into me that promiscuity is bad. For a long time, I thought that was true. As I grew into an adult, I thought it was true. It was five or six years ago that I started seeing the possibility that promiscuity was not inherently bad, but even after so long, I’m still working so hard to push that message out.

My fear, I think, is based on one thought. One thought that I fear admitting, because it will open me up to attack from all those people who do think sluts should be ashamed.

What if I’m wrong?

We all fear being wrong from time to time. This one’s a biggie for me. What if my promiscuity means I lack good decision-making skills? What if it means I have low self-esteem? What if my promiscuity is the result of “daddy issues”? What if this, and my lack of ability to commit to a monogamous relationship, and my lack of ability to stick to a career, and my depression, are all linked…the common denominator being me, and me being the problem?

When this fear grips me, I have to take a deep breath. I remind myself that I have great decision-making skills. I’ve helped so many programs I’ve worked for grow, develop, improve. I am an excellent problem-solver and leader. I have left situations in which I was unhappy, and those to me are the most important decisions. I have healthy self-esteem. I know my strengths and hopefully most of my weaknesses. I use my strengths to help others, and am thanked for it often. Sure, Daddy and I have issues, but I’ve accepted that, stopped blaming both him and myself, and moved on. All the other things, well, I’ve spent so many years investigating them, writing about them, and even getting professional help for them, that all I can do is know that I’ve done the best I can with who I am, and, ultimately, I am happy.

And that is what is most important.

Seriously

Take Me Seriously“Do you think anyone will ever take you seriously if you live this way?”

I’ve been asked that a few times in relation to my “lovestyle”. I like to think that yes, I can be taken seriously (in fact, I know that I can be), but the number of times I’ve been asked this sometimes does make me stop and consider the possibility that I’m suffering from some tunnel-vision.

I think that a large number of people can and do have a hard time imagining a “serious” relationship with me. For many, it is because “serious” means sexual monogamy, and if I’m not offering it, then I can’t be serious. Then there are some who don’t mind the sexual nonmonogamy, but they expect emotional monogamy. You know, the whole, “she sleeps with other people but her heart’s all mine,” people out there. That’s fine and dandy if it works for you, but I can’t promise that my heart will be yours all yours and only yours, honey bun. Sorry.

So, what’s left to offer someone who wants something “serious” with me? Honestly, I crave something “serious” just as much as the next person. I’d love to have someone in my life right now to make time for. I’d love to have someone who expects me to make small sacrifices for them. I’d love to have someone who makes me want to work hard and strive to be an even more awesome person. I’d love to have someone to share my travels with, someone to get lost with from time to time, someone to sit around and be honest with, and be honestly in love with.

If those aren’t the desires of someone who wants something serious, then perhaps I need a different word. Fortunately, I’m not so hung up on labels and definitions to spend much time worrying about it. In the meantime, my answer remains: Yes, I do think that the right people can, will, and even DO take me seriously. As seriously as I take them, despite all of their non-normative needs and desires. Because, let’s be fair, there’s hardly a reliable definition of “normative” anyway.

I Love This

Jus sayin’

 

Other than that, I’ve been connecting some points on human matriarchal societies, and perhaps the reason why we don’t know of any on our planet is because they look like egalitarian societies, and collecting evidence to support that…theory?

Will report when I get around to it. In the meantime, slut on!

On Loving Love and Loving Sex

Sometimes, honesty leads to misunderstanding. Strange world.

To be polyamorous means to be able to be in love with more than one person at a time. To be an ethical slut means to responsibly partake in a promiscuous lifestyle. Both of these are forms of nonmonogamy.

I’m open about the fact that I am both/all of these things, but that’s not always enough. I think people have trouble understanding that being polyamorous and being a slut are, first of all, two different things, but at the same time, that they are also not necessarily mutually exclusive. Polyamory tends to focus on love, emotional attachment, and often romance. Of course, when we love someone, sex often is a part of the relationship (not always, but often). Polyamory is not about no-strings-attached sex; it’s about actual relationships.

Being an ethical slut can be about no-strings attached sex, possibly with many people, but in a responsible way. Safely, between consenting adults who are clear about one another’s intentions and communicate honestly. Sometimes, it’s not no-strings-attached. Sometimes it’s between friends, sometimes people do fall in love. Not always, but sometimes. Believe it or not, sluts can fall in love. Not all sluts can fall in love with more than one person, like a polyamorist, but some can, and that makes them both an ethical slut and a polyamorist.

My point is, being an ethical slut doesn’t “cancel out” anyone’s ability to love or desire to be loved. It also doesn’t mean that an ethical slut only wants friends-with-benefits situations, or any specific kind of situation, for that matter. As with all else in life, everything is dependent upon each individual’s wants and needs. I happen to love love, even though I don’t need it to enjoy a good lay. It could go either way, honestly.

Here’s an example of something that feeds into this issue. I heard a song recently where the female artist proclaimed that ladies should demand respect and not “give it up for free.” I hear songs like this often. I’m sorry, I didn’t realize that women only lose with sex, and should receive some kind of payment for giving it away. I didn’t realize that it was a sacrifice to give. Believe it or not, women can actually enjoy sex, and it’s possible to have a pretty even exchange in a sexual encounter without a gentleman having to put some extra sort of effort forward for it.

This idea obviously permeates our culture, which causes misunderstanding when I’m honest about my feelings on sex. Men seem to think, “Nice! What a good deal; I don’t have to pretend to be emotionally invested to get this,” and it’s true, you don’t, but that also doesn’t mean that you should avoid emotional investment if you feel it developing. There’s no reason to fear being in love; love is grand, even if it’s with that slut you’re banging.

Don’t be scared of love, peeps. It’s too awesome to hide from.

Why Am I Blogging This?

Why blatantly stick my name and photo next to views which are clearly controversial, and then also go the extra mile of sharing each post on my Facebook to make sure that people who know me, find me, and read my thoughts? Why take it upon myself to “educate,” when there’s no guarantee that anyone will agree or even bother to read?

Plenty of people “just do” polyamory, nonmonogamy, ethical sluttery, etc. without calling it those names (sometimes calling it other things, like “open relationship” or, though it’s not polyamory, “swinging”). I’ve met them. They’re happy. They don’t feel the need to get involved in this “movement;” many don’t have time (can you blame them, when they have more than one relationship to maintain?). Why, then, having met these people and seen the fulfilled happy lives they lead, do I feel compelled to spend time on here, posting and researching and commenting, yammering on rather than being out in the world living and loving?

Well, first of all, because I’m a blogging nerd. There are other reasons, though.

“Many people, especially ignorant people, want to punish you for speaking the truth, for being correct, for being you. Never apologize for being correct, or for being years ahead of your time. If you’re right and you know it, speak your mind. Even if you are a minority of one, the truth is still the truth.”

-Ghandi

I don’t think that monogamy is “wrong”. If you’ve examined your heart and find that you are the kind of person who prefers to be in love with just one person at a time, that is a beautiful thing. It is no more or less beautiful than someone who has examined their heart and realized that they can be in love with more than one person at a time, or who has decided that, while they may only be in love with one person, they can accept sexual relationships with others, knowing that it doesn’t affect their love.

My issue is with the idea of monogamy being the “norm,” and everything else being “weird” or “wrong”. Nonmonogamy might be a deviation from societal norms, but it certainly isn’t wrong, and most definitely isn’t weird. Humans have never, as a species, truly been monogamous.

All I really want is to give people the chance to consider nonmonogamy; a chance they would not have had otherwise. It’s like deciding whether you want a Mac or a PC. If you never knew that Macs existed, you’d just default to PC, because it’s what you know exists. Friends! I present to you…the Mac. Nonmonogamy. Check it out. Some of you won’t like it, and that’s fine, but others will, and that’s fine, too.

. . .

As I’ve gotten busier, I’ve been posting less. When I leave March 12 for a job stateside, that will probably be even more true.

I don’t, however, want to stop updating. Not at all. This blog is too important to me, for many other reasons besides that stated above, such as:

– it motivates me to keep working on my novel,

– the fact that this blog, and my “About” page, have been my official and final “coming out” to friends and family who didn’t know this part of my life (yeah, I might have been one of those kids who enjoyed shock value),

– the fact that I love writing, and writing about what I love, and writing about love

– and the fact that this stuff is on my mind all the time, and I don’t always have willing listeners around. That sounds bad, but it’s not that I don’t have people to listen to me; it’s that I tend to talk so extensively about this topic, ad naseum, that I’m sure more than a few people who started as “willing listeners” became “obligated listeners.” I’d rather write here and know that my audience can bail at any time, and it won’t hurt my feelings. (Really, you can bail any time now…)

So why am I blogging this? Well, for both selfish reasons and for what I like to think is a more noble cause: giving people the opportunity to see and talk about other possibilities in their love lives. I think if we all started talking more, we’d probably start fighting just a little less.