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*

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.

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.

Live Like You’re Dying

Honestly, life’s been great, and recently all of my revelations and thoughts seem to circle around to the same basic ideas:

Life is short, spend as much of it as you can doing things that make you happy, and try not to trample on the happiness of others.

The reason I haven’t been around much is that I’ve been doing just that. Not that writing about polyamory, nonmonogamy, and ethical sluttery doesn’t make me happy – it very much does – but I’ve been doing other things that make me happy as well, so much so that this particular thing has fallen to the wayside.

November is coming up slowly, and with it, NaNoWriMo. If I want to participate again, I should at least start thinking about what the topic of the new novel would be. I feel like my focus should actually be on editing Love Times Infinity, of course, seeing as I haven’t touched it since shortly after beginning this supposedly motivational blog.

Right. Motivationally distracting.

The new job I am now at is in a new location (Michigan), full of new people for me to meet, new classes for me to teach, new experiences for me to have. It seems so far like I’m going to be very happy here, and that excites me. Because I like happiness. Happiness is nice.

It’s not conducive to blogging, though. Sorry about that. I know that some of you find happiness in reading about these topics, and I could help aid you in finding happiness by writing about those topics (and I’d be happy doing it!). . .but tell you what – if you can’t find something to read about these topics one day, go work towards creating, and then carrying out, a list of things you want to do in the next five years. It’s helped me be happy.

Now, go!

The Lack of Novel Progress

I’m having a hard time logic-ing my way back to editing my novel, and a very easy time logic-ing my lack of desire to do so.

While I’ve been known to enjoy a good fiction, even fantasy, novel here and there, I am, at my core, a very fact-based, rational, truth-loving, non-fiction lover. It’s not that I don’t love works of fiction; The Alchemist and The Chronicles of Narnia are some of my favorite reads (does this sound like a homophobe saying “but I have gay friends!”?). It’s just that I don’t think I’ve ever been able to identify just how non-fiction writers are able to pull a story out of thin air, or why they should have to, when the real and existing world is so ripe with amazing and fascinating truths.

My story, in my eyes, is one long lie. Nothing in the story ever actually happened. It could have, and that’s why I wrote it: to let people imagine what could have been if history had been a little different and how they would have fared in the new hypothetical world. But, damnit, fiction is HARD. Making up facts is hard. Making up people is hard. Deciding what these make-believe people would do in given situations is hard. It’s all hard.

I’ve never been one to walk away from a challenge…but I don’t like lying. Writing the rough draft of the novel was a fun project, but now, trying to edit it and build it and make it better feels too much like trying to fool people. I know that it’s not the case. I know that readers will know that it’s fiction. But, to be honest, my goal with the book is to get people to re-examine their beliefs on love and decide for themselves what they think their hearts are capable of doing, and I keep thinking…couldn’t I do that with a non-fiction book?

And so here I sit, unmotivated to work on the novel, because all I can think about now is how to write a non-fiction book, based in truth and facts, that will get people thinking about love.

It won’t be a pretty story, which means less people will read it, and therein lies the reason why I haven’t completely abandoned the novel. People like stories. I know: I tell stories all the time. They’re true stories, though: things that I’ve experienced, usually. Real life is amazing. Telling an un-true story – it’s a whole different skill, and I’m deciding whether it’s a skill that I possess at all, and if I do, whether I can convince myself to develop it.

Diversity in Polyamory

Some thoughts on  Progressive Polyamory: Considering Issues of Diversity . (Funny how, even though it’s only been a few days since the passion of research overcame me in regards to polyamory and race, it’s faded just as quickly, and this post feels old and late. I am, however, still reading Is Marriage for White People? and find that there are entirely different things going on there than covered in the specific realm of polyamory.)

First off, Noël had a completely different approach to analyzing issues of diversity in polyamory than I did. I’m not just talking about the fact that she pulled out the books whereas I simply sat down and freewrote – I mean that we came in at completely different angles entirely. Here are my thoughts on her piece.

Noël asks a lot of questions which she does not answer. This bothers me, not because I was always told not to do that in high school (I’m a fan of breaking rules on writing here and there), but because I really, honestly do wonder if she has any answers to the suggestive questions she asks, or at least a way of attempting to answer them. Her argument is basically that, as middle class, white, educated, able-bodied Americans, authors of the few polyamorous texts that exist often use language and make assertions that can be exclusive to others that do not fit their demographic.

Well, firstly, many, many authors are guilty of that. That doesn’t make it right, but I feel the need to point that out, as it is not some isolated evil of polyamorous authors. (Perhaps I’m being defensive, but I guess my concern is that someone will inevitably point the issue out as a negative quality of polyamory when really, it’s a negative quality in society as a whole.) Secondly, and this may be due to my own white, middle-class, educated, able-bodied and American-tinted perspective, but the examples she cites seem a bit weak. She critiques the use of words like “tribe” and “jungle,” and the insinuations that polyamory is based on “non-Western” traditions, and asks, “how might a diversity of readers respond” to these things? Well, I don’t know, Noël. . . perhaps we should get a diversity of readers, sit them down with these books, and find out, eh?

Noël genuinely wants polyamory to be more inclusive; so much so, that it becomes an American norm. Homegirl did her homework, and found a piece by Lisa Duggan entitled “Holy Matrimony!” in which Duggan suggests moving from our marriage-based community plan (each household has a married couple = family = benefits) to a more “‘flexible menu of options’ that redistributes the ‘1,049 automatic federal and additional state protections’ to all persons, not just those who are heterosexually married.” Basically, let adults decide for themselves who and how many people they want to share their familial benefits with, and which benefits to share, whether those people are lovers, best friends, actual blood relatives, etc.

Apparently, in other countries, health care and other benefits are not extended to who you are married to, but who you live with. It’s all about the household: who shares a roof with you and is your “family”? If you’re willing to live with the person, you must like them enough to at least consider sharing benefits with them, right? I thought that was an interesting tidbit, and it’s stuck with me. I can’t help but think about how non-traditional families now outnumber traditional families, and according to Is Marriage For White People?, marriage is surprisingly uncommon in Sweden, where parents generally live together to raise their children, but aren’t “married.”

Interesting. A late review (my apologies), but interesting nonetheless.

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.

Characterization, Polyamory, and Race

Chapter 2 is “re”-written; whoo!

Honestly, there are no marked “chapters” in the NaNoWriMo rough draft. There are sections separated by a “—“, but those sections aren’t necessarily chapters. Realistically, each section should be a few chapters.

I’ve motivated myself to do this re-write by telling myself that each day, I am not allowed to post in this blog until I’ve done some rewriting. It’s working well so far, but I can see that the problem is going to come in with feeling that I’ve done enough rewriting for the day to reward myself with blogging. For example, I’ve re-written the first 1,000 words of the rough draft, and now have 1,700 words. It should be a LOT more, but I’ve decided to relocate some character descriptions and, well, should I have rewritten those character descriptions before coming here to blog today, or am I cool here?

Only I know, I guess, and therein lies the danger.

I choose "DANCE" every time.

I had polyamory and race on my mind last night, because of my character descriptions yesterday. While I was rewriting, I found myself feeling like I had to slap some appearances on my characters, and me, desiring a “diverse” cast, started describing the various skin tones, hair colors and types, eye shapes, etc. of Mikhail’s family. It felt very, very forced and ingenuine, and it bothered me, and I ended the chapter shortly after pecking the descriptions out.

Part of my discomfort, I believe, stems from my firm belief that appearances really shouldn’t matter. I understand in fiction that appearance is simply a part of characterization, and it helps readers “get to know” your characters. However, I’ve always been pretty uncomfortable with relying on readers’ stereotypes and prejudices to characterize my characters. I don’t like feeling like I’m validating or perpetuating those stereotypes and prejudices by allowing them to be a part of my characterization. As someone who constantly reminds others to “not judge a book by its cover,” I just can’t comfortably do it.

What? No goth friends? Psh, diversity my bum.

I had to shake my head at myself when I realized that, when I thought “diverse” cast, I had automatically assumed that I needed diverse appearances to get the idea across. There are many things besides race and appearances which make groups of people diverse, though, and I’ve finally come to a decision:

I’m not going to use any physical descriptions of characters in my book. There’s just no need for it. The story is about what these people think and feel, not what they look like. So, it doesn’t matter what they look like. They can be an alien race or talking penguins, for all I care. Forcing race into the story not only is, well, forced, but it also makes me uncomfortable because I’m asking my readers to visualize these people, and perhaps expecting some of my very own stereotypes and prejudices to be upheld as part of defining who these people are.

The Rare Polyamorous Penguin Breed

So, physical descriptions deleted, more personality traits and habits inserted. Much better.

Of course, me being the nerd that I am, I continued to think about and even research polyamory and race long after finding this solution to my personal problem. It’s been long noted that the polyamory movement has been one composed of mostly white, middle-class, educated Americans. I’ve written down (in my personal journal) my thoughts on that and possible reasons why, and my homework tonight is to read Progressive Polyamory: Considering Issues of Diversity in order to compare my thoughts to some research, before posting another entry here on what I’ve learned and discovered.

Whew! I think that’s about it, y’all. I’ll see you again soon after Chapter 3 and some research.

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