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.

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.

 

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.

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.

Why Am I Blogging This?

Why blatantly stick my name and photo next to views which are clearly controversial, and then also go the extra mile of sharing each post on my Facebook to make sure that people who know me, find me, and read my thoughts? Why take it upon myself to “educate,” when there’s no guarantee that anyone will agree or even bother to read?

Plenty of people “just do” polyamory, nonmonogamy, ethical sluttery, etc. without calling it those names (sometimes calling it other things, like “open relationship” or, though it’s not polyamory, “swinging”). I’ve met them. They’re happy. They don’t feel the need to get involved in this “movement;” many don’t have time (can you blame them, when they have more than one relationship to maintain?). Why, then, having met these people and seen the fulfilled happy lives they lead, do I feel compelled to spend time on here, posting and researching and commenting, yammering on rather than being out in the world living and loving?

Well, first of all, because I’m a blogging nerd. There are other reasons, though.

“Many people, especially ignorant people, want to punish you for speaking the truth, for being correct, for being you. Never apologize for being correct, or for being years ahead of your time. If you’re right and you know it, speak your mind. Even if you are a minority of one, the truth is still the truth.”

-Ghandi

I don’t think that monogamy is “wrong”. If you’ve examined your heart and find that you are the kind of person who prefers to be in love with just one person at a time, that is a beautiful thing. It is no more or less beautiful than someone who has examined their heart and realized that they can be in love with more than one person at a time, or who has decided that, while they may only be in love with one person, they can accept sexual relationships with others, knowing that it doesn’t affect their love.

My issue is with the idea of monogamy being the “norm,” and everything else being “weird” or “wrong”. Nonmonogamy might be a deviation from societal norms, but it certainly isn’t wrong, and most definitely isn’t weird. Humans have never, as a species, truly been monogamous.

All I really want is to give people the chance to consider nonmonogamy; a chance they would not have had otherwise. It’s like deciding whether you want a Mac or a PC. If you never knew that Macs existed, you’d just default to PC, because it’s what you know exists. Friends! I present to you…the Mac. Nonmonogamy. Check it out. Some of you won’t like it, and that’s fine, but others will, and that’s fine, too.

. . .

As I’ve gotten busier, I’ve been posting less. When I leave March 12 for a job stateside, that will probably be even more true.

I don’t, however, want to stop updating. Not at all. This blog is too important to me, for many other reasons besides that stated above, such as:

– it motivates me to keep working on my novel,

– the fact that this blog, and my “About” page, have been my official and final “coming out” to friends and family who didn’t know this part of my life (yeah, I might have been one of those kids who enjoyed shock value),

– the fact that I love writing, and writing about what I love, and writing about love

– and the fact that this stuff is on my mind all the time, and I don’t always have willing listeners around. That sounds bad, but it’s not that I don’t have people to listen to me; it’s that I tend to talk so extensively about this topic, ad naseum, that I’m sure more than a few people who started as “willing listeners” became “obligated listeners.” I’d rather write here and know that my audience can bail at any time, and it won’t hurt my feelings. (Really, you can bail any time now…)

So why am I blogging this? Well, for both selfish reasons and for what I like to think is a more noble cause: giving people the opportunity to see and talk about other possibilities in their love lives. I think if we all started talking more, we’d probably start fighting just a little less.

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.

I Like What You’ve Done with the Echochamber

This may be far too many posts for one day, but it reflects my usual excitement when starting a new blog. And, to be fair, I wrote the first post on this blog a couple days ago, and just let it sit and marinate in the “drafts” folder while I gathered the chutzpah to publish it and write a decent “About” page.

I have to say, though, that when I started this journey of self-discovery five years ago, that I felt pretty alone. Nobody I knew in person had ever heard of polyamory or ethical nonmonogamy. I depended heavily on livejournal communities and the amazing boyfriend I had at the time to ease my doubts when sappy movies made me question what I was feeling in my heart.

When I participated in NaNoWriMo last year, there were whole discussion threads filled with out-and-proud polyamorists, nonmonogamists, ethical sluts, and others who, even if they didn’t identify as any of those, were accepting and supportive of the identity. I was completely caught off guard. I had been hiding that part of myself for so long, and had, in effect, been hiding myself from getting out and realizing that the rest of the world was moving swiftly along, learning about, talking about, and embracing at least the possibility of this being a valid “lovestyle.”

Now, trolling WordPress tags for new posts and bloggers to read, I discover that where I once worried that the online “buzz” around polyamory was dying, it is instead relocated. Instead of focusing on explaining and sometimes seemingly excusing polyamory to those who have never heard of it, the communities have moved right along and gotten back to day-to-day life discussions, with the assured knowledge that readers know what polyamory is and will, if not accept it or at least read on out of curiosity, simply move on with an eye roll if it isn’t their cup of tea.

We’re normalizing. At least a little bit. Aren’t we?

What a brave new world I’ve come back to.