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

30 July, 2009

Intersecting Works of Fiction

I had commented to a friend of mine a while back that the Star Trek: Rebooted movie had reawakened my long-lapsed Trekkieness. (I went to Star Trek conventions when I was in high school, level of Trekkie. Wrote some fanfic, too, though mostly because the people I was hanging out with did. I didn't like the right characters, though, heh.)

She gave me this link yesterday, and that is fucking fantastic. One of those things that suddenly cleans up the goggles, as was said in the comments - talking about the importance of the romance subplot in Rebooted. And I'd been already outraged by the people who talked about Uhura as a token girlfriend, as if she hadn't been the linchpin of the entire possibility of resolving the movie plotline in a manner of appropriate heroism, as if she hadn't been clearly the pursuer and not the pursuee or woman-who-melts-suddenly-when-confronted-with-the-asshole-turned-hero. But that post reveals a big, big piece of something I missed, and I loves it forever for making me a little tiny bit wiser.

That being said, racist fail in another SF media project:

The Avatar live-action is an inexcusable debacle.

And here's a really sharp visual representation of why.

Seriously, when Heroes does a better job on race issues (Heroes of the "Have we gone an episode without killing off a woman or a POC?" fame, in which it rather takes after its pulp superhero comics origin perhaps a bit too well) than you, well, that's ... unspeakably ... I'm out of words here, someone hand me a cue card.

Especially when starting with a show that had a rich Asian cultural background, stuff like "We want you to dress in traditional cultural ethnic attire. If you're Korean, wear a kimono. If you're from Belgium, wear lederhosen" from the casting director? Casting calls for "Caucasian or other" on POC characters?

And, so Rebooted doesn't feel entirely left out of the scolding, an open letter to Winona Kirk on the subject of sexism in the Reboot portrayal.

29 July, 2009

Some Things They Don't Mention About Pregnancy

In honor of me now being officially past my official due date and also past my personally calculated because dammit I know when I ovulated due date, my long-pondered "Things they don't tell you about pregnancy" post.

May not apply to all pregnancies. Some assembly required. Contents may settle during shipping.

(Next time I do this, I totally want a t-shirt that says 'Contents may settle during shipping.')

* I seem to have swallowed my spare change.

First-trimester symptom: everything tastes like metal. Everything. Breathing tastes like metal. Faded out a bit after a while, but still has reappearances, like right at the moment as I'm typing this.

* Where did my seasonal allergies go?

This, this is wonderful. The horrible head cold I had during the worst of the morning sickness was the most miserably sick I've been in my life, but an entire better part of a year in which the tree sex didn't make me feel like crap is amazing.

* My joint pain went away too.

For someone who lives with chronic low-level ache and what my midwife elegantly referred to as "loose hips", the six or so months free of that was really nice. Of course my bad hip started popping again at the end of month eight, as if to make sure I didn't get my hopes up too high, but one can't have everything.

* Pregnancy update websites are probably not written with me in mind.

I first realised this when every single one of them I read one week saw fit to inform me that really, the major body change I was likely to notice around here was my breasts getting bigger, and that this was the best and most thrilling part of being pregnant.

The one that said something about my pregnancy now having lasted longer than any of my high school relationships was a nice garnish. (Gods, I hope not. Legalhusband and I have been together since I was sixteen.)

On the other hand, the Vegetable of the Week game was an excellent way to pass time. How to play Vegetable of the Week: Google "pregnancy week #" and see what article of produce the fetus is the same size as now.

* It turns out that 95% of the weird shit that happens and freaks me out is a normal pregnancy symptom.

Increased rate of heart flutters, say.

Skin tags, too.

* Your hair and nails will grow like whoa.

The nails thing is the part that throws me - as someone who had low thyroxin most of her life and is barely used to fingernails growing at a particularly noticeable rate, having to cut my nails all the time is almost upsetting in its "this is not normal" way. And it's even more fun now that I can't reach my feet.

Also, "Hair grows like whoa"? Includes pubic.

* Pregnancy is weirdly and subtly racialised.

Being someone who's in lefty-natural childrearing circumstances, I'm occasionally struck by how white things are.

By going to baby supply stores and having, on the wall, images of lots of babies and toddlers - all white, most blue-eyed.

By having people seriously suggest that the nipple-darkening during pregnancy is so babies can visually track the food source better, never mind that sight doesn't develop that clearly for a bit, mammals track by scent, and dude, where are you getting this bonus contrast concept from if you can't think of anyone other than a white person as human?

I just wow.

* Trying to get a ballpark figure for an appropriate amount of weight gain during pregnancy from the internet is not a good idea.

Take all of the crazy, interfering, I-know-better-than-you stuff that gets directed at pregnant women.

Take all of the crazy, interfering, I-know-better-than-you stuff that gets thrown around about weight and health issues.


Or hit yourself in the head with a brick a few times. It's faster, and just as informative.

* Moods are not unstable. Moods are turned up to eleven.

Instead of "cranky" I was achieving "kill it and devour its heart that its lifeblood might sustain my offspring."

Instead of "I don't want to deal with this" I was achieving "I need to go live in a cave and contemplate the hopelessness of human interaction."

* Childbirth classes with any sort of natural bent will spend at least a quarter of the time in class talking about how to protect yourself from hospitals.

This is epically fucked up. Completely, totally, epically fucked up. Legalhusband and I would leave our childbirth class every time, exchange glances, and then he'd say, "I'm so glad we're not planning on a hospital birth. I'm so glad we don't have to go through that."

And this ranges from stuff like the friend of mine who went in for a post-term ultrasound to doublecheck that everything was okay and had the administering nurse lie to her in an attempt to panic her into admitting herself to be induced immediately to horrifying shit like a woman having her baby taken away because she refused a C-section.

They will lie. They will not talk about the risks of epidurals. They will insist on putting an IV shunt into your vein "just in case" and not mention that it's possible to refuse. They will pressure. This is why people hire doulas - when they can afford them - to help protect their families from the crushing stress and pressure. This is insane.

* Hospitals are insane. Did I mention?

If you had to go to a hospital to get a special blood test done to confirm that you were healthy enough to not have to go to a hospital for your delivery - consider the stressiness in the context of previous point please - what would you like to be hearing in the lab waiting room?

There was a television there, turned up too loud, of course, because this culture is sucktastic.

But what was playing on the television?

Medical programming, of course, it was the hospital.

What medical programming?

What would you put on?

What would you put on if you were a complete idiot?

How about a special on medical mysteries in which a family could not get treatment for their newborn's skeletal abnormality because the medical community wouldn't believe that it existed?

(Present in the waiting room: receptionist, three third-trimester women, and my liege, who had brought me there, looked at the television, and put in earplugs so he could study.)

* Heartburn can be bad enough to make you throw up.

'Nuff said.

* You will become a D&D dwarf.

The ability to detect the slightest of grades will suddenly appear. "This is an upslope." "Is it?" "Yes."

* Water is the best thing in the universe.

Go swimming. Take a bath. Get an inflatable tub that's deep enough to float the belly. It doesn't matter. Bathliness is next to godliness. I am totally composing this post in the tub.

I get in the water and all the pain and strain go away. And when I get out, I don't hurt for a while, because my muscles have had a chance to relax and unwind and rest a little, because water is totally supportive.

I am completely and totally convinced of the water ape period theory of human evolution. I found it convincing because of the whole, dude, where did our fur go thing, but experiencing pregnancy, and then experiencing pregnancy and water? Completely conclusive.

* How debilitating pregnancy is depends not merely on who you are, but random unknown factors that for all I know include the phase of the moon.

I went around and around on "Why can I climb the stairs without a problem today when I couldn't yesterday?" Damned if I know.

Pregnancy is hard physical labor, and the hard physical labor of it is completely invisible, so it's like an invisible disability only of course there's the giant belly so it's not invisible-invisible, it's just that it's implausible to people who haven't been there.

* No matter how crazy the experience makes you, everyone around you is crazier.

I've been in and out of tears. I've muttered about needing to be off my depression meds because of complications on SSRIs in the third trimester. I've wrestled with the fact that gestation takes all of my energy except enough to run the braingremlin that thinks I should be getting more done.

This is nothing compared to people around me.

In the birth class, the teacher told us that we should think about delegating someone to field all the "Is the baby there yet?" phone calls. To which one of my classmates said something to the effect of, "Who would do that?" I said, "Pregnancy makes people crazy. Not you. The people around you."

I went to a baseball game last Friday, minor league game 20 minutes from my house and probably 10 at the outside from the backup hospital. Was chatting with a woman with a toddler-in-stroller in the elevator back to the car.

"So when are you due?" she asked me.


My deadpan made her laugh nervously, and she said, "... cutting it a little close there, eh?"

Cutting it close? Is the baby going to erupt from me in a splash of drama during the seventh inning stretch? What?

* Relaxin feels so weird.

My pelvis is in, I think, four pieces, and every so often when I move it feels like it nearly falls apart. The muscles that are, of course, completely unused to holding my hips on are exhausted from the effort.

On the one hand, I'm glad it's all loose because it'll make it easier to expel the fishie. On the other hand, having my pubic bone pop near-audibly weirds me the fuck out.

* The belly is gyroscopic.

It does not like to change orientation. Rolling over in bed while nine months pregnant is a feat of athleticism worthy of a medal. The belly objects. If the process involves rolling over onto the back, there will be the moment of hazy, dizzy fatigue in which the vena cava is compressed which leaves one feeling like an upended box turtle. Begging for assistance at rolling over is embarassing but sometimes necessary.

* Sharp tearing pain in the foot is something that happens to a certain fraction of women in the third trimester.

It's caused by the normal pregnancy edema, and trying to talk to medical professionals about it appears to lead to flailing panic and lack of any clue of what to do. Also, it hurts like fucking hell.

* There will come a point at which the belly gets in the way of everything.

By everything, I mean everything.

I mean I can't pee without the belly getting in the way, it wants to exist in the same space as my thighs unless I take my clothes off so I can move the thighs out of the way. (Lately I've been taking my clothes off a lot.) And trying to pee on the diagnostic stick at my regular medical checkups? HAH. It took me a couple of sessions to be able to consistently find the piss.

For a while getting places by crawling worked better (especially steep staircases, like the one at my liege's house). Now ... the belly is in the way.

I'm sure I'm missing a few things, but that will do for a nice overview.

22 July, 2009

Relational Tinkertoys

One of the previous posts got into discussing fiddly bits of constructing relationship systems and how one looks at them and so on, and so I've been chewing on that. Which I've also been chewing on in terms of this CFS for kinked relationships in a polyamorous context, which I'd like to write something for if I only had a brain. (Or a diploma.)

And there are bazillions of things talking about terminology out there, and some of them even get it mostly not wrong for how it works in the wild (the number of sites that talk about "primary/secondary" or "heirarchical polyamory" under the notion that people only ever have one primary-typed relationship is gargantuan), and none of them are actually all that useful, as far as I can tell. (And this is getting all crossed-up in my head with an old post I just read from someone who left me a comment on 'what's the difference between "bedroom kink" and "24/7", anyway?' so that may wind up in this ramble.)

So. Relationships. Structures.

One of the things that I think drives a lot of people's responses is the way that the model of what a relationship is like is sort of presented as monolithic. He and she become they and we know it's right and true because they get married and live happily ever after gazing into each other's eyes. And there are variations along the way, but this is the thing that I saw presented as the Correct Model - heterosexuality, marriage, starry-eyed monogamy, fairy tale ending. All the ingredients.

And of course there were little cracks in that obvious from the beginning: in my youngest years it was the knowledge that divorce happened. Then an awareness of homosexuality. By the time I was fourteen or so I could comment that I figured there were people who were monogamous and people who weren't, and the ones who weren't should let people know so that people wouldn't get hurt. (At fourteen, all this obvious shit is simple ...)

But a lot of what I saw was ... still tending back towards the Correct Model. He and she become they transforms into he and he become they. The divorced woman finds the one who's actually the right one, and we know it's right and true because they get married and live happily ever after, etc. All sort of edging towards not being different, even if there were a couple of cosmetic things not in accord with the Model; trying to minimise the ways in which people varied, relationships varied, and so on.

And I think this makes it hard for people who venture into non-normative relationships, because the shape of the Correct Model casts a long, long shadow. Some people luck into areas or subcultures that give them models that work better - or get stuck with a choice between the normative models and the subcultural normative models, neither of which works for them. And some people have to rattle around a lot and figure out which bits work for them and which don't, and sometimes, well, this hurts. So people have scars.

That looks tangential to the question of relationship structures and how people go about things, but it isn't, really. Because all of this is part of the cultural stew that people are steeping in when they go about their relationships, and even being consciously aware of some of it and what it does doesn't mean that one's got it all down and sorted. And some of it is something specific people like, and some isn't.

So that's all backdrop.

If you frame some of the wrong questions in terms of the backdrop, you can see some of how they get asked. Only one relationship fully exists in reality; that relationship is arranged with cohabitation, mutual sexual interest, long-term commitment, and all that stuff that's part of the Serious Package; other relationships (if they exist) are more trivial, flighty things, maybe focused on addressing desires that the real relationship cannot satisfy, like kink, sex with a same-sex partner, the nebulous thing called 'variety', the 'I don't think it's healthy to expect my needs to be met by one person', etc.

And this is what the default model of A Polyamorous Relationship is.

Me, I say that I don't have any polyamorous relationships. Because for the relationship to be such by my standards, there would have to be more than two people in it. And I can't figure out how to make that work, so I don't try to do it; all my relationships are dyadic. (I'm not attracted to groups of people; I'm attracted to specific individual ones. So that's how I conduct things.) So I don't add people to relationships or have to balance things in a relationship or whatever; all of that stuff is system-level, which a lot of people don't recognise as an important distinction in the first place! (World on a slant strikes again.)

And only doing dyadic relationships simplifies some things. Some people like and prefer the one big relationship model, and more power to 'em. They're doing something I can't, for sure, and I don't know how they manage it. I note that they exist, but decline to comment further on grounds that I'm incompetent to do so.

But what goes into a dyadic relationship in a poly system? Obviously, one scraps the "And if I ever find myself attracted to anyone other than you, clearly our relationship has failed and is defective in some way" part that crops up in some implementations of the normative model, if one's having other relationships at all. Though some people have agreements and preferences that can look like that from funny angles, that include things like "Don't love anyone else", "Don't have sex with anyone else" ('sex' being variously defined), "Don't have a serious relationship with anyone else"... all of which I've seen work for some people, provided adequate term-defining.

But there are other nuances. I know people for whom the critical part of polyamory is that they be able to have another relationship if they decide they want to. And in a fair few of those cases, when they have that option, they don't actually have any desire to start another relationship. In other cases, the critical thing is the ability to have and have acknowledged attractions without any necessary follow-through (or maybe no more than a cuddle or what have you), and that satisfies all emotional requirements the poly person might have. And on the other end of things, I know people who don't want to miss out on an opportunity or turn down a potential, and a few kind of messed-up people who seem to think that saying "No" or not being interested in a new relationship now is proof that one isn't really polyamorous at all.

I know of relationships in poly systems that are pretty much vehicles for sexual release, relationships in poly systems that have no sexual activity or desire for same, and pretty much anything in between the two. When my liege and I started our relationship, as I believe I've mentioned, we were shooting for something like friends-with-benefits or a probably long-term fling - turning our established friendship into a friendship that happened to include fucking on occasion, more or less. (That notion didn't last terribly long.) Some people have agreements for looser rules on business trips, conventions, and other prime sources of fling time, too; not all relationships are long-term.

And speaking of long-term, one of those questions that comes up is "How often do relationships like this fail?" Which amused me for a while, because there was a string of people asking me this question in a time frame where I'd recently had a successful relationship come to a conclusion (it was done, and we didn't drag it out too badly) and another relationship that was in a state of continual slow failure not quite energetic enough to cease. But the model for 'failure' was about 'ending' - and often any change in a relationship system was called "ending", so the fact that, say, I'd been with one partner for a decade didn't matter if I broke up with someone else in the interim. Success in a relationship depends on the relationship, not the duration - and not whether the relationship is ongoing, either.

I think one of the things that I'm finding as I burble along semicoherently is that, well, a lot of things are up for negotiation and discussion. In a lot of ways, this is a really scary part: instead of there being a simple, straightforward, and above all known pattern for what a relationship is like (insert digression here), all this other stuff is in question, like what it means for a relationship to succeed, the meaning of fidelity (literally keeping your promises and commitments), who is involved, to what extent, how many ....

Digression: The single thing I've seen cause the most drama in poly relationship setups is the quesiton of who owns the time. There are people who figure that being in a relationship means that all their unspecified time is spent With Partner; there are people who specify time With Partner and figure that their unspecified time is theirs, though it will often also be spent With Partner. When these two types of people get into relationships, there's often a lot of low-grade sense that there's something off here. When these two types of people start up in a poly situation, the drama explodes all over the place and the shrapnel is killer. Those 'of course we know what the rules are for relationships' assumptions bite and the wounds bleed - and they still bite in a monogamous situation, but the damage often feels less acute because people are generally perceived as more threatening to relationships than ... well, all the other stuff that a partner might be doing. (End digression.)

One of the big standing-wave flamewars in poly groups is the concept of heirarchy and, more importantly, what heirarchy means. If anything. (Some people just let it be, if it is, and I appreciate that, being inclined that way myself aside from an obvious tendency towards overanalysis.)

Some people don't do heirarchy. They have their partners, those relationships are what they are, and that's that.

Some people don't do heirarchy. They have their partners, those relationships are what they are, and that's that. They also have the other people they're in some way involved with, who may be romantic friendships, or sex buddies, or whatever else.

Some people do heirarchy. They have their primary partner, and everyone else is required to be of less importance. Often, there is some sort of control that the primary partner has over other relationships, such as the ability to veto. Sometimes called 'prescriptive heirarchy' (as opposed to 'descriptive heirarchy').

Some people do heirarchy. They have their primary partner, and don't have any particular interest in having that sort of relationship with anyone else, but they also have other relationships, romantic, sexual, and both, of lesser centrality to their lives.

Some people do heirarchy. They have their primary partners and other partners by whatever standards and particulars suit the people involved.

Some people do heirarchy, with a tidy sequence of succession such that if one relationship goes away, everything lower than it moves up a rank. Or something. I've never been able to parse this one, and it pretty much never happens in the real world so much as in people's fantasies about how this all works, so it doesn't matter much.

A primary relationship may or may not be a close match to a mainstream-normal real relationship. Various factors that some people have insisted are essential to primary partner-ness have been marriage or other commitment ceremony, cohabitation, sex, shared finances, shared responsibilities, power to control other relationships, the ability to trump commitments to others with desired time (even in non-emergency situations), there can be only one Highlander-ness, um, probably some other stuff. The rules that any given primary relationship run under are probably only known to the participants, though they may well think that it's obvious and all clear-thinking folks will agree.

A secondary (or tertiary, as we carry on down the line) relationship is one that does not contain all the traits that someone thinks of as necessary for a primary relationship. What that actually means in practice is fuck-all with a side order of 'this is a distinction we think necessary to make'. Some people treat this category of relationships as disposable fun-toys. I think those people need to be smacked with a haddock.

Some people get all tangled up in sex and romance and which is more important or if they're all the same thing. And my feeling on sex and romance is that they're different things, and some people can have one without the other, and some people have the two tangled together, and that's life and among the zillions of things that people can be varietable about. Same thing with kink and sex and romance, for that matter. I can have romantic love without sexual attraction but not sex without romantic entanglement; some people can do sex without love/romance/whatever. Life is complicated. That's fine.

Digression two, since I don't think it'll ever be sequitur. 24/7 kink vs. bedroom kink? For me, in my fulltime kinked relationship, it's always there. I'm 24/7 d/s like I'm 24/7 married, y'know? It's always a factor in my life and my calculations and my interactions with people, especially, y'know, the relevant person. My bedroom kink with my other primary partner is ... he's kinky, I'm kinky, sometimes we're kinky in similar directions, it's not a part of our relationship per se (I think we'd both like it if it were a little more so, but it doesn't work out that way), it's just a thing that we do sometimes. And it's not like we stop being kinky people when we're not in-scene or whatever, it's just that it's not a defining trait of our interactions - it may be a defining trait of our selves, but that's a different locus. End digression.

Some people make up abominable unwords like "sexualove" and "compersion", meanwhile, and expect other people to appreciate the brilliance of their ugly jargon. At least one of those has a functional etymology and merely sounds stupid, rather than like a disease symptom.

Some people think their whatever makes them far superior to all of those peons who are still monogamous or who are doing their poly thing differently. These people also need to be smacked with a haddock.

Ugh, I'm sure I had more to say when I started but since this has now been written over something like a half-week full of gaps and staring into space I've lost a fair fraction of it.

But I think that should illustrate, more or less, why I get frustrated when I'm doing my wee activist thing (over a decade of answering questions about polyamory and counting, but not very precisely) and, after explaining what my life is like, get the response, "So the people I met before who [hurt|upset|confused] me are doing it wrong?" (This has happened more than once.)

No. They're just doing it not like me.

17 July, 2009

Not Exactly the Wrong Questions

Then there are the times the answers are wrong. Or something like that. Not sure how to riff this bit right.

I was recently in a discussion of safewords elsewhere that got me into a contemplation of bits of kink culture and my somewhat complicated relationship with it. It's a hard subject to try to articulate about, because a lot of this is in the superficial impression level of things, and I'm well aware that I have not explored things with much depth - in part because of that impression.

The thing with me and safewords is that if I'm in a position where I might want to use one, I'm almost certainly not in a position where I'm capable of using one. (The other thing with me and safewords is that if I'm verbality-enabled, I'm quite competent to say, "You don't want to be doing that" or something similar about a boundary-crossing behaviour, and I'm not generally engaged in stuff that would require something other than plain language to communicate.) I alter state so significantly that the safety latch option doesn't come up on possible options - often, possible options to think about, and that's without getting into the implementation problems.

A community discourse that focuses on the usefulness (and indeed necessity) of safewords is a community discourse in which I cannot be a full participant. I need to be able to build what relative safety I can by other means, and the construction of those other means is something that I've pretty much had to do on my own, through trial and error. Fortunately, none of those errors have been traumatising for me - even the 'now that I'm back in my ordinary mind I would rather not have done that' stuff has been educational rather than upsetting.

For someone like me, for whom nonverbal trust state is one of the fundamental components - indeed one of the desired goals - of submission, trying to frame that all through the safeword lens breaks it. Between that and the SM focus of a lot of kink discussion, I wound up wondering if what I was hooked into was something different that was not kink, if the BDSM community had anything in common with me. I could get some use out of bondage discussions, but SM and the importance of safewords were bulletins from an alien planet.

A lot of things were bulletins from an alien planet. "The scene", clubs, play parties, all that stuff that's normative within a lot of kink-contexted discussion? About as emotionally comprehensible as approaching a relative stranger and asking them if they're interested in siring a child in the next half hour or so. And that's because this central thing, the whole reason for being there, is this my-mind-is-blown-open-my-god-it's-full-of-stars-and-kittens experience, and looking for that kind of trip off someone with whom I'm not already intimate is not merely unappealing, it's bizarre. I'm not someone who can get an endorphin high off a casual flogging and be happy with that - the only value a flogging might have to me is in whether or not it can get my mindscape somewhere interesting, and all of those 'somewhere interesting' places orbit around that ego-death thing and are more likely to go there the more satisfying the interaction is.

My kink gets more intimate than sex; sex can be a real trip, but it's something where the skin is still a barrier, a boundary, something that holds the difference between me and a lover as a tangible thing even through the inversions and entanglements of being twined through each other. My kink gets more intimate than sex, and I'm a thirty-one year old woman who has never really had a monogamous relationship and has had six lovers in her lifetime. My kink gets more intimate than sex, and it's not as easy to find a partner who can hold that stuff as it is to find a lover, even if I really want to, even if I try, even if I'm frustrated by my inability to make ... that ... work with someone I love.

And this is a giant lump of dangerous mental juju to propose to drop on someone, asking them to hold that safe space, to create that dissolved and fluid state and to keep it from being ripped apart. This is not easy, and this is not a small magic. But where does one learn this shit? Talking about safewords, one experienced top suggested that people like me are not for novices because this is high-proof stuff - but how does one become not-a-novice at this in the first place? Not with safewords, because safewords belong to a different reality than the altered state.

I don't know these things. I know that the first time I slid into a submissive state while nestled into the arms of the one who is now my liege, before we talked about kink and wiring and responses and fantasies much at all (it was at the end of the Initial Sexual History Conversation, actually), the first time he saw me on the edge of that state, he knew I could not give meaningful consent to what he wanted to do, and he brought me back up out of it so that he would not hurt me, so that he could ask and get a meaningful answer. It didn't matter that he had no prior experience with d/s there; what mattered was that he recognised where I was and made the right choice. (And left me with a horrible case of thwarted desire, but as a consequence to risk that's hardly a bad outcome.)

That same care guided me through a reenactment of my sexual assault, a transformative experience that still blows my mind. That same care has only majorly messed things up once, and it was rough, and we got through it eventually. it is not a simple thing, and I don't know how I mustered the luck to have it work, but it is what it is. I don't know how to make for a world where people can learn how to find this if that's what they want, how they can get there with fewer blunders than I had to go through. I think it matters, and I don't know how to do it. At all.

I sometimes think I'm at least two kinds of submissive; the service, the devotion, all of that seems a different reality than this blown-open space so full of stars. And yet it's the same thing, somehow, in a way I have yet to be able to articulate, the way the risk-strewn madness at the core snuggles into protocol and ritual and support and making tea on the other side. "Safe" and "sane" only exist in the penumbra of the sorcery, but maybe that's the secret. I've seen people whose kink has SM in it talk about knowing their 'dark side' and letting it have its place; maybe this is letting the mad side have a home.

I don't know these things. And they're hard to talk about.

Asking the Wrong Questions

One of the things that I find most difficult to deal with are the wrong questions that people ask me (or ask in my vicinity). Things where ... in order to really answer that question, I have to dig back into the assumptions that make the question possible in order to point out that they're misapplied, inaccurate, or just plain wrong. And people are resistant to having their axioms argued with, a lot of the time, and reject, mock, dismiss, or otherwise just fail to adjust to actual encounters with reality.

One of the places this gets particularly egregious is around subject of polyamory. Everyone has their vision of what someone like me's life is like, and very few of these visions have even a passing relationship with reality. I mean, it's a running joke in some poly circles that the universal response to being tagged as someone polyamorous is, "Do you all sleep in the same bed?", which is, of course, a veiled enquiry about the target's sex life.

But try to take that apart, and you have not only the sex-centric nature of the question, the invasion of personal space required to immediately leap to asking a veiled question about sex, but more fundamental things like the assumption that 'you all' actually means something.

Taking apart 'you all'? There's the One Big Relationship notion, some sort of Stranger In a Strange Land collective mishmash. Probably with transitive relationships, in which my partners are presumed to be partnered to each other in some fashion, in order to form this magical 'you all'. And who's in and who's not? And ...

... and my husbands have another wife, and I'm not married to her or romantically involved with her, and is she a part of my 'you all' like we're in the same family unit? Is my long-distance partner, with whom I do not have a sexual relationship in any case, part of this entity known as 'you all', despite neither of my husbands having met him? How about my [legal] husband's long-distance partner and her husband - my ex (who has met my long-distance partner) - and their local poly family grouping, are they part of 'you all' despite being three thousand miles away and the posited bed being somewhat implausible by the laws of physics by this point? What is this 'you all', where are its boundaries, what does it mean?

I have three romantic relationships. Two of them are marriages. For the situations in which sharing a bed comes up as a relevant concept, all the people in the relationship share the bed. The value of 'you all' that actually has some bearing on reality is 'two', for which the scope for prurient investigation into the strange lives of other people rather fails on the 'strange' point.

I'm sure from that the astute reader can figure out some of where "How did you find someone to add to your marriage?" falls down, too. And I don't even have to go into the bit where I start jumping up and down and shouting about how people are not marriage accessories and why the fuck would I want to be munged onto someone else's relationship rather than having one of my own thankyouverymuch.

Though the rant would be a segue into "How do you share your partner?" where I either want to jump up and down and shout about how my partners are not my property to dole out or store in a trunk because I failed at kindergarten playtime or fume about how, no, actually, I'm not sharing a damn thing, my relationships are mine (and the relevant partner's) and someone who wants a piece of that can get their interloping arse kicked for 'em. They want a relationship with one of my partners, they can build their own rather than trying to cadge a piece of mine.

One of my favorites is "Why do you put up with that?" because I'm the one who refuses to consider monogamy. So I'm left with, "I'm ... putting up with ... being treated like someone who has input in her relationships? The problem is?" Of course, under this question is the sexist notion that women are intrinsically monogamous and men just want to fuck around and so any sort of open, poly, or nonmonogamous structure is for the benefit of teh menz and leaves teh wimminz suffering and alone and certainly never suggesting something like, "Why don't you go spend the day with your other wife because I can't stand having humans within about twenty feet of me right now?"

This is related to "What happened to you that you don't feel you deserve someone all to yourself?" Which I have been asked, in so many words, though it may have been a rhetorical question. And to which I could get nasty about the 'all to yourself' and the overwhelmingly broken social construct that one's romantic partner is the be-all and end-all of one's social interaction, but I don't generally bother, because I'm too busy wanting to snap people's heads off over their imaginary abuse wank fantasies.

"Why isn't one person able to meet your needs?" takes the nexus of presumed damage out of my past and plonks it in my current psyche, inventing some sort of greedy defective with a checklist of requirements, looking for other human beings to fill the niches created by projected deficiencies in each partner. There is one person able to meet my needs; me. Projecting that onto other people does not strike me as healthy. I'm not poly because I have 'needs' in excess of others'; I'm poly because my 'ooh, that person is shiny' meter shuts down at two serious relationships rather than one and I'm happier under those circumstances. (And I also learned - by painful experience - how to parse more subtle forms of shiny and fondness.) Related questions: "Why isn't your partner enough?", "What's wrong with your relationship?"

Or, "How can you think of bringing children into such an environment?", which mostly leaves me wondering what's wrong with a loving, stable family situation in which everyone is more or less supported in their sanity and emotional stability needs, work is well-distributed among the family members with reasonable flexibility, and people are happy with each other. I'm pretty sure that this is one of those really intensely veiled sex questions, predicated on parade-of-lovers and soap-opera drama, but I'm generally not interested in breaking my intrinsic boringness for long enough to dig that deep.

I seem to have gotten off on a run of the really annoying ones, rather than the just silly, which is unfortunate, but they do remind me of each other a lot so I suppose it's to be expected. Ah well. I think I've covered most of "What do you think this adds to your marriage?" before, aside from the whole, y'know, not having the single-relationship-plus-others model in the first place and not pursuing relationships for spicing.

And nobody comes right out and asks me how often I have sex, so I can't disabuse them of their notions of vast orgiastic parties every evening. I'm pretty sure my imaginary self gets laid a whole lot more than I do, and in much more exciting ways. I'm okay with that.

(Then there are the 'questions people don't ask but probably should instead of just running on the assumption that they know the answer', like, "Are you hitting on me?", "Are you into casual sex?", "Are you bisexual?", "Are you looking for someone new right now?", "Are you trying to convince me that I should open my marriage?" Sigh. I mean, some of the comments that come in on that are just plain intended to be nasty - the one I remember was full of how clearly emotionally unstable I had to be to be 'sleeping with all of these different people'.)

The whole illusory assumption thing is wearying, really. It's hard to be funny about it in the long run, just because of being imaginary all the time. It'd be nice to have a bottomless well of funny to throw at some of this stuff, but instead I have a bottomless pit of aggravation, occasionally leavened with funny.

13 July, 2009

More Heat Than Light

Recently, a friend of mine posted to a local board looking for a roommate. Like people who do that sort of thing will do, she posted about what she was looking for in a roommate - which happened to include not having children.

And there was a resulting kerfluffle, in which one person replied suggesting (after some 'people who don't want to live with children are defective in some way' and 'why aren't you willing to modify your landlord's property to be more childsafe?' comments) that this was the sort of thing they expected of polyamorous people and their dubious state of priorities, that they'd rather have their orgies than have children around.

And I'm sitting here consulting with the belly, hey. Ha.

But seriously.

(Not even getting into the whole "... what the hell is wrong with not wanting to room with children?" thing here. I'm not capable of being surprised that a twenty-to-thirtysomething urban techie roomshare happens to have childfree people in it and, y'know, there's nothing wrong with reality here.)

This sort of thing just ... quietly exhausts me. In that 'nibbled to death by ducks' way. Because while it's not one of those Grand Oppression things, or even a major big deal, just the sort of wearing grinding everyday grit in the gears that means there's so much less available for dealing with the world. Emotional entropy, lost as heat.

I'm coming to think that this is one of the hardest things to convey about being one-down (or more-down) from normal in the social ranking thing. The way that ... it's not always someone's kids being taken away, or an eviction notice, or a punch in the face, or a death. And it's not always the major setups that say, no, you can't get married, or no, you have to decide what's safest to mark down on this form as your sex, or having to go the long and ugly way around for an accessible entrance, or all those other things that are the legacy of a system passively constructed in a manner hostile to people like you.

It's the middle stuff.

The stuff where it's clear that someone's basically hostile to people-like-you, may not have the power to do anything significant with it (though oftentimes, horribly, these people do) but just want to make sure you have an emotionally difficult day. A little more stress, a little more awareness of hostility, maybe even a little less safe.

But oh, it's just some person on a forum, or some overheard conversation, or something like that. It's not like it's hurting you, people will say; and it's not like it's the system keeping you down, the system isn't alive and argumentative like a person, so it's safe to rail against. It's just ... a little more friction, not anything worth paying attention to. Sticks and stones, you know, sticks and stones. This stuff isn't real, it's at worst a little friction.

But thermodynamics hits the emotions too. And the more the world wears away, the more people have to grind against these abrasive notions about who we are, for whatever values of who we are are being scraped at, the more just gets lost. The energy is gone, drifting away into nothingness, unrecoverable: the price of entropy. And that's energy that could have healed the world, maybe, or at least just been better able to deal with the real nasty shit out there, or the tedious grind of the impersonally cruel system.

I don't even know if I'm making any damn sense. It's not about being poly, or childfree, or anythign or everything else: it's about the hurt of being in a world where there's this constant exhausting pecking away, where any random person might just say something randomly hostile, where that's normal, unless one seeks communities specifically to protect oneself against that - and even there, there will be the moments that someone says something that grinds a little more grit into something the space wasn't defining as part of its protection.

Attacks I can deal with. Systems I can rail against and change.

People? People are harder.

02 July, 2009

Figuring Gender

I'm eight months pregnant and I finally figured out why it's so weird to me.

I commented the other day to a friend that my gender identity fluxes between 'none of the above' and 'yes'. It also biases to some flavor of 'female', I suspect because I'm cissexual. But under normal circumstances that bias is ... a bias, something that tints a bunch of presentations and adoptions that I think of and experience as some form of neutral, androgynous, epicene, or fey and reflects them out as female, which really doesn't bother me particularly, because it's just a tint, not a major shift.

Under normal circumstances, my body is my ally in this. It is thin, small-breasted, perhaps on the tall side, and I can specifically tell when it is moving in a manner that genders strongly female. The fact that my hair is ass-length does not mean that I have not been sirred from behind. The sort of neutral fluidity of my normal feelings about my gender can be smoothly expressed with my normal body.

One of the things with gender expression is the way that a part of it exists in the liminal space between my experience and others' perceptions. And it's there that the weirdness comes in.

Because no matter how I feel right now, my body screams female. (Even in a post-Thomas Beattie world. His moustache is rather more noticeable than mine.) I don't have the option of fluidity and flux, the normal slight shifts in how I present and feel that reflect my inner understandings of the lability of gender.

Because even if my pelvis were't tilted to shove my ass out as if I were wearing heels, even if one of my breasts weren't a Breast of Unusual (For Me) Size, even if I could walk without rolling of hips induced by the pregnancy waddle and favoring the pains in unmentionable places, I am twice as thick as I used to be, and it's all belly. That normally-approaching-neutral body of mine has no subtleties to mask the obviousness of my cis-woman status; I have no thickness to reduce the impact of the pregnancy.

That space between my feelings about how I am and the rest of the world is swamped with this figure that pins me down to a particular external perception of my gender that no longer can be affected by what's in my head right now. There's too much blatant baby there, and it's not just because I'm starting to feel it in my knees that I'm locked in. Whether or not I like it, whether or not I feel this way right now, I'm Presenting As A Woman - and further, a specific kind of woman.

And there have been times that it's been okay. Times that I've rattled around looking for a nice shirt that fits over the epic curve of that unsubtleness and declared that I was tired of feeling frumpy (as I've spent much of the last while in pyjamas and t-shirts, because they fit and don't require effort); but those times don't last long, and then I drift out of them again, into a spacce where the options are even more limited because all of the stuff in my head fits in a body without a baby in it.

And it's something I chose to do, and it's something I will almost certainly choose to do again, but when I do it again I'll at least know that I. Will. Feel. So. Weird. Weird and thrown a little out of myself, because my body won't do what I am properly anymore.

Somehow I don't think this is what most people are talking about when they stress about their figures during pregnancy.