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.

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.

Monogamy is Militarily Advantageous

You learn something new every day:

Why We Think Monogamy is Normal (Psychology Today)

“…a plausible answer is that it spread because historically, monogamous groups were advantaged militarily over polygynous groups (Alexander, 1987)…. the imposition of monogamy produced bigger, better armies, because monogamous groups can grow larger than polygynous ones. Why can monogamous groups grow larger? Because men want wives, and if you need a lot of men on your team, you must offer them something that they want.”

So, basically, the idea is that monogamist armies were bigger than polygynous armies, kicked polygynous butts, and “Yay! Monogamy!” happened.

I’ve always been fairly anti-violence, personally…

And, right, there were less men in polygynous groups because many men who didn’t have high enough status/attractiveness to attract a wife had to leave to look elsewhere for one. This is why the idea of allowing men and women to have multiple partners if they so wish (polygamy, if we’re talking about “marriage”) is what I like to call. . . a crazy idea.

Other thoughts of the day? I’ve been reading those two books on marriage, The Future of Marriage, and Is Marriage for White People?, and I feel the bubbling of opinions starting to form on my part. Will share later.

Oh! And I owe a review of the Polyamory and Diversity paper I read. It’s in the drafts folder. I’ll get back to it. Promise.

Oooh, Shiny!

I joined a friend on a trip to the local bookstore today. (We never did get a Barnes & Noble or Borders here, so our own little Dockside Bookshop has been surviving just fine, and, as always, doing a great job of getting us the books we want and need.) She was looking for a book for her daughter, but I was caught by a book in the display window before I even got through the door:

I asked to look at it as I walked in, and flipped through the first few pages while my friend browsed the children’s section.

Here is part of the description from Amazon:

– – – – –

During the past half century, African Americans have become the most unmarried people in our nation. More than two out of every three black women are unmarried, and they are more than twice as likely as white women never to marry. The racial gap in marriage extends beyond the poor. Affluent and college educated African Americans are also less likely to marry or stay married than their white counterparts. That harms black children and adults, and imperils the growth and stability of the black middle class. 

One reason that marriage has declined is that as black women have advanced economically and educationally, black men have fallen behind. Nearly twice as many black women as black men graduate from college each year.Thus, not only are many college-educated black women unmarried, they are more likely than any other group of women to marry less educated and lower earning men. Half of college-educated black wives are more educated than their husbands.

Yet black women rarely marry men of other races. They are less than half as likely as black men, and only a third as likely as Latinos or Asian Americans, to wed across group lines. Is Marriage for White People? traces the far-reaching consequences of the African American marriage decline. It also explains why black women marry down rather than out. Its provocative conclusion is that black women would benefit both themselves and the black race if they crossed class lines less and race lines more.

– – – – –

Yup, definitely wanted it. Unfortunately, I’m currently in a situation where I need to have less stuff, not more, and especially given the store price of $23.99 for the hardcover, I had to accept the fact that I’d be downloading the ebook rather than supporting the bookstore.

I’m over it, though, as I have just downloaded the ebook for $12.99 from Books-A-Million, and have uploaded it to my eReader. I will be reading this baby post haste and getting back to y’all soon, to be sure.

Race and Polyamory

I did do my homework; I did read the research piece I found on Polyamory and Diversity. I wanted to include my personal thoughts and my thoughts on the piece in one entry, but I just can’t do it. My approach of the topic, and the approach of the author of the paper, are much too different to mesh. A review of her piece will be next, but first, my own personal observations, thoughts, and questions.

I once read in the livejournal polyamory community that someone had written somewhere that one could not identify as polyamorous without an internet presence. The polyamory identity was so entrenched in internet newsgroups, blogs, communities, forums, etc. that it was impossible to be polyamorous and not be involved online.

I don’t agree with that sentiment: I believe that someone can most definitely identify as polyamorous without being “plugged in;” though, I have to admit, I think most people discover the word polyamory on the internet, which does make it hard for people who are not on the internet to identify as polyamorous. If you’ve never seen/heard the word, how could you identify with it?

What’s more, having internet access wouldn’t have guaranteed exposure to the word even just a few years ago. Until recently, there were only a few places where people could gather to talk about this “polyamory” thing. Mostly, again, in blogs, newsgroups, forums, and communities. . . you know, where bloggers hang out.

When am I going to get to race? I’m glad you asked.

I don’t think I’d be surprising anyone if I said that I suspect that a majority of active bloggers are white. If that does surprise you, please do let me know, and I’ll try to dig up some research. It might be changing these days (or not), but the formulating years of polyamory coincide pretty darn well with the heydey of blogging, and let me tell you something about blogging conventions: they lacked color. It was more than a little noticeable.

If polyamory is, primarily, an internet movement propelled by bloggers and other online community members and activists, is it really any surprise that polyamory conventions have a suspiciously similar palate to that of blogging conventions?

And so, we have begun the discussion. Now. . . why haven’t we branched out? Sure, there have been issues of visibility until recently, but I do suspect that there may be other things at work here:

1.) There ARE white AND non-white polyamorists out there; they just don’t call it polyamory. They haven’t discovered the word. They’re doing it though, just like people have been doing it for centuries without the word existing. I’ve met them. I’ve talked to people who are in happy, open, “triangles” and “Vees”, as we call them. They called them “relationships.” They say it works for them. They don’t have special words for them, but they are doing. . . it. Polyamory. What’s even funnier? I share the word polyamory with these happy people for funsies, and often, they’re uninterested. “I don’t have the time for that,” they say, “I’ve got a life to live and lovers to spend time with.” Hah!

2.) There is hesitation due to the “representing my race” complex. It’s that whole “white privilege” thing. If a white person gets interviewed as a polyamorist, they will be “judged” by viewers based on what they say about polyamory. If a non-white person gets interviewed as a polyamorist, they will be “judged” by viewers based on what they say about polyamory, AND, in all likelihood, on their race. “Those crazy [insert race here] people; look what they’re up to now!” would be uttered in the privacy of (racist) people’s homes across the country.

3.) But, to be fair, [insert race here] could be [white]. One (nonwhite) friend who I excitedly told about polyamory when I first discovered it said, “Why do white people always got to name stuff? Why do you publicize it on the internet and do news interviews? Why would you want people all up in your business? Just do what makes you happy, and stop over-analyzing everything all the time!” Are we just “crazy white folk?” Is this what we are known for? Most active bloggers are also intelligent and usually have at least some college under their belt – is our love for academia and nerdiness part of what makes this seem like “our thing”?

4.) It’s a white wo/man’s world. I might be stretching with this one, but, the most popular and active blogs are about news and politics (That’s not the stretch part; that’s actually true. Here’s the stretch. . .); news media and politics are still run mostly by white people. It’s not very welcoming. The fact that there was SO much celebration, joy, tears, and overwhelming expression when Obama was elected shows that we still FEEL how hard it is for a non-white person to get “up there.” It doesn’t feel accessible. If that’s the world bloggers and polyamorists are operating in, we’re just doing the same thing that’s been done all these years – remaining exclusive, because we don’t know any differently. It’s, unfortunately, in our culture. (We do need to work to change that, by the way.)

5.) Is time constraint an issue? Another friend suggested that, historically, middle-class white females have often had the time to spearhead movements that non-whites didn’t have, since non-whites generally made (and still make) less money and had to work harder. I haven’t looked into this deeply enough, and something about it makes me feel. . . iffy, but I thought it was worth putting here. I do think back to the friends from my first point, but I think that’s a time thing mixed with a lack of interest for the reading, writing, researching, and debating that is part and parcel of the blogosphere. (What are the numbers these days on race demographics among college grads, anyway?)

And now, I am forced to ask myself and the polyamory community in general: Why did we name this thing, anyway? I know that it’s so we could talk about it, but honestly, I wonder if we should have to. Couldn’t we just do it, like everyone else who isn’t calling it polyamory is doing?

It’s a scary thought for me; if the word hadn’t existed in 2007, I wouldn’t have found the polyamory communities that helped me on my path of self-discovery, but perhaps what the world should really be talking more about is actually being true to ourselves, and allowing those around us to be true to themselves, and giving people permission to feel what it is they want without being told what they want.

There are actually times where I hesitate to use the word “polyamory,” because I know that I’m in company that will never have heard it, and it’s a label that I have to explain, and honestly, I’d much rather just say, “oh, well, yes, I’m dating this person, but that doesn’t mean you and I can’t date. No, it’s okay, I’ll let him know that you’re picking me up Friday at seven. Awesome!” Why use the word “polyamory,” when I can just. . . do it?

Best part of this post: I’m doing exactly what I’m writing about. Creatures of habit, we are, we are.

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