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.

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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.

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Thoughts On Slut Shaming: Respect, Infidelity, Logic, Gender Equality, and So Much More!

thoughtfulNow that my fear of slut shaming has been covered, I’d like to tiptoe a little deeper into the topic and share some thoughts I’ve had about slut shaming since I discovered the term.

My current theory: the slut shaming of women is related to the old “wife as property” idea of marriage. If a man is married and sleeps with someone other than his wife, well, what can she do? She’s his property – she has no real say. He has a mistress; that’s the way it goes sometimes, even if it’s not very admirable. In some cultures, men even take on additional wives.

But, if a married woman (the property) sleeps with another man…well, it’s a bit different. One man’s property is being used by another man, without any kind of compensation. I don’t even know of a word for the male equivalent of “mistress.” There is nothing but shame for the husband who has been “duped;” he’s a cuckold.  In Puerto Rico, it’s a common insult to call a man a “cabron”: a man who’s woman sleeps with other men. Are there equivalent words for women whose husbands cheat on them?

As a woman, if you have extramarital sex, you shame your husband, and you shame yourself, because you are his property. Perhaps this is part of the reason why slut shaming women is so much more popular than slut shaming men.

Or is it?

sad man

Slut shaming today does not only target women. I once began seeing a guy and was “warned” by a concerned friend that he slept around a lot. Because of that, this concerned friend thought that he wouldn’t be “relationship material.”

I was annoyed, not just because this friend assumed I was looking for a relationship, and not just because they assumed they knew what “relationship material” meant to me, but because this person was making a judgment of someone based on irrelevant information. The guy’s promiscuity should be viewed as just that: promiscuity. It should not be viewed as an indication of any other aspect of his character. It should not be assumed that it affects his relationship material-ness, which is vastly different for different people.

The definition and example of slut shaming posted on Urban Dictionary suggests that it is only bad because it means people will have less sex. It’s more than that, though. It’s an attack on character. For some reason, people associate what someone does with their sex life as relevant to the kind of person they are in other aspects of their life. It’s a cheap logical fallacy which is unfortunately used by educated people all the time. Be better than educated, people; be intelligent.

I think that one of the reasons why some may think slut shaming is only ever aimed at women is because it is more widely and vehemently done so. I haven’t conducted any studies or anything, but I feel that while there are probably plenty of well-intentioned people out there slut shaming men, telling them that they’re missing out on experiencing “true love,” informing/warning potential lovers away from them, and encouraging them to “be more respectful of women,” those people are labeled “cock-blocks” by popular culture. On the other hand, it’s much more acceptable for icons like Taylor Swift and even one of my favorite artists, Pink, to insist that self-respecting women certainly know better than to have sex. Apparently, being respectful of women, and women respecting themselves, means leaving their vaginas alone. What…err…cunt-bunters? Twat swatters?

People just need to respect people, regardless of gender identity, and regardless of how frequently they have sex. Part of ethical nonmonogamy and sluttery is that people are supposed to be considerate of one another’s feelings. Manipulating a person’s emotions to get them to have sex with you, or purposefully hurting their feelings afterward, is still unethical and disrespectful. Making it clear that you have no intention of being monogamous, being honest about who you are and what you feel or don’t feel, and finding someone who wants to sleep with you with that knowledge, is not disrespectful or wrong. It’s beautiful. Even if it happens 10 times in one week.

Slut shaming shouldn’t be perpetuated against anyone, but maybe it’s the way we interpret it and the way it is supported/unsupported depending on who it is aimed at that contributes to the sense of inequality we notice when it comes to slut shaming.

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.

She Doesn’t Mind

I’ve been doing a lot of dancing lately to this song:

Hands up high, we burning up the sky
We got the dance all crazy, got the club on fire
I like the way you dance, you got me in a trance
My baby she don’t mind at all…

Girl I got you so high, and I know you like,
So come and push it on me, if it feels alright,
When you drop it low, and break me off,
No, she doesn’t mind (aight)
She doesn’t mind (aight)
She doesn’t mind.

Now, while dancing isn’t quite equivalent to sleeping with someone, I think it is worth noting that the kind of dancing many Caribbean people do is rather suggestive. In fact, an island friend told me last night that he once had someone warn him that he might face sexual assault charges for dancing with a girl at a bar one night. The girl, who he’d just met, was from the Caribbean as well, and had suggested that she and my friend “show them how it’s done” in the Caribbean.

If a Jamaican man like Sean Paul has a baby who doesn’t mind him letting another girl push it up on him, I’d say that’s pretty open-minded and on the road to compersion. I’m not going to say that his baby must be okay with the idea of an open relationship or polyamory, but given that there are some people who’d be irked if their partner even danced tamely with someone else, hey, the song makes me happy.

Response to: Why I Will Never Sleep With an “On the Road” Fanatic

“[A] dude who claims On The Road as his all-time favorite book and/or predicates his entire life philosophy on said favorite book is a dude who’s not sticking his dick in me.”

So says Kate Hakala at Nerve.com.

To be fair, to each their own, but I’d like to make the case for at least one person (myself) who certainly doesn’t mind On the Road fans.

“[I]t’s not surprising that all of the men I’ve met who identify as On The Road fanatics are self-mythologizing commitment-phobes. They don’t believe in fidelity, but fall in love fast, and often.”

I’ve written here before about my thoughts on the definitions of “commitment” and “fidelity.” I think there is nothing wrong with falling in love fast or often. I don’t see how someone committed to scouring the earth for all the experiences they can gather before their inevitable demise can be seen as lacking commitment. Surely, they are committed to their life’s happiness even to the point of not letting the views of people like Kate get in their way.

Hakala says she is scared that these fans have no interest in treading the territory within themselves, but then notes that a lot of them seem to dwell in self-imposed poverty. I think that self-imposed poverty does a lot to help someone look inside themselves. There’s a lot to discover about yourself when you don’t have a lot of possessions to distract you. If you truly feel a person lacks depth, Hakala, how about asking them a few questions and having a conversation with them, rather than judging them so quickly based on a book they like?

And then there’s her assumption of pursuing a relationship with someone you sleep with. Honestly, if I’m considering inviting an old friend into my bedroom after a few drinks, as she mentions she was, I’m probably not thinking about whether we’ll be “Facebook official” within the next few weeks. I probably just want to get laid. What the hell does it matter if his life philosophy is based on a book I didn’t really enjoy?

The end of her post runs through a host of stereotypical assumptions, some of which annoy me, but, hey…what am I gonna do? Like I said, to each their own.

I’ve had wonderful relationships and friendships with On the Road fans. I’m pretty sure that one day I’ll wind up traveling the world with one. It may last forever, it may not, but I like to let things be whatever they are supposed to be. Perhaps Hakala simply isn’t meant to be with that kind of man.

Polyamory and the Nomadic Lifestyle

Today, I leave St. Thomas to work at a camping program in the states. I likely won’t return to St. Thomas until Thanksgiving.

In total, I plan to work in three different places this year. The longest amount of time I will spend in one place will probably be 6 months, and that will be broken into two three-month stints, with a three month break in the middle.

Long distance relationships are hard. I’m not going to argue that they aren’t worth it; I believe that most are. I have discovered that for myself, though, polyamory has made long distance relationships a teensy bit easier to handle. This is good, because with how much I move around, I’ve got a couple to deal with and can use all the help I can get.

There’s something comforting about being able to reach out to the people in my immediate vicinity for comfort, without fearing the possibility of feelings developing. When monogamous, there is a wall to maintain, and lots of angst and worry if the wall fails to keep feelings out (which, I’m sure, is something many people have experienced).

Being able to reach out and develop natural relationships with the people around me actually makes it easier to hold on to the people who are far away from me. I find support, and I can be myself without worry, and as long as everyone knows that the people I love know everything, and as long as I am communicating with the people who aren’t present, I’ve found that I enjoy myself much more. Life is happier.

It’s also worth noting that, for me, the fact that I haven’t been in one place for longer than three months in the last year makes it difficult to be “taken seriously” in the way that many people want to be able to do. Everyone knows that long-distance is hard, so why invest in a relationship with someone who is going to be leaving in a couple of months?

Inevitably, some people do anyway, (we can’t control feelings, after all) but I find that people are much more accepting of my nonmonogamous ways because of the fact that I’m always moving away. I’ve made some very close friends, and more than friends, over the last year, and as I look back, I can’t say there are any broken hearts. I miss people while I’m away, and they miss me, but even though I’m always moving away, I’m also always coming back.

Eventually.

STDs in an Ideal World

Sexually transmitted diseases, for me, are the top argument against nonmonogamous lifestyles. Hands down. Most other arguments are based on morals, religion, and social constructs that I don’t necessarily see eye-to-eye with, or which I find don’t apply to me, or which are outright misogynistic and stupid.

But, STDs, that’s real. They are an unquestionably valid concern: Even if you wear a condom every time with every partner, there are some STDs, including incurable ones, that can still be contracted (much slimmer odds, though). STDs that make you more prone to contracting HIV, even. It’s a very, very scary thought.

In an ideal world, every single person would be getting tested for every known STD before participating in sexual activities with another party. Even then, though, there are false negatives, and some STDs can’t be detected until some time after they’ve been contracted (at least 3 months for HIV). In an ideal world, people would remain abstinent long enough for the test results to be reliable, but now we’re relying heavily on a lot of thought-out, planned steps in the face of sexual desire, and we all know that the balance often tips such that desire gets the best of us.

Keeping with the “ideal world” theme, I think that an ideal world would also exist with much less stigmatization of people with STDs as well. I am a firm believer that the fear of finding out that one has an STD, the fear of knowing, is a fear that keeps many, many people from going and getting tested. If STDs weren’t attached to sex, which our culture still thinks of as a “dirty” and “base” activity, they would just be another disease. People want to know if the tap water they were drinking gave them cancer; they don’t all want to know if the sex they’ve been having (a natural and expected human behavior) gave them an STD, because of the heavy load of guilt that would come along with finding out that their actions gave them “that” kind of disease.

Clearly, my ideal world isn’t the same as that of others’. While this remains a valid argument against nonmonogamy, though, I feel the need to point out one thing:

The tendency to assume monogamy in a relationship is very, very dangerous. Statistics and experience show: people cheat. It happens. And because people have such a negative association with cheating (because we are “supposed” to be monogamous), people who claim to be monogamous hide their sexual partners from one another (or at least from the “primary” one), putting one, both, or more partners unwittingly in danger. If, for example, you decide to cheat on your partner, you’re not just deciding to take that risk for yourself; you risk your partner’s health as well, because you could catch and pass an STD to them. A risk they haven’t had a chance to say yes or no to. They don’t even know that their health is in danger, because your desire to maintain a monogamous front causes you to hide it from them.

It’s sick. I would like to hope that people who do this at least ask the new sexual partners to get tested first, but I know that this is often not the case. If we were more accepting of the fact that humans (not all, but at least some) are “fallible” when it comes to monogamy, we’d probably be a lot more open to admitting the need to get tested when a “mono-fail” happens.

I like to think so, anyway.

Will I Ever Marry?

A friend of mine today told me that he couldn’t ever see me getting married.

Despite all of the reading about marriage I’ve been doing lately, and my increasingly ambiguous feelings towards it, I found that the comment surprisingly stung.

Why would it sting, if I think I don’t care much about it?

I think I, like many people, associate marriage with achievement. As someone who thinks of herself as a very loving person, with a fair bit of knowledge about love, sex, and relationships stored up in the cranial cabinet, and a fairly healthy dose of emotional maturity, I tend to think that I’m a pretty good “catch” for the right person(s).

Here in ‘Murica, good catches eventually “win” at love, and when ‘Muricans win at love, they marry. It’s an unfortunate mentality, but a pervasive one, and as someone who loves love (and as a competitive person), I’m having a hard time fighting off the urge to win at love.

But, honestly, love is a win in and of itself. There’s no need to slap the label of “marriage” onto love to make it “more win”, especially since these days, marriage means different things to different people. (Again; why do I care so much, then?)

Perhaps I will never “marry” in the sense that I could never be in the kind of marriage my friend envisions when he thinks of marriage. I will likely never promise monogamy for the remainder of my life with someone. However, I like to think that I could commit to a partnership, til-death-do-us-part, with someone who didn’t require that from me.

I mean, if I don’t, I’m sure I’ll be just as happy. . .mostly sure.

I’m going to elect to recognize that I have not yet reached complete indifference to the question of marriage in my future, but, I’m left to wonder where this investment in the idea has come from. Have society’s expectations so deeply embedded the idea in me, or is there something more to this desire?

Time will tell.

Commitment

People insist that “commitment” is essential for a relationship to work. I agree. I don’t understand why people confuse “commitment” with “monogamy,” though.

Commitment:

1. a : an act of committing to a charge or trust: as (1) : a consignment to a penal or mental institution (2) : an act of referring a matter to a legislative committee b : mittimus
2. a : an agreement or pledge to do something in the future; especially: an engagement to assume a financial obligation at a future date b : something pledged c : the state or an instance of being obligated or emotionally impelled <a commitment to a cause>(Merriam-Webster)

Can someone please point out to me where, in that definition, monogamy in a relationship is described?

When I commit to a relationship with someone, I commit to being there for them. I am “obligated and emotionally compelled” to do so. I commit to being honest with them. I commit to not breaking whatever ground rules we have laid out for our relationship. I commit to respecting them. I will NOT commit myself to someone who does not understand that I cannot commit to monogamy; it would be lying to them if I let them believe that monogamy was something I could do. I don’t like lying. It’s not nice.

You want to tell me that, okay, what you really meant was “fidelity” or “faithfulness”?

fidelity: 1: a. the quality or state of being faithful b. accuracy in details: exactness (check it)

faithful1: obsolete : full of faith, 2: steadfast in affection or allegiance : loyal, 3: firm in adherence to promises or in observance of duty :conscientious, 4: given with strong assurance : binding <a faithful promise>, 5: true to the facts, to a standard, or to an original <a faithful copy> (check it)

I’m just as steadfast in my affection towards someone I love as any monogamous person. I adhere to my promises. I am brutally true to the facts. . .ah! There it is! The “standard”! That’s where I don’t fit. No, no, I’m definitely not standard. I guess I’m not “faithful”. Oh well.

But, I AM committed. To more than one person. Don’t you dare try to tell me I’m not, or insinuate that I have “commitment issues”. Or do. I’ll know you’re wrong.

P.S. Go ahead, say it straight: monogamy is required to make a relationship work. Right. And everyone in a functional relationship is completely monogamous. Go read a book.

One Reason Why I Love Reading

…not only do I learn new things, but I unlearn things that I thought were true!

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For example, when I read Sex At Dawn last year, I was schooled on my understanding of the “typical life span” for humans before the advent of modern medicine. My mother had on occasion pointed out to me, and other sources reinforced the sentiment that, because humans used to only live to around the age of 40-45, marriage was easier, because life was shorter.

But, wait! What does “typical life span” mean to you? Because, apparently, while “[a]t the beginning of the 20th century, life expectancy at birth was around 45 years,” this was largely due to high infant mortality rates. [1] When you average dying babies, aged “0”, right in alongside people living to 75 and beyond, well, yeah, the average age of death might be 45, but that certainly isn’t a typical life span for someone who lived past infancy (which, by the way, I’m pretty sure you have to do to get married…)

So, yeah, married people probably had to put up with each other just as long back then as we do now. That, of course, doesn’t change the fact that they probably found just as varied solutions to the problem of desired infidelity as many couples secretly (or not so secretly) do today, but it’s definitely a little factoid that I felt was worth sharing with my mother on the next occasion she brought up life expectancy averages.

Today, I am reading a different book, The Future of Marriage, by David Blankenhorn.

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Would you like to know what fun fact I unlearned today?

In regards to the concept of a dowry, or “bride price,” which some of us have come to understand as the equivalent of “purchasing” a bride, making marriage a strictly economic transaction, and making the bride “property” of the groom:

“[S]cholars have shown that families frequently expected the economic value of the gifts to the bride’s family to be essentially equal to the value of the return gifts to the groom’s family and the gifts from the bride’s family to the bride, called the dowry.” [2]

Excuse me? Return gifts to the groom’s family? Dowry was a gift to the bride, not the groom? Why did I never hear about this stuff? I was definitely under the impression that the bride herself was a gift to the groom/groom’s family, and the groom/groom’s family presented jewels and goods in exchange for her.

Wtf? o.O

Now, you may have noticed that the two things I have unlearned actually are were pretty good support points against monogamous marriage as we know it today. They certainly were two points that originally influenced my hesitation to embrace the concept. I remain, however, unconvinced that monogamous marriage is for me, in spite of unlearning these things.

Why? Because there is so much more out there that I’ve learned, and which I still have yet to learn. So far, the path leads me away from desiring traditional marriage, and I’m not going to jump ship just because of these two new bits of information. Rather, I now feel more confident in my decision. I am now more well informed on this topic than I was yesterday, and I am proud to say that I still feel confident in my personal wariness toward traditional, monogamous marriage.

More research, as always, is required. Onward!

[1] Sex At Dawn, p266

[2] The Future of Marriage, p50