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.

Singlehood

“You’ve been single your entire life. Does it ever bother you?” I asked a friend one night.

“Not really. I guess I feel lonely sometimes, but I look at the things my friends who are in relationships go through emotionally, and I don’t think I’m any worse off.”

“Are you eager to find someone who is worth going through all that stuff for?”

“Not particularly. I’ve got a lot of other things on my mind; I don’t spend much time thinking about it I guess.”

I had this conversation shortly after writing my entry about SoloPoly and Singlish. Being single was on my mind. You see, I’ve been “involved” with someone in one way or another since about the age of 13, from middle-school “boyfriends” who I would hold hands with and sit next to at lunch, to polyamorous relationships and other forms of ethical nonmonogamy as an adult. Though my Facebook status has read “single” for the last 3+ years, the truth is, I haven’t truly been “alone” in terms of romantic involvement in well over 10 years.

I’ve realized that my perception of “singlehood” is likely very different from others’. My perspective is that of someone who grew up in Los Angeles, where, by the age of 13, having a significant other was a prerequisite to having any social standing above “loner” at school. My perspective is that of someone who moved to St. Thomas at 16 and soon entered a 7-year relationship, which was completely normal in the new cultural context. At the ending of that relationship, I began navigating singlehood without ever straying too far from some kind of romantic connection. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that, but because of it, I have wondered at my ability to be happy while being completely romantically alone. I have wondered at the ability of others, as well.

There are many studies about whether being married increases a person’s chances of being happy, and a few studies, I believe, about whether just being “in a relationship” does so. A study from MSU published in 2012 actually tracked people’s levels of happiness ten years before and after marriage and compared them to a control group of people who remained unmarried for the length of the study, and found that married people experienced a spike of happiness during their first year of marriage, then declined to pre-marital levels of happiness. Unmarried people’s happiness declined over time, leaving them worse off than married people, except, it appears, in the cases of unmarried people who cohabitate with a long-term partner.

As I search the internet for more of these studies, I can’t help but notice how much of the “happy and single” movement is moved by, and geared towards, women. The friend I had the conversation above with is a woman in her 20’s. She’s happy, if not wishing only for a more challenging career. I somehow expected that, as a woman, she would have experienced some doubts and loneliness about her singleness, if for no other reason than movies and songs and TV shows are constantly telling her that she’s supposed to be in a relationship.

Apparently not. I continue to find evidence that happiness is, ultimately, up to the individual. Perhaps the single people whose happiness declined over time were feeling less happy because they believed that they should have been married by a certain age. Perhaps positive attitudes about singleness could rectify much of this reported unhappiness.

Thoughts from people with perspectives besides my own?

Progress and Patriarchy

Step 1: Print out manuscript

Check!

It took me over a year to do it, but yes, the manuscript of Love Times Infinity is finally printed and ready for my red pen. I have chosen to reward myself for completing this step by sharing two of my observations this week with you, because sharing feels good. I’m a sharing person, in case you couldn’t tell.

The first was something I stumbled upon while doing research for work. I’ll be teaching an outdoor education lesson on the Native American Lenape people in a week or two, and of course, I began my independent study on their history with everyone’s favorite free and readily available encyclopedia, Wikipedia. I couldn’t help but copy and paste this tidbit, even though at the time I wasn’t sure what I would do with it:

The Lenape kinship system was traditionally organized by clans determined by matrilineal descent. That is, children were considered to belong to the mother’s clan, where they gained their social status and identity. The mother’s eldest brother was more significant as a mentor to the boy children than was their father, who was of another clan.

I’ve read about a culture similar to this before: the Musuo in China, where at a certain age girls get their own room where there is a door that men they invite over can come discreetly through, and when the girls get pregnant, their brothers help raise the children. The fathers of the children are responsible for their sisters’ children, not the ones they father themselves. Like the Lenape, the Musuo are matrilineal. Unlike the Lenape, Musuo children may not know who their biological father is.

This got me thinking about how some have noted that “no matriarchal societies exist”, and how others have countered that perhaps it seems that way, because we expect matriarchy to look like patriarchy, except with women in all the roles of power instead of men. These people argue that matriarchies may actually exist, but we call them “egalitarian”, because when women are given equal power, well, things are more…equal. Thus, matriarchy = egalitarian. (I have more reading to do on this, here.)

So there my head was, swimming in matriarchal, patriarchal, and egalitarian thoughts, when, while out and about one night being an adult with fellow adults, a friend uttered the following phrase:

“Girls who claim to want it hard are cancer.”

We had been having a conversation about sex, and the different ways people like their sex, and at least two of us in the group had voiced our approval of women who are comfortable saying that they like their sex “hard.”

Then, that happened. *sigh*

Unfortunately, because we had been out and about adulting so hard that it was futile to begin an argument with that friend (I doubt he remembers even making the comment, now) I had to spare myself the frustration of calling him out and being the mood-killer by explaining why I was doing it. The feeling followed me until the end of the night, though, where I made sure to jot down a few feelings before I went to sleep.

Patriarchy hurts everyone. Men come of age in a society which cultivates an assumption that the “right girl” will be one who fits into the submissive role for women the patriarchy has established. For some men, society wasn’t needed to foster attraction to submissive women, and that’s fine. But many other men likely miss out on the great women they really want; the forward, bold, aggressive women who say what they want and say it proudly. Those women are sexy, too, but as my friend’s comment revealed, those women are also still seen by some as only sexy, and not…here it is again…”relationship material.”

And all of this, of course, hasn’t even touched what it does to non-normative relationships and trans* people.

There’s still work to do, people. Be you, be proud, and be happy.

 

Polyamory and Marriage, my Short Version

I appreciate cozy domestic intimacy as much as a monogamous girl, but I’m an introvert who requires blocks of time alone. And one of the things I have always loved about being poly is knowing I can turn to my partner and say, without a shred of compunction, “Darling, I love you, but why don’t you go see your other girlfriend for a while?”

Oh man, what a great line from Mistress Matisse in her post about a month ago titled “You May Now Kiss the Bride and the Other Bride and the Other Bride and the Other Groom – Why Poly Marriage Is Never Going to Happen.”

I know that I’m always late to these things, but I think that article really does add to the realizations that I’ve been coming to. There really are infinite ways to love, infinite ways to “be”, and infinite ways to live. None are “right” or “wrong,” they just “are.” When we assume that polyamorous people want to mold polyamory to fit the current acceptable relationship models around us (cuz we have “forever” relationships leading to marriage, right?) we are doing that thing…you know…that thing that makes an ass of u and me?

Have I posted this here yet?

Yeah, so, while I can hardly call this a post of my own, there is what I’ve done today. Now I must get back to learning how to identify trees before Tuesday, because Monday I’ll be busy leading low ropes activities, belaying kids up a climbing wall, and then taking them on a night hike through the woods. And, of course, the weekend is for weekending, sillies!

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.

NaNoWriMo 2012

I have decided to participate in NaNoWriMo again this year, even though I have hardly touched last year’s manuscript to edit it. I understand why some people would rather I edit last year’s novel than start a new one, but from my perspective, if my heart is set on writing something, and not on editing, shouldn’t I do what’s going to make me and my heart happy?

I think so. Especially since I have notes on this book idea dating back three years. THREE YEARS! I think it’s high-time I get to putting that idea down on paper (or screen).

It’s going to be Literary Fiction, once again, and I’m still working out the details, but it will center around the thoughts and various neuroses of a girl who’s father isn’t doing such a great job of being a father. I’m hoping to have the story switch between the past and present, showing the correlation between how her father treated her growing up and the decisions she makes and emotions she feels as she grows into a young woman attempting to make sense of her relationships with men.

For those who know me well, it’s obvious that this idea is very personal to me, given my own experiences. It’ll be a harder book to write, in that regard, because it will probably hit home and cut a little deep once in a while. At the moment, I’m remembering days when I wondered to myself if what I called “polyamory” was simply my own hackneyed attempt at making sense of my fragmented perception of self-worth in the eyes of men.

That worry has passed, though, and I think I’m ready. If not, it’s sure to be a hell of a learning experience.

Wish me luck!

I Love This

Jus sayin’

 

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

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

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.

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.