Monthly Archives: July 2012

Latest Celebrity Cheating Scandal That Could Have Been Solved by Nonmonogamy

In case anyone cares, Kristen Stewart (the vapid lump of clay from those bag-of-shit Twilight movies) cheated on her husband. Or boyfriend or something. Then apologized. Yawn. I only bring it up because this article brought up a good point:

What struck me about actress Kristen Stewart’s public apology for her infidelity wasn’t that it was a rare case of a famous female doing so — although that is notable. Nor was it the fact that celebrities are expected to issue public apologies about the most intimate aspects of their romantic and sexual lives – which is also remarkable. Instead, it was the language she used to explain the affair. She described it as a “momentary indiscretion,” which called up a host of post-affair cliches: “I made a mistake,” “It just happened,” “I wasn’t thinking,” “It was a lapse in judgment” – and so on….

“The chance to feel in love, to feel expanded in some way, to feel understood or intimate with another person, or to be sexual with another person, are powerful pulls for many people,” she says. But those pulls are harder to explain to the cheated partner. “Because of societal stigma around cheating and affairs, it’s also difficult for many people to say things out loud, and sometimes even to themselves, such as ‘I just really desired that person.’”

This is a really good point. The article also points out that cheating is very common, and is often due to the feelings described in the above quote. Those of us familiar with nonmonogamy are very familiar with those types of feelings. The difference is that we do say those things out loud, to ourselves and to our partners.

It’s sad that nonmonogamy is not accepted enough for it to be mentioned in an article of this type. It seems a glaringly obvious omission to anyone familiar with the idea. The assumption of monogamy is so strong that a person can say “it’s… difficult for many people to say things out loud” without suggesting that maybe a person ought to say things out loud, and have a conversation with hir partner about how best to handle each other’s feelings. The article makes it sound like feeling desire for someone outside of a relationship is an unsolvable situation. We know that it’s not.

“You’re Just Trying to Win the Argument”

Generally, I don’t like things that are good for me. I’m really envious of people who like exercise. I hate it. I like sports and games that involve physical activity, but I have real trouble motivating myself to do the exercise video that I do every morning. I’m only able to do it through a combination of bribing myself with television and discipline. Needless to say, I often fail.

One of the few things that’s good for me that I actually like is arguing. Arguing is good for you. Engaging in rational argument is one of the most important steps in rational thinking. We all have unconscious biases which may be completely invisible to us, but obvious to a third party. Submitting our ideas to criticism and rationally defending them is one of the only ways to expose biased thinking. It also has a chance of exposing us to new information or new perspectives that we hadn’t considered before.

I count myself lucky that I enjoy argument. Most people do not. Despite its virtues, engaging in argument, especially about things we consider important, can be daunting. Putting your ideas (especially controversial ideas) out into the world means exposing a vulnerability. Giving people access to your thoughts and feelings, especially when others are likely to disagree, is like giving someone a handbook on how to attack you. It’s scary.

It’s also scary because it puts you on the spot. Arguing about an idea means that you have to be able to articulate, in rational terms, why a certain idea is good, true, useful, etc. This, of course, is one of the reasons why argument is good for us. It’s a lot easier to justify something to ourselves than to articulate the justification to other people. Even if we get no pushback, just the process of saying it out loud often makes us look at our ideas from a new perspective. If we do get pushback, we’re forced to consider other people’s ideas, and answer their questions. It forces us to go outside of our own head and confront our ideas from another person’s perspective. If I can’t articulate a rational justification for an idea, I take that as an indication that my idea is flawed, or at least that I have some thinking to do about it.

Because I enjoy arguing, I do it a lot. I especially enjoy arguing about topics where my thinking is most outside the mainstream, as those are the topics where (a) it’s easiest to find people who disagree, and (b) I have the highest chances of being incorrect. The result is that I often find myself arguing about what honest communication really means, atheism, polyamory, and concepts like that.

You still disagree?  You must not be listening.Recently, I was accused of “just trying to win the argument.” It was not the first time, and I’m sure it won’t be the last. However, I feel it’s a very unfair criticism. For one, it’s an ad hominem attack, and has nothing to do with any of the points being argued. This is all to common in discussions online. People tend to resort to this sort of thing early and often on the internet, as if the only reason that you could possibly disagree is because you have some sort of character flaw which prevents you from seeing the undeniability of the point being argued. Another issue is that I’ve never seen anyone actually make a rational argument attempting to prove that my motives are questionable. It’s always just been tossed out as a way of ending the argument while simultaneously blaming me for perpetuating the argument. Implicit in this statement is the subtext that “if you weren’t just trying to ‘win,’ you would have conceded defeat by now.” It’s implied that the other person’s argument is just so devastating that to continue to disagree merely shows my closed-mindedness.

In reality, if I’m perpetuating an argument, it’s because I disagree with my opponent. Like I said before, I enjoy arguing. But I do not enjoy it when I have substantial doubts about my own position. When I have such doubts, I tend to take a much less confrontational stance, and view the conversation less as an argument, and more as a joint venture, where we’re both trying to figure out how to properly think about a concept.

Most of the time, I’m rather confident in my positions. As I said previously, I argue a lot, and I’ve heard all of the counter-arguments that anyone is willing to make to me. Chances are, if you’re arguing with me on one of the topics I mentioned above, I’ve heard your argument before, and I have a counter-argument ready. Not because I want to be ready to win arguments, but because, if I didn’t have a convincing counter-argument, then I would probably not disagree with your position. The fact the I’m arguing against your position is evidence only of the fact that I disagree with you. If I wanted to win, there are better ways to do so than arguing rationally:

If I’m making a rational argument, it means not only that I disagree with you, but that I respect you enough to think that there’s a chance that you have something to teach me.

ZOMG OTTERS!

I know there was some pretty intense debate on this post as to which was cuter, otters or pygmy marmosets.  I think I have found a photo to end the debate:

The dual, simultaneous, equiversal kisses planted on this lucky otter by his two best friends.

That otter in the middle is so happy!  Also, just so this is somehow relevant to the general subjects of this blog…um…something something polyamory is awesome, clearly…something something.  Oh, who cares.  Can you even stand the cute?  It’s almost too much for me to handle!

I found this picture here.  You should really look through all the pictures.  I was in a low mood and now I’m definitely not!

How to Become a Secure Person according to Franklin Veaux

Franklin Veaux (everyone’s favorite poly writer/activist) on How to Become a Secure Person:

I’ve talked to a lot of people who say things like “Oh, i could never be polyamorous; I’m just a jealous person”–as if being a jealous person were some matter of genetics, something over which we all have no control, like being born with blond hair or…well, no, people actually think they have more control over their hair color than over their own conceptions about themselves, which is interesting.

Let’s say you went to a piano concert. Would you say that the pianist up on the stage was “just a good pianist,” as if that’s all there was to it? Hell, no–and if you did, she’d likely punch you. You get to be a good pianist by long, hard practice. A good pianist is made, not born.

The same is true of being a secure person–or an insecure person. People are accomplished at being insecure because they practice being insecure. They practice diligently, every day, for years; it’s no wonder they’re good at it.

As with most of Veaux’s writing that I’ve seen, this post is excellent.

Yakety Yak, I Will Talk Back

I remember years ago when the book, The Rules, came out.  For those of you who don’t remember, The Rules was a book about how to get a husband.  It was based on the idea that men pursue women, so you have to present yourself as someone worthy of pursuance…by, apparently, playing hard to get and being manipulative.  I never read it and just remember hearing some of the advice and a lot of it sounded quite dishonest and counterproductive to a fun, healthy relationship.  Some examples include never, ever being sexual within the first three dates, not visiting the man in the long distance relationship until he has visited the woman three times, and breaking up if he hasn’t proposed before the two year mark.  Basically, The Rules turn finding a long term relationship (and finding one that necessarily results in marriage because marriage is the only way to legitimize a relationship) into a stressful, dishonest, manipulative game that you win by being vague with communication and, as the woman, denying yourself what you actually want to do.

A lot of people have scoffed at The Rules because they generally sound pretty ridiculous to anyone who has been lucky enough to find satisfying relationships or to women who don’t want to play into the gatekeeper model of being female.  At least amongst the people that I have generally spoken to about such things, it is generally accepted that hemming and hawing about whether or not to call someone or if you should wait to be called is dumb.  If you want to talk to someone, call them.  Then it’s on them if they want to refuse you.  I’m not saying that it’s easy all the time to be an asker and not a guesser, to be the one to put yourself out there, but ultimately taking that step will either allow things to progress further or end before things get too difficult.

The thing is that people behave this way in non-romantic relationships, too.  I spent a lot of time when I was younger trying to guess what people were thinking and wanting.  I would wait for them to tell me…but most people won’t say what they’re really thinking or what they want either.  So the result was that no one would be saying anything and no one would have any idea what was going on.  Then one day, a big fight breaks out because you were too dense to read their minds or something.  This is basically what highschool and college were like for me.  I spent a lot of time not saying what I thought about anything and then by the time I left I was so angry and bitter that most of my relationships from then were beyond repair (not that this is necessarily a bad thing…my life seems fine without those relationships, but perhaps my teen years would have been more enjoyable if I said difficult things more often to people who reported to care about me).  I also spent a lot of time observing how much people worried about every choice that they made when it came to social/romantic interaction.  Looking back, and comparing things with the reactions I see now, all I can seem to gather is that it is generally considered desperate or rude to actually say how you feel and what you think.  It is seemingly an accepted part of our society to sit there and worry constantly about everything and even when you are good at worrying and considering every possible ramification of your choice, you can still screw up and rudeness is close to unforgiveable.

Because the price of being “wrong” is so high, people just wait for everyone else to make a move, turning the entirety of social life into that same stupid, boring game.  How often has a person been angry at another person for something they perceived as a slight and instead of confronting the “offender” about it, the slighted person waits for the “offender” to own up to what they did?  If the “offender” has no idea they did anything “wrong”, why are they going to address it?  Yet when it finally gets brought up after time has allowed the “wound” to fester, tensions and emotions run high and an argument breaks out.  “You didn’t address this!!!” “I didn’t know it needed to be addressed…” “You should have!  It was obviously RUDE!”

No.  No, it’s not obvious.  It is only obvious if you say something and say something clearly.  Some people are not good at guessing.  In other cases, it is very difficult to guess because a lot of people are really good at hiding how they feel about something.  If you insist on waiting until someone notices that you’re having a problem, you will be often disappointed in people’s perception.  This waiting combined with mounting disappointment can lead to awful insecurity or passive aggression on your part and both of those things are toxic.  Saying how you feel or expressing worries can be very hard because the ultimate fear is that the worry is founded…but even if the result of the conversation is that your insecurity about a situation is based on reality, at least the conversation is happening.  By not initiating conversation when you feel uneasy about something, your mind has a way of making things worse.  For instance, I tend to project things onto people and I think many people do the same.  You see what you want to see.  You will find evidence to support your fears.  The only cure for this is to find out the truth from the subject of your uneasiness.  Finding out the truth may not necessarily make you feel better, but at least the bad feelings will be based on actual knowledge and not simply what you have assumed and cultivated.

To me the point of communication is not to reach consensus but to exchange information (factual, emotional, or both).  This is not to say that often when communication occurs consensus does not occur…quite the contrary.  When I bring up an issue, I generally hope that it can be worked out.  But the goal is to let the information be known by concerned parties (or parties who I think should be concerned).   If people commit to honesty once the conversation has begun, then the conversation will lead to a useful ending.  Please note that “useful” does not necessarily mean “happy”.  I simply mean that if people are saying what they really mean and how they really feel then decisions can be made based on reality.  No guesses.  This might mean the reconciliation is not possible.  So be it.  Sometimes things suck.  Sometimes you don’t get what you want.  Sometimes things go poorly.  But why is it better to not talk about it at all?

Over the past few years my disbelief in a higher power or an afterlife has really affected the way that I view the world and my place in it.  When I say that I only have one life to live, I’m not just throwing that comment away.  This is important.  This life that I have right now and for (hopefully) the next several decades is all that I get.  What good is it to waste it not speaking the truth when I have issues with people that I care about?  Because it might offend someone?  So what?  Then we can talk about the offense.  I have worked too hard to open up and start speaking my mind to close up again.  There is no use in it.  If you care about me then you will be open, honest and unambiguous with me.  If you do not wish me to be that way with you, then why are we communicating?

I am finally coming into my own.  It is not easy.  I think I’m experiencing some growing pains or something.  For the first time in a very long time I feel like I am right about some things and am willing to fight for those things.  And I might be proven wrong.  But I do plenty of dancing on the dance floor.  I don’t need to do it around subjects.  I won’t be successful every time I try.  But I’m going to try every time.

Someone on the Internet Is Wrong!

Brazen Bunny has a rundown of the worst relationship internet memes. My favorite:

No one can make you happy but me!

Read the whole thing for a good laugh. Worst. Wisdom. Ever.

Do not read this blog post!

Not this post. This post.

When I was an undergrad I came across the saying that learning a little philosophy leads you away from God, but learning a lot of philosophy leads you back. As a young man who had learned a little philosophy, I scoffed. But in later years and at least in my own case, I would come to see that it’s true.

I know, it’s tempting. Finally, You’ll be saying to yourself, finally an intelligent person with an understanding of logic and reason is going to present an actual argument for god’s existence! Don’t bother. Purporting to be the story of how the author went from being an atheist to rejoining the Catholic church, it’s actually just a long-winded, obtuse, particularly serious case of verbal diarrhea, consisting of equal parts name-dropping of philosophers and smug dismissal of “new atheists.” Containing a staggering 6,918 words (that’s 11 pages in size 12 font), it contains not one single argument. It’s mostly just a list of philosophers and theologists, and the author’s naked judgment of the soundness of each. What a disappointing load of crap.

(h/t: Andrew Sullivan)

Scarcity Value and Monogamy

If you are polyamorous, you’re no doubt familiar with the argument that polyamory “cheapens” love and/or sex. That is, if you love multiple people, your love is somehow less valuable than if you only loved one person. From an economic perspective, this makes a certain sort of sense. It’s basic economics that the lower the supply of any given product, the higher the value. In order to increase the value of a product, sellers sometimes try to artificially create scarcity. This is most famously done with diamonds, and it is also the justification for many intellectual property rights, such as patent and copyright. Think about it: if anyone could make an iPhone, supply would dramatically increase, and the price would plummet. The government grants a patent (i.e. a temporary monopoly) in order to allow the creator to control the supply, thereby driving up the price, and allowing the creator to recoup its R&D cost.

Under this theory, if your love* is reserved for a single person, your love becomes an extremely scarce resource, and thus its value increases. By making a monogamous commitment, you are pledging to restrict your love only for a single person, thereby making your love more valuable. The person receiving your love in this transaction receives a much more valuable resource than zie had before, and will be understandably upset if you break your promise in the future. From this perspective it makes perfect sense that married men are more attractive than unmarried men – as demand increases, so does value.

Dave Chappelle understands this, in the context of sex:

Relevant quote starts at 49:37

If pussy was a stock, it would be plummeting right now because you flooded the market with it, you’re giving it away too easy. I’m just being truthful. I’m just talking. It would plummet. You’d be watching the news, “today, pussy plummeted again on the nasdaq.” …This is the practical application of what I’m talkin’ about.

Polyamory is a threat to this transactional view. If, as we keep insisting, loving or having sex with more than one person at a time does nothing to cheapen the value of love or sex, then the above analysis must be wrong.

The main reason why the economic model doesn’t work for me is that my love is not a commodity**. To me, love is a self-replicating resource. Love is something that a person can give and give, and never run out. I’m delighted that polyamorous community has chosen, as its symbol, the infinity heart. To me, the infinity heart encapsulates the polyamorous challenge to the economic model. Our*** view is that polyamory cannot decrease the value of love, because love is infinite.

The other way the economic model fails is that love’s value is not determined by the market. Love (at least in my experience) cannot be bought or sold, and thus the market value of any individual’s love is irrelevant. The economic analysis is only useful in determining the market value of a product, not its intrinsic value or it’s value to any individual. The value of a person’s love, to me, bears no relation to its value to others.

Granted, it’s certainly an ego boost to receive the favor of someone highly discriminating, but I attempt to resist this impulse, as it relies on the economic model. I view it as similar to resisting jealousy. It’s a way to attempt to align my emotions with my rational understanding of the world and with my view of what the ideal person would feel.

I don’t see any other justification for how poly could “cheapen” love and/or sex. Do you?
________________
*thoughout this post, the word “love” is used to refer to romantic love.

** sex sometimes is a commodity, and I have no problem with that. Sex work is a big industry. I’ve never participated in it myself, but I certainly haven’t ruled it out, especially if I visit Amsterdam again. However, sex is not usually a commodity for me, so the analysis of love mostly applies to sex as well.

*** this is my view and the view of many poly people that I know, though not all, and it is not meant to speak for everyone in the poly community. Many poly people still place artificial limits on the love they are allowed to feel, or reserve other things only for the primary relationship to keep it “special.”

Sexnegativity and the Law, continued

Why violence, but not sex, is protected by the First Amendment.

The case eventually made its way to the U.S. Supreme Court. In 1957, the justices upheld Roth’s conviction, in a landmark ruling that obscenity is not entitled to First Amendment protection. The court said that the law had always assumed sexual material is not covered by the Constitution’s free speech provision, so its ruling merely codified that assumption. The Roth decision place d obscenity in the tiny category of exceptions to First Amendment freedom, along with incitement and fighting words.

My take on obscenity and violence here.

MORE Anniversaries? Perish the Thought!

I have always been strange.  I have always been on the outside.

No worries.  This isn’t about to be a post about how the band Staind changed my life or anything.  The only way Staind changed my life was by making me more aware of the popularity of whiny crap on the radio.  Then a Nickelback song came on saying, “I like your pants around your feet” or something and I thought, sarcastically, “Awesome.”

I’m simply pointing out that I have been askew.  Those of you who have been reading for a while know why this is.  It was, of course, both nature and nurture.  This bag of chemicals was destined for oddness and oddness was certainly nurtured in my household growing up.

But my oddness was inoffensive back then.  It was the kind of oddness that led people to label me as “so unique” and when people saw me wearing a ring with a big eyeball in it or something they would say, “oh, that’s so you” and it was up to me to decide whether or not that was a compliment.  I had friends who ultimately seemed to like me because they were relatively straight laced and they could show me off to their straight laced friends.  I was a sign of progress for them.  “See?  I have an interesting weird friend from the big city!”  I was a novelty.

As such, I have felt lonely a lot in my life.  I have always had friends, but I didn’t really connect with many people.  There is a difference between someone simply understanding you with little self-explanation and having someone look at you as a part of some sort of anthropological study as you explain yourself.  I never really felt a sense of community anywhere.  This has been a general theme in my life.  Often, I find myself thinking I might have found a place for me amongst people I hope are kindreds, only to find that we really are not.  I am, apparently, just too strange.  I can fit in anywhere with a little effort, but I don’t easily fit in everywhere.  This allows me to be successful in ways that people generally respect as successful, but it has meant that deep down I haven’t been happy a lot.

I have mentioned this before, I think, but I always loved the concepts put across in Kurt Vonnegut’s “Cat’s Cradle”.  Other than being a book about the end of the world due to an impressive world-wide chemical reaction, he invents a new religion, Bokononism.  A lot of its major tenets have to do with people’s group identities.  A granfaloon is a connection based on nothing of great consequence (we all like the same sports team or we all went to the same university) and a karass is a connection based on the matching of souls…fate, if you will.

Of course, I don’t believe in souls or fate or any of that, but I do believe that some people simply understand each other and if you are lucky enough to find even one person like that in your life, I feel like you have really managed something.  I feel like this accomplishment, this lucky thing, is something to be appreciated and cherished because very little else matters ultimately.  What good is success of other kinds if you have no one to share it with and no one to understand why a particular success is so exciting or why a particular failure is so devastating?

I have been very lucky in my life when it comes to people.  This is a fact I have only really become aware of recently, as I have also been pretty unlucky when it comes to people.  For every one person I have met who has brought me great amounts of joy there are ten people who have done quite the opposite.  This isn’t unique to me.  I would venture to guess that this is the experience of most.  In highschool I had the great fortune of meeting Peter and now 18 years later I am astounded that I didn’t truly realize how important the day we met was.  If I were to describe being in a karass with anyone, Peter would certainly be a member.  Our lives have been so intertwined without a lot of effort that it is clear that our paths are inseparable.  There have been long gaps during which we didn’t particularly see each other, but we would always come back together as though no time had passed.  I didn’t realize until recently how very unique this is and how important it is.

Similarly, when I met Kelly at my second internship, I thought little of it, but ultimately I stumbled into finding another person to understand and be understood by.  I never felt like I had to explain myself and yet she knew me.  We engaged in all kinds of silliness together (which we would still do if she were remotely close by…stupid Atlantic Ocean) and we never felt it necessary to explain why whatever we were doing was awesome.  We just knew that it was.

When I got together with Wes I knew that I had found another person who intrinsically understood me.  I was an emotional wreck back then, but he saw through it to the person I was underneath all of that.  He understood why I felt the way I did and helped me to get out of it.  When I would explain myself, I knew that I was explaining it to articulate it to myself.  He already got it and was waiting for me to catch up.  I had never been so loved and so supported.  His blunt honesty, his insistence that we articulate issues (and that the conversation isn’t over until we have really done so), the way he never walks away are things that make a lot of people uncomfortable, but they were life saving for me.

I thought that I got so lucky with Wes that it was a ridiculous notion to think that there were more people to find who could make me feel so happy and well.  When we decided to open our relationship up after a philosophical discussion about the subject, I assumed that I would likely not date anyone seriously because I just didn’t have a lot of faith in people.  I still don’t and for pretty good reason.  Wes lucked out and met Jessie, a woman who, much to my surprise, was yet another person who seems to understand me very easily.  We were fast friends and I figured that I could only have so much luck in life.  I thought I might find someone entertaining here and there.  I did not think that I would fall in love.

And then I met Shaun.  We didn’t really talk the first few times we were in each other’s presence but when we finally got a chance to really have a conversation, the connection was pretty immediate.  When we started dating, I was head over heels for him in less than a month.  I felt ridiculous.  We both felt ridiculous.  There we were barely a few weeks into dating and we were wanting to say “I love you” but we felt like that was too fast.  We felt like teenagers or something and I was uneasy about it.  “I’m being foolish, right?” I would ask myself.  But ultimately I had to accept that it was so because it was simply so easy.  When I am in Shaun’s presence, just as when I am in Wes’ presence, I am me completely.  And neither wishes it to be any other way.

Today is Shaun and my one year anniversary.  For those of you keeping track, yes, I started dating Shaun a few weeks after Wes and I got married.  Polyamory is neat-o and that just makes July a month for wonderful celebration!  I am caught between two feelings.  On one hand I barely believe that it has been a year already, as I still feel great anticipation when I’m going to get to see him on any given day (of course, I still feel like that about Wes and it’s been 9 years, so I guess I just kinda, you know, like them and stuff).  On the other hand I think, “Has it only been a year?” and while we joke that this is because we’re sick of each other, it’s simply because it does feel like we have been together for a long time with the level of comfort between us and that when we explain ourselves to each other it feels like we are just confirming what we already know about each other.

I have been made aware very recently that I am, most certainly, an “Other”, but in a more seemingly offensive way than it used to be.  Even amongst “others”, I am a different “other”.  The way Wes, Jessie, Shaun, Ginny and I think about polyamory and practice it, our commitment to honesty, direct communication, and learning to navigate through other things that are difficult seemingly alienate us from communities.  In a recent discussion Wes, Shaun, and I were spoken about as though we were some strange culture in a remote jungle and I wanted to try an deny that we are so bizarre, that I have never felt so “otherly” in all my life.  Wes and Shaun both assured me that, “We are the others, Gina” and I realize that I have to accept this, but I am not alone.  Far from it.  And so, I have never felt more grateful for my strange little family than I do right now.  Sure, we are few, but what we lack in numbers we make up for in passion, love, and general awesomeness.

Happy anniversary, Shaun.  I hope for many more.  I thank you for a year filled with hilarity and adoration.  I thank you for your patience in explaining philosophical things to me when I have to admit that I haven’t read anything.  I thank you for reading Nietzsche to me while I baked Ginny a birthday cake, if only for the absurdity of the scene.  I thank you for the inspiration to be more domestic and attempt to not live in squalor (doing dishes sucks).  I thank you for arguing with me about subatomic particles and then admitting you were wrong about hydrogen.  I thank you for watching Zardoz with me and introducing me to “The Wall” and Upright Citizens Brigade and Archer.  Thanks for letting write on this blog thing.

And may the things that make us so odd become more part of the norm in our lifetime.  It’s a long shot, but a girl can dream, can’t she?