Just because…. December 4, 2013Posted by shaunphilly in Skepticism and atheism.
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This is appropriate here for the obvious reasons.
Why knot – Breaking the Silence of Monogamy (upcoming documentary) December 4, 2013Posted by shaunphilly in Culture and Society, Polyamory.
Tags: Dhruv Dhawan, monogamy, polyamory, relationships, Why Knot
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As the indiegogo page says,
This film’s objective is not to advocate for or against monogamy, but to break the silence and provoke thoughts on an issue which affects so many relationships and families today.
Our vision is to empower relationships and to encourage communication within, hoping that one day, infidelity and the containment of our desires may only be a remnant of human history.
which I think is a good conversation for humans to be having. Much like religion, monogamy often gets a free pass in our culture, and it seems that pass is also present in other cultures (being that this is a project originates in India).
From the email:
The director is an acclaimed filmmaker (http://www.film-real.com) who has been researching this film for 5 years and shooting for the past 2. Dhruv completed his BA in Cultural Anthropology from Duke University and is currently pursuing a Masters in Film Production at the University of British Columbia. Through his latest film, WHYKNOT, Dhruv aims to break the silence on monogamy and question whether we as humans can resolve conflicts between our instincts and our morals.
Why Knot is a journey through the intellectual and emotional landscape of monogamy which features prominent scientists in the field and members from Dhruv’s personal sphere. During the production of the film we had the privilege to interview and research several polyamorous individuals and communities and take into account their insights and opinions. We would love to hear what you think/feel about the film trailer, so do spare us 4 minutes and give it a watch! Go on, Why Knot
Here is the trailer:
It looks interesting and promising, and I hope it gets fully funded. If you want to and are able to contribute to the project, head on over and do so now.
When polyamory isn’t an option, is cheating an option? November 19, 2013Posted by shaunphilly in Polyamory.
Tags: cheating, marriage, monogamy, Non-monogamy, relationships, sex
Nearly a year ago, Wes wrote this post on the blog about whether it is permissible, morally, to accept an offer of sex from someone in a monogamous relationship. I was not in agreement with him when I read it, but my disagreement was based on a moral foundation I know Wes does not accept (primarily Kantian), so I didn’t argue since it would have turned into a meta-argument. I find his logic sound, I just found the basic assumptions to be lacking somewhat. I carry different moral foundations that the argument presented in that post, and so I realized that it would turn into a conversation about meta-ethics and moral foundation theory, rather than about the question at hand.
Over the last year I have thought about this issue a little, and I have come to agree with his argument, Kantian counter-positions or not, but only in some cases. I agree that the point of harm is the decision to cheat, and that acting on it only adds the potential harm of STDs or pregnancy (if precautions against such things are not taken, of course). The emotional harm was already done, and it is this point where the other person should focus their attention on why they care if their partners wants other sex/romantic partners, and possibly accept polyamory as another option.
My reason for refusing the proposition of sex from a monogamous person, morally, has to do with what Wes Said in his post:
the fact that someone is a cheater raises all kinds of concerns about that person’s trustworthiness, character, compassion, and decency. I have absolutely no problem with categorically turning down cheaters for those reasons.
I think that everyone should have a negative response to such a proposition if the person asking is untrustworthy. I think that a decent person would not even want to sleep with someone in a situation where you can’t trust their character, personality, etc. I have trouble finding it possible to both be a decent person and wanting to say yes to such a person. But if an untrustworthy person is still appealing to you, then I suppose you can do whatever you like, even if I don’t think it’s the right decision. I would not will that maxim to be universal law, but I can’t make decisions for other people either.
However, not everyone who requests, or at least wants, to have sex with someone besides their committed and supposedly exclusive partner (married or not) is untrustworthy or a bad person. Sometimes, they have good reasons to want and request such a thing.
Why am I writing about this now? Well, because I had a long conversation with a long-time friend today that both depressed and angered me. It spoke to all the reasons why I advocate for non-monogamy, especially where it rubs against traditional and conservative (patriarchal) notions of marriage, relationships, and commitment. I’m writing about this because this friend of mine needs and wants romantic, emotional, and sexual intimacy in her life, and is not getting it.
The occasional 2 minutes is not enough.
My friend, who will obviously remain anonymous, divulged to me today that she has been unhappy with many aspects of her marriage for a while. Sex happens perhaps every month or two, and lasts just about long enough for her husband to be done. The old squirt and snooze.
Now, she has talked to him about her lack of satisfaction with this amount of physical intimacy, and he had insisted that things are “OK” and that he’s just not going to change. He’s happy, he’s not going to change, and with her not being able to support herself right now (she’s a house-mom), leaving is not much of an option. She’s stuck in a situation where she is unhappy, stuck at home most of the time, and wants more from life. He’s not going to give it to her apparently, and her transparently finding it elsewhere is not a realistic option. Polyamory is not an option.
She does not want to hurt him, she does not want to put the kids in a situation of going through a potential divorce (her parents were divorced, which was hard on her growing up), and her kids are fairly young. But she is also seriously considering accepting what she knows are open offers to receive some level of emotional, sexual, and possibly romantic intimacy from other people she knows. She’s thinking about the possibility of cheating.
I want to tell her to do it. I want to tell her to find the happiness she wants, even if it means cheating. Her situation, with a selfish and un-giving husband, is a situation where the chains of monogamy are most clear to me. This type of situation is why Ashley Madison exists. My friend would benefit from polyamory (ideally, if she wanted that), but that is not an option she can count on happening with any level of probability. She wants real intimacy, and cannot get it because of this traditional definition of marriage which keeps too many people (both men and women) in unhappy situations, which lead to cheating.
Eventually she will likely leave him (that’s my guess) when she is able to be economically independent. Whether she would be better off doing now, I cannot say. I’m leaning towards yes, but I don’t have to deal with all of the consequences of that decision. But for now, she remains unhappy, unfulfilled, and there is a world out there full of people who would love her more and give her some of what she desires.
And I know there are many people like her out there.
Is cheating sometimes the only option?
So, what is she supposed to do? She has the option to cheat, if she wants it. She has said that she has people who only need her “yes” to get at least some of her desires fulfilled. She could do so in a way that would almost certainly not be found out. She could do so with people she knows and trusts. Does she have a better option?
Is it better to live with this lack of fulfillment while not breaking her marriage vows and possibly exposing her family to harm, or is it better to take the risk of having an affair and possibly having a secret boyfriend? In her place, I would be very tempted to take the risk and have some happiness, rather than live unhappily. Of course I don’t have to make that choice, which is why polyamory is the shiznit.
I would not want to live a life of quiet desperation. I would not want to hurt someone I loved, but in this situation that love seems to be mostly one way (I’m assuming she still loves him, and his actions clearly indicate he does not love her; at least not well). I would want to broach the subject of polyamory with my partner, and if that didn’t work I would be very tempted to leave and/or cheat, if I were in a similar situation.
So, what would I suggest she do?
You are probably guessing that I would advise that she try to have a serious conversation with her husband about some sort of non-monogamous arrangement. And ideally, I think she should do that. But then I think that if she does that, he will suddenly look differently at her going out on a Saturday night to see friends. He might, in fact, insist that she not do so. That would make any cheating harder to pull off, even if she didn’t accept his (hypotheitical) insistence of not going out anymore, because he would be curious and prying if he suspected she wanted to do so. So, given that, is it not only easier pragmatically, but in terms of her ability to find some happiness, just to cheat?
He seems to think that things are fine. He’s happy getting his rocks off every several weeks, but she wants more and she could get away with doing so. Probably. So, in this situation, is it better to cheat?
In a world where polyamory is more mainstream, no it would not be better. We, however, are not going to get to that world any time soon. And yes, the idealist in me wants her to take a stand for her desires openly, and demand that he make a better effort to try and fulfill her needs (she has done this, somewhat, to no avail), and to demand that he either let her go find it willingly or share, and fly the polyamory flag. Or, at least fly the find-a-partner-who-treats-me-well flag. She has not said she wants to be polyamorous per se, but she has said that she wants sexual and emotional intimacy, and he will not give it any more than he already does.
So should she cheat?
Yes. I think she should. And when she can get away, she should. Because in this case it is not the seeker of extra-marital sex who is untrustworthy or a bad person, it is the person she is stuck with who is. And I am not convinced that such people deserve the respect of marriage vows. I don’t think he’s given all he can give to their relationship, and she shouldn’t have to suffer because of that.
Polyamory is great, but it can’t solve this problem because polyamory requires the consent of her husband, and he almost certainly will not give it. And if he should be hurt by any such cheating, he should take responsibility for being a terrible partner, both emotionally and sexually, and deal with it. You can’t be an un-giving partner and also expect your partner to be happy just with you.
emotions can be a distracting drug November 6, 2013Posted by shaunphilly in Culture and Society, Religion.
Tags: emotion, Francis Spufford, Jerry Coyne, new atheism, religion
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So, I seriously get annoyed with some aspects of liberal culture, especially where it intersects with religion. I’ve written about this before, many times, so I don’t need to sat too much (and yet, I will…). But it is a thing which grinds my gears fairly frequently, including today when I found this good criticism of Francis Spufford’s article at Salon.com by professor Ceiling Cat himself. Go read Jerry Coyne’s post. As usual, he makes good points.
While reading the post, however, I was thinking about this argument, which I have heard before, about how religion is a spiritual or emotional experience. Some atheists, while being smug and disrespectful (as we are wont to do) will compare religion to a drug, and there is some justification for this crude comparison.
But more generally, emotions act in addictive manners in more arenas than religion. It is certainly something I am familiar with. The the poly world, there are sometimes discussions of NRE being addictive, which leads some people to pursue new relationships almost unceasingly. This sometimes leads to situations where one starts to neglect those with whom they share intimacy, simply due to spending time pursuing more and more novelty.
As a Borderline, I am familiar with the desires to pursue the thrills of both intense joys and of (the illusion of) control. The highs are great, but the pretend goal of maintenance of those heights, and avoidance of the lows, is delusional. In my worst memories, I have images of having gotten the emotional reaction my anger–a result of fear in the absurd pursuit of being loved–was after, which is accompanied by the fleeting, deceptive, addictive pleasure of it all. Fleeting because a few seconds later it is clear that not only will the reaction not lead to them loving me, but that they will probably never want to be close to me again.
And yet the mind craves it, all too often. All too often because ever is too often.
And so here we are, back to religion, with Mr. Spufford arguing that we new new atheists are wrong because we do not get that religion is about the emotional experience and not primarily about truth. The turn-around, here, seems to be that it is Mr. Spufford who does not understand. I, a life-time student of religious history, theology, and its relationship to culture know all too well how emotion can lead us to belief.
It is the feelings that are primary. I assent to the ideas because I have the feelings; I don’t have the feelings because I’ve assented to the ideas.
which is, of course, reminiscent of the old Catholic idea of belief prior to understanding (which, if memory serves, was Thomas Aquinas’ dictum. Correct me if I’m wrong).
This idea is not inspirational. I am not led to see religion as more understandable because of feelings people have. Good feelings do not imply a good worldview, moral sense, and especially not good ideas. I am not less critical of you and your religion because you have pleasant feelings, which religion provides you with.
And then I think how often, we as humans (even within the atheist community) rationalize terrible ideas, policies, or moral worldviews based upon feelings. How much is misogyny the result of genuine feelings? How much is homophobia based upon feelings? Etc.
And the feelings don’t have to be bad ones. Perhaps some misogynistic MRA out there is motivated by a genuine desire to right the wrongs where the system is actually slanted away from men? Well, that instinct is generally good, but without a larger perspective to compare those instincts and feelings to, those feelings (if they are, in fact, good) are insufficient. Because while motivated to right a structural wrong, many MRA’s miss the larger point that the vast majority of structural injustices in our world are stacked in the favor of men. Our friendly MRA, and his good feelings which lead him to beliefs contra-feminism, are not sufficient.
Similarly with religion. Spufford and his family go to church, have good feelings, and so they believe the things believed by the people who are there when they have the feelings. How absurd is that? We, new atheists, know that you have good feelings while singing about Jesus. We are glad you are capable of good feelings, we want you to have good feelings, we just want you to get your head out of your ass and realize that the time and place of where those good feelings happen may have nothing to do with the feelings per se.
Or, if they did, then perhaps those feelings are not worth wanting anymore. Perhaps good feelings are not sufficient reason to keep doing something, you selfish asshole.
At some point, this conversation about truth/experience, science/art, etc comes down to moral principles; things like authenticity and integrity (which I am teased about, by more than a few people, for sharing with hipsters apparently. I was doing it before there were hipsters, so there…:P). These moral principles are structures by which we decide how to go about daily living. Do we care about other people, our environment (immediate and/or global), and what is true or don’t we? Are our good feelings we have at church (or whatever selfish pleasure we are pursuing) more important than the larger picture of our lives and those close to us?
In short, are your jollies more important than all the things that you could do besides them?
Are your emotions more important than the effect they have on the world around you? Are they more important than mine, your neighbors, etc?
Spufford, and others who make this argument, seem to essentially be saying that the good feelings that religion give them are more important than the larger question of whether religion is harmful to society as a whole–let alone whether they are true. They seem inclined towards associating their religion with emotional and spiritual self-improvement, rather than a larger cultural phenomenon with consequences upon history, power structures, etc. Because their religion only makes people feel good, unlike the fundamentalists who just hate everyone. Excuses.
Feeling good is great. But there is a reason I don’t want to try heroin. I have a feeling I will like it, if I tried it. That isn’t the question. If I try it, my intelligent mind will find ways to rationalize using it more, despite the detrimental effects it will have, upon extended use, on my life and the world around me. Spufford’s article is a rationalization of his addiction. It is a human behavior so common, so ubiquitous, that we forget that we need to step back and apply skepticism, rationality, and logic to the world to make sure we are not getting caught up in our addictions.
Emotions are not inherently bad. Emotions are an integral part of the tool-kit of decision-making and enjoying life. But when we see people so blinded by their preferences, biases, etc that they are incapable of seeing the larger picture, we need to be able to say that it is time to stop being led around by our religious dicks.
We are not all swimming in the same river October 26, 2013Posted by shaunphilly in Skepticism and atheism.
Tags: Anger, Borderline Personality Disorder, fear, intimacy, Mental Health
When I was younger, I really wanted to be wise. I had a vision of me being the kind of person that when I became old, other people would respect me and come to for life advice. I was fascinated by books such as the Dao de Jing, by the historical character of Confucius, by Socrates, and many other figures who are considered wise. I tried to cultivate a cultured and educated manner. I tried to be intellectual. It was not all pretense; in fact, it was mostly genuine, if not sophomoric and (as Gina would say) “full of shit.”
Over the last few years, I have begun to understand this drive from a different point of view. I have come to realize that this motive comes from a combination of the desire to be loved, respected, and to not become the kind of person that people avoid, rather than come to. In short, it was a reaction that people often had to me, and for good reason. There are people who are no longer friends of mine and who want little to do with me, and in many cases the fault is mostly mine.
When I was introduced to the concept of Borderline Personality Disorder by a therapist a few years back, it led to a set of realizations. When I was younger, back when I wanted to be wise, I was struggling with feelings of confusion, fear, and guilt about my erratic behavior. Other people didn’t fly off the handle, yelling and throwing things, when they got angry. Something was wrong with me, but I didn’t know what it was. I wanted to be the opposite of out of control, so I wanted to be a symbol of control. I didn’t want to be seen for what I was (a violent and unpredictable boy with a tendency to be moody and sullen), I wanted to be seen for what I valued (intelligent, rational, calm, and likable). So why was it so hard for me to do so, when it seemed so easy for so many other people?
Because I am swimming in a different river.
And as I started to reflect on this over the last few years, another angle of this became clear. It was struggling just for normal, acceptable, behavior. It wasn’t so much that I wanted to be some wise guru, living on a mountain (perhaps next door to Zarathustra) who everyone respected, it was that I was struggling against a current that other people didn’t experience. I was simply trying to appear normal while struggling frequently.
But before I started to understand this, I had built up so much resentment, anger, and frustration at seeing other people so easily deal with emotionally trying circumstances (compared to what I often did, anyway). I didn’t understand that they weren’t actually succeeding in struggling against the an overwhelming current of virulent emotions like I was. I didn’t understand that such a current of emotions was rare for them, rather than constant and overpowering. But I was so angry, ostensibly at them but really at myself, about it that it has led to many deep wounds and scars that I still have work to understand. There is still work to do.
See, for so long I thought that at some moral fault, rather than simply dealing with a shitty situation. I thought that when I got angry and made a scene, I was the only one in the room who had not succeeded in stifling the urges. I thought everyone else around me was struggling with these feelings, and doing it better than I. And so I strove for that power to restrain and repress it, to appear calm while hurricanes blew in my head, and to appear calm. And so I built invisible armor for myself, holding in the feelings i assumed everyone else was having and restraining as well.
And I did this for years, until it became habit. I did it for a long time, with periodic explosions as the armor shattered against the pressure.
Anyone who meets me for the first time will probably assume I’m relatively non-emotional. I’ve been told this by many people, including some ex-girlfriends (before i started to become comfortable with my emotions, which is still a struggle) even up until quite recently. I appear robotic, hyper-rational, and even cold sometimes. It is a defense mechanism that I have built over many years, and deconstructing that wall is not easy. It may take the rest of my life to do so, assuming I ever can.
(I hope I can)
But now I understand that most people aren’t walking around with a chaotic storm within them. Most people don’t have frighteningly violent thoughts several times a day, aimed at people who are guilty for minor annoyances. Most people aren’t swimming against a current that sometimes takes all of their mental fortitude to not be pushed back by or drowned in (because depression is a thing).
And yes, there is another side to this. There is the overwhelming feeling of love and intimacy that I am capable of as well. Of course, the problem is that especially in the beginning of a relationship, it is terrifying to show this. I’m afraid that, much like the potential harm I am capable of, the level of intimacy I can show would be too much for someone, especially when things are new. I’m afraid of pushing people away. i was, in some past selves, the guy who was too into that girl after one date.
But you know what is even more terrifying, to me than all of that? Intimacy with other men. And, I know, this is common in our culture. I also know that part of this is due to my relationship with my own father, who is a sort of foil for me (the Darth Vader to my Luke Skywalker, as I sometimes think of it). Men are hard because they reflect myself too much. I see the same fear in them that I show, and I hate it because I hate that part of myself. I hate that we keep doing it, and that I don’t know how to fix it.
It’s easier with women, because the sexual and romantic feelings open the door to other kinds of intimacy. Perhaps it would be easier if I were bisexual. Perhaps not. But either way, this lack of intimacy can lead to the problem of relying too heavily on sexual and romantic desires becoming too prominent when befriending women, but for the most part I have been fairly good at mitigating this. But with other men?
I have no interest in the machismo game of our culture. I don’t want to play dominance games, and usually simply avoid them for the sake of peace and not escalating into a situation where I will very likely lose control of my temper (which, to macho men, probably seems like weakness. But man is it hard sometimes…). I am a little amused by such games, but I feel more sadness at it. I feel sad because it is so often the source of the barriers that men put up between each other, this machismo and dominance games. Sometimes I’ll walk away with a smirk, feeling superior for not playing, and other times I walk away feeling angry, for ‘letting them win.’ Neither are the right attitude, I don’t think.
I think the right attitude is to come away from such things feeling sad that another path could not have been taken. I think that in such games, nobody really wins. I don’t win by being emotionally superior, and they don’t win for having me back down. There simply is no winning there, only loss on both sides.
So, have I become wise? Will I ever be wise? I don’t know. At this point, I find the whole question to be a rationalization for a conceit. That isn’t to say that I no longer care about being wise, but that this caring is fading over time.
I hope, one day, that I can stop trying to be wise, so that perhaps I can just be content whether I’m wise or not.
ah, just more conceit….
PolyskeptiCast 1.4 October 18, 2013Posted by shaunphilly in Polyamory.
Tags: bisexuality, podcast, PolyskeptiCast
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A new episode!
That’s better. OK, so since life has been happening, including some of us having new partners as well as burlesque shows, we have not sat down to record in a while. And despite Jessie not being available to record with us this time (no OKStupid this time) we managed to crank out 45 minutes of cream filled happy time…or something.
I said quiet you!
(and tell all your friends)
Yes, that too. The voices in my head aren’t always unhelpful.
A Post About Bras October 15, 2013Posted by Gina in Skepticism and atheism.
As a pre-teen/teen, I was, to say the very least, physically late blooming. What I had in bizarre mental wisdom and fortitude, I lacked in evidence of pubescence until I was about 16. And I was completely ashamed of it.
When I started 6th grade, I came to class to find that many of the girls who had looked just like me the year before had started to really grow up, and all of them were obsessed with breasts and the potential for a first period. It was relentless. It was all they talked about. Everyone wanted to know what bra size everyone else was and whether they had “gotten it” yet. I always tried to hide during these onslaughts of maturation discussion because I was exemplifying nothing and couldn’t relate.
As I didn’t have any boobs for a long time, I didn’t wear a bra. This seems pretty obvious and logical to me, but the other girls had moms who were all about getting their daughters ready to be women and apparently a bra signified that. I’ve always thought that the concept of the training bra was sort of hilarious because I don’t really think there’s much too it, other than remembering to put one on. But the girls who had one were proud of it and made those of us who didn’t have one feel like toddlers or simply defective.
When I was in 8th grade, every girl in my class was forced to go to an all day seminar/workshop about how to be proud to be a woman and to not feel shame about it. However, it ended up being a day when I felt possibly the most body/development shame that I had ever felt up to that point. According to the workshops, all there was to being a woman was boobs and periods. After watching an assembly that consisted of popular oldies sung with rewritten lyrics (like “Walk like a girl. You can rule the world. Walk like a girl, my friend”) and reassurance that we can do anything we put our minds to, we had to go to these workshops. The workshops began with an icebreaker activity called Girl Bingo (or something) and you had to go around asking people things in the squares to see what you all had in common. If you found someone with a matching answer to yours, you got to check it off. Of course, one square was “Bra Size” and another square was “When did you get your first period?” Having had experienced neither of these things, I felt mortified every time someone came over to me to ask. The rest of the workshop was more of the same, talking about breasts, blood, and how cruel boys are. I was ridiculously anxious the entire time and left feeling worse about my own femininity than I ever could have dreamed.
At home, there wasn’t a lot of body shaming per se, but my mother was constantly worried about her weight. She managed to not exactly pass this on to me, but one thing I was aware of was that she was oddly uncomfortable with the subject of breasts. Hers were small (she is a generally petite woman) and she often seemed to judge larger busted women for some unknown reason. The easy explanation is that she was likely uncomfortable with her own, and anything that made her uncomfortable was cause for judgment of others, seemingly. She used to get on my sister’s case (behind her back) about my sister referencing her boobs all the time. It was true that my sister was sort of bizarre about it, always pointing out how often she got food on her shirt, right on her boobs! But, like, whatever, she was sort of bizarre about a lot of things.
What I’m saying is, boobs were a really uncomfortable subject for me and apparently my entire family. For a bunch of hippie/sort of pagan types, this really seems ridiculous, but someday I will write my memoirs and it will be titled, “This All Seems Pretty Ridiculous, Honestly”.
Gym class was the worst. As all students have had to do, we were forced to change into gym uniforms in a locker room together where there was no privacy. And everyone loved to comment on everyone else’s underwear, especially if it was to demean and draw attention to the fact that you were underdeveloped.
At some point though, my pituitary gland kicked in and the things all those strange health class films talk about started to happen to even me. Before that, I learned about the pituitary in said health class and, since it was at the base of the brain, I thought that maybe I could manipulate it through my head, pressing on my hair hoping to give it a message to get going with the hormone action already.
Yes, I was getting pretty desperate for the mocking to stop. I was also 14 and didn’t really understand science or logic yet.
And kick into gear it did, slowly but surely and by the time I was 16, I looked pretty much like I do now. But I was pretty ashamed of my body and was carrying it like someone who would get mocked. While I wore interesting clothes, they were not form fitting and I kept the fact that I didn’t wear a bra yet as much of a secret as I could.
But gym still sucked. And I was getting really tired of having to either hide in a bathroom stall or have people stare at me and comment (these people were my friends, by the way…ugh).
So, I decided that I was going to be brave and ask my mom to buy me a bra. I didn’t have any of my own money (I only got that a few times a year), so I couldn’t take myself at the time. Also, I figured that this was one of those things that parents do for their kids. And yet, I was terrified and completely embarrassed by the thought of asking. But not as embarrassed as I was to not be wearing one in the locker room.
One morning, I mustered all the courage I could, and I was leaving for school, I said, “Hey, Mom. Do you think we could go out and get me a bra?”
She heard me and looked at me with this strange, skeptical look on her face. “What do you need that for?” she asked in a sort of adversarial tone.
“Well, um, I, uh, have to change in front of people for gym class and it’s embarrassing.”
“Why? You’re just changing in front of a bunch of girls, right?”
“Yeah…but…I…it’s still embarrassing.”
“Yeah, fine, we can go out and get you one.”
She seemed exasperated by the notion and I felt mortified once again by the subject. I was quickly learning the lesson that there was no way to not be uncomfortable about breasts.
The next weekend, my mom took me to go get a bra. For whatever reason, she thought it was more appropriate to go to the King of Prussia Mall for it, instead of The Gallery. KOP was a 45 minute drive from our house and The Gallery was a 30 minute walk. Who knows?
So we get to the Mall and walk over to Macy’s and find the lingerie section. I was amazed, looking around at all the options. I was under the impression that we went to this place for a professional fitting or something, since I had zero clue what I needed to get. My mother also had zero clue, having never worn a bra in her life either. But apparently, she decided she was an expert and eyeballed what I would need. She grabbed a bra said, “This will fit you,” based on looking at my chest through a baggy t-shirt, bought it and we were on our way.
I got home, and was not shocked to find that the bra did not remotely fit me. It was a 34B and it felt like a corset without any of the flattering aspects. So, basically, I didn’t have a bra STILL.
I decided that asking my mom for help in this regard was a lost cause, given the Mad Dash Through the Bra Racks I had endured. So I started saving my money that I got every now and again and finally, after several months had enough to take myself to Kmart (of all places) and get myself something. I had no clue how a bra was supposed to fit and was too embarrassed to ask anyone who worked there for help, so I found something that felt comfortable and looked fine (I guess) and purchased it in three different colors and walked out of the store having accomplished something that really shouldn’t be all that much of an accomplishment.
It would be years until a friend would take me to an actual professional place and I would be informed that I was wearing the completely wrong size for 15 years. But whatever, those bras that I bought myself were triumphant purchases. It was a time when I had a nagging problem that was causing me a lot of stress and I found a solution.
Of course, looking back, this was definitely one of those times when I learned more shame than I needed to. I told this story to my therapist last night and we were laughing and she said, “If it wasn’t so absurd, I’d cry.”
I think this is a pretty apt description of my youth.
These days, I am generally told that my boobs are my best physical feature. This is sort of a bittersweet thing for me given elements of the stories I just told you. It’s like, “well, that’s great, I guess, but can’t you see that it is shameful to acknowledge them?” In addition, as an American woman, I fear that if I did not have them no one would look at me ever. Media, old “friends”, experiences like the ones described above had resulted in my internalizing this idea that I am ugly and not much to look at other than THOSE BOOB OMG and, while it might sound absurd, I fear that I would be nothing without them. I know this is a lie, but sometimes it feels incredibly true.
A large part of my current therapeutic work is about understanding and ridding myself of the immense shame I feel for all kinds of things. It is unsurprising that I have this, since I grew up around all kinds of body shaming, fat shaming, food shaming, job shaming, money shaming, art shaming, sex/slut shaming…really, anything you can think of, I was around shaming of it. So, it’s going to take a while.
But, it’s super worth it, you know?
Emotions and love October 13, 2013Posted by shaunphilly in Polyamory.
Tags: emotions, love
Over at Evolving Thoughts, one of the many blogs that I read, John S. Wilkens posted about emotions. I know, the post is nearly a week old, but I’ve been busy this last week and I’m catching up today.
In any case, the starts with an eye-raising question as the title; “Are emotions 2D?” What on Earth can that mean?
Well, it’s really about how he categorize the basic emotions into a 2 or 3 dimensional model. From the post:
Paul Ekman, who works as a human ethologist of the emotions, has devised a scheme in which there are six “basic” emotions: anger, disgust, fear, happiness, sadness, and surprise. Evolutionary psychologists like Cosmides and Tooby have extended this further, arguing that guilt, fear, jealousy, etc., are adaptive responses that increase fitness in our ancestral state.
It’s a model I’ve seen before, and since emotions have been a particular lay interest of mine, I think about things like this sometimes.
Now, much of the analysis is way outside of my area of expertise (and as John says in the post, his as well), so I will leave most of the content without comment. Read the post (it’s not long, but there are links!) if you are interested in the subject at all.
But what I found interesting is where he starts talking about love. Love, in the model here, is not really its own emotion. Further, love is not necessarily tied to sex. Both ideas I agree with, and I think there is good support for that view.
Then, he says the following:
If sex and the value we take from others is separate from the positive regard we have for others, then to my mind, there’s just love. Love for partners, family members (particularly children), and friends is all of a muchness, and the differences are just socially constructed.
For various, and complicated, historical, cultural, and religious reasons we have created boundaries around difference expressions of care we have for others. As a result, we often distinguish, in our culture, between (for example) romantic love and friendship. But many see this differently. For example, Wes wrote yesterday about Relationship Anarchy, and I agree that for many people, including myself, the barriers between different kinds of relationships fall away when examined. For me at least, part of the reason for this is that the cultural and social distinctions between love itself fall away, in a similar fashion. The cultural walls and definitions which seem to differentiate between relationships and types of love are mostly illusory, conventional, and in some cases simply wrong and ultimately harmful.
Yes, there will be differing levels of intensity of the “love” feelings I have for people in my life. There will also be subtleties in the differing emotional recipes which we call love (a little more serotonin here, a little less dopamine there…).
I can say, without any contradiction, that I love some people more, or at least for more reasons and with greater frequency, but the same basic feeling of caring I have for those closest to me is present with people I really like, whether I have sexual interest in them or not.
And while sexual intimacy is often (but certainly not always) a cauldron where those feelings may brew with greater intensity and speed, those feelings can exist with or without said intimacy. It is true that I have friends whom I love. Some of them are sexy as Hell (Hell is, after all, just an eternal orgy, right?) and would hop in the sack with in a second, and others I get no pants feelings for at all. Similarly, there exist some people for whom being in the same room with is sexually intoxicating, and yet I have little to no love feelings for.
In other words, they are truly different things. But I’m digressing. The point is that I have differing levels of pants feelings and love feelings for different people. You know, I’m human.
John Wilkins finishes his post in a way I really appreciated, for reasons that will become obvious. I don’t know anything about his personal life, so I don’t know where he lies on the monogamy/polyamory question, but he says the following:
We can choose to have relationships that are of varying strength of commitment without needing to meet the expectations of popular psychology or sociology. We might even be able to adopt a plural relationship of sexual partners or a mix of sexual and nonsexual partners in life without prejudicing those relationships by constructed categories derived from past institutions like marriage that rely upon the ideologies of class, religion or economics.
Relationship Anarchy and The Spectrum of Relationship Control October 12, 2013Posted by wfenza in Skepticism and atheism.
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For most people, having a sexual/romantic relationship with a person means exercising some kind of control over that person. Traditional couples vary in the amount and types of control they exercise over one another, but part of traditional monogamy is a substantial amount of control over a partner’s sexuality and “outside” relationships.
Part of polyamory’s primary appeal to me was the breaking down of this power structure. For me, the biggest appeal of opening my relationship was that my partner was allowed to do what she wanted, without worrying that she was infringing on my rights as her partner. Several forms of the types of monogamy that I endorse involve partners exercising less power over one another (or explicitly recognizing and formalizing their power structure).
Recently, I’ve been reading about a relationship style that radically breaks down the relationship power structure: relationship anarchy. As the name suggests, it involves the rejection of the traditional power structure that is the norm in our society. Like polyamory, RA doesn’t have one clear definition or philosophy, but I’ve found several sources which give consistent descriptions.
As will all research projects, we start with Wikipedia:
Relationship anarchy (abbreviated RA) is the practice of forming relationships that are not bound by set rules. It goes beyond polyamory by postulating that there need not be a formal distinction between different types of relationships. Relationship anarchists look at each relationship (romantic or otherwise) individually, as opposed to categorizing them according to societal norms such as ‘just friends’, ‘in a relationship’, ‘in an open relationship’, etc.
The Thinking Asexual has a primer on RA basics. A short excerpt:
A relationship anarchist does not assign special value to a relationship because it includes sex. A relationship anarchist does not assign special value to a relationship because it includes romance, if they even acknowledge romance as a distinct emotion or set of behaviors in the first place. A relationship anarchist begins from a place of assuming total freedom and flexibility as the one in charge of their personal relationships and decides on a case by case basis what they want each relationship to look like. They may have sex with more than one person, they may be celibate their whole lives, they may live with someone they aren’t having sex with, they may live alone no matter what, they may raise a child with one sexual partner or multiple sexual partners, they may raise a child with a nonsexual partner, they may have highly physical/sensual relationships with multiple people simultaneously (some or all of whom are not sexually and/or romantically involved with them), etc.
I encourage you to read the whole thing, and specifically about how RA applies to asexuality and other nontraditional orientations. There is also a good introduction tot the concept at The Anarchist Library. My favorite part:
Life would not have much structure or meaning without joining together with other people to achieve things — constructing a life together, raising children, owning a house or growing together through thick and thin. Such endeavors usually need lots of trust and commitment between people to work. Relationship anarchy is not about never committing to anything — it’s about designing your own commitments with the people around you, and freeing them from norms dictating that certain types of commitments are a requirement for love to be real, or that some commitments like raising children or moving in together have to be driven by certain kinds of feelings. Start from scratch and be explicit about what kind of commitments you want to make with other people!
As you can probably tell, I find RA very appealing, not as something i want to do, but more as a name for something I am already doing. These concepts echo concepts that I have been advocating since I began practicing nonmonogamy, and they resonate with a lot of other ideas that I’ve encountered in the poly community.
THE SPECTRUM OF RELATIONSHIP CONTROL
The term “polyamory” is broad. It covers a lot of different relationship styles, some more controlling than others. If you’re a member of any polyamory groups on Facebook, Reddit, or other online communities, you’ll often see disagreements regarding the amount of control that’s ideal to exercise in a relationship. Some community leaders such as Franklin Veaux explicitly argue in favor of a less controlling dynamic. Often, this idea offends people (particularly unicorn hunters) who feel that they need to maintain a substantial degree of control in their relationships. Media coverage of polyamory tends to exacerbate this issue.
These disagreements arise often, and my theory is these disagreement are inevitable until we come up with a more robust vocabulary. The problem is that people hear different things when you use a term like “polyamory,” specifically in regards to how much control partners exercise over one another. Relationships exist on a spectrum of control, ranging from total master/slave relationships on one end (where one partner makes all major decisions for the other) to completely independent relationship anarchy on the other. In the middle are all other relationships. The archetypical spectrum looks something like this:
^Click to embiggen. There are many other archetypes that carry assumptions about the level of control in the relationship. The problem is that many relationships don’t fit into the archetypes on the spectrum. Some polyamorous relationships can be just as controlling, if not moreso, than traditionally monogamous relationships. Some polyamorous relationships have all of the same rules as traditional monogamy, just with additional people. Some skeptically monogamous relationships can be just as free and egalitarian as relationship anarchists.
I think that, when most of us get involved in the poly community, we’re looking for like-minded people who share our philosophy on relationships. The problem is that those of us on the right of the spectrum have very little in common with polyamorous people on the left of the spectrum (and actually much more in common with skeptically monogamous people on the right of the spectrum). So long as we have no way of communicating our level of control in our relationships, these disagreements are going to continue.
This is not necessarily a bad thing. It’s important for people to be exposed to other perspectives. Particularly, I think newer poly people (who tend to be further on the left of the spectrum) benefit enormously from the perspectives of more experienced poly people (who tend to be further to the right on the spectrum). It’s important for people to see examples of sustainable relationships and how they operate. I’m also not a fan of exclusion, so I’m not advocating forming communities that keep anyone out.
I do think, however, that as polyamory grows in popularity, it will be necessary to come up with a more robust vocabulary to describe our relationships. Any ideas?
Just a Friday morning October 11, 2013Posted by shaunphilly in Polyamory.
Tags: Doctor Who, monogamy, Non-monogamy, polyamory
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This morning was a little different than most. But in another way, it was not all that strange, for this house. Last night, Jess and I had a date which involved her coming over here after work and hanging out with me around the house for the evening. Jess is the woman I started seeing recently, and despite the fact I’ve only known her for 4 weeks, things are going very well and I see signs of it continuing for some time. In short, she’s amazing and I’m really glad I met her.
We stayed in, while many others went out for karaoke, and we watched Doctor Who (she’s new to it, and is hooked!). So, most of the evening was spent in the living room, cuddled up on the couch, but eventually we got tired and we went to bed. Since we don’t have an extra bedroom, I fixed up the futon in the library (which is really just a part of the living room), so really we went to futon. When we all win the lottery and we have a huge mansion with a dozen extra bedrooms, that won’t be necessary. But that hasn’t happened yet. Also, none of us play the lottery. I guess I’m just going to have to sell a million copies of my book. But seriously you can get it for free (or whatever you want to pay). But if you all acquire it for free, my ‘selling’ a million copies is not going to get us that mansion/castle/small island with its own airport and private beaches. You will totally be invited to our 25-person hot tub.
*sigh* I’m going to have to continue to work and earn money like everyone else, aren’t I? Oh well….
Most people in the house are early risers, having to get to work and such. I am working today, but I don’t start until around 3:00 today, and then I will be working until midnight or so (Friday night, w00t!). But this morning was a day when everyone besides me had work early, and so the morning was a house of bustling, ready-getting people buzzing around me as I watched them all do their morning things. I’m a very light sleeper, so there was no way I was sleeping through any of this, but rather than go upstairs to our bedroom to go back to sleep for another hour or two, I just watched. A house full of people, all getting ready for work in an environment that is not completely unlike any other family. The difference between what I watched this morning and, say, a married couple with a few kids was not big. Rides to work and train stations were worked out, people were doing coffee, perhaps some breakfast on the go, and I had the three women I am involved with all there, together, talking and saying good morning, kissing me good-bye as they left (they all ended up leaving at the same time), and it was actually quite hart-warming.
For anyone who thinks that polyamory is strange, that this thing we do here at the PolySkeptic compound are unbelievable or somehow wrong even, I dare you to see what I observed this morning. I dare you to see this group of adults, and how we share space, time, etc and to continue to think of us as doing something weird. We are doing what most people do. we are trying to maintain the daily stresses and joys of life with jobs, bills, fun, and self-enrichment . We are just doing it outside the mononormative narrative, which is very strange to some people. Those people have strange ideas about the world, or something.
It’s a wonderful life, and I’m glad that I was fortunate enough to be here. And when I get home late tonight, I may see a bunch of people in the hot tub or I may find that everyone is asleep. Either way, I am working this weekend, I have beer maturing and fermenting in the kitchen, and I have life to look forward to. Strange though it may seem to some, I know many readers here understand and I’m glad they are out there being weird too.
Take that, rainy day! You aren’t gettin’ me down.