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

31 March, 2009

Diamond in the Rough

(Editorial note: One of a pile of posts I've been chewing on (I'll try to get the others done soon; at the moment they include some sexual assault processing, meditations on my pregnant body, possibly some crazed mysticism, maybe something about the financial mess, maybe some bisexuality and homosociality, and a couple of other things). I'm writing this now in part because becstar - a poster from Feministing quoted in two previous posts - has dropped by, and I'd like to give her someplace less cranky to comment if she's so inclined.)

One of the things that comes up a lot in some flavors of discussion is about the "influence of patriarchy" or similar things. Basically, cultural environment and such. I wrote about this a while back in terms primarily of homophobia and ablism as promoted in language, but I'm writing a bit more broadly for the nonce, though I'll drag it back to sexuality again somewhere.

I don't think I can honestly describe the cultural flavor I grew up in as "patriarchal". I would call it, instead, "corporatist". Which is interesting, as neither of my parents had 'mainstream' jobs - my mother a freelancer and fine artist, my father a professor, then working at a startup, and eventually a consultant-type - so I didn't get the Company Man indoctrination at home. It was almost all surrounding culture.

In that surrounding culture, the central question of identity was "What do you do?" What is your form of employment? How do you obtain money? This was a fundamentally depersonalised question: the individuality did not matter, all that was significant was this sense of what position one was holding in the mechanism of production. The answer had significant class effects - from the answer, one could extrapolate a rough expectation of income and associations, and from there determine who was 'appropriate' to associate with.

As I observed the adult world surrounding me, I saw a lot of reinforcement of this essential framing of identity. Long working hours were the rule rather than an exception in most cases - the job was more a part of many people's lives than anything else. I became dimly aware that things like medical care depended on employment, as well as the ability to maintain food and shelter. I heard on the news about people who had less good employment than my parents, and consequently poorer health, and the message I got was quite clear: job is quality of life, and worthiness of person.

At the same time, I watched the way certain forms of work were treated. One category of these was the "women's work" category - housework, childcare, other domestic labor. Often times this didn't count as "doing" at all (in response to "What do you do?"), and thus meant that women doing these tasks had no access to a legitimate identity. ("Didn't you used to be Ann Crittenden?") The other category was work in the arts - whether as a fine artist like my mother, or a writer, or a poet, or a musician, or a sculptor, or whatever else, giving that sort of answer to "What do you do?" got "No, I mean your real job." Art was a frivolity, a triviality, perhaps allowed to be considered a "real job" if one was very successful, but (vide the Dire Straits): "That ain't working, that's the way you do it, you play the guitar on the MTV. That ain't working, that's the way you do it, you get your money for nothing and the chicks are for free." (And for the concept of 'free chicks', I'm left with referencing Figleaf's "worthiness trap" posts, like this one.)

The short version is that it was a cultural setup where, broadly speaking, there were sets of roles, and one's value as a person depended on fitting into those roles properly and suppressing anything untidy (keep your head and hands inside the vehicle) into those few bits and time that were not the property of the Job.

And I have always been ... quirky. In my childhood, I was much more comfortable with younger children (I was the oldest child on my block by three or four years, so spent a lot of time in the company of children my brother's age) or adults, and very uncertain about fitting into the roles and groups that were part of the social system for children. And because I went about unprotected by a pubescent monkey troop, I was a prime target for sexual harassment; it was very much shaped by my experience as The One Who Does Not Conform, who is therefore sexually available or exploitable or at the very least can be abused without repercussions from any of the other local primates. If I had been able to pick a role and stick with it, if I'd had a "job" in the junior high school world, a legitimate identity, I would have been a less appealing target.

Overlaid upon this depersonalisation, a Momo-reminiscent obession with conformity and fitting in and keeping up with the Joneses and similar things was the world of "Just Do It" philosophy. Just about everyone I know from something roughly comparable to my background has talked about the secret sense of obligation they had from very young: to be the one who Fixed The World. And that intense, isolating sole pressure to be saviour to a world much larger and much more impersonal became a dominant feature of the zeitgeist I grew up with; not for nothing did I have a conversational exchange that went, "My goal: have children who need less therapy than I do," "I think that's the goal of our entire generation."

So: harshly enforced conformity to a world defined explicitly defined as defective and in need of saving; isolation even in a community context due to unrealistic imposed expectations; enforcement of these conditions managed with compulsion, shaming, and occasional violence. In the world of my childhood and in these terms, it was primarily the case that the girls were the enforcers and the shamers and the primary inflictors of severe harm, while the boys' threats were for the most part simpler, less abstract, more physical, and of lesser significance. (It's easier to talk about the menace perpetrated by the boys because there's more often a specific thing to poke at. The whole experience was full of hostility, though, with many of the exceptions nonetheless including accidental harm.)

On the one hand, I was recognised as Exceptional by parts of the adult world. I advanced ahead of my age group academically and was promoted accordingly. I had opportunities that others did not as people tried to figure out how to manage me and using the advantages of my class background.


All of that difference fed both the "Just Do It" illusion that I was capable of changing the world, not-so-secretly special, and the sense that I was recognised as significant not because of anything about the core of me, but because I was particularly suited to the facelessness of my current Job: student. I was lavished with privileges and academic attention and so rarely felt that I was recognised as a person. I was an Early Reader, a Mathematically Gifted, The Logical One, Science Girl, whatever.

Out of that morass of culture and personal history and everything else came a deep, intense, and powerful drive: to be recognised as whole and complete. To be something other than an animated role-fulfiller, something personal and real.

I wrote before about how the first boy who told me I was beautiful broke open my walls and what that meant, and that was all responding to that need, that hunger, to be complete, to be seen: and that was what laid me open for the assault. To be treated as something other than an instrument to the Job; how could I find the will to turn that down when I was screaming for it inside? I suspect sometimes that that, more than anything, is why the assault broke me like it did.

I don't talk about the details of my young fantasies, but I can speak in generalities.

And the generalities of the kink that I built for myself were: that in a world of depersonalisation, reduced to soulless bodies and skills kept in lines, owned and exploited by faceless organisations, there was someone with a face, a soul, a devotion, who would defy all custom and tradition to treat me as an individual, precious, cherished, important, who would see and value all of me, no matter what the risk, no matter what the cost.

Ask me what effect patriarchy had on my kink?

It made me want to be found: the diamond in the rough.

26 March, 2009

My Head She Splode

Okay, I thought I was done with the whole Feministing BDSM blowup thing, having had one of those Painful Revelation posts and some vicious snark and all, but I forgot that one of the critical components to a complete internet blowup arc was something full of wack.

And boy, do I have the wack.

The wack is here, from the previously quoted becstar:

How do hetero submissives deal with the fact that they are submitting to a male though? In my mind it's one thing to be a sub but another to not know where your partner's fantasies are coming from. I just cannot imagine why a man would want to dominate a woman wihout it having misogynistic overtones (afterall men are taught there whole lives that women are their sex objects - how is then being allowed to be dominate different?)

I almost don't know where to begin. Actually, I really don't know where to begin.

I mean, we bring the crazy right out with the unstated but obvious presumption that one would "know where your partner's fantasies are coming from" if that partner is of the same sex. I don't know if this is the wombly overmind (thanks for the phrase, sis) thinking by which someone with boobs can transfer sekrit knowledge to someone else with boobs, or the even creepier all-women-are-one-woman assumption that every single woman's fantasy life is rooted in the same stuff. No matter how different the life experiences, background, or actual desires of those women might be: Teh Experience Of Womynhood trumps all. No need to engage in such risque practices as actually talking with one's partner about what one needs to know, the moon time magic will solve everything.

And Teh Experience Of Womynhood considers partnering with/submitting to a male problematic. I'm glad to have been informed of this, my uterine psychic antenna is currently full of placenta, and that totally buggers up the reception, so I didn't get the memo by the usual routes. Now, I've never been not-heterosexual, but I imagine the process for selecting a compatible partner at least somewhat transcends orientation: meet people, evaluate their attractiveness by whatever set of criteria one prefers, evaluate their compatibility by whatever set of criteria one prefers, ascertain their interest, if relevant factors are go, work it out from there. If one doesn't want to be treated like a sex object, or only wants that under certain conditions or circumstances, or whatever else, then that's part of the whole selection process, and one finds one of the many, many people who meet one's orientational requirements and isn't also an asshole.

And if I were more inclined to gender-bash based on OMG-people-treated-me-horribly, I for damn sure wouldn't be pursuing my intensely psychological set of kinks with someone of the sex with a member that attempted to systematically destroy my sense of reality and my trust in myself in order to wipe my psyche clean and remake it into a handy little dress-up doll for their fantasies. I'd stick with the sex that had one member try to rape me; the risks are a hell of a lot lower.

(I'm sorry, what? I need to turn in my Experience Of Womynhood membership card now? What's that you say? Sorry, I can't hand it over, it was lost in the mail and never turned up, and I couldn't be arsed ordering a replacement. Take it up with the Post Office.)

"Misogynistic overtones." I wonder what this person's image of domination is. What I see is intense eroticism, care and protection, guidance, devotion, honor, dedication; what I experience is support and the opportunity to be supportive, an environment where I am both whole and valued as I am. Most of the "misogynistic overtones" I've encountered have been in people who wanted to question my kink, with words like 'victim' and 'abuse' and 'brutalisation' and 'violence', painting me as the eternal doormat needing rescue or rehabilitation. Poor woman can't make her own choices, brainwashed by a man, et cetera et cetera and so forth. Hell, dominant women get this too: it's all about the mens, and they should give up their power to suit other people's notion of what power looks like.

Mostly I'm left with this huge sense of rupture between me and wherever that came from. And, y'know, the whole gimmick of this blog is "I feel like a space alien"; it's not often that I'm quite sure that someone's operating from a planet I'm even less familiar with than Earth. A planet with intense gender essentialism and divisions, a female hivemind, and a concept of domination that I can't even perceive, let alone theorise how to describe. Even if I fancied getting kicked in the head enough to make a posting login on Feministing or whatever, I wouldn't begin to know how to respond to that.

Colorless green ideas sleep furiously! Purple monkey dishwasher!

... what?

24 March, 2009

Examination Burnout

I was reminded of something by this post, and it's stuff I've mostly found too raw to post about, but I feel like writing a bit now while it's in my head.

I've written before about "Just Say No" culture and sexuality. What I haven't talked about was the way denial-and-examination culture intersected with my inner kinks.

When I was an elementary school child, I started building an understanding of my sexuality as it was at the time. I had very separated experiences of physical sexual pleasure and romantic attraction - it had not occurred to me that these were related - but I explored both as best I could. I was aware that my experience of romantic attraction was somehow related to "grownup things" like marriage and families, but I recognised (consciously, even) that that was something I would figure out when I was older; for now, there was the boy, and I could beat him at wrestling.

Once my fantasy life had developed into fiction rather than fascination with the boy, and once I had grown enough of it for my sense of physical pleasure to get tied into my sense of attraction, they took on a structure of extreme power differential, often with bondage aspects. I was never ashamed of these fantasies, or, as I thought of them, the stories I told myself when going to sleep; however, I knew, bone-deep, that I could never talk about them.

I never have.

(Think about that for a moment. I have never talked about those fantasies in more than generalised referents, themes and content.)

I knew that if I told anyone about them, they would try to figure out what was wrong with me. I didn't know words like "misogyny", but I knew that I'd have the concept thrown at me. I knew that I'd be treated as sick and wrong, because Good People don't have thoughts like that. I knew that I would never, ever be able to express these things; at least on that last I was wrong.

And as I became aware that these things were things I should not express, I became aware of the idea of examination. I had an obligation, I knew, to figure out where these things had come from, that they could be excised. I was a sleeper agent of the oppressor, my sexuality out to subvert everything that women could achieve, and I had to cure myself. There was no support for this - it was still unspeakable horror - but it was clear that the wrongness was something that I would be expected to purge before I was an adult.

Guilt started to creep in around the edges. The fantasies became even more secret, because there was this edge of belief that I should not be that way, that I should be someone else, someone more loyal, more diligent, more compatible with the universal goals that I had been assigned on the basis of my sex, class, and race. I squelched the impulses in my more conscious mind, leaving them only the release of the nighttime stories, giving me dreams of the taboo-breaking man who might love and own and honor me despite the shackles of surrounding culture.

I was an emotionally isolated young adolescent, full of need and loneliness and hunger and wanting to explore the concepts of sex and not knowing how. Nothing in the world around me had ever given me any understanding for figuring out what I wanted or how to implement that safely; I was still half-consciously aware that what I wanted was Bad anyway, so figuring out how to get it was unthinkable.

It didn't go away, of course. And sometimes these things come out in badly sublimated ways. Hook a loop of fear-paralysation into a mind frantically denying its need to surrender, bait a touch-starved, curious adolescent with affection from a pretty older boy, and watch a psyche fragment into a perfect rape victim and a panicked, impotent observer. Respectful and loving submission was unavailable, unthinkable, unallowable, so all I had was deer-in-the-headlights capitulation, where my sexual drives and my terror and his unceasing pressure conspired to shove me into a closet in my head.

And maybe, with a little more examination, I might guess that this is one of the real reasons that I have never really been able to forgive myself. Because, after all, if I didn't have those wicked, shameful desires, then maybe the combination of mental lockup and pressure wouldn't have been enough to get my psyche fridged. It can't really be his damn fault, right? He just happened to luck into that siren song of unacceptable woman-hating sexuality. And I can't hold it against him, because he stopped short of rape in the end, when he saw that I was broken. (I can't even write 'that he'd broken me' and feel honest, right now.)

This was not ... the only time I fell into that pattern, though it was the only time it was assault. I had an abusive vanilla relationship that hit my submission buttons around music until I hit a wall and threw him out of my life. I had a relationship with someone who was deeply uncomfortable with my submission, and so like a good little subbie and a good little woman I stifled it again to make him happy. I had other issues. And I worked on it until I came to a place where I could return to childhood and refuse to be ashamed.

Where does it come from? I don't give a damn. And not giving a damn is not just a political position about the unworthiness of the question, but me fighting back against the investigation of myself for which fruit of Original Sin was why I deserved to be nearly raped before menarche.

If the message had been that I needed to figure out how to deal with these desires in a sane, reasonable, and balanced manner, if it had included discussion of consent and how to set boundaries, if it had been anything other than "WHY ARE YOU LIKE THIS?! WHY ARE YOU A FREAK?!", maybe things would have been different.

Why am I like this? If my established answer isn't good enough, fuck off. Why am I a freak? Welcome to the edge of the map. The Antipodes, where men walk upside down.

Watch your step. I bite.

The Eternal Subject Again

Here we go round the prickly pear
Prickly pear prickly pear
Here we go round the prickly pear
At five o'clock in the morning.


"domination and submission--the brutalization of one person or group of persons".

So we start out by equating power to brutalisation, and this doesn't even get noticed or questioned -- it's just taken as a given, a default. And I think of Trin's regular comments about parents, about teachers, and I think of coming off my spectacular training weekend where we talked explicitly about the heirarchy between master and pupil. No, this is 'brutalisation'.

"fetishizing torture of the body or spirit in the bedroom".

This post is tagged 'BDSM', by the way. I don't expect you to get it. I don't expect you to understand it. If you don't find it comprehensible, that's okay, it's not for you.

If you don't fucking admit that it exists, if you don't acknowledge me, if you don't give a damn about my power, you have no business trying to talk about what I do.

I don't consider an argument predicated on erasing me 'feminist'; hell, I don't consider an argument predicated on erasing me anything other than my enemy. If you are hostile to my existence, you don't get me playing nice.

"do not tell fairy tales about it".

Ah yes, the ever popular Appeal To Delusion.

My reality is just a fantasy, you know. Not anything that has anything to do with the world that I actually live in; I'm delusional. In fact, I'm posting this from the psych ward in a straitjacket! I'm typing with my nose!

Just ... get real, okay? When you're willing to actually listen to my life rather than your pretty little fantasies about my life - because that's all they are, fantasies - and stop vanishing me away into theoryland, I'll still be here, writing away.

"Without patriarchy, the so-called "submissive side" of our personality, taken for granted as being natural because we can't currently imagine the possibility of life without domination and submission, would simply go away."

What's this one, Appeal To Utopia?

I love it following the 'fairy tale' snark. "In my fantasy world where everything conforms to what I want, people like you just won't happen! Because my imaginator makes it true! Take that, fictional people!"


"Given the influence of the patriarchy it is not all surprising that the majority of submissives of female because we are brought up to believe that that is our proper role."

As I have written about more than once, I was brought up to believe that my proper role was to be one of the movers and shakers of the world, challenging the glass ceiling, curing cancer, running for President, and so on, and anything less than that was a betrayal of women in general.

What you mean, we?


"Yet no one is saying that-we're try to have a discussion, not tell people what they're doing is wrong and shameful."

Well, that'd be a first.

Given some of the other comments, I'm back to 'What you mean, we?', though.


"It amazes me that people who consider themselves feminists don't question where these submissive fantasies are coming from."

Setting aside the whole 'question' thing ("challenge the accuracy, probity, or propriety of", but that's not meant to indicate wrongness or shame, remember that, calling into doubt one's truthfulness, integrity, or correctness doesn't mean anything negative), it amazes me that people keep saying this.


"When people respond emotionally and defensively and cut off arguments? That's when I can't stand feminists."

Oh, you women, you're so emotional. Come back when you can have a rational conversation. Not that you can, of course, that's what's wrong with women.


"(I capitalized the S to make it more empowering, you guyz!!!)"

I think capitalisation games are childish. When I talk about d/s, I talk about d/s. Well, sometimes I talk about D/S, but that's more effort to type, so mostly I don't. I do say "D/s" at the beginning of sentences, because I was oppressed by a culture that capitalises the initial letters of sentences and have not thrown off my conditioning yet.


"laughingrat's original dissenting post was in no was disrespectful".

... the post that called people brutal, torturing, suggested that people were delusional, and in magic feminist utopia they wouldn't exist was in no way disrespectful?

... or did I miss one?


"I think it would be beneficial for people to stop their BDSM practices; not necessarily beneficial for them, but beneficial for society as a whole. I think refusing to engage in any kind of abusive interactions-- even if they're consensual or 'role-play'-- can positively affect society."

"Equating BDSM categorically with abuse ... BINGO! I have BINGO!"

Oh look, and I should stop doing things that are good for me for the sake of society. I guess that's because that's women's job, to sacrifice their selfhood for the ungrateful.


"Yeah, yeah, go on with your bad selves, choosing your choices and telling other feminists to STFU. You're all very empowerful and stuff."

Oooooh, empowerful. I loves the empowerblizing!

(Actually, I thought that it was a common response to the overprivileged to say, "Just shut up and listen for once, okay?")

"This thread is just a bunch of defensive rationalizations."

Hm. People who have been called brutal, torturing, delusional, that they should stop being themselves for the good of others, overemotional, and so on and so forth should ... just let themselves be hit rather than responding with refutations.

They like to be hit, after all, don't they? Why are they objecting?


"In fact, the majority of the world thinks you should submit, so it's not like that person questioning you has some ridiculous amount of social power over you. It's just someone thinking."

This one just exhausts me. I mean, setting aside the fact that the majority of the world that I have encountered thinks that submission is utterly contemptible, and demonstrates this (among other things) by paying support roles a fraction of what they're worth and figuring people who take them are just not as good as Type-A people and deserve the shit they get, I ...

... live in an environment full of "just people thinking" out loud about things. And a lot of those people are thinking that I'm scum, and want to make sure I know it. It's hard to climb out of the slime, and making one person stop thinking these things won't make that much of a difference, but maybe if enough one people stop thinking these things dealing with society will start stinking less.


"Yea, that radical feminist viewpoint damages so much. That would be the viewpoint that demanded equal pay for equal work, women's right to be able to even work, and birth control."

"I think we who work full-time in the movement tend to become very narrow. What is happening now is that when non-movement women disagree with us, we assume it's because they are "apolitical," not because there might be something wrong with our thinking."
- Carol Hanisch, "The Personal is Political"


"You see, this kind of reflection is personal. While we'd maybe have different opinions on, on a larger scale of where these things get influenced from, I really can't tell you about yourself or whether or not this examination on your own childhood/experiences/arousal patterns is accurate."

And what else am I supposed to talk about? I'm only qualified to examine my own shit, I don't even have access to anyone else's.


"I'm going to put BDSM into the "ethically bad" category along with pornography and always trying to be ethically good."

Okay, so this one figures that I'm doing The Wrong Thing, but eh, everyone does Bad Things anyway, so who cares? I'm just supposed to accept that I'm bad and let go of the judgementalism of it because it doesn't matter.

It matters. And what I do is not ethically bad.

I'm pretty sure someone in there was on about egalitarian and inegalitarian relationships, but I didn't find the quote. I'll just link this anyway, because I find the whole 'egalitarianism' thing a red herring.

Not with a bang, but a whimper.

22 March, 2009

I Want To Be Holy

There is a place where my soul fills up with starlight and the vastness between stars, when I open and unfold and bloom and blossom like the universe. Macrocosm and microcosm.

I open up, I spread out, I am the land that is the ground of being, I am the rock upon which the temple will be built. These are the old rites, and I am no Blodeuwedd; this is mortal flesh and breath and bone and I a willing bride.

I am the axis mundi, the life growing beneath my heart is the center of my universe and I its pillar. My roots are in the shadows and mists beneath the earth, and my branches touch heaven, like the feet and plumes of God Who shakes the seven heavens with His thunder and whose tears extinguished all the fires of hell.

I am of the soul-maker, the ordeal-master, the guardian of gates, the reigning queen of life. I am a warrior of joyfulness, and I will not be approached without respect. I know what I am and what I must be, and I am the one I have been waiting for.

Is the word for this hierodoule? Vessel? Gatekeeper? Who is the master and who the servant here when the land demands its marriage bed? What is the nature of power and lust when gods touch?

The witch is one who walks the lines between worlds, neither one nor the other. These are the pillars and the gate, these are the embracing shadows and the sharpness of light. This service demands worship from its master as its price.

I. Love. My work.

18 March, 2009

The Only Intuitive Interface

Of all the changes in my body, I am perhaps most perturbed by my nipples. The swelling of my belly was entirely expected; the water retention mostly makes me itch.

My nipples have become alien landscapes. The smooth flesh of the areolae has become a mass of crenellations, occasionally punctuated by the lump or squat tower of a submerged gland. What was pink flesh is now a strange purplish brown, and every time I notice this I think of a comment my liege made a few months ago, about how he had read that one of the going theories about pigment shifts in nipples during pregnancy was to make the nipple more visible to the eventual baby, and how that made the racial bias of the theorists kind of blatant. The nipples themselves are tight and crevassed, though when they're not reacting to anything the appearance of the surface reminds me of nothing more than a ginger snap cookie. The scar tissue on one of them is a twisted mass of swelling and intermittent pain as the hormones course through tangled flesh.

It's very weird. I mean, even weirder than being poked in the stomach from the inside, which is extremely weird.

16 March, 2009

Writing the Real

My mind has been full of wanting to comment on the RaceFail thing in more substance for a while, and I haven't been able to articulate much of anything. So I will start out by pointing at things that were part of what I wanted to try to respond to, because they're worth noting at least, and then get on to what I have capacity to articulate.

For context on RaceFail, rydra_wong is collecting a complete set of links.

Wordweaverlynn writes Shame and Racefail. Queenofhell writes I am not the moderator. Miriam_Heddy writes Some thoughts on the impossibility of opting out of the economy of privilege. Inalasahl writes Because there aren't enough spoons on the planet.

Then the stuff that congeals some of the things in my head right now into something semi-comprehensible:
Let Me Tell You A Story
Mary Anne Mohanraj Gets You Up to Speed, Part I
Mary Anne Mohanraj Gets You Up to Speed, Part II
Taking One for the Team

A few years ago I realised that the characters in my stories defaulted to white. In some cases there was reason for this - such as the books set in a largely European-ish climate in which there was very little long-distance travel and no colonial history. But even so, I recognised it as a flaw in writing, and started thinking about how to address that.

In that European-like world, I thought about what I knew about it. I knew that one group of people in the area I was writing about travelled, and that they were more ethnically mixed than the rest of the population as a result; that had been in the bits I'd already written. I thought about people in the places they might have travelled to, and whether, say, a group of people displaced from their home might buy passage to another area and try to build a new way of life there.

That group of people happened to be black. They took up residence in one of the poor areas of the city the story was set in, as that was where they could afford the space, and settled in. They get their food the way the locals do; their family customs are not that different from the customs of the poor of the city, so the blend there is smooth; they trade like the locals do, too, and do reasonably well for themselves because they know techniques that the locals do not. There is some level of intermarriage. And, because this is genre fiction, they maintain their traditions of how to teach and work with psionics, which are very different than the local ways.

Which gives rise to the most story-significant character from that culture: half-immigrant, half-local in heritage, trained in her enclave's techniques in psionics, and adopted, as per local tradition, by one of the local psionic families and trained their way. She is sixteen, twists her hair into dredlocks, and quite certain that she's not old enough or knowledgeable enough to be a bridge between worlds.

Not that she really has a choice in the matter: her mixed heritage means that she will always be needing to navigate the question of where she came from. I wrote a little from her perspective on that state of dubiousness, of uncertainty, of not knowing how to make the synthesis between her heritage and her home, because that is the nature of her story. (I shared it with Little Light the other day, who simply said, "Yes.")

When I was working on constructing this character, as I wrote before, I had lunch with a friend who had written extensively about the spiritual nature of her hair and how she takes care of her dreds. Even though my character was not from an Earthly culture, I knew that she was going to be seen and read by people who were, and so I wanted to be sure that I was treating her well. She lives in a city where people with psionic power mark their affiliations with coloured hair ribbons; she comes from a culture where people with psionic power have dreds. She takes care of her hair carefully, quietly, in a place where nobody knows what it means, where the only person who comments is a child she saved from predators who has developed a juvenile crush.

She gets asked by a little girl - of similar mixed heritage - to teach her the things that go with having "the hair". And despite her self-doubt, she starts to do so - coming into mild conflict with a young man of the dominant culture who is well-steeped in young adult arrogance and certainty of complete knowledge (who spends most of the book being taken down a peg every so often). Her story is not a major part of the book (if I write a third book in that universe, her story will be central, and the bereaved gay man I mentioned in the discussion at Scalzi's will find love again too), but it's a part of the themes that I'm constantly exploring: stuck between worlds, the outsider looking in, the alien trying to make sense of the world.

Another story I had been thinking about on and off for a while was an expansion of a short story I wrote in college. And I thought about it, and figured that what I had was a fine short story, but for an expanded thing, it needed more depth and exploration of what was really a trio of generoteenagers, two boys and a girl.

I spent a while exploring the ethnic origins of the spirits that the boys wound up associated with, thinking about what backgrounds would lead to their affiliations, and so on. (The boys are shapechanged, she is not, so what sort of thing they were was pretty well set in the story.)

I wound up getting a multicultural dictionary of fairy creatures and reading it straight through, taking notes on things to look into, trying to find a humanoid supernatural creature to affiliate her with. When I found something promising - from Peru - I decided her name, Jule, was short for Julianna.

Dealing with a Latina main character gave me a whole lot more resarch to do. I bought a book of Quechua folktales; I listened to my collection of Andean music; I bought a Spanish slang dictionary to supplement my somewhat faded school-based knowledge of the language. I wrote to a Californian educator of my acquaintance asking her for tips, not only about the Latina character, but the white boy who lived in the barrio, and wound up with some understanding of things that I would need to rewrite for depth.

And because this was set in something resembling the Real World, I wound up dealing with Real World racism. An accidental friend's WASP mother was blatant about it; the friend herself had a more incidental flavor and immediately noticed that she'd made a misstep. Julianna, more overtly than either of the other two main characters, has to navigate between the worlds - not only the mundane world and the faery world that they have been caught in, but between her Hispanic heritage and her American desires. Her friends wrestle with poverty and dreams, with middle-class white "culturelessness" and deeply closeted bisexuality.

The themes of the book - finding oneself and coming to an understanding of identity, and as always the between-worlds and outsider-looking-in, were profoundly enriched by the introduction of Julianna's "new" (I hadn't thought about it before, so she was generically whiteish) ethnicity.

And it caused me to add a snide cat-shaped storm demon of Peruvian origin, who rapidly became one of my favorite minor characters ever.

A shorter note on the space opera I'm not working on at the moment - in a fit of aggravation at the stereotypical post-ethnic space opera, I spent a while pondering colonisation efforts and wound up having a large chunk of novel set on a planet settled primarily by Caribbean-origin Francophones. Which gives my Catholic narrator a sense of almost, but not quite, having a sense of the religious rhythms of the place.

I don't expect that my writing will be perfect, or anything near it. But I know that I have gotten more wealth of exploration and more depth in the themes that I was already working with, as well as just more interesting stories, from trying.

11 March, 2009

Treating Pain

The book I'm reading right now, Having Faith: An Ecologist's Journey To Motherhood, quotes an obstetrical anesthesiologist as saying, "There is no other condition in medicine where we allow patients to have severe pain and not treat them."

It says something about me that my response to this was to bark out a laugh. Or something about my knowledge of the world. Or ... something.

I read this a few days after spreading the word to some fellow bloggers about the research fraud on Celebrex/Lyrica combinations.

I read this in a state of awareness that the "War on Drugs" has led to doctors being unwilling to prescribe narcotic painkillers - because if they do so too often, they will be investigated, because they don't want to "feed the addiction" of people suffering from chronic pain.

Out in the real world, people with a wide varieties of "conditions in medicine" are actively denied pain treatment, or denied adequate pain treatment. I know more people with chronic pain conditions who are unable to get competent treatment than people who can - many of the ones lacking competent treatment know fully well what medications will ease their condition, but if they go and ask for them they're labelled "drug-seeking" and turned away to suffer.

There is an illusion that pain is treated, that pain is taken seriously, that pain is recognised and respected and dealt with in an appropriate fashion. It is the mythology.

It is a lie.

05 March, 2009

Now We're Grown Up Orphans

Here's an interesting little tidbit: I don't have a real name.

Not in the sense that certain people frothing about on the internet would like me to have, at least. I've been using a consistent handle online since I got an email address that had the option of letting me pick the username (and I picked something I had already been using for years) - a handle which happens to be more connected to my legal name than I am, because I have a potently dissociative reaction to my legal name.

For a while I kept my legal name in my .sig line elsewhere on the internet, until the combination of my dislike for being identified by a set of sounds that felt actively not-me and the harassment I received in my private email for being identifiable by an extremely feminine name led me to change that to initials. My current usenet provider requires a "real name", I satiate it with an initial-surname combination and post under that and the handle I have used since I was fourteen.

The name that I use in common social gatherings is more mine than my legal name (I have occasionally considered changing it legally), but it is still an aspiration, a thing I chose because it fit who I wanted to be and had sounds that suited me well. It means "jovial lady", at least according to web searches, and that seems to me to be a reasonable ambition to pursue. It is more me than any other name I have, but I am not entirely sure that it is either mine or real.

When I started up this blog, I did so with conscious attention to matters of identity; I have asked people not to link my established handle or my legal name to this space. I wanted to be able to talk freely about things for which there might be "outing" concern. (I have things on the internet under my legal name and associated pseudonym, largely discussing polyamory; I went through a period where I was vehemently out as a matter of political activism, and am content to be passively so these days for the sake of my safety and sanity.) But here I talk about kink; I talk about abuse and assault survivorship; I deal with protecting the anonymity of my partners, my family, my child. I know about Kathy Sierra; while I doubt my little World on a Slant will ever have a high enough profile to draw that level of attention, I am quite aware that I am a woman, in many ways a woman on the fringes of the vulnerable who is actively drawing attention to that vulnerability, on the internet.

So there, a double-pseud, clearly just an excuse to get out of being thoughtful and considerate or something like that. Nobody is really threatened by information about themselves being tightly affiliated to their "real names", presuming they have "real names", and I am presumed dishonest because I do not post under a legal name so unconnected to me that I have consistently forgotten to answer to it for years - and so unfamiliar to the people I'm talking to on the 'net that it's effectively an alias.

(There is a hell of a lot to be said about this thing that's being called "RaceFail '09"; I have not been saying most of it because I am totally flabbergasted and also incapable of being coherent about it. Someone who wants to get some context for it can look here at a collection of the sources that are still accessible, or this timeline of the early sequence. For those people who are interested in actually doing something about the mess, I draw your attention to this excellent post and this response. Do not neglect protecting yourself.)

03 March, 2009

Foolish Inconsistency: Also a Hobgoblin Of Small Minds

So here's the thing.

People get to define their own lives. People get to define their own narratives. This is one of the perks of being people: this whole own mind, own life, own decision, own responsibility thing.

This is one of the reasons that I have been railing about how reprehensible it is that the anti-BDSM crowd keeps making up little just-so stories and lies about motivations and false images of what the life of a female submissive is really like and not listening to the actual narratives of actual real people who don't agree with them. The fantasy is not more important than reality.

It is no less reprehensible for a kinkster to do this to one of them. If you want your own narrative, give everyone - even your ideological enemies - the space to define themselves.

And stop being a smug, condescending asshole. There are too many of them in the world as it is, and we're over quota on our side.

02 March, 2009

Sufferin' Succotash

Kicking around in my head for a while has been a comment on Trin's recent "examination" post, in which an anon commenter said, "It hurts to be beautiful? Damn, I'm glad I wasn't raised a woman."

The version I heard was "You have to suffer to be beautiful." I went and googled it the other day, after being reminded of it by Belle's post about bras, and found dozens of hits on that phrase -- and all of them were attributed to women. Mothers. Sisters. Aunts.

Beauty is a thing that women are obligated to, need to police their bodies over, denied to those who were not the chosen ones, a messy tangle of stuff abstracted into checkout-counter magazines and movie stars, sucked out of the rest of us and injected into the chosen ones with a little airbrushing.


Beauty is your birthright.

How vulnerable are we to the people who say they see our beauty? How much is that vulnerability preserved by the sense that beauty is rare, a hard to come by commodity, something for which we must suffer? And how much suffering is ensured by this artificial scarcity?

How much do we have to chase after the secret codes, the tricks, the way to find beauty, rather than actually claiming our birthright and our power? Why do we excuse the uncomfortable and inconvenient with the notion that suffering is the price for what we have already?

What the hell?