Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Wallet Woes

I was working in The Store a few weeks ago, when a man approached Bonney to ask if The Store wanted to buy some books he had.  Mind, he didn't have the books with him, but he wanted to ask if he should bring them in.  She explained that we don't usually take used items (we joke with customers regarding our no-return policy, that we tried that "discount" table and it didn't go over well) but that we could still take a look.  Being that they were all BDSM books, and I'm apparently the resident BDSM expert at The Store, (and I think Bonney didn't want to deal with this guy), she sent him to me.

We found a day for him to bring in his books and then he needed to pick up tickets for the Southwest Gay and Lesbian Film Festival. 

"Okay" I said, "I just need to see some ID".

"Oh" said he, "Um, it's really hard for me to get my wallet".

"Well, take your time" I offered.

He started pulling at his back pocket, struggling with some unseen issue.  I busied myself with nothing in particular. 

His pulling and struggling became more and more dramatic.  He was practically hopping up and down when he bunnied his way around the table and backed up to me asking if I could just help him get his wallet.

"No, Sir.  I don't think I can".

"Please?  Could you just, unstick it for me?"

"Sir I don't want to touch your behind".

To be fair to him, he was wearing something on his belt that sat above half his back pocket, and sure, his pants (Dickies?) looked a little tight in the gluteal region.  I still don't see why he couldn't stick his whole hand down behind the wallet to smooth out any catches and just pull it out. 

He did finally liberate his wallet. 

He never came back with those books, though.  I wonder if he realized what a creep he was being.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

With No Love, From Me

I was Stumbling around the internet, which I do whenever I'm bored or stressed out.  I have humour listed as one of my interests; and so it brought me to a picture of someone's facebook post, and it was entitled "This kid knows what the fuck is up."

The post itself explained that a young man was accused of judging girls on what they look like and what they wear as opposed to personality.  He countered that he'd start judging girls on personality when they stopped "caking on the makeup and wearing low cut shirts".

Well, you know I just had to say something about this.  First I "disliked" the page.  But that wasn't enough.  I made a comment, trying hard to make it palatable.  This goal of mine (to make things palatable) is probably the one attribute I have that frustrates me the most.  Why?  Because this is what I wanted to say:

"You stupid asshole.  Whether or not you treat women in a polite or respectful manner is not dependent on what her body looks like or how she presents it.  Period.  If you saw a woman with 36-25-34 measurements running down the street naked screaming crazily at you and wielding a chainsaw, would you primarily stare at her breasts?  Get a boner?  Say to her "hey, you look fine" and then use one of those terrible pick up lines about her looking good in your bed?  Would you be more likely to say, run the other direction?  Call for help?  Get scared?

You are not a slave to your hormones or your peebrained, culturally endowed attitudes.  Grow yourself some decent values and use those like cojones.  I blame attitudes like yours for the assault and battery and rape culture we live in.  I hope you sit on the small end of an orange highway cone with a beehive inside."

Here's what I really wrote.  If there are more than one comment, look for mine labeled Kathryn 12/10/02.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Pushing It

A tip to those begging money: don't scare me.

Woe is yard work.  Especially, work that involves anything sticky, pricky, sharp or dangerous.  This is the sort of work that I'm already in a bad mood to do before I even begin.  And this is where I was when I saw him.

He was passing on the sidewalk, at first talking with someone.  They split directions at the corner and he continued.  On the sidewalk, he changed his trajectory like a billiards ball hit obliquely by the queue ball to walk across my yard on an intercept path.  When this happens, "on edge" is what you'd use to describe me.  I braced myself.

The man stood too close for comfort.  With alcohol enhanced breath, he was in my space and it was doing a number on my nervous system.  Electric fear pulsed through my body, which was caught in a power struggle with some reptilian part of my brain in the fight, flight or freeze response.

He asked for money.

He asked for a cigarette.

He asked if there was anyone in the house that smoked.

He asked to talk to them.

I just wanted him away from me, away from my home so I could breathe again.  I was telling him whatever seemed the most sure way to get rid of him, except... I couldn't bring myself to lie.

I refused him money.  I told him I don't smoke.  I told him that my "husband" smokes; and when he asked to talk to him, I told the man that he wasn't home.  He was persistent.  He wanted something; it seemed like anything would have done.  Suddenly, he decided he should leave in case my husband got home and witnessed him with me.

What?  What he was doing was unacceptable in the eyes of another man, but not for me alone?  Is this some weird, man-owns-"wife" paradigm?

This is arguably the crux of why women walking alone get harassed and women walking with men, on the whole, do not (get harassed by other men).  It seems that men find other men a challenge, some thing not to mess with, particularly when ascribing them ownership of the women they're with; whereas women alone are "fair game".

This mindset apparently has nothing to do with the concept that a woman might want or not want something and that that is important.  Crucial, in fact.  This is the mindset where women are things primarily, to be considered in relation to men, not independently.

Men (and sometimes women) seek and, all too often, push to receive.  Pushing: you are more likely to get what you want.  You are also more likely to get what you want from un- or less than willing parties who are often left feeling angry or scared or violated.  If this doesn't matter to you, there's a problem.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Pride and Consent

It's Gay Pride!  A time to be all colors, come out (no pun intended) to be who you really are sans shame, remorse, regret.  People show their fabulosity to the extreme, bringing out their best self, and talk about love as an encompassing, open to all concept!

I idealize Gay Pride.  Truly, there's more of the American cultural norm at Pride than I'd like to admit.

It's Friday, and I'm at work.  Bonney* and I are talking about working the store's booth at the Pride Festival and appropriate dress for the occasion.  I relate that I had this conversation with Bear* and we'd agreed that wearing a rainbow bikini top would be appropriate, except I don't have one.  Bonney responds "Oh, well if you wanted to wear those rainbow pasties at Pride, the store could comp them to you."  Sweet.

Now it's the morning of Pride, and I'm trying to get my fabulous on.  I've read the directions on the back of the pasties package, applied them thusly, donned my short shorts with my silver belt and I'm just working on my eye make-up.

There's a knock on the door.  I've been waiting for my friend to arrive; and although I'm surprised she's knocking, I go and answer the door.

...Pasties at the ready, I'm certain the Jehovah's Witnesses at the door did not expect what they got from me!  I didn't expect them either.

Working at Pride Festival was an experience in staying on track.  I didn't expect the sort of attention my nearly-bare breasts attracted.  I suppose that's silly, but I'm used to and comfortable being undressed.  It barely occurs to me that it's different for others to witness.

When the first person asked if he could take my picture, I was surprised.  Why me?  It took me a moment to realize that what I was doing, is part of what people come to Pride to see and experience.  I was fine with that picture; and the picture after that too.  But after a while, I started feeling put out.

I was busy and kept getting interrupted.  I noticed myself, not looking into the camera while a picture was taken.  I was keeping an eye on my next move, our wares, our customers, and trying to be polite and efficient with those wanting photos.  When I went on break, I was concerned that I wouldn't make it to the HIV testing tent (where I have my yearly test) because of the photograph requests.  (Happily I made it, was the very last test of the day, and met someone I hope will contribute to this blog.)

The attention I received that day came in three main categories: people who wanted a picture, people who wanted to tell me something because of what I wasn't wearing, and people who hit on me.  Several people wanted to commend my bravery, which was really in their own heads because you kinda' need to be afraid of something if you're going to be brave doing it.  One woman came on quite strong talking about how I am way too pretty to not have a girlfriend (she was assuming I don't).  I appreciated her directness and also wasn't interested.  One guy was clearly attracted to me but lacked social skills to be appropriate.  He hung around, and returned over and over, bending over the table running hands over his head and staring at me.  Despite some of these sorts of exceptions, most of the attention was positive to neutral.

Two exceptions stand out.  The first was being censored by a police officer.  I don't actually know what the law here says about dress.  I had assumed that wearing something to cover the nipples for women was street legal.  I didn't argue with the officer, I asked if I was mistaken about the law.  She didn't say, which suggests she doesn't know the law either, she only said it was a "family event" so I needed to cover up.  So, maybe the law is different when there might be minors in attendance?  I pointed out to her that those kids are going to have breasts someday too (at least half of them).  She wasn't impressed.

I was pissed.  I wasn't being inappropriate with kids; I wasn't jiggling my breasts in any faces -kids or otherwise.  Kids should get to know what bodies look like in non-sexual ways.  And many of these kids used breasts as a food dispenser early on.

I felt she was telling me that there was something inherently wrong with or shameful about my body.  That they shouldn't be seen, because they're offensive.  And this is a tough call because there are plenty of times I don't want to see someone's body.  I don't want to see the body of someone I don't know when there's any air of sexual request.  And also sometimes when I do know them.  That kind of situation happens often, and it's also really hard to legislate because it's about the energy of intent.

I can say that I didn't have that energy of request at Pride, but did people read it anyway?  Did the people who saw me that day, consent to seeing as much of me as they did?  Is it likely enough at Pride that one will see those sorts of body parts, to assume everyone knows that -and thus by coming out, they have given informed consent?

The other experience of note was when several women stopped by wanting a picture with me.  They didn't want to take my picture inside the booth where I was trying to work.  So, I stepped out hoping they'd be quick.  One of them asked me if she could touch my breast.  I was impressed, being as how a woman earlier had assumed she could grab me and surprised the crap out of me doing so.

I said no to this woman.  She pouted but contented herself with putting her hand below my breast in an imitation of touch.  The other woman who wanted to be in that picture, was disgusted.  She huffed and sputtered and whirled around to her picture taking friend and I heard something about how touch was naturally being offered because my breasts were visible.  A picture was taken.  I stepped behind the booth again.  The friend of the aggrieved woman ran back and shouted at me "Your titties are saggy!!!"

She wasn't trying to be funny; she was upset and trying to hurt me.  I fail to understand how someone can be so upset that they don't get to touch my breasts when the extent of our relationship has been seeing me and asking "hey, can we take a picture of you?"

Lack of understanding around consent and individual rights to one's own body is disturbing.  Seeing that lack of understanding in women, disturbs me especially. There's a certain assumption that women will understand this issue, and it is proven to me time and again, that this isn't true.  The messages she's swallowed about behavior and power make her dangerous to herself and others.  And particularly, she's probably not a friend or mother or daughter someone could go to when assaulted and get support.  This is someone who thinks that what you wear matters, that it dictates the choices of other people who are apparently brainless automatons incapable of self awareness.  Here's a nice, concise way someone else put this issue:

Consent is a bigger issue than most of us like to think about.  It's not about rape and sexual assault, that's where you see it addressed most.  Consent is everyday.  And it takes a beating in so many ways so often, we're inured to it.

How about the online form for opening a bank account that required your phone number and then told you that, when you gave it, you're consenting to have them call you or text you whenever they want regardless of cost to you?  That's called coercion, and it goes hand in hand with consent violations.  What about the exuberant dog someone was walking while you took your morning constitutional, and they allowed it to jump on you and drool excessively?

We don't dicker on these things.  We're not personally offended, or we don't know how to make a complaint, or the violation or threat thereof is minor.  But if we take the time to think on it, could we make boundaries easier for others and ourselves?

What about those Jehovah's Witnesses?  Did they consent to seeing that much of me?  It's the dream of many to do something funny, ironic or rude to those who bother us at our homes.  And this is often justified by pointing out that "they started it!"  For instance, one might say that I didn't consent to have them proselytize me.  And therefore, my possibly shocking appearance to them is justified.  Tit for tat (until the whole world is blind), to mix quotations.

I don't mean to lessen the seriousness of consent violations with examples that ring less personal.  But by becoming aware every day of small ways we feel uncomfortable with being pushed, forced, coerced and bullied, we more easily identify the feelings associated with consent violations.  It scares me that violence between people is so veiled.  In a recent study in Britain, of girls 13-18, more than half of them have experienced sexual violence at the hands of a partner and thought it was normal!  I think the scope of this study was too small to make generalizations.  However, this seriously rings true for me in my life and of women I have known.

Let's be clear, violence between people is a problem, seeing it as normal is a problem, and not understanding basic tenets of consent is a problem.  Let's do our homework and become aware, if not for your sake, then for someone you love.

* Names changed as usual

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Wisdom to the nth Power

I've flown up to visit my mother, but ostensibly, the real crux of my work has been cleaning up the house such that my mother can come home from hospice.  Real kudos go to my sister, who will be living here and taking care of the mother.  We've both been working on the house.

My mother... well, I can't say she's actually a hoarder.  She doesn't collect Barbie dolls in their original packaging.  She doesn't have a newspaper fetish.  She does have massive amounts of knick knacks, tons of unsorted mail and enough furniture to redecorate the white house.  Okay, that last bit might be an exaggeration, but seriously, there's a lot of stuff here!

I told my sister some time ago that I would sort through papers.  She was all a fan of this because she doesn't mind so much dealing with stuff.  And I may say, we have made a lot of headway.  That is, until yesterday...

Yesterday the medical equipment guy came.  I expected him to move the hospital bed from downstairs, to upstairs, and he did!  He also dropped off: a walker, a wheel chair, a concentrator, a mobile oxygen unit, another mobile oxygen unit, a back up oxygen unit (looks like a huge helium tank), a commode and a trapeze bar apparatus (in case mom wants to practice a new career move in her spare time).

This unleashed a miasma of brain fuzzle for me.  I don't know what it unleashed for my sister, but worry seemed to be present.  Mom was due home at 2 and this was 11.  We couldn't move in the living room, nor could we get from one end of the main floor to the other without a pole vault.  Not a great place for a woman who can't walk without serious assistance and prayer.

Well, we got her time moved back to today.  We busted ass getting everything arranged into a traversable semblance.  And then, it came down to little collections of flotsam mom has dispersed amidst the flood.  This is where it gets ... creepy.

Sorting through tiny container after tiny container, I've come across archaeologically interesting pieces, such as erasers, bandaids cut in half length-wise, an ancient palm pilot, emory boards, eye of needle, tongue of shoe... and a tiny container shaped like a molar.  Gosh, who could resist?  What would be inside a tiny tooth box?

If you guessed teeth, you're quicker than me.  Somehow I really didn't expect to find teeth inside the tooth box.  Not only are they teeth, but one is a gold crown with the tooth still inside.  And the rest, still have bits of ruddy detritus where I can only imagine bits of my mother are left, dehydrated upon them.

This was moderately gross.  I mean, I got nothing against teeth, but it's just before breakfast and I wasn't expecting it.  I moved on, sorting e-cigarette butts and pill cases, with only a slight shudder and loud exclamation.  Until I came to a small manilla envelope marked "kls".  These are my initials.  Gosh, what could be in this tiny, bulging envelope that has to do with me?

If you guessed teeth, you're gross and right.  There, all four of my wisdom teeth, laid out crown through root, for me to view.  What is going on with all these teeth?  Glech!  And *sudder*

Sunday, March 11, 2012

They Only Want Sex

I've lived in Albuquerque just over a year.  In that year I've been scared, concerned, mystified and sometimes creeped out by cars approaching me, slowing down, pulling over, honking at me and/or the drivers looking intently at me, or rolling down windows while I am walking at night.  I've written about it here before (Going My Way? Hablas Espanol?), though I've noticed it far more times than I've written about.  Friday night... I figured it out.  They think I'm a prostitute.

Okay, I admit I feel a little silly taking a whole year to infer this.  I guess hooking just isn't on my mind a lot.  But I saw it all in action Friday night.

Guess where I was!

If you guessed waiting for the #66 bus, you are right!

Friday night was cold, windy and generally miserable.  A woman stood on the corner.  She looked Hispanic, her dark hair pulled back severely into a pony tail.  I was pretty sure from the start she was a prostitute.  It's not an uncommon place for me to see prostitutes.  She wore no obvious make up, a shapeless coat and regular pants.  She was talking to a guy who was perhaps her roommate? Pimp? Boyfriend?  A white SUV turned the corner onto Cardenas and pulled ahead far enough to not be seen from busy Central Ave.  The woman walked back to meet him.

Just after that I saw a police car turn up Valencia, one block down from Cardenas.  I winced thinking of the whole thing as a set up.  The roommate/pimp/boyfriend saw too.  "Aw shit" he said.  "You better go save her" I offered.

He yelled to her to get away, something about the cops and a few choice words about the urgency of the matter.  She stalked back looking fit to kill.

"Why'd you do that for?" she yelled.
"D' Fuckin' Cops!!!  They just turned up there!" he yelled back.
"I was gonna take 'im to th' apartment!" she countered.
"Well, den fuckin' GO to the apartment!" He was perhaps a little ticked at his reception for trying to do something nice.
"You lost me my Fuckin' Lick!" she accused.

(Is that what we're calling a trick now?  Or was she planning only a blow job?  Anyway, thanks for the vocab lesson.)

They both stalked off together after that, maybe going to 'th' apartment.'  I waited on for the bus.  Soon, a light silvery sedan pulled up to the stop sign at Central and Cardenas.  The driver was a white man, with a shock of white hair; his skin sagged slightly.  Had I been close enough, I imagine he had blue eyes.  He waited at the stop sign a bit too long, staring at me, beckoning with a very slight but unmistakable head movement that I should join him on the passenger's side. 

It was my "a-ha" moment.  Light shone down from unseen celestial bodies, giving my mind the glow of enlightenment.  I stared back at him, bemused and enthralled.  It seems he couldn't figure out if I was or wasn't going to join him.

I recognized at this point how media has ruined me for my expectations of hooking.  Why didn't it occur to me before that drivers were presuming (or hoping) that I would sell them sex?  Because I never felt I was advertising.  I mean, you want to sell something you have to advertise right?  I looked down at my current advertisement: large, shapeless dark brown hoodie; a multicolor/green turtle fur head band; a large red, wool scarf; fashionless white sweatpants (they weren't gathered at the hem, but still, not hot at all); and black leather gloves -the kind that look like severed gorilla hands.  Pretty Woman I was not.  More like the colorblind-stay puffed-michelin man.  I wondered briefly if I should don a neon sign advertising as how I am actually not selling sex.  "Not for Sale" or "I don't do it for money" or "I have syphilis AND herpes."

I want to be clear.  I don't have a problem with prostitutes.  I wish prostitution was legal.  I have a problem if someone is forced into it.  I have a problem with people being unable to be honest about it, doing or seeking.  I have a problem with people getting hurt by doing it, buying it, or being sexual with someone who has come away with more than s/he bought.  I have a problem with the amount of resources that are taken by prosecuting and holding prostitutes, also circumstances that give people such limited choices for income that they might turn to prostitution without wanting to.  Still, it's an age old profession and not one that needs to be as dangerous as it currently is.

I admit, as I have had some trouble finding steady work, having someone practically offer me a job was tempting.  I wonder what going rates are these days?

But my realization is enough for me. 

I stood somehow warmed and set apart, that roaring and turbulent night, by my recognition that cars pulling up to me in the night are probably not looking to kill me or kidnap me.  This is, ironically, what I smiled about then, when the next car driving past me, honked and the driver looked expectantly in his rear-view mirror.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

If I'm Not Warm and Fuzzy, Am I Cold and Prickly?

It's a curious relationship we humans have to our cultural status quo.  Some of us are aware of norms that are manufactured by society.  Some of us disregard some norms.  Some of us take them as read and believe in them without separating them from the fabric of life.  

Today I'm interested in the expectation that women will be friendly, and what it means when a woman is not. There's a difference between a woman being unfriendly and a man doing so.

How can we know there's a difference?  Well, there's your own, non-scientific research where you watch social interactions and compare... but luckily there's plenty of scientific research on the subject of gender differentiated friendliness.

I wish I had access to a college library system for this.  But some very quick searches (on the google) do reveal scholarly articles on the subject.

The first thing I noticed in my google search was that the bulk of the studies I found were based on the hypothesis that men misinterpret women being friendly as a signal of sexual interest.  While, my point isn't to write about sex right now, this indicates something important when men show negativity towards an unfriendly response from a woman.  (Sorry, apparently gay people are again left out of the mainstream of research on this one. Ditto transfolk.)  

Not to be outdone there was this article (supposedly based on a study though they don't mention which) that tells women and men how to be hot:

Guess what the results are!  Women: be friendly, Men: don't be friendly.  

Whether this article is based on good scientific data or not, it's important for another reason.  It really shows what is expected from society because it's written from a social interaction perspective by people in this society.  Even if they're just giving us opinions... this is an opinion that's out there in force!

That article has this to say about the "happy/friendly" display:
"Happiness appears to convey femininity and low dominance to both sexes. It also indicates sexual receptivity..."
And, under "what men find sexually attractive" they quote the study:
"A friendly woman is likely to be more sexually receptive than a high status woman. Men find appeasement in a woman more appealing than pride.
Indeed, perhaps because women are known to smile (the key behavioral component of the happy display) more frequently than men, happy displays have been associated with femininity." 

Speaking of smiling, I remember this particularly in readiness.  (That's where they stick you between kindergarten and first grade if you're not socially or mentally developed enough.  For me it was probably social; I hated kids, they hated me... it worked.) I would walk down the hall with a sour look on my face.  Maybe it was one of those "this sucks and I'm scared" looks... I don't know.  But I remember that the older girls (and sometimes boys) would pass me in the hall and smile at me.  This made me frown more because I distinctly felt that they were only smiling at me because their mommy told them to.  That and some of those boys were the same ones who were mean and boisterous on the bus in and I couldn't make sense of the disparity.

I know, you see why I was in readiness?  But seriously, the point is that friendliness is a taught skill.  And we teach it differently to boys and girls.

Given all this, perhaps not as a rule but as a general, the response I recently received to an "unfriendly" email I sent, no longer surprises me.  It does, however, make me sad. 

It started two Tuesdays ago.  I received an email from someone with whom I used to be intimate.  It had been a difficult relationship, lots of stops and starts, but passionate on my part.  It ended badly.  He tried to make contact about a year ago (4 years after the end of our initial relationship), but it was hampered when he stopped responding to emails.  I was a bit surprised to hear from him again.

Given our history, I wasn't inclined to be super warm and fuzzy.  He said he was interested in reconciliation.  (I eventually decided that I am interested in closure but not at the time I wrote this email.)  Here's the email I sent (note that what I refer to at first is my response to his question about what form I see the process of "reconciling" with him will take):

Well, I don't really.  Only because it's not something I'd thought about before you mentioned it.  If I understand you correctly (and do correct me if I'm wrong), you'd like to clear up old feelings that may still be lurking from the tough stuff we went through in the past towards the purpose of having a new relationship.  I am a little unclear what kind of relationship you're interested in.  You mention that we used to be friends and more and you'd like to be able to call me the same.  Does that mean you're interested in a sexual relationship again, or to have a friendly connection, or something different?

I will be kind towards you, certainly, without being unkind to myself.  As for a particular relationship (of whatever sort) I'm not sure what you can bring to my life right now.  I'm willing to consider that there is something you can bring to my life, and at the same time, you're right, there are misgivings left over from the past that make me hesitant. 

I am a different person than I was.  For instance, I'm more likely to see bullshit than I used to be.  I'm less likely to put up with it, although I am likely to be kind if I choose to point it out.  I'm less sweet (if I ever was) and more direct. 

If we're going to talk about stuff now or in the past, being direct and honest with me is the one thing that will make the biggest difference.  It's one of those things I understand why it's so difficult for a lot of people, what with vulnerability, not wanting to tip one's hand to the other person, potential hurts.  I can promise you that I will never try to hurt you but understand that you may feel any number of things that I don't intend.  And I know I'm hypersensitive to manipulation/dishonesty.  If I feel those things, I'm very likely to get clammy and retract and possibly even call it out -which can be tough because with stuff like honesty, it's my feeling and another person's word, and I hate conflict, but I've learned that sometimes I need to go through it.

I know I don't sound terribly friendly.  I don't mean to be unfriendly, only direct about what I need if we're going to communicate.  I am willing to be open about my feelings and what happened in the past so far as I remember it.  I'm not likely to go back, pick through past correspondence to point out some minute point.  That goes towards who's right, in my opinion, and I'm not interested in going there.

Let me know what you think, where you've been since I last knew or anything else you think is pertinent.

I'm not going to post his response because I think it would be terribly rude.  Suffice it to say, he sounded displeased.  He used phrases like "definite sharp edge" regarding my email and upheld ideas that might have been meant to garner some recognition that I wasn't playing by the rules, like by saying that he was holding the olive branch.  I think he also took my ideas about self protection more personally than I meant, saying stuff like he's not going to bullshit me.  I can see how that could happen, though I didn't mean it personally.

I find myself wondering if an email, like the one I sent, had been sent by a man, if he would have had such a censuring response.  I have no way to tell, but I was pissed.  There have been a number of times when I've stated clearly to a man what I need in any given situation and he takes great offense. 

My suspicion is that this all has to do with men feeling uncomfortable about lacking dominance in a situation.  This is not meant as an aspersion toward men; this is how men are trained to be men here.  Can you have two people be dominant at once?  If I'm strong (I'm not especially vying for dominance), does that mean he is submissive or weak?  Does submissive equal weak?  Can I state what does and does not work for me with strength without a man feeling that I'm creating a hostile environment?  

In my mind the ideal is that this sort of thing runs as a kind negotiation.  We don't have to be overtly friendly but be kind to each other and state clearly what will work for each of us.  I have a feeling that if I'd been able to say the content of my email through voice (preferably face to face), my tone would have been better understood.  That said, I think it's likely that if I'm going to state my position with strength and clarity to men, I'm likely to run into this a lot.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Power Play

I watch the city lights and stars respectively turn from tidy points of light to wild, elliptical snowflakes in the absence of my glasses.  The hot tub is a grand perk of the Santa Fe Polyamory meetings and, as usual, it's just me, listening to the desert stillness, hoping the heat and the dark night will steal away my hyper conscious activity.

It was a challenging meeting full of process and concern.  I found many things to say, but not spaces in the conversation to say them.  And I was tired.  And the gentleman beside me was chewing ice.  Yagh!

"Let's have people talk about some successful experiences!"  Janet*, our illustrious leader, invited.

Jared** starts excitedly.  "I had a successful time the other night, well, not like I got laid but..."

Got laid?  Your definition of success in dating is getting laid?

Let's be clear, sex can be super wonderful; as humans, we tend to like it.  It also has the effect of keeping our population populated, though it hasn't needed any help in that direction for a long time.  So what's the issue with equating getting sex with success?

Part of it is that it turns sex into a thing to be obtained, almost a commodity.  It takes sex off the table as something to be shared or worked towards by two or more people, and puts it in the sphere of the individual, maybe a competition or a game about how it can be obtained, which pits one partner against another, even unwittingly.  So what happens to that other person, or people, if one is bent on obtaining sex? 

There's also the idea that other lovely things that can happen on a date, don't count.  Something like personal connection, shared experience, good food... they just don't add up apparently.

Now, ask yourself what the purpose of a date is.  Got it?  Okay, now ask yourself what you think the purpose of the date was to the person you last went on a date with.  Do they match up?  Are they the same?  This brings us to my third point.

There's this concern about cross purposes.  I have no quibbles about giggle sex (sex primarily for the sake of sex).  If, however, one's goal is sex, why the date? Right?  Like, if two people have the same goal (to have sex) then the only reason to have a "date" is to talk logistics about barriers and what each of you likes/dislikes. (I don't, personally, call that a date.)

To me, "date" presupposes the possibility of a relationship.  If sex is the successful culmination of a date, then the goal, at least for someone, wasn't about relating.  That could be found hurtful by someone who assumed the date was about relating.  And actually, often is.

Okay, anyway, it gets better.  So, Janet is putting on a play aimed at sex education called The Vagina Penis Dialogues.  She brings out her home-made 6' vulva costume for us all to see.  The costume has an amount of EL-wire in it that lights up when you flip a switch.  She's fuddling trying to find the switch when Jared says "Give it to me.  I can turn it on with my tongue."

I've been thinking about this statement in the hot tub for the last 10 minutes.  Why is it that sometimes sexual banter about prowess is funny and acceptable and sometimes it isn't?  This was one of those times it wasn't.  But why?  We're friendly, sex positive people.  I keep thinking about it and can come up with at least 5 things he could have said, that would have had similar meaning but would have been funny, not creepy. 

This is what I think: when a man claims some sort of power (mastery, intense skill) over some part of inherently female sexuality it brings up associations relating force, power over, etc.  In a way someone is saying "I and my Penis are King!" through the associations one might give to power of a monarchy.

True power over isn't sexy.  Power with is.  And playing with power can be very sexy, and we only do it with people we already really trust.

This all comes down to familiarity.  How much do the people you're making this comment to, trust you already?  Perhaps for others in the group there was already a sense of trust built with Jared.  But not for me and since no one said anything to his comment, I'm guessing others didn't either.  Sorry, Jared.  Didn't work out for you this time.

*Janet not real name
**Jared also not real name

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

A Strange Case of Condiments in Flattery

At the Abq Polyamory meeting I made a mistake.  When Dallas* began introducing himself to the group, I made a joke based on that with which he opened.  He let me know that this was not in fact a joking time, that he was feeling some very deep and significant things.  And he did so kindly, and with concern for my feeling of horror that I'd just stepped on his deep and concerned emotions.  I was grateful.

I'd met Dallas one other time and hadn't been able to decide if I like him or not.  But whether or not I like him, I realized this night that I am attracted to him.  More on that later.

The meeting continued and had various threads of conversation.  At one point a few of us described why we choose the label "queer" rather than "bisexual", my point being that it describes more about me than "bisexual" ever could (as well as other reasons).

I approached him after the meeting in order to thank him for his care and kindness in letting me know how he needed me to respond to him.  He took my hands as I told him.  It felt close.  Maybe a little closer than I wanted, and certainly closer than I expected, but I decided he is probably someone who is very touchy feely by nature.  I can be cool with that.

After I thanked him, he wanted to talk about the term "queer".  I can't remember word for word what he said but it boiled down to asking if I really only get involved with women (no), and saying how much of a travesty it would be for men if I did because I'm so pretty and ... well, he went on.  He's still holding my hands.

I had no idea how to respond.  What was going on for me?  I'm sure my face was red; I was embarrassed.  I had these thoughts all in the space of a few seconds: "He thinks I'm pretty!", "Wow, he's too close to me", "Does he want something?", "Wait... a travesty for men if I was only into women???"

Do you see, dear reader, what again we have here?  This idea that, in some fashion, the role of a woman revolves around the needs of men.  That, and some blatant heterosexism whereby lesbians are just not as okay as bisexual or straight women (unless apparently they're ugly - right, prettiness is for men to enjoy). 

I'd like to apply two things I later heard to this situation.  One, a good thing to do if you wish to interest a woman in you, is to give her a sincere compliment and then WALK AWAY!  You see, she then doesn't have to stand there feeling awkward, thinking up a response, or -if you've done something like compliment her body- get uncomfortable knowing that you're looking at her.  It also gives her a chance to consider how she'd like to respond to you later.

The second thing is, perhaps we should try to offer only nice things in our compliments.  This compliment offered nice and icky things.  As a friend of mine told me upon hearing this story, "Wow, thanks for the waffle.  Did you have to put both syrup AND ketchup on it?" 

Yeah, syrup and ketchup.

*Names changed for the sake of decency.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Seen My Falcon?

I've just read this article (don't worry, it's short):

For those of you who are just not going to click the link, basically it suggests that in order to win the "girl of your dreams" you should, lie to her, lead her on a fool's errand and manipulate her.

It's probably supposed to be funny.  In fact, I'm sure it is because no one would ever actually do this.  But it's creepy too.

The line about asking her if she would help you look for your bird... does that ring a bell for anyone else?  When my mother was teaching me about Stranger Danger, she often told me that the "stranger" would ask me to help "him" look for his lost puppy.  Can't help it; when I read that line bells from my 6 year old brain resounded. 

Interesting too to think about what makes for a relationship when it was started by a rather large and ridiculous lie. 

I wonder at times at what people might say about my thoughts here.  "Can't I just, relax?  Learn to take a joke?"  Well, no, not in this case.  It may be shared as a joke but how often is it seen as acceptable to lie to people to get what you want?  And how often is it accepted to manipulate them, treat them like they are stupid or thoughtless, jerk at other's emotions for your own means?  It's more often than we all probably pick up on.  And making a joke as if that's okay, isn't going to help unless you follow it up with commentary about it's joke nature.