So Tell Me ... What's The Weather Like on YOUR Planet?

30 November, 2008

Getting Real

Trin at SM-F linked to this post with a comment about "What is this equation of BDSM stuff and roleplaying, and where is the renfaire notion coming from again?"

I can't even say I wish I knew, because combining "roleplaying" and "sex" creeps me out so much that I don't even like reading discussions of it. It's probably not the biggest squick I have, but it's the biggest one I can see right at the moment (and I desperately need a nap, so I'm more myopic than usual, but hey).

If it's not real, it's not sexy to me.

And I think part of the reason that this distaste is so deep, visceral, and intense has to do with my experience of sexual harassment and my assault -- this constant barrage of people who wanted not-me sexually. Who had this pinup notion of me in their head, regardless of consent or reality, and made constant reference to it in their interactions with me, never letting me be unaware of this me-shaped blowup doll they were imagining me into.

That sort of thing, the creation of the role, reminds me too much of living in space where my sexuality wasn't mine, was regularly appropriated for other people's entertainment, where I didn't exist as anything other than the vessel for the game.

It burned me out on any notion of pretending to something I'm not where sexuality is involved.

And I'm a hell of a gamer. And in fact I've met probably a majority of the partners I've had in my life in gaming circles of one sort or another - let's see, flirting over Magic: the Gathering, met at a game store, playing Shadowrun (our characters wound up married, too), online roleplaying game, AD&D game, online RPG, at a weekly gaming gathering .... You're not going to get an "OMG the horrible gamers, the weirdos" out of me.

But I don't play games with sex.

I want my sex raw and real and present and accepting of the wholeness of me, without censoring away bits or tidying it all up into some kind of fantasy world that detracts from the genuineness of where and who I am.

It's not a place where I want anything other than reality.

And this is one of the reasons that my liege and I are intermittently working on a more or less formal contract that covers the full scope of our relationship and my service, because the whole of me is not willing to just pretend that I'm only his in the bedroom. The whole of me puts the kettle on when it knows to expect him dropping by; that's not in the bedroom. And it's not a game.

It produces real tea, not a fantasy. I'm not pretending to boil water, the water is actually, realio trulio little pet dragon hot. I'm not roleplaying a waitress or a maid or whatever other little game some people might want to give a thrill to their tea-making; I just make the goddamn tea.

22 November, 2008

Glitter and Gold

In a discussion elsewhere, a friend commented, "Is it just me, or is America in particular, fond of swathing things in happy gas rather than looking at change straight on?"

I commented in response that it struck me as a combination of wealth and fear.

I want to chew on that thought a little.

The culture of the US is one that is very wealth-driven in many ways. There is aspiring to it, having it, making the possession thereof into celebrity in and of itself; there is this perspective that resources are infinite (driven by having this huge sweep of continent to occupy rather than the packed-in border-rubbing of Europe) and effort will bring one riches.

At the same time, though, that wealth is a cliffside walk. This is an almost inescapable knowledge; too many people are bankrupted by a health crisis, emotionally battered by an assault, worry that if they don't work that extra few hours of overtime they'll lose their jobs, or whatever else makes that sense of abundance precarious and transitory.

So the illusion gets cultivated: it can't happen to me.

I don't need health coverage, because I'm immortal; I won't get into an accident, I won't come down with a debilitating condition, I won't have to worry about expensive treatments. I'm immune to sexual assault and robbery because I don't go into those places or wear those clothes; my magic talisman sensible shoes will protect me. I really love my job, that's why I work late all the time.

And there are people who profit by that fear. Not just the employers who can get more hours out of their workers with the suggestion that those who aren't performing over standards might not be worth keeping on in tough economic times; not just profiteering off keeping up with the Joneses fearfulness of personal worth equated with notable consumerism. But making people driven to fear over their children's educations, or freaking out about some subset of issues and ignoring bullying as trivial, or any of a number of things that actually matter. As long as people can be kept running around in circles and insecure, then the things that actually cause the insecurity can remain a point of leverage.

Real security, real wealth, provides protection from fear rather than a point to lever it from.

07 November, 2008

Rolling Home to a President Like Me

Truth with all its far-out schemes....

I was raised on a diet of Pogo and Doonesbury, sixties protest rock and NPR. One of my standard jokes is that Album 1700 is my deeptape; I would sometimes listen to one side of the tape copy I had with the tape recorder under my pillow as I was going to sleep at night. (Other times it was one of the Charlie Brown musicals. Never say I'm not a bit eclectic.)

Lets time decide what it should mean....

I came to the first beginnings of real political awareness in 1986, listening to the Iran-Contra hearings and people stressing about the epic deficits of the Reagan era. I was a serious, earnest child, and I scowled while listening to the news and drew lopsided pie charts trying to figure out where the money should be going. I was sure that if I could just go through it, I could straighten it all out, and I wasn't sure why the people in the government couldn't.

It's not the time, but just the dreams that die.

The following decades kind of burned out that little spark of, "Oh, if I could only get at the stuff here I could make it all add up."

And sometimes, when the room is still...

I'm registered as unenrolled, which means that I can vote in whichever major party primary I feel more strongly about. Which means that if I hadn't been stuck in a morass of bad nerves in 2000, I would have voted in the Republican primary for John McCain.

Time, with so much truth to kill ....

I wouldn't have voted for him in the general, but I felt that his dedication to talking about issues rather than playing the mudslinging game was something worth supporting. Given the choice among a Democratic field that didn't excite me terribly, and the possibility to make a difference to the flavor of the Republican Party for the next while, I knew which way I wanted to gamble.

Of course, it turned out I was too busy being mad to vote, but that's how it would have gone if I had.

Leaves you by the windowsill so tied.

In November 2000 I was up until some ludicrous hour of the morning talking with my ex (we weren't exes at the time) and watching election results go wildly everywhere, and I commented that when I'd been walking down to the polls I'd seen a man on a unicycle bouncing a basketball as he crossed a minor highway (sometimes catching the ball in front of him, sometimes behind his head), and said, "This is gonna be a weird election."

Without a wing to take you high.

I watched the people I knew online start to slowly melt down, my newsgroups become less and less readable and more and more hostile, an atmosphere that only got worse after 9/11.

Without a clue to tell you why.

I went, a year or so later, to a local hearing on same-sex marriage access, intending to speak in favor as a heterosexual married in Massachusetts. I put my name in the hat to speak to the legislature, and I waited, and I waited, and I listened for hours, and I have stories about this, but the long and short of it is that I wound up having to go home without speaking, in part because my husband had another obligation, in part because I started gushing blood from my nose for no particular reason other than, I suppose, it being cold and dry.

Now, I just want to keep my name ....

Time crawled onwards. I watched my country slowly slide into a perdition that I felt I could do nothing about. My personal activisms started to burn out quietly, between my perceptions of the risk and my lack of hope for effectiveness. In the 2004 election, I voted in the Democratic primary, for someone unelectable whose voice I wanted at least heard a little, and I watched a lackluster Kerry campaign fail while wondering what happened to the war hero who had been elected.

Not bother anybody's game....

Time continued crawling. I grew increasingly insular, increasingly weary, increasingly disgusted, and increasingly helpless. I needed to protect my own people, a wide and varied group of various sorts, and had no energy to spare for anything outside of that. I cut what I did down to the bone, preserving sanity and energy for what slowly started to seem like the inevitable need to defend. I couldn't see the world changing to suit what I wanted it to be unless I went up and did it, and I could not afford to do it - not the mental cost, not the risks to my family, none of it. So I knew it wouldn't happen.

Without ideas of gold or fame or...

When the election season rolled around again, I could not bring myself to be terribly interested. There was nothing that would stop the slide downwards, after all; "politics as usual" would be the same established interests, the same voices, the same faces, the same donation sources, the same sorts of policies. I had reasonable confidence that whatever Democratic nominee made it through would have the ability to win, given the overall status of the Bush administration, and that was all I could bring myself to care about, all I was able to invest in.

Insane heights.

I have friends who are political junkies; I absorbed things they said quietly, without really engaging with any of it. I poked around and did "Which candidate matches your views" quizzy things occasionally, on a lark. I mostly ignored the process for a long time, finding myself unable to care terribly much which of the sets of talking heads got the nomination. I mostly watched the Republican side, because they made me anxious, and I knew whichever one of them came out on top of the slugfest would be setting a tone - and I wanted to know where my enemies were going to be coming from. I needed to defend, after all. That was all I could believe in.

I don't want a lot of money, I don't want a Playboy Bunny....

I don't remember when that started to change. But I remember listening. I remember Jon Stewart on the Daily Show saying, "... gave a speech about race that treated the American people like adults." I know that was after I started listening, started paying attention, started thinking about possibility.

Started waking up.

Just a love to call me honey late at night...

And I still didn't want to talk about politics, talk about the races, talk about the vast dramas played out on the national soap opera stage. But there was something different out there - not the same old figured with their various policies, but all basically a part of the flow of The Way Things Were. There was a possibility of something being different, and someone doing it other than me - that thing I'd had no hope of.

In my arms, by my side, in my arms, late at night.

Quietly, in my own space, I started reading party platforms. When it was down to Clinton and Obama I laid their websites out side by side and compared the issues. When McCain looked likely to take the Republican nomination I remembered 2000, and had hope for a shift back to what he had been then and there. There was ... something there, a possibility, the sort of world that I would like to see, where the people who had their differences could address them themselves.

But I don't know, I ain't been told...

There was a little spark there, that the era of hostile campaigning might come to an end, that people might have a vision and work towards it, something might change - and it wasn't policies that I wanted that change in so much as zeitgeist.

Everybody wants a hand to hold....

I thought a lot about the civil rights movements that this country has had, working for racial equality, for women, for gay rights, for so many things. It flowed in and out of my mind, the old tunes, the ways of being. I watched Across the Universe and read that speech, and I felt myself in tears.

They're so afraid of being old....

I was quiet, and focused, and almost reluctant to make comments supporting one candidate over another, because of the weariness of those years. But there were the songs in my heart again, and I remembered them, and hummed them quietly to myself.

So scared of dying so unknown, and all alone....

Something in me started to live again.

Rolling home.

I watched the hardening of the discourse, the negativity, and folded in on myself. The insulting terms that were thrown every which way about the candidates and their supporters depressed me almost catastrophically.

But at the same time, I saw people inspired. Creative. I saw LOLcats. I saw an entire blog of photos of Obama with kids, his own and others, and just this sense of comfort and ease with small people. I saw occasional images of his relationships with his family, laughing with his daughters, heard about the puppy so that when he spoke about it in his acceptance speech I said, "A puppy!" before he mentioned it and drew funny looks from my men. I saw pumpkins. I saw all these different upswellings of feeling, and creation, and, yes, being talked to like an adult.

And there was new music, too. New music, my gods, new music.

There was a story, sometime in there, where a bunch of reporters found Obama in a diner and wanted to get his opinion on the Crisis Of The Moment, and he looked at them, and was reported to say, "Why can't I just eat my waffle?"

Why can't I just eat my waffle?

That was a clinching moment for me, oddly enough; this eminently human reponse, this realness, this sense that here was someone who wasn't going to just spew talking points or declaim on positions at the drop of a hat, but who was a real human being who occasionally has breakfast.

A friend made me a livejournal icon of it.

And I watched the first campaign that actually started to speak my language. Not just in terms of what I called the first political campaign of the 21st century in terms of its grassroots and internet work. But in the sense that somehow, somewhere, someone knew about that little girl who drew little pie charts about the budget, putting huge slices of it towards education, because damnit, if we only had the numbers we could do something to put it right. Someone wasn't ashamed of having been the little kid who said, "Hey, I'm smart enough to figure this out, just let me at the problem," in a country where politics has had a strong anti-intellectual current for my entire lifetime.

And I saw, just before Halloween, a photo of Obama on some tarmac somewhere, talking with an aide, with a pumpkin tucked under one arm, as if that were a perfectly normal thing to do.

I had never seen a politician preparing to carve pumpkins before.

You want the real America? Goddamn, a politician with a fucking pumpkin.

A friend posted this image today and I laughed at the sticker on the computer, but, again, this is a real human thing, something familiar and real and I laugh not just because it's silly but because it's human and known and damnit I wish I'd thought of that, you know?

And it's a trivial thing, a silly thing, not enough to put a vote on ...

... but it's enough to make the vote I cast mean so much more.

Because I voted for a President who's actually like me, and I never thought that would happen.

I never thought it would be okay to be the little girl who hoped her government could be fixed again.

05 November, 2008

Good Morning, America

And if you miss me from the Chicago streets
And you can't find me nowhere
Come on up to the White House
I'll be governing there.

(Anyone with a better verse, please leave me a comment, it's late.)

03 November, 2008

Election Double Special

This wins.

(Via livejournal & my dear roommate.)

Election Special

In honor of tomorrow's US elections, I give you:

Ten political positions that some people probably want to throw things at me for.

1) A foreign policy that does not acknowledge that people around the world have genuine grievances with the colonizing West in general and the United States in particular is doomed to horrible failure. Acknowledging that other people might possibly be pissed about American exceptionalism, imperialism, and meddling in their internal affairs is not unpatriotic, it's not being a damned fool.

2) Corporations are not people. As they cannot fulfil the obligations of citizenship or face the consequences that actual people do for their actions, due to not being people and all, they do not merit the same access to choice that people get. In other words: I'll start to care about corporate "free speech" when a corporation can do time for negligent homicide.

3) Neo-Prohibition does not work; those who do not learn from history, doomed to repeat, etc. It funds organised crime and terrorism; it ruins lives; it is fundamentally racist. And if that wasn't bad enough, the "War on Drugs" is fucking expensive, and even if we really want to waste our money on increasing crime, destroying families, locking up nonviolent drug users, and other idiocies, we can't afford to be that stupid right now.

4) Prevention is cheaper than crisis response. Harm reduction works better than wishing problems just wouldn't happen. Education and opening access to options improve things in the long run. This applies to health care access, sex work, sex education, drug use, juvenile delinquency, same-sex marriage rights, and approximately everything else in the political universe.

5) The question of "when does life begin" is totally irrelevant to the political discussions it appears in. The answer is "probably somewhere around four billion years ago", give or take half a billion, and if you think otherwise you need to be locked in a small room with a biology textbook that includes a section on the refutation of spontaneous generation and the development of omne vivum ex ovo. When it matters that there's life there may be an interesting question, but that's a completely different field.

6) Anyone who says "get the government out of the business of marriage" needs to be slapped, and then have explained to them in very small words about the whole fact that we have an entire branch of government there to sort out people's legal contracts, and what makes marriage such a sooper-speshul legal contract that it should get excepted from that? (Oh, you think marriage is religious? Enshrining that in the law's a violation of the Establishment Clause.)

7) While I'm on the subject, marriage should be gotten the hell out of the tax business. The sensible filing for taxation purposes is at the household level, and marriage is simply one way of establishing a household relationship -- one that is both the only one effectively recognised and woefully inadequate for addressing the variety of households extant. Households are not now, and never have been, all single people and marrieds-and-their-offspring. Some people have extended families, unrelated dependents, or other broader setups. Some people have untraditional family structures. Make it as annoying to establish and dissolve a household unit as it is to establish and dissolve a marriage if you have to, but fucking sheesh.

8) The US economy is structured in a manner that is fundamentally anti-family. The evidence is overwhelming: hours in our work week, vacation time typically available, health care costs, access to parental leave time for births/adoptions, and that's just stuff I can think of official statistics for off the top of my head. Not things for which there are statistics that I can't think of off top of head, or the pervasiveness of culture of overwork to replace self-value, or the tendency to work people double-time rather than hire more workers, or the fact that large numbers of people have to work two or three part-time jobs to bring in enough to care for their families and still don't have any goddamn health care.

9) Political name-calling makes people look like they're stuck in a rather petulant childhood. I don't care if it's Nobama or McSame, Democraps or Rethuglicans, or any of the other oh-so-grade-school variations. "Libtard" is one that's been going around my sports group a lot, and I'm sure there's an equivalent conservative one but I've probably killfiled whoever uses it. All the cries of "commie" are like the schoolyard braying of "gay"; if they are, who fucking cares? Liberal, conservative, progressive, socialist, and so on are not Bad Words to throw at the other children after pulling their hair and then run away tittering in the corner with your little clique of puerile delinquents. (Neither is "Muslim".) It doesn't reveal you as clever, it reveals you as an uncreative brat who needs a time-out and possibly a nap. Stomp your little velcro-sneakered feet all you like, but as long as you continue with that tantrum you're going to have to sit in the corner.

10) Formulating things in terms of "rights" is a defective way of arranging policy. Speaking of petulance, how often does one hear a sullen, "Well, I gotta right," in response to some critique? Operating in a rights-based framework feeds an attitude of entitlement that, frankly, the US doesn't really need. Too many absolutes in the picture, and too many mistaking a right to one thing for a right to something only peripherally related -- how many times have you wanted to say, "Your right to free speech does not obligate me to listen to your idiocy"? Frame things in terms of what people can do, not what they have a right to do, and you start to actually have some nuance.