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

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.