Childfree

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

Having kids is not the only challenging life choice.

There, I said it.

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

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

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

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

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

and then, once we can agree on that:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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.

Polyamorous Family on “Wife Swap”

A friend forwarded this to me (I love my friends!) and I just finished watching it and have a couple of things I’d like to note.

Firstly – the kids from both families get an A+ in my book for being complete rock stars. Despite being from two very obviously different families, they all seemed to really encompass some of the values I think those of us in education have really been trying to instill in their generation, particularly respect. They met moms very different than their own, and when time came for the moms to call the shots, the kids pretty much rolled with it. Love it. Gives me lots of hope for the future.

And then, secondly. There’s a moment at about 16:20 where the oldest child of the polyamorous family, Brooke, is answering the religious and political family mother, Gina’s, questions about how she feels about her family. The conversation goes like this:

Gina: How do you feel about having a family that’s kinda different? A dad, kinda two moms?

Brooke: It’s good to be different.

Gina: So what do you think about my different way?

Brooke: It’s fine.

(Cut away to Gina, alone, being interviewed separately.)

Gina: Brooke has had a lot of challenges in her life, and I just hate that she has to live in that defensive shell.

(Cut back to Gina and Brooke sitting together.)

Gina: Do you give your biological mom kind of, like, a little closer? Do you give her like, a special place, over Ashley?

Brooke: No, they’re both the same.

Gina: Interesting.

I literally gave a little cheer when Brooke said, “It’s good to be different.” I mean, again, I work in education, and that is exactly the kind of thing we try to help our students realize: differences are okay; celebrate them, accept them, respect them. Brooke voiced it, and the other kids showed that they could do it. And then, as if to drive the point home, when Gina asks about her own “different way,” referring to her religious, political, conservative family, Brooke tells her the truth: “It’s fine.” Yes, it’s fine! No, it’s not that my family is right and yours is wrong, or the other way around, it’s that our families are different,  and that’s absolutely fine! hashtag-winning

I don’t know if the cutaway was taken out of context; there’s no way to know. For the producers of the show, though, to have an adult voice cut in right after such a great statement from Brooke, to say that those kinds of things represent a “defensive shell” …ugh. I hate that such a wonderful revelation of intelligence in a young person was so quickly dismissed. And if she was being defensive at some point during the exchange – I’m not surprised! Gina’s plastic smile puts up my defenses, and I’m looking at it through a computer screen!

As with these shows, we all know they’re extremely edited and never a true representation. Even without considering that, no one polyamorous or conservative family should be seen as a representative for all families of that kind. And yet, though you and I, dear reader, may know these things, I often worry about the average viewer, who does not, and the impression given them of both sides.

At least the kids were awesome.

Thought of the Day

thoughtI’ve been thinking about “isms”. Specifically, “isms” that relate to discrimination. Racism, sexism, ageism, classism, ableism, etc.

I know that some types of discrimination don’t necessarily have “isms”. It’s “discrimination based on sexual orientation” to act on “homophobic” prejudices, for example. According to Wikipedia,“[t]wenty-one states plus Washington, D.C. outlaw discrimination based on sexual orientation, and sixteen states plus Washington, D.C. outlaw discrimination based on gender identity or expression.”

That’s cool. I mean, I of course would like to see discrimination of that sort outlawed in all states, but that’s just me. I am grateful that many states have legally recognized and outlawed this type of discrimination, though.

What I’m thinking about now is Dan Savage’s claim that polyamory is not a sexual orientation, and the resulting backfire from polyamorous folk insisting that it is. I agree with all those arguing in favor of identifying polyamory as an “orientation,” but I can’t bring myself to call it a “sexual orientation,” because, as one person pointed out, “polyamory is not sexual.”

Discrimination based on relationship style, lovestyle, romantic preferences, etc. exists, but there is no name for it that I know of. People have had their kids removed from their custody for being polyamorous. Potential adoptive parents hide polyamory to avoid being refused the opportunity to adopt. Polyamorous people can still only legally marry one person. Polyamorous people are not protected under laws against discrimination based on sexual orientation, because it is not recognized as a sexual orientation, and I can kind of see why…but…

Is being an ethical slut a sexual orientation? Is identifying as sexually nonmonogamous a sexual orientation? It’s most certainly based on sex, and there’s definitely well-documented, historic levels of discrimination happening to promiscuous people. Can identified sexually nonmonogamous people be protected under the laws that protect others with “alternative” sexual orientations? Would it make a difference in the day-to-day slut shaming that occurs? Would it make a difference to polyamorists?

I’m currently reading a paper, “Polyamory as a Sexual Orientation,” published in 2010 by Ann E. Tweedy. I cheated and skipped to the conclusion:

“Because polyamory appears to be at least moderately embedded as an identity, because polyamorists face considerable discrimination, and because non-monogamy is an organizing principle of inequality in American culture, anti-discrimination protections for polyamorists are warranted. Moreover, polyamory shares some of the important attributes of sexual orientation as traditionally understood, so it makes conceptual sense for polyamory to be viewed as part of sexual orientation. On the other hand, however, some of our culture’s cherished myths about sexual orientation, especially in its unchangeableness, would have to be given up to make such a change.”

What kind of discrimination is it when we discriminate against someone for being nonmonogamous? Promiscuous? Slutty? Polyamorous? Asexual? Any other number of “identities” on the sexual spectrum that aren’t based in what gender you are and what gender you are attracted to? Can we fight this discrimination?

Response to: “The War Against Monogamy is Bullshit”

Hugo Schwyzer wrote on Jezebel.com earlier this month speaking out for those who still desire monogamous relationships in the face of the current “War on Monogamy,” where books like Sex at Dawn and The Monogamy Gap encourage people to consider options like polyamory and other open relationship styles, supposedly because monogamy is an “unreasonable expectation.”

“The problem is that very few people are making the brief for monogamy (with or without state-sanctioned marriage) as just one among many equal goods. Either monogamy gets held up as an ideal to which all ought to aspire, or it gets denigrated as an “unhealthy” and “unreasonable” straitjacket that we would do well to avoid.”

I’m very curious as to whether Schwyzer has spent any time, at all whatsoever, among polyamorists. Like, even in an online context. Quite honestly, when I entered the online poly world, I was initially met with a lot of “You are welcome here, but do tread carefully. We encourage open, honest, exploration, but this is not for everybody.”

Now that I’ve stumbled my way through to finding how and why it is for me, I often give other people the same message. Most of my friends, after explaining what it means when I say I’m polyamorous, say, “There’s no way I could do that.” I reply with, “Then don’t. I don’t recommend it. I just recommend asking yourself what you truly want when it comes to relationships, outside of what media and our culture tell you you want. That’s all.” If that means that they reaffirm for themselves that they value monogamy, awesome for them.

I know that I do my best to make it clear that monogamy is exactly what Schwyzer says, “one among many equal goods.” I am saddened that he, and probably many other people, feel that monogamy is being “attacked.” I think it is important that in discussions about “alternative” relationship styles, we remind ourselves and those we are speaking with that monogamy is no demon. It is the default in our society, and that is unfortunate in that it makes it hard for people to consider all of the possibilities before entering relationships, but demonizing it is like demonizing white people while trying to overcome racism or demonizing men while trying to overcome sexism…it moves us backwards instead of forwards.

Monogamy is right for some people. That is okay. Let people decide for themselves what is right for them. This means making them aware of alternatives, but not advertising those alternatives as the “more correct choice.”

That is all. Be cool, friends.

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.

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.

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.

To Assume Makes an ____ of U and Me

A friend shared an amusing story with me last night, which I’d like to relay here.

She began by saying that she has a friend who she’s known for two years, and who has been trying to sleep with her since the day he met her. She’s been constantly having to resist his advances. Then she added that he had a girlfriend he’d been with for five years. “But,” she said, “it’s an open relationship.”

She paused there, so I hazarded an interpretation of her situation: “So, you’re weirded out by sleeping with people who are in relationships, even if they’re open?”

“No!” she laughed, “Let me tell you what I’m weirded out by. He has her permission to sleep with me, and he doesn’t seem to think that he needs MY permission! I’ll tell him, ‘no,’ and he’ll say ‘but my girlfriend says it’s ok!'”

I rolled over laughing.

It’s interesting to note that my own first reaction was to assume that she was squicked by the idea of sleeping with someone who was in a relationship. Clearly, that is what this gentleman is thinking as well: “What do you mean you don’t want to sleep with me? You don’t have to worry about my girlfriend; she gave me permission!”

For more than a few people in open relationships, I think it takes firmly ruling that out as the problem to realize that, hey, perhaps this person just doesn’t want to sleep with me, and wouldn’t even if I were single. I can’t recall if I’ve been guilty of this, though I know I’ve worried extensively about my existing relationships being a problem. I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s once or twice lead me down the same road this gentleman has taken.

Something to consider of yourself if you’re “open,” I think, and worth talking about in the nonmonogamous community.

NaNoWriMo in 5 days!