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

20 December, 2008

Resting Ye Merry

My husband and I were listening to the radio while out driving somewhere the other day. This being December, the usual "Hrm, don't want to listen to this commercial, change the station" was supplemented with "Don't want to listen to this shitty Christmas pop, change the station."

Somewhere along the line, it started playing "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" and I insisted on leaving it there.

Here's the thing that drives me nuts about Christmas music: in the name of being "accepting" or "inclusive" or what have you, the only stuff that gets much airtime is crap. Frosty the Snowman. Here comes Santa Claus. Winter Wonderland. Bibble-bobble fluffstuff.

I'm not Christian. That doesn't mean that I don't like Christmas music -- real Christmas music. The stuff with soul, religion, faith, the stuff with actual musical merit. (Not to say that all modern Christmas music is universally crap, but it's so much the way to bet.)

It's one of those things that puts me in some sympathy with the "Jesus is the reason for the season" folks, even if I'm more of an "Axial tilt is the reason for the season" kinda gal -- because in the name of tolerance and diversity, we don't get meaningful music for everyone. We just get pap. Grind it down to the point that all of us have been run over by a fucking reindeer.

I learned a few years ago that getting me drunk in December was a good way of getting me to belt out proper carols -- the kind that mean something -- at the top of my lungs. (And I can sing loud.)

Generally, what it produced was:

Adeste fideles
Laeti triumphantes
Venite, venite in Bethlehem.
Natum videte
Regem angelorum

Venite adoremus
Venite adoremus
Venite adoremus

A good Solstice to all, happy Channukah tomorrow, merry Christmas next week, a good secular/Christian new year upcoming, et cetera, et cetera, and so forth.

(Light one candle for the terrible sacrifice justice and freedom demand....)

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.

27 October, 2008

Slipping Down the Slope

I've been thinking, for a couple of reasons, about classism and how it interacted with the feminism of my childhood.

(This is riffing on my "Spoiling Feminism" post on last year, in part.)

I had a damn weird upbringing in some ways, class-wise, but one of the things that was a big part of it was that I would go to college. On the one side of the family, it was "Of course you will go to college; we are Yankee bluebloods and our kind has gone to college since Colonial days." On the other side of the family it was, "Going to college is how we can have a better lot in life than our parents and lift ourselves out of the working class. Your grandfather gave up a scholarship that would have made him the first in the family to attend college because his family needed his income, and you need to honor that sacrifice."

And threaded in through all that childhood is this very class-conscious feminism, one that barely touches on issues of violence and genuine misogyny for a very professional-class set of concerns that mostly were relevant to the women who were college-educated. Glass ceilings. Access to the boardroom and the White House. Economics without any sense that people bleed, except in the past, where that bleeding was done so that you, meaning me, could go out and accomplish the great things that Our Feminist Foremothers could only dream of seeing their daughters do. Just Do It feminism at its worst. I had to prove myself for womanhood, and because as a woman I couldn't afford to depend on anyone else for care and support, especially not a man.

I tell you a secret: I had no damn clue what I might want to do in college. This was my secret shame, that I didn't have A Goal, some sort of appropriately middle-class college-educated thing I would do to prove my merit (and, incidentally, Further The Cause Of Women). I wanted to write, and I couldn't think of a thing to study in college that would help me with that. (Literature classes were, in my experience, entirely painful, and not useful for actual writing in any case.) It was acceptable to take classes in Random Interesting Shit, but only in and around the edges of what was required to manage establishing that Proper Career. I had no Career dreams, and I knew that this was a great failure for me as a human being (for classist reasons) and as a woman (for feminist reasons).

So what happens when I went to college?

I went mad.

Load that wacky classist baggage with mental health ablism, now. Depression isn't a legitimate disability, you know, it's just the excuse of the lazy for their failures. It's certainly not a reason to drop out of college, because college is what I was supposed to do, and none of this fluffy insanity shit gets me out of my obligations to family, to class, to women as a whole, right?

I worked junior tech support and pink-collar for a while to make rent and food. My happiness at my state of freedom collided messily with, again, the whole class thing, the downward mobility of not being college-educated and the sense of hamartia that came of that -- not merely falling short, but sinfully so.

And, in time, freedom faded too, as the stress of the work started to be too much for me to handle. My migraines returned, my health degraded, and I could feel the edges of sanity sliding again, especially when I had to choose between being a good person by my own lights and making the rent. Eventually, I quit, and slid, more quietly this time, into madness and self-negation, truly knowing myself worthless and not worthy of living because of the shame of dependence -- dependence on a man, to boot.

I've had to come to terms with it. All of it. The classism, the ablism, the giant morass in my head. I've never gone back to college -- something that shocks people from backgrounds like mine, where the "of course you're college-educated, you're intelligent" assumptions run deep. I've had to accept that the odds are good that I can't work enough to support myself on my earnings and keep my sanity; I have to pick one or the other. I've had to deal with people who talk about how it's irresponsible for a woman to not be able to support herself on her own earnings, because other people are unreliable, untrustworthy, can't be counted on to not betray me and leave me on the street.

Which leaves me an autodidact with a freelancing job, working at home, writing between contracts because that leaves me saner than not, doing the laundry and all despite still occasionally facing failure-as-a-person and failure-as-a-woman for "settling for" a life where I have a chance at being happy and reasonably successful on my own terms, rather than miserably a good example of womankind.

16 October, 2008

O The Embarrassment

I can't respond to this in a way that makes sense on the threads, because where I'm coming from is utterly tangential; the origin of the discussion is here and here.

One of those places that I'm ludicrously short-fused is when I run into stuff that equates submission with humiliation. I sort of touched on it obliquely when writing about language and terminology and 'name-calling' before.

I actually had a long conversation with my husband a while back trying to get an explanation of mere erotic embarassment that made any sense to me. After going back and forth for over an hour, I still didn't really see how it could work. So the best I can do is figure that other people are wired up differently from me and not think about it too hard because it makes me queasy.

Which it really does.

And I think it comes down to a place where the contrarian iron is in my spine. The short enough to be catchy but a little too short to be perfectly accurate way of putting it would be:

If I got off on being a lesser being, I'd have run back to mommy when they threw me out of school.

And it's not just the mommy issues or the failure at college thing; it's that my life has made me into someone who wants to defy shame. (And one of the things that I find powerfully attractive about my liege is his lack of shame, and lack of interest in it.)

And experience with bullies and experience with abuse means that my reaction to someone trying to twist a perceived weak spot, to humiliate, or degrade ... is cold fury. Sometimes controlled; sometimes not. I protect my vulnerable spots, and someone who wants to get me alone to twist a knife into them will run into my defenses, not get happy pervy goodness out of it.

I spent my childhood as scrawny, bookish, socially inept; my early adolescence in a maze of social abuse and sexual harassment and appropriation; my adolescence shaken by the aftermath of assault and a growing awareness of myself as Unacceptable due to my sexuality, my religion, my politics, my lack of class-appropriate ambition, my failure at higher education, my domestic focus, my mental illness. I have had enough of being treated as a defective or lesser being, well past enough.

And when she tried to coerce me back to the explosive shelter of my disintegrating parental home where I could be further humiliated and degraded, I refused. That's the key thing: I refused. I drew the line, I extracted myself from that.

I'm not going back, not to anything like that.

My happy pervy goodness comes out of being in an interaction where I am able to be whole. Not crushed into something lesser, but where my entire self, including the darker and more fragile pieces, including the parts that the outside world wants to break me of (like an impulse to service) are honored, are valuable, are precious, are holy.

Someone who thinks that my desire to be possessed and of service is a matter of humiliating me is not treating that desire with any respect, and thus becomes someone from whom that desire must be protected. Not someone who can share it.

13 October, 2008

Blood and Water

Family is a complicated thing.

It's on my mind, in a complicated interlacing of reasons, the whole shape of the thing. Bloodkin and chosen, all.

I'm thinking it over in a vast tangle of things. Thinking about a conversation a few days ago where I admitted to someone that I thought of her as a sister and she admitted reciprocation, all as tender and awkward as taking a new lover, making a mark of that. Knowing that that is real and true in a way blood isn't, can't be, at least not for the likes of us, the children of the Mother of Demons.

What is family? Is family blood, genetics; or is family what held me while I was in the depths of panicked depression on seeing the phrase "Playing with my grandchildren" in a notebook, this thing looked forward to and so deeply full of threat.

One of the most enduring ruptures in my relationship with my brother is the fact that we grew up in different families. Same parents, same household, and everything changed so fundamentally after I went away, went mad, stayed away, and in those years we were lost to each other for a while. Entire different realities lie between us, and we know it, and maybe forgive each other a little for becoming strangers.

A long time ago, when I was still semi-active in science fiction fandom, I had a massive blowout with that subculture over 'family'. I ran into a lot of people who talked about how fandom was their true family, how they felt alienated from their bloodkin, how it was a welcoming place for people like me, people who read the stuff, cared about the sorts of things fen cared about, the downtrodden nerds of the world. And it was all well and good, I suppose; I lurked on the fringes and avoided the culty-lovebombing bits of it because I had family, thanks. And then the shibboleths came out. Saying "sci-fi". Liking the occasional television show in genre. When I commented on it, I got mail from people who did costuming saying, "Yeah, looks just like the 'costuming is frivolous' argument to me. Sucks." It was, occasionally, vicious. And it ... pretty much prepared me for every subsequent "We're a welcoming group for people like you so long as you shut up about that."

I'm getting married in the spring. It wakes up all kinds of family tangles something fierce, and not just because the whole process is a familial declaration.

Who is in the real families being brought together there? Where is the line on blood and choice?

It's not a simple question. And it preoccupies me.

02 October, 2008

Forever Proud and Free

AFL-CIO's Richard Trumka speaks on racism to the steelworker's union.

Because all men are brothers wherever men may be
One Union shall unite us forever proud and free
No tyrant shall defeat us, no nation strike us down
All men who toil shall greet us the whole wide world around.

My brothers are all others forever hand in hand
Where chimes the bell of freedom there is my native land
My brother's fears are my fears yellow white or brown
My brother's tears are my tears the whole wide world around.

- Peter, Paul, and Mary, "Because All Men Are Brothers"

Actual post later, just getting back into the swing of things.

22 September, 2008

And, in time, grow wings

I've been playing Spore.

It's a silly little game, awfully cute. One starts with a microorganism, collects bits of DNA and mutation potential, evolves into a beastie, then a sopont, then on into space and such.

And I'm playing it and occasionally wonder why I haven't heard of any religious-right screaming about an evolution game.

Is it because it's guided by the divine hand of the player? (I'm not sure that entirely helps, given the hubristic nature of setting oneself up as deity that I've seen at anti-cloning and GE religious objections, but maybe computer games aren't on that radar.)

Or is it the cute cartoon violence and happy fluffy dancing sex instead of Grand Theft Auto?

I'm just ... kind of amused, mostly.

18 September, 2008

A Whole Other Ballgame

My sports newsgroup has been taken over by political ranting. It's maddening, and not just because when I'm reading there I'd rather read about the pennant race than the Presidential race, damnit.

There's one thing about it that particularly bothers me, though. Not just the vicious factionalism and the screaming and the offtopicness. Not even just the name-games, though this is one of them (I hate name games in rhetoric), but...

There are a couple of folks who go on ranting about "the Obamasiah".

And I keep cringing at the anti-Christian subtext.

And I'm sure the people who are saying this would consider themselves good and proper Christians who are mocking the behaviour of others, but ...

... the others aren't the ones directly conflating a God and a Caesar.

... the others aren't the ones who are directly mocking a major religion's sacred concepts by using them as terms of derision.

... the others aren't treating politics and salvation as one and the same.

It makes me horribly uncomfortable. And I know it's tied into the attempt to dogwhistle the antichrist into the campaign, and I know I'm reacting at some level to that, but...

... mostly I'm just looking at the blatant impiety of it all, the horrible twisting of the process and symbols of religion, and wondering if I'm the crazy one for noticing it.

15 September, 2008

Scenes from a Life, Kink Edition

"This would probably make an even better photograph."

"Why's that?"

I have to think about it, my head pillowed on one of his thighs, my hand resting next to it. The other hand, with the dark rich red rope still wrapped around the wrist, curls around my waist.

He strokes my hair and shoulder while I think, and I arch my back a little against the length of his other thigh, shifting my legs a little to stop the knot from grinding into my ankle, an endeavour made more difficult by the thick band of hemp coiled around my knees.

It's an oddly domestic little picture, in my mind, viewed from the outside. One of his hands on top of my head, the other petting me, expanse of skin and several colours of rope, lounged in the great heap of pillows, this comfortable lazy-dreamy snuggle.

I finally say, "With my hands free, the choice of it all is much more obvious."

I close my eyes. It feels so good.

11 September, 2008

Flames of Incandescent Terror

"Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword."

Love is radical.

Love is radical.

Love is radical, and I light a candle to shed red-glass light on Lilitu's owl-clawed feet, because today I am a child of the Mother of Demons. My love will shake the world, fan out like the peacock fan that spreads behind Her and glows in the firelight in honor of strife and compassion.

Love is radical, and its tears will extinguish Hell, but only if we burn with it. It is not enough to love quietly, mousily, in the safe spaces, because love is radically unsafe. Love will throw you through Hell and walk with you on the hike out. Love does not let you hide behind walls, it will slice you open, it will make you bleed.

Love is an act of blood. Love is an act of bone. It is your breath.

I am a child of the Mother of Demons. My love will rip up the foundations of the world if need be. It will tear apart your safe spaces. It will not let me be silent. My love is a claimed conspiracy to riot stashed in a jail cell awaiting judgement in Minnesota. My love does not wait for a permit or follow an established route. It is here now there then always not with a whimper but a bang and if your world is ending for it then remember that love will divide your families, set kith against kith and kin against kin, that you were warned and said you believed.

I am a child of the Mother of Demons. My love roars like the hollow wind. My love comes for the children. It does not listen to the doors. My love sees people married without checking their genitalia at the door, without evaluating the colour of their skin, without seeing if they have a hollowness that will be filled with a baby. My love sings and screams and goes to the ballot box dancing with the joy of holiness.

I am a child of the Mother of Demons. I walk a warrior path of love, and follow the song of my heart. I hold sunlight in my right hand and shadow and storm in my left, and am born of the serpent's dance with the falcon. I have the restored Eye and I offer it to you, that you may live.

I am a child of the Mother of Demons. I am one of the ones to fear, who goes stealthy through today in my cat-print pyjamas passing for one of you normal ones, the sane ones, the pretty children who went to school and then to the university and got put in boxes and came out all the same. I am the pervert among you, the polytheist, the deviant, the one whose world is wider than you can face, I stand at the open door in the desert from which there is no return.

There is no male or female, no free or slave, no line of race or creed or colour in love. Fear me, for I love you.

31 August, 2008

With, Without ... and who'll deny it's what the fighting's all about?

I've been pondering again.

And one of the things that I've been pondering is that I'm fed up with justification. The whole, "It's okay that I ... because I don't ..." game of marginalise the more marginal. Let's have a little more disgusting finger-pointing. (For bonus fun, we get "It's okay that I X because I don't Y" and "It's okay that I Y because I don't X" thrown at each other by two marginal groups playing "No really, I'm the mainstream-acceptable one". See also approximately every polyamory vs. swinging conversation ever.)

I'm not going to say that it's okay that I'm poly because I don't have casual sex; if I wanted to have casual sex, that would be okay too. It's not okay that I'm married because where I live same-sex couples have marriage rights; it's okay to be married. It's not okay to be kinky because I'm not into pain; in fact, I consider the question of whether I'm into pain to be kind of a counfoundingly open one. It's not okay that I'm 24/7 because I don't live with my liege, because he doesn't control this, that, or the other, or whatever other loophole makes power relationships maaaaaybe not creepy to some observer who wants to be sure that other people have the okay kinds of relationships.

It's not okay that I'm religious because I'm not a Christian. It's not okay that I'm a pagan because I don't publicise it extensively. It's not okay that I'm a sexual being because I don't watch porn. It's not okay that I'm mentally ill because I keep relatively quiet about it. It's not okay that I'm lame from scoliosis because most of the time it doesn't show. It's not okay that I'm female because I conform or don't to a particular ideology. It's not okay that I'm the weight I am because this is where my body sets to without special intervention. It's not okay that I have long hair because I don't present femme. It's not okay that I dye my hair because it's subtle (even when it's green). It's not okay that I dropped out of college and took a secretarial job because I had no other choice. It's not okay that I'm a glorified housewife because I'm smart. These and other things do not become okay because of some qualifier.

These things are okay.

And on the other foot, it doesn't become okay that I was assaulted because I'm not ruined by the experience. It doesn't become okay that I was traumatised because I'm in therapy. It doesn't become okay that someone impersonated an officer to rape some women because some of those women were prostitutes and he was a pillar of the community. It doesn't become okay to kill a woman for being black and involved with a drug dealer. It doesn't become okay to kill a black trans woman because someone can float a rumor that she's kinky. It doesn't become okay to rape that guy because it's 'doing him a favor' to give him sex he wouldn't get otherwise that we all know he wanted because men are like that. It doesn't become okay to deny support and refuge to those who are unable or unwilling to leave New Orleans because they're not doing what they're told or because they don't have ID. It doesn't become okay to direct sexist slams at Gov. Sarah Palin because she's conservative. These and other things do not become okay because of some justification.

These things are not okay.

What makes things okay or not okay is not some weaseling around the consequences; it's the actual consequences.

And yes, some of the consequences will include upsetting people who are deeply unhappy that someone out there is fucking someone with similarly configured genitalia, not worshipping their favorite god, toking up in the basement, dealing with their medical issues the way they need to, enjoying their private affairs and their own lives in relative peace and calm. And some of those people will say how very hurt they are by people who differ from them. Some of those people will cite "trans panic" or "gay panic" or other things to explain how, really, they're the victims of the people they harmed.

And those people really need to face up to the consequences of having personal boundaries as shitty as a screen door on a submarine.

21 August, 2008

Gaming Dog-Whistles

So one of McCain's bloggers called potential Obama voters the D&D set living in their mother's basements, which was, y'know, standard and laughable.

I didn't notice the dog-whistle. WordWeaverLynn at livejournal did, and decodes it for the rest of us.

(Corrected 'McCain' to 'minion'.)

18 August, 2008

Something Appealing, Something Appalling

Questioning Transphobia raised the issue of excluding trans women from areas because a penis -- or a former penis-possessor -- might be "triggering" to abuse survivors. Lisa Harney wrote a followup discussing her own triggers.

So here's the thing.

I am, in fact, triggered by penises; that's the most consistent thing that sets off my flashbacks to the assault. (Other known triggers include the movie A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, which I didn't successfully watch again until a few months ago as a part of a really intense scene, certain phrases, and, apparently, attempting to discuss the events in any detail with the shrink.)

Being triggered by penises is really annoying if one is pretty much exclusively interested in male sex partners. For the first ten years or so I was sexually active, I kept the lights off if at all possible, and rarely looked south of the ribcage.

Being triggered by penises is really one of those things that almost never comes up in the ordinary world. I'm more likely to have my unrelated mostly-mild phobia of mirrors pop up than random unexpected penises -- people put mirrors every-damn-where, but it's not often that one encounters a random penis. (Warning: link to random penis includes random penis. Art by the delightfully wacky Ursula Vernon.)

And the reason it doesn't have much relevance boils down to, mostly: trousers.

I live in a part of the world where people, for the most part, wear clothes. The penises the people around me have, if they have them, are irrelevant to pretty much all interactions I have with them, whether they were born with them, had them generated via modern medicine, got cybernetic implants a la Star Wreck's encounter with the Bored, or have a sparkly purple one that lives in the drawer next to the bed. The penises just don't come up, or if they do, they don't come up thoroughly enough to escape the trousers (or occasional kilts).

Hypothetical penises that may or may not be there are not triggering for me. I am not speculating about what is in your trousers right now, whether you are male, female, or not, whether you are cis or trans, whether you are wearing a thong or boxers or nothing or whatever. So long as your clothes are on, your hypothetical penis is hypothetical. With your clothes on, you are as sculpted and nippleless as Barbie to me, though presumably better-proportioned and able to flex your feet.

But ah, you say, what about those circumstances where people may not be clothed, what about those penises?

What about them, I say.

The thing is, my trigger is my problem. Which is not to say I don't appreciate people who are willing to make accomodations for it, as I do, but I can't find it reasonable to demand that other people go to exceptional effort to pad the corners for me.

Let me walk away if there's a penis and I'm upset by it. Don't make me stare at your naked dude spread. Give me space if I flip out. These are levels of consideration I expect from you as a decent human.

Ask me to tell you if I'm being triggered so you can determine if you feel you need to make accomodation to my issue? Sure, that's something I don't expect, but do appreciate, and I consider it a gesture from a friend.

Ban penises in my vicinity, just in case one of them might set me off? Presume to tell people "You can't bring that penis in here, she might have a flashback"? Free clue: my neuroses don't have a right to run my life, let alone the lives of innocents. I have the right to live like a normal person, and let other people likewise live their lives.

It sucks to have to manage triggers. But it's something that I have to do. It's something I've worked on, actively, gentle exposure to the occasional penis, going so far as to look at a few (though rarely for long, because it makes my brain itch in unpleasant ways due to, y'know, triggeryness). But I have to do it, because that's the price of living in my head. Like sometimes walking with a cane is the price of living in my body. I don't get to opt out. If I were crippled by the possibility of encountering someone with a penis unexpectedly, I couldn't go get the mail, let alone have a satisfying life including my partners.

I don't want to be oh-poor-babied and have my fragile spots coddled until I'm made of nothing but twitchy shards of overprotective mess. I'm not going to tell you to leave your penis at home any more than I'm going to forbid you to hum "Everybody Ought To Have A Maid", but I may remove myself from your presence at times if I can't handle it right then.

02 August, 2008

My Little Demon

I wasn't going to write about this. I thought I'd said everything that needed to be said at the Corvid Diaries, but it's been chewing on me, and when I saw that Trinity had posted about it at her place and at SM-F and Lina at Uncool also said a piece, I started formulating my thoughts.

I've written about wrestling with responsibility for my assault; it's a question that has been a major part of my psyche for over half a lifetime now. It's so easy to wipe it away into self-blaming, should have known better, all the things that I could have done differently if I'd been a year, a month, a few days wiser, with the wisdom that I bought with a shattered mind.

It's so easy to fall back in the place where, well, it wasn't really a rape because he stopped just shy of that, so my pain is not legitimate, my flashbacks are appropriating "real" sexual assaults. It wasn't so bad because it wasn't a stranger. It wasn't so bad because ...

It wasn't so bad because my own goddamn mother thought it was a nonevent, just something to take for granted: of course he assaulted me, he's a man and all, that's what men do. I shouldn't expect anything different; it was a nonevent.

I had to fight the demons of guilt and shame to accept it as an event.

I had to fight the world for my right to have been hurt.

I had to fight myself, the world, everything, for recognition of the fact that my sexuality was folded around nonconsent like a car wrapped around a tree by a drunk before I was old enough to know, fully, what it was.

I had to fight to be able to say: this thing happened to me. This was real. I was hurt by it. It was not my fault. In fact, it was his fault, his choice, his decision to never ask, never realise he was pushing, that he was doing harm. And I am far more forgiving of what he did than anyone I've told the story to, still, and even I know that it was his damn fault that he assaulted me, pinning me down under his naked bodyweight while I tried to curl into a ball of adolescent neutronium.

I fought. And I won that fight. I won that fight primarily with the help of a woman I traded stories with, sitting on the floor in her house in Wales one summer night talking about where we had been and what we had seen. I won that fight with the support of my husband. I won that fight with the guidance of the outraged responses to the story that so many people have given me, letting me know that my event was a real event, something that I was allowed to be affected by.

And now I run across someone saying "All men are rapists." (I'm not inclined to chase down the link enough to link that thing there, because I don't feel like retraumatising myself. If you want to read it, the posts I linked above linked it.)

And that throws me back to fourteen, fifteen, sixteen, unable to talk about it, because my experience wasn't actually real, it was "just" an assault, and anyway it was my boyfriend, not some stranger. It throws me back to knowing that, anyway, it was my fault, I should have known that he'd try something, I shouldn't have gone over to watch a movie if I didn't expect that. It's back to being all my fault, not his responsibility, because that's just how men are, that's just the default setting, he shouldn't be expected to be a decent human being.

All my fault.

All my goddamn fault.

It throws me back there, in the whirling mess of adolescence and trauma, back when I was still flashbacking regularly, back when I couldn't face the pain because being in pain was degrading to people who'd had a "real" assault.

All my fault.

And I sit back and bare my teeth at that maelstrom and say, "No."

I fought that fight already, and I won, and no fleabitten RAPE APOLOGIST claiming to be a feminist will EVER take that away from me.

Is that fucking radical enough for you?

30 July, 2008

The Marrying Kind

I went on one of my "Well, I'm behind again" runs through the blogs and livejournal and came across a couple of posts about relationships and marriage, which of course is one of the umpty things on my mind at the moment. (I'm more preoccupied with depression, celiac diet, and wrestling with work, but marriage is at least mostly more cheerful.)

One of the things that I've been chewing on is the space between the private and the community; marriage is a liminal thing, really. And where the boundaries on community are.

And it's hard to write about the stuff in my head. It's odd, the way marriage is much more a publically stated thing than, say, my d/s, but the d/s is mostly easier to write about. But there's the thing where a marriage -- at least an unmarked case thereof -- doesn't require much in the way of explanation. I can say "my husband" and it just floats off on discourse, and maybe something gets misapprehended because some people have dippy notions about what that means, but for the most part that doesn't even hit undertow.

A bit of my brain wants to make wedding plans right now. Work out the format, the structure of asking people to witness, the contract. It's been kicked into my mind because of poking at the question of rings and their design, and it's not shaking loose easily. And it's maybe early (though some people do much more long-term planning on such things), and it's certainly busy, and yet ...

... I fret about things. Like trying to navigate the nightmare of parents, who might well have been happy about our respective first marriages, but have varying opinions on the validity of the second. I want to talk to my brother about the nightmare of trying to figure out the lowest-drama solution for dealing with my mother. (My brother, dear sane fellow that he is, took my announcement of my engagement with a, "Congratulations. I guess I should meet this person sometime, huh?")

And maybe it'd be easier to do the private little oathgiving and ring exchange with a few loving hecklers as witnesses, but I'm too much of a liturgist and ritualist to have that feel like it works for me. Easier to just skip the whole question of what to tell the parents, if anything, and have it come up when it comes up, if ever, easier for someone whose mind doesn't have the same shape as mine.

And an acquaintance just came out poly to his parents, someone who's been poly for long enough that his children, half a generation or so younger than me, were raised in a household in which that was normal. He'd gotten worn down by it all, I gather from his writing about it. And there's meaning there, and recognition, though I don't know what sorts of relationships he has.

What does a marriage mean? This shape of placing that relationship in a context that I cannot right now articulate. And my context is complicated and full of family and friends and the eloquent tangles of the past, and for all that I've had this ring half a year it's only started to feel real in the last half-month, the thing that I never thought would work out for me, the thing that leads me to snuggling up in a discussion about plans and parents and marriage and saying, wonderingly, "How did we get here?" to get the answer, "We really failed at casual sex."

What does it mean to do this, to stand up and say it, even though the society as defined by that which holds the laws cannot and will not hear it said? What does it mean, to do it damn well anyway, without religious imperative, just because it matters?

I think that's what I'm wrestling with, under all the flailing at other things, that deeper grappling with why. Superficially, the ability to answer the drama if drama comes with an understanding of why is provoking it.

But the thing about doing it is knowing what I'm doing.

26 July, 2008

Time Better Spent

So I've been sort of half-assedly observing some of the blogs I read having a small explodiation about something about burlesque and the fallout from same, with the usual suspects having a "Why aren't you people concerned about raunch culture and teh pr0n, this is the most important feminist thing evar!" around the edges.

This is one of those things that boggles the everliving fuck out of me. And I haven't written in a while, so I'll pretend that my bogglement is substantial.

A few issues that this person who doesn't file herself as a feminist has personal some-might-say-feminist interest in, either from personal experience or concern over personal friends, in no particular order:

1) Social support for victims and survivors of sexual assault and rape. The notion that "real" rape is perpetrated by a stranger, and thus being assaulted by a partner, a friend or acquaintance, a medical professional, an officer of the law, or in some other scenario that isn't "leap out of the bushes in the park at night" is not legitimate trauma. The treatment of people who have been assaulted or raped as perpetually damaged and marked by their victim status, and thus unable to have a real life afterwards. Treatment of certain categories of people as unrapeable because of their believed status as subhuman or so-voracious-consent-is-irrelevant, including but not limited to: sex workers, people of color, trans people, disabled people. Addressing the frequency of sexual assault of queer people as a form of orientation and gender policing.

2) Social treatment of nurturing and support - and thus commonly assigned to female - tasks as not really work and not worthy of time, attention, or remuneration. Parenting is a big one of these. Domestic tasks, unless of course one is poor, typically brown, and cleaning someone else's house. Nursing. Elderly care.

3) Health care access in the United States sucks. Especially for the poor, the under- and unemployed, the chronically ill, and the people who fall disproportionately into those categories due to systemic prejudice: people of color, women, the elderly, people with disabilities, etc.

4) Anti-family culture in the United States is really damn pervasive. (It's also in other countries; the example that comes to mind is an Irish friend.) The default social expectation is that career will overwhelm all other things, meaning that time to spend time with partners, children, and actually having one's life is eaten away by "actually, we expect this overtime". The Price of Motherhood's introduction includes the author noting that she had to write the book when someone asked her, "Didn't you used to be Ann Crittenden?", rendering her entire identity dependent on the job-worshipping culture, and her status as a parent negating even her name.

5) Sex education. If I had gotten better sex ed, stuff that covered how to think about my sexuality and what I wanted to do with it, then I would probably not have been sexually assaulted. Period. Not just "Here are the horrible things that could happen to you if you fuck", but actual awareness of the thing, yes, disease and pregnancy prevention but also, y'know, someone once mentioning the word "consent", say. Good sex ed will reduce pregnancy rates and disease rates, and I bet they'd make a lot of people a whole lot less traumatised by sex due to situations of dubious consent like the one I went through, too.

6) Sexualisation of children. We do not need toddler-sized thongs in the universe. (We could do with girl-gendered clothes for young children being built to the durability standards of boy-gendered clothes, too.) I count "purity balls" as the sexualisation of children, by the way.

7) The whole madonna/whore undercurrent of culture. There's a reason I have a "good woman" tag on this blog. The cultural assumption that there is a good way to be a woman and a bad way to be a woman, and the bad women will be raped, shamed, abused, and discarded is broadly a Bad Thing. And I don't give a damn whether the "good woman" is a fine, upstanding feminist citizen or the pretty virgin-whore (but only available for her lawful owner) or whatever other standard exists: all these standards hurt people. The proliferation of standards upholds the existence of the dichotomy, because it's even more impossible to be a "good woman".

8) The undermining and discarding of women's agency as sexual beings. Which is pervasive and everywhere, whether it's the "sex is something men get from women by tricks or coercion" thing, or the thing I wrote about a while back where discussions of polygamy essentially disregarded the notion that women might have preferences, or the good woman standard of sexual purity, or slut-shaming which is its flipside, or the double-standards of male and female sexuality, or the assumption that a woman who is sexual is generally sexually available, or .... Women's abilities to choose relationships, express their sexuality, or otherwise exercise free will are constantly questioned, and women are pop-culturally treated as the prizes of men with agency.

9) Differential treatment of women's and men's health. Cheap Viagra vs. umpty-lump a month for contraceptive hormones (if they're covered at all). Better coverage for prostate care than endometriosis. Female sexual dysfunction treated as mythological or the fault of the woman's partner(s) rather than a possible legitimate health problem. Women's knowledge of their own medical concerns not being taken seriously. Doctors not listening to women's concerns. Hypermedicalisation of pregnancy and childbirth (sometimes in connection with #4).

10) Appearance policing and shaming. The one I've seen the most of is around weight and diet issues, and it's gone both in the standard-cultural hatred for heavier people direction and some really vicious backlash the other way. A sideline into eating disorders, constant dieting and discussion of dieting, and food obsession (which I'm extremely cranky about at the moment as I'm supposed to go on a celiac diet, and neurotic attentiveness to ingredients makes me miserable and crazy, and wheat is fucking everywhere). But also sidelines into such idiocies as whether or not one shaves and what one shaves, makeup habits, clothing conformity, and that sort of thing. Treatment of visible aging as neutering.

11) Creeping Dominionism. I mean, speaking as a crazed mystic polytheist, I can't say that I'm big on the whole rewrite the universe in the structures prescribed by a particular lunatic-conservative reading of the Bible just to start with, speaking as a woman I don't like what that means for the status of women. Let alone the speaking as a sexual deviant and all. Or someone who isn't interested in religiously justified war.

12) Rape apology. I'm really kind of bothered by rape apology from all sides, she said, with mild understatement. And I've seen whole bunches of really creepy ways of getting rapists and assaulters out of responsibility for their actions. To name a few off the top of my head: "What'd she expect, going home with him?" "If you get assaulted, well, you encouraged it by being a stripper." "She was wearing that short skirt." "You can't rape a man, they always want it." "Of course, the porn indoctrinated him into that behaviour." "Men are all rapists." "It's impossible for a woman to consent under patriarchy." "We have to give this severely disabled woman a hysterectomy so she doesn't get pregnant." "She had more than one partner, she had to expect that people would think she was available." "Flaunting her sexuality." "Trying to pass as a...." All of these get people who commit sexual assault out of responsibility free. They remove distinctions, generate rhetorical chaff, and/or dismiss and denigrate the actual experiences of assault survivors.

13) All women are one woman thinking. I made a few giggle-waves in the blogworld a while back talking about the "woman as arcade game" mode in some cultural thought -- this notion that there's a cheat code that will make women behave appropriately, perhaps like that which can be found in self-help books, and women who don't jump in accordance with the latest programming are defective somehow. But there's also the appropriation of women's experiences by other women, or by men looking for victim stories. I ranted about the pagan equivalent of this thing a little bit ago, like last month, the essentialising of female experience into a genero-goddess. The bullying of women whose experiences don't fit the party line for what women are supposed to be like in whatever subcommunity is looking.

14) The creepy interest some people have in knowing about my genitalia for such things as determining whether or not I should be able to be recognised as married.

15) Underemployment of women in general. Which is partly a consequence of disproportionate amounts of caretaking (and thus not listable as work experience) work falling on women, subtle discrimination, and driving women out of the workplace because dealing with the sexism is exhausting, but also of this massive intersectional mess where, say, older men may be respectable, but older women can't get work.

There. Fifteen things I think more worth spending angst-time on than porn and high heels.

16 July, 2008

Hormonal Contraception Again

A leaked proposal to redefine hormonal contraception as abortion at the discretion of providers has been making waves.

I don't have the wherewithal to comment right now, so I'll just heads-up the story.

15 July, 2008

Measure of a Medication

Fear is how we measure ourselves.

(I know it because a god told me. I know it because I feel it in my bones, blood and bone, breath and blood and bone. I know it.)

Fear is how we measure ourselves and that's how I got out, got out, got out of the laughing crying hysteria of terror the slip-slide of the inside of my brain. I said it, said it in the car when we were driving, driving because my husband was willing to go and get me the only food I could imagine myself eating, was willing to listen to me giggling through the tears with, "I'm crazy!"

I said it, and got a handle on the sideways-slipping weirdness of the brain, the sense of Things Moved Around in ways that I don't understand and don't have a grip on, not feeling less of the madness but maybe better able to float rather than flail.

Fear is how we measure ourselves.

And I'm about 90% sure that it was hormonal, is hormonal, with a side leavening of physical illness, and that does not help as much as I think it ought anyway. And half the things on my mind I can't formulate the words to talk about right now, anyway, half the fears, because of the overbearing weirdness of my brain.

I measure myself anyway, measure against the unfamiliarity of the inside of my mind, test it, try to figure out what is bearable, where the fractures are, pray for the hormone break that will restore something familiar if not sane. I measure myself, with only the occasional gibber of, "Moved the furniture! Inside my head!" like an affronted cat who has to sniff everything twice to make sure.

One of the things I said while I was laughing mad, crying mad, shaking mad, was that this was one of the things that I had been afraid of, that my reactions would change, that the unfamiliar would become overwhelming. And no amount of knowing that I'm still falling within the range of potentially normal responses makes this feel normal for me, makes it anything other than a mental intrusion about which I circle, stifflegged and slightly fluffed.

And at the same time I think about the line I came across for work, the thing about it being okay to be depressed now and again, to not be 'medicated until normal', and I don't know how to respond. For work, I corrected the punctuation and let it be, never mind that I wanted to scream at the smug ignorance that can let someone who clearly hasn't been curled up in bed until the sheets were stained black with body oil mutter about how it's okay to be depressed every once in a while, that's normal, that's acceptable.

You think you know something about the world, I wanted to say, you think you know, try it in here sometime, try being in a mind so broken it curls up the body and isolates itself from loved ones while desperately lonely and in need of touch. Take the sheets stained rigid with the effluvia of mental illness and wrap yourself in them for your next toga party. Try out knowing for half a week that you need to do some laundry and have that knowledge crush you rather than inspire you to produce clean underwear. Try on the desperate ground-in habits of depression, the hopelessness, the anxious hyperawareness of failure.

Circle my mental processes with wary caution I may be, but I at least know what I'm talking about when I say that I feel crazy.

Fear is how we measure ourselves.

08 July, 2008


One of my deep secrets: I think of myself as conservative.

The problem is, the stuff that gets marked as 'conservative' around here strikes me as anything but, which means I wind up sounding like a left-wing wacko even when my reasoning is fundamentally conservative.

Sometimes this is funny.

Sometimes it makes me awfully sad.

Today I read a post talking about what I mean when I want to call myself 'conservative'.

It's nice not being alone.

02 July, 2008

Meant for Someone Else

Do you believe?

The voice spoke, murmuring theology in the tones of trance, with cadences of sensuous eroticism; the voice spoke, talking about souls and connections and the flow of the universe, self and other, serpent and avian, union, transformation.

Do you believe?

I have never believed.

I just do. That which works, that which is, the flow and shape of things, the symbols that are used to frame it. This experience: what is it? I have no belief. I take it as it is.

The voice speaks, teasing, drawing out response; even in the heat of the day, it raises goosebumps. I can feel the knot of responsiveness, letting the shape of the visualisation flow in my mind, knowing my reactions, a thin thread of pining for company to share these effects with.

Do you believe?

Is it real?

The slick of sweat is real. The fluid tension knotted up beneath my belly is real. These are sensations, tangible, physical.

Another time, two voices, his and hers, calling to each other across the throng, over the chant, over the sound of drums and the singing bowl an armspan across, teasing, pleading, taunting, loving, as they circle.

Do you believe?

Is it real?

Is it all in your mind?

I have never believed. Belief is a foreign country to me, perhaps too much science, perhaps too much mysticism, perhaps simply the acceptance of the scope and span of the unknowable, the limitation acknowledged of the intrinsic subjectivity of my own senses.

Do you believe?

I feel sometimes, a little, around the edges, that I almost might be able to imagine what belief is.

Gnosis, I can do. Trust, I can do.



And yet, when the gods touched, the heavens opened.

26 June, 2008

No Idea

It was kinda supposed to be a mellow and easygoing thing. I was a little into service state, not terribly into headspace but full of concern and the need to unwind some of the tension that was so intense that it was making him spasm at irregular intervals.

I'm good at reducing his tension.

(And a damn good thing, too, because he's such a stressbucket.)

And it was working out well, very soothing, the gentle treatment letting the tension run out, very satisfying sex if not the sort of thing that goes to the mindblowing orgasm direction.

And then he stretched.

His arms went up over his head, reaching towards the corners of the bed, the muscles of his upper arms showing definition with the effort of the motion, sloping up from the breadth of his shoulders. He had twisted his head to one side to loosen his neck, exposing the curve of shoulder to a loose halo of curls. It was a perfect pose, made the more so by its artlessness, by the simplicity of the stretch.

I stared.

I did more than stare, just watching with hungry intensity, the perfect angle of the limbs, the flow of muscle, the expanse of chest, the exposed throat, the loose hair, the blissfully accepting face in profile with its faint half-smile.

My actual first thought was, "You... are a rope short of bondage porn."

He turned back to me, looking up, looking at the way I was responding, and said, "My, that's a predatory look."

"... you ... have no idea."

He teased me with an "Are you going to take advantage of me when I'm vulnerable?" and I bit back response after response, the urge to try to pin down those arms even though I know he's strong enough to throw me off, to not let the need to take care of the fragility be overwhelmed by that utterly captivating moment.

"You have no idea."

It was work after that, work to keep being gentle, knowing that I had an intent and that I would follow through on it no matter how much that image of a stretched-out body opened up under me in perfect beauty kept coming back to mind.

Still keeps coming back to mind, days later.

I told him that that was a visual that I would be keeping, and he looked amused, but perhaps not understanding, not knowing what it was that I saw.

They say women don't look.

They have even less idea than he does.

He can see me seeing.

24 June, 2008

The Dangerous Woman Shortage

Noli Irritare Leones writes about monogamy, marriage, and the lack of the impending decline and fall of civilisation. (The basic point of which I am greatly in agreement with, that people keeping commitments is a good thing, and that not making them or running out on them is much more a threat to the universe as we know it than people not promising sexual exclusivity ....) It's a good post; go have a look at it.

It reminded me, though, of one of those things that I see crop up consistently.

Whenever I see acceptance of multiple relationships come up, especially the concept of legalising polygamy, someone pops up with "If that's possible, then all the wealthy and powerful men will have all the women and there will be none for ordinary guys like me."

This argument blows my mind, and I want to take it apart a little.

First of all, there's the thread of Figleaf's "no-sex class" analysis in there -- that women will trade their sex for money/power access, rather than desiring their own sexual relationships. If "all the women" are being collected by those elites, "all the women" are going to be spending a lot of time cuddled up with their vibrators.

(I actually have a vibrator ... somewhere. I prefer real penises.)

And that comes with the presumption that the only form of polygamy that's likely to exist is polygyny, that women like me don't exist. (I obviously find this problematic. And at least for a while I knew more women who considered themselves orientationally nonmonogamous than I knew men.) That these women who have one zillionth of their movie star or bazillionaire will be satisfied with that and not have any other relationships of their own -- that such women will automatically be unavailable to other men, because women are the Monogamous Class.

And, also, the failure to actually follow through on the assumption that women are the Monogamous Class, and might therefore insist on having relationships with men who are willing to be monogamous. Which will raise a bunch of those ordinary guys a bit higher on the list than the gazillionaire movie star playboys who already have a woman for each day of the week and two for Sundays. Apparently the lure of having a fraction of Mr. Uberpowerful is more important than the Monogamous Class values that might require exclusivity.

And then there's the idea that these wealthy, powerful guys actually want to collect women. I hear this from people who claim to be monogamously oriented, not interested in more than one relationship -- but apparently that trait corresponds with "ordinary joe" status, and the elites by whatever standard will claim enough of these plentiful monogamous-but-doesn't-care-if-you-are women to cause a shortage. A girlfriend to match each car, perhaps. Quantity over quality. Pokemon partnership, gotta catch 'em all.

Not to mention that mostly movie stars date other movie stars, to the perpetual delight of the tabloids. The Beautiful People mostly hang with other Beautiful People; even if I'd accept an offer from Golden-Boy Heartthrob if I got one, he's never going to make me an offer, because I'm some random housewife living in a swamp in Massachusetts, I don't have a fairy godmother to Calgon-take-me-away to a place where I'd meet the guy, and I have no illusions about this sort of thing. I hang out with nerds. That means that the people I might hook up with are probably going to be ... nerds. Fortunately, I'm pretty much exclusively attracted to geeky boys with nice shoulders, which means that "nerds" is a better stalking ground than "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous" for my actual preferences (which also don't come into this scenario, notice that?).

And really, we're already in a world where the elites can have all the women they want, and in fact do ... to the perpetual delight of the tabloids.

And sure, there are people -- of all sexes -- who like a lot of reasonably casual liasons. But one of the traits of that is that one isn't marrying them, and thus they're not "off the market", if one wants to go all transactional like that. Once one gets into more serious relationships, one starts hitting limited resources -- even if one has infinite money, infinite desirability, and infinite sexual stamina, one has limited time. Women are people; if a person is settling into some sort of serious relationship, that will include some level of support. I'm sure there are a few women who'll trade a quick poke once a month for a nice allowance and the opportunity to go to the ball and meet Prince, but I can't imagine that is a major grouping. Even a ridiculously low-maintenance wife will need a certain amount of time, and if she doesn't get it and the gold-diggy stereotype is being played, she's not gonna stay married -- she's gonna play for the severance package and see what she can get in a divorce.

I know people who have sustainable relationships with a day a month where they might see their partners -- and the thing is, those people aren't considering those relationships marriages, primary-level, or whatever your word is. They're secondary relationships, dating, satellite, more peripheral, fun on the side, whatever you want. The majority of the actual poly people I know aren't terribly interested in marrying more than one person; a fair few aren't big on marriage at all. Which also cuts into the odds of monopolisation; if a huge number of the people doing multiple relationships are doing so at the "something mostly on the side" level, then even if the whole population suddenly goes polyish overnight because multiple marriage is available, the majority of people seem likely to be only having one marriage in the first place.

All these women are presumed to be really after the wealth and power and willing to trade sex to get it. And this isn't just the "I can't get a date" crowd -- I've heard this from people who are apparently happily married, and I can't help but wonder if they really apply this to their wives and presume that they'd be abandoned if "something better" came along, if only it were possible for more than one person to be the wife of Superstar.

20 June, 2008

At T Two Hours

Have taken antidepressant medication. Doing a very slow, conservative ramp-up because I'm a little anxious about the whole thing. (She said, using her powers of mild understatement.)

My brain has not exploded.

Further bulletins as events warrant.

17 June, 2008

Strangers on the Subway

Four boys, probably high school aged, with a black sketchbook just like the ones that I had for my art class in high school. They passed it around, drawing graffiti-style lettering in the book.

One took the book, slid down the side of the car to sit on the floor, bumping my foot. "Sorry," he said, and "No worries," I replied.

He took the fuschia marker and started to sketch out letters with perfect grace, each line with ease and fluidity, fading from thick to sparse with each stroke. He worked quickly and deliberately, swapping from pink to black, and I could not figure out what he was saying.

"Aw," he said, "that looks like shit. Whose black is this?"

It belonged to the one sitting across from me.

"Do yourself a favor, man, get a new one." He took the pen, stepped on the end, shook it a few times, and then scribbled on a scrap of paper. Satisfied, he handed it back to its owner. "Smooth."

He had perfect sketching hands.

We got off at the same stop, before I could figure out how to say it.

He was sitting on the trolley across from me, talking with his wife, his bare smooth-muscled arms clearly visible, as he was wearing a sleeveless shirt.

He had amazingly beautiful skin. It looked perfectly smooth, unblemished, shading through all kinds of dark rich colour along the contours of his arms and into the knobblier darkness of his wrinkled knuckles.

And I couldn't think of a way to tell him. Not that wouldn't come off as some creepy race-fetish thing, even aside from the horrible awkwardness of trying to compliment a perfect stranger, especially on something so socially strange.

He got off the stop before mine, leaning heavily on his cane.

What a world it might be, if people knew how beautiful they were. If it were possible to tell them about beauties easily, without awkwardness, without sounding like a freak.

16 June, 2008

That Dweam Wiffin A Dweam

There's been a lot of conversations happening recently about marriage and the meaning thereof. Some of which have been irritating handwringing about the death of "traditional marriage" (check out those scare quotes), some of which have been notably happier (I have some friends getting married in California tomorrow).

And people rant and rail about religious marriage and civil marriage and who owns marriage.

Here's the deep dark secret:

You do.

If you read this, you own marriage. (Even if you don't read this, you own marriage.) You're entitled to the concept. It's yours to grant and receive, without requiring an intermediary. It's a basic, human thing: that people will form partnerships, unify families, set up house together, and do so in the context of the awareness and connection with their communities. That's what marriage is.

If you're living somewhere with a legal system deriving from English law, you're living somewhere where ordinary people owned marriage unquestionedly until about 1200. Right around then, organised religion decided it wanted in on a good thing, possibly for reasons of regulation of sexual morality, possibly because peasants were beginning to hold property and thus actually be interesting to people with authority. And even given that, the exclusive control of the Church over marriage in England began in 1753 and ended in 1837. (Credit for this trivia goes to someone's summary of the situation, drawn in part from the book 1215 - The Year of Magna Carta by Danziger & Gillingham.)

Here in Massachusetts, those well-known godless liberal atheists the Puritans wrote the local ordinances explicitly declaring marriage a secular matter because their God was not to be polluted with something so ... worldly.

Goodridge vs. the Department of Public Health noted this:

We begin by considering the nature of civil marriage itself. Simply put, the government creates civil marriage. In Massachusetts, civil marriage is, and since pre-Colonial days has been, precisely what its name implies: a wholly secular institution.

As did Nancy S. Taylor, preaching from the United Church of Christ:

If it had been up to our Puritan forebears, however, we wouldn't be here today. We wouldn't be having this conversation. Puritan clergy wanted nothing to do with marriage and, indeed, it wasn't until nearly a century after the Pilgrims arrived at Plymouth Rock, that anyone in the colonies was married with benefit of clergy. Puritan pastor John Robinson described marriage as "a civil thing" in part because it had to with such profane matters as property and inheritance, but more importantly, because there was, in his estimation, no biblical precedent for the church's involvement in it.

There's an interesting thing to be had a little later on in that sermon, now:

Our forebears felt it was important to populate this new land with "hands to tame the wilderness." Yet, they disagreed with the Roman Catholic Church that the sole or highest purpose of marriage was procreation. Roman Catholics hung their bishops' mitres on God's orders that the first humans "be fruitful and multiply". (Gen. 1.28) In the colonies, on the other hand, our forebears hung their Pilgrim hats on God's observation that, "It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make a helper fit for him." (Gen. 2.18)

Now maybe it's that I'm a damn Yankee down in the blood and bone, with the much-diluted blood of Puritans running in my veins and my ancestors rolling in their graves to look at the likes of me, but I'm so very down with that. The essence of marriage is partnership.

I wrote about that a while ago, though not in so many words.

Partnership is the heart of marriage, the communion of shared creative power. And while a lot of marriages include that creative power to make children, that's not its essential thing.

The thing that the partners to a marriage are creating, first and foremost, is their lives.

And people can form that kind of partnership without marriage, without standing up in front of their communities and saying, "We are together, we are doing this work together," and accepting what comes of that. I've got an uncle down the Cape who's been with his partner longer than I've been alive, without what gets called the benefit of marriage.

But the act of saying it with witnesses is marriage: an act of community, acknowledgement, and declaration that there is a social tie between the private place thus formed and the rest of the world.

Back to Goodridge:

In a real sense, there are three partners to every civil marriage: two willing spouses and an approving State.

The "approving State" in civil marriage is the stand-in for the community, substituting for making that public declaration by whatever other local standards might exist. The community is always the third partner.

This is why so many people would accept "civil unions" and not tolerate "marriage" of same-sex couples -- because "civil unions" are not the thing that the community owns and has to fess up to. That's why the word matters.

In my religious beliefs, a marriage is a contract between families, not a matter of theological concern. Brehon law recognised ten degrees of marriage, depending on what was appropriate to the situation of the people involved. I think about these things a lot, not just because of the need to construct contracts around relationships in various forms.

But right now, I say to G and D, mazel tov and may you have joy in each other. And the same to George Takei and Brad Altman. And to all the people who will be celebrating their creative bonds to each each other in the eyes of their communities and the State of California.

15 June, 2008

Scenes from a Life II

While snuggling:

"That was ... pretty much exactly what I needed."

"Glad to be of ... dominance."

12 June, 2008

It's Worse Than That, It's Physics, Jim

So, someone on the polyamory community livejournal posted a question: is it possible for a sub to have two masters?

To which, along the line in the comments, someone replied that it just couldn't work out, because somewhere along the line one of them might find their mastery called into question by not having "full control".

I told my liege about this and, after a little rambling about theory of control and mastery, he demanded, "Redefine local space-time to have a decreased permeability constant!"

Which ... probably tells you everything you need to know, but I'll keep talking anyway.

I'm pretty sure the person I was responding to was operating in some sort of A Twoo Mastah Has This Level Of Control paradigm, and defining "full control" as something that doesn't include the laws of physics, certain practical considerations, or limitations on interest or scope of control.

And I'm the sort of space alien pedant who, well. Permeability constant.

But here in the real world, and setting aside any poly issues: My liege does not have scope of control over my job, my practice of my religion, or the organisation of my bookshelves. His sexual control is limited by reasonable practical considerations about pregnancy and other health concerns. His scope of control doesn't extend into a lot of standard-fetishy control tricks because they don't interest him. All of these preclude any definition of "full control" that I would find sensible.

And then there's the limitations on "full control" that do things like preclude following through on an impulse to have noisy kinky rough sex on some friends' front porch because that would be rude. Or the limitations on "full control" orbiting around the fact that he's basically back in school full-time at the moment and time that might under other circumstances be spent on kink is currently being devoured by problem sets. Or ....

And then there's stuff like "My scoliosis means I can't hold that bondage position without dislocating my left arm, actually" or "Having a flashback now, need breathing space" or just negotiated limits around Actually, That's Not My Kink, Thanks. Still not "full control".

And then we get into the fact that I have another relationship, with my husband. Who is also a kinkster, though our sex life together is pretty much vanilla. Which adds other bits of lack of "full control" around not potentially causing harm to that relationship. The poly issues that might come up if my husband and I were kinkier together are minimal, because there's already a basic structure of respecting relevant space. And my husband and I have conversations sometimes about the fact that I'm in a full-time power exchange relationship with someone else, and how little that actually matters to our relationship.

And somewhere along the line I may have children, and one of the things my liege made clear early in our relationship, before we were even negotiating the power stuff, was that he would consider it immoral to interfere with my care of my hypothetical children.

I am pretty sure that I could not manage to sustain two relationships with the level of power flow that I get up to with my liege. But that's just a quirk of my me, not something more profound than that -- and nobody would wind up with "full control" no matter what.

Or, quoting my liege again:

Good control models are more about chaos management and direction and pushing the limits of what's capable with that rather than absolute rulings.

He is not less my master because our power dynamic is rooted in the real world; I would hold him far more so. I can serve without the constant caveat of needing to correct for reality.