emanix: (emanix)
I'm posting this entry for the edification of new readers, as a flag to my important posts (at least the ones important to me), and a map of my world.

My name's Maxine Green. I'm an artist and illustrator by trade, polyamorous (and many other things) by nature, a scientist at heart, and an activist by accident.

My introductory post is here: Butterfly

A continuing series of scribblings about the things that are important to me:
Defining My Terms: 1. Bisexuality
Defining my Terms 2: Polyamory
Defining my Terms 3: Kink
Defining My Terms 4: Radical Agnostic
(because not everything is about sex)
Some More Definitions
Recipe for the Good Life

Original Essays/Articles:

SAMOTURE - or This is What an Activist Looks Like (2009-10-01)
Bisexuality & Statistics: Twice as many dates? (2010-07-16)
Secret Loves (why they suck) (2010-06-10)
The Emanixine Creed (2010-10-03)
The big, beautiful shiny rainbow of kink (A.K.A. there's no One True Way) (2011-04-25)
On hierarchies, relationships and cat ownership. (March 9th, 2013)
On how touching someone without asking is assault. EVEN IF THEY LIKED IT. (October 17th, 2012)
I Am Not Here For Your Entertainment. (The Story) (October 25th, 2011)
Self-Evident Epiphanies - Human Beings. (January 30th, 2011)
Hi, I'm poly and I don't exist. (August 1st, 2010)
Polyamory and Statistics, or “Why haven't we found 'our third' yet?” (September 8th, 2014)
. (.)

Resources:

Bicon Follow-Up - Poly 201 responses. (2010-09-05)
Bicon Follow-Up 2 - Recipe for Aloe-based Lube (2010-09-05)
Bicon Follow-Up 3 - SM/Breathplay, with link to Jay Wiseman's Essays (2010-09-05)
How to Be Trans-friendly and Subvert Crummy Gender Roles at the Same Time, in Five Easy Steps! (2010-04-07)
Legal Prostitutes Have HALF the Infection Rate of 'Straight' Population (2010-07-12)
'The Bastards! - A sympathetic technique for relationship harmony.' (September 27th, 2013)
More Bad Science - Contraception and Statistics. (a.k.a. Implanon Implants: They're Fine.) (January 9th, 2011)
. (.)

Some more "Me Manual" stuff:

Let's Only Date Grown-ups. (June 8th, 2012)
Form Letter (Response to idiots sending me form letters on dating sites and social networks) (October 23rd, 2013)
On Pain, Punishment and Perverse Incentives (February 3rd, 2012)
One from the Archives: Why I Love Techies. (November 21st, 2014 (Original, 2007))
The Penis Size Rant (September 18th, 2014)
Why My House is a Christmas Free Zone. (December 15th, 2014)
. (.)


No doubt I'll edit this further as new things occur to me, and as my essay series grows.

In the meantime, enjoy!

M.

x
emanix: (pink hair)
"Having needs doesn't make you needy. It makes you human. Just thought you should know."

A friend posted the above comment on Facebook today, and while I think I am fundamentally in agreement with the spirit of the statement, I am twitchy about the use of that particular word, 'needs', and have been for a long time. I do want to say that *wanting things* does not inherently make anyone a bad person, or needy, or whatever. To want is very definitely human. On the other hand, the word 'needs' as used to describe relationship requirements or even very important and urgent wants always gives me a little shudder because it is such a fuzzily defined term the way most people use it, and I have seen it very badly misused in the past.

Sure, everybody has needs. Food, water, shelter, basic medical care, y'know... the sorts of things that make us Not Die. But using the word 'needs' to mean 'minimum things I want in a relationship' or simply 'things I really really want right now' has always struck me as somewhat blackmailish, because it raises requirements within one particular relationship to the level of things that are non-negotiable for survival, which - and folks may certainly disagree with me here - in my opinion, they aren't. However much I might value my chosen family and the relationships I have built in and around that, the basic unit for survival is the individual, not the family, and definitely not the relationship.

Using the word 'needs' to describe any expectation or desire within a relationship seems to me to demand that a specific person (or sometimes in poly a small group of people) should meet those 'needs' whether they want to or not.

I strongly feel that romantic relationships are voluntary and therefore all aspects within those relationships should be voluntary as well (beyond the basic minimum level of respect that we should all have for our fellow human beings, of course). Not everybody has them, not everybody *should* have them. Ultimately where we are talking about the emotional aspect of a relationship, everyone is responsible for meeting their own needs or that aspect of the relationship is no longer voluntary and therefore, I would argue, neither is the relationship itself.

If I'm not able to satisfy what all of my partners *want* right now this minute, or vice versa... well, sometimes them's the breaks. We can't always expect our partners to 'perform' for us on every level. On the other hand, if I am not able to satisfy my partners minimum relationship requirements, or if they're not able to satisfy mine, logic says that we should dissolve the relationship. Whereas if the word 'needs' is used, the implication seems to be that if I am not able to satisfy my partners 'needs', I am a Bad Partner(TM) and should step up to the plate, whether doing so works for me or not.

I am probably extra sensitive to this because I had an abusive relationship in the past where my partners 'needs' were used as levers to demand more and more from me that I wasn't actually prepared to give, on the basis that *I* was a Bad and Abusive Partner(TM) if I didn't provide for them. How awful a person was I, to ignore things that were stated as NEEDS? Even if those needs effectively negated anything I might ever want out of that relationship myself, and even if those needs were things I would have stated as outside the remit of that relationship had the request been made in any other way. I was *needed*. To say no would have put me in the wrong, no matter what was being asked.

Everyone deserves to be able to ask for what they want in relationships, but every single person also deserves to set the terms of their own relationships, and not be hung out to dry if what they are able to provide is not the same as what the other person in that relationship wants, however those wants are stated.

I mean, how unreasonable would I be if I was to say "I need you not to use the word 'needs' ever again"...?

How do you folks feel about this question? Do you have different ways of defining the word 'need'? Do you love it, hate it, feel neutral about it? If you use it, what do you mean by it?
emanix: (emanix)
I have seen a couple of articles recently with a very similar theme: Porn is bad because well... it's bad, mm'kay. And also kids might see it.

I'm not going to address the question of whether porn is 'good' or 'bad' for adults (I think the answer, as with so many things, is somewhere in the region of 'it depends'), but I made a couple of comments on facebook in discussion about these articles specifically regarding children's access to pornography that I wanted to retain for later use, so I'm going to publish them here to refer back to.

---
[Comment one]
Critiquing the existence of porn by objecting that children might see it is like criticising the existence of cutlery because toddlers might hurt themselves on it*, or of horror films because underage children might see those too. Yes, it happens, and sensible folks should take precautions against it happening, but kids are not the target market for porn in the same way that toddlers are not the intended market for knives, or for horror movies.

On the whole the folks who make porn are also in agreement that it's not intended for children, and take steps to avoid it. The people who make porn easily accessible for children are the people who steal it/share it/pirate it, and not the people who make it. Nobody is making porn with the *intention* of kids seeing it, so I think that 'what about the kids who see this?' is not a terribly useful criticism of its content, or of the industry itself, only how it's distributed - and again, that's usually more down to folks other than the makers and publishers of said porn. I think most folks would quite rightly be annoyed at someone leaving knives around where kids can get at them, without blaming the person who made the knife, or trying to ban the manufacture of knives outright. We can accept that there is an appropriate place for knives, and for horror films. Why is the same standard not applied to porn?

On the other hand, I'd far rather kids were watching people having a nice time with each other than, for example, people being beheaded - which is apparently perfectly acceptable in mainstream TV, even before the watershed, while images of naked people enjoying themselves are not."

*By comparing porn with knives, I am not saying that I think porn is 'dangerous', just that neither is a tool intended for children (and it was the first analogy that sprang to mind)


---
[Comment two]
Coming back to this after pondering for a few more hours, it follows that tightening up on copyright infringement would probably have a far more pronounced effect on reducing children's access to pornography than any newly created obscenity laws, but to do so in a way overtly linked to porn would probably be political suicide as the government would be accused of protecting the pornographers' interests. Bah. Politics is rubbish.

---

So is that the answer to kids accessing material not intended for them? Tightening up on copyright infringement? It's already 'wrong', but currently it's a civil lawsuit and not a criminal one. What would be the impact of making copyright infringement a criminal offence, and would it be effective without international cooperation? Would a public organisation chasing down incidents of copyright infringement help or hinder artists? Would it cost more or less than hunting down 'obscene' materials? Who would get caught up in the collateral damage?

What other ways exist or could exist that might be more effective in preventing children from accessing material not intended for them?

I don't have the answers, only lots more questions, but I think these are more important and relevant questions to be asking than simply 'Why don't we ban EVERYONE from watching porn in case children also see it'. Or you know... while we're at it, we could ban kitchen knives, alcohol, all prescription drugs ever, heavy metal music, horror films and the manufacture of cars, too. After all, everyone knows that children shouldn't have access to those...
emanix: (emanix)


Polyamory is often defined as the practice of engaging in multiple romantic or sexual relationships with the consent of all the people involved.

I think that while that definition is a reasonable one, it doesn't convey the way that polyamory has, for me, opened up an entire new spectrum of potential relationships, of new ways to relate to other people.

Our 'monocentric' or monogamously oriented culture offers a fairly simple view of relationships. The path is laid out for us clearly by our friends, families and the media. We are expected to meet someone, fall in love, go on a few dates, move in together, settle down, get engaged, get married and live happily ever after. Some poly folks refer to this as the 'Relationship Escalator'. Once you are on the Relationship Escalator, a 'successful' relationship is defined as one that ends in marriage, and ideally children. According to this mythos, any relationship that falls outside this track is deemed a failure. For many polyamorous people, however, this is not the case. 'Success' in poly relationships is defined by the people in that relationship, and not necessarily by outside culture.

Just as the greeks had several different words for love, polyamorous people may find that they experience different kinds of relationship with different people. Certainly for some people, poly can offer opportunities for sexual exploration, but for others it can allow the building of close familial bonds, simply with more people. For yet others it can mean creating dispersed networks of long distance loves, and for some of us it means there is space for all of the above: Everything from occasional encounters and romantic but non-sexual friendships, all the way through to deeply committed live-in partnerships. The difference, for poly people, is that our relationship model doesn't tell us how to structure those relationships.

Some Different Styles of Polyamory



Some poly folks prefer to structure their relationships so that they still look very much like the Relationship Escalator model, only with more people in it. These people will still expect to meet someone new, fall in love, date for a period, and then consider adding that new partner to their existing household, before possibly making some sort of long term commitment or raising children together. In other words, it looks a lot like monogamy, only with more people. This is the version of polyamory most often seen in the media, since it is easier for those outside the community to understand and relate to, but it is far from the most common poly relationship structure.

More common in the polyamorous communities that I know is for poly people to form dynamic 'clusters', 'pods', 'polycules' or 'tribes' of interconnected singles, couples and smaller groups. Each relationship within that cluster may have different expectations. Some may be 'primary' style relationships with expectations about cohabiting, shared finances and child rearing (or as I sometimes call them 'Indoor Cat' relationships), some may be 'secondary' or 'satellite' relationships, or ('Outdoor Cats'), with romantic or sexual attachments but fewer shared commitments. Others may sit outside of those expectations entirely. Some poly people may share their living space with people who are not sexual partners, but who are still committed parts of their lives. Some folks may also choose to co-parent with people they are not romantically attached to, or with partners they are not cohabiting with, or pick and choose what aspects of a 'conventional' relationship structure they do and do not apply to each relationship.
Many polyamorous families with children are indistinguishable from the 'blended families' we are seeing more of in our society as a result of divorce (except usually less acrimonious!). Conversely, some monogamous divorced couples are nowadays choosing to build lifestyles that look remarkably similar to poly households, with ex spouses choosing to carry on house-sharing and co-parenting whilst dating other people. Labels, shmabels, eh!

Another, newer, phenomenon in the world of polyamory is the Solo Poly movement. Solo Poly people tend to live alone or cohabit with friends or roommates rather than with partners, and do so intentionally. Their relationships may be committed or not, sexual or not, romantic or not, independently of whether they are cohabiting with their partners. There is an excellent and more informative post about what Solo Poly is and is not here at http://solopoly.net/2014/12/05/what-is-solo-polyamory-my-take/

Where I personally stand is somewhere between those latter two styles of polyamory. Preferring something more akin to relationship anarchy to hierarchies, I like to let each of my relationships find its own level – looking for spaces to fit the people in my life rather than people to fill the preordained spaces. I tend towards the solo poly end of things philosophically. I prefer to keep my finances separate to those of my partners, to always have my own room and my own space. My relationships do not generally follow the Escalator model (several of the most important people in my life live in entirely different cities!). However I am not opposed to sharing living space with one or more partners, assuming we're compatible in that way, and I love the idea of one day building my own poly 'village' which I could share with lots of my partners and metamours. Experience has taught me that life rather often takes me in directions unexpected, however, so there is little I rule out, these days!

How Poly Can Make Different Kinds of Relationship Possible



For me personally, polyamory has made possible a number of relationships that simply could not have worked out in the world of monogamy, or at least with 'standard' relationship expectations.

Take my longest standing partner, for example: We're chalk and cheese in many ways. He is obsessively neat and ordered whereas I love my creative chaos, he loves to have the TV on all of the time whereas I find that it drives me nutty after only a short while, he wants to be interacting all of the time we're in the same building whereas I am more introverted and need to be left alone sometimes to work, or to think. He loves living in the city, whereas I'd rather be outside it these days. There are many ways, big and small, that we are not well suited to share space with each other, yet we have shared a deep, abiding and supportive love for the best part of a decade, have looked after each other financially, physically and most importantly emotionally. We have met each others' parents and colleagues and are firmly established as fixtures in each others' lives, but living together? The way I like to see it is that we love each other enough not to try to squeeze ourselves into that ill-fitting box.

Poly can also allow child-free people to maintain loving and supportive relationships with partners who want children, people with mismatched sex drives to stay in happy and fulfilling romantic relationships with partners they are otherwise perfectly suited with, and people in long distance relationships to find local companionship without harming their existing relationship. It certainly isn't a fix for every kind of relationship problem – far from it, but stepping outside the expectations of monogamy can make some things that would be 'deal-breakers' in a monogamous relationship much less of an issue.

I want to make it clear here that polyamory is NOT just about dating 'enough' people to make sure that all of your 'needs' are met. Known to some as 'Frankenpoly', the idea of adding all of one's partners together to create some sort of gestalt 'perfect poly partner' is flawed and somewhat objectifying. There are some important characteristics every relationship needs to have in order to be a functional and healthy relationship in itself, and the most important of these are compassion and a healthy respect for each other as human beings – not as 'needs fulfilment machines' as Tacit has often put it.

Polyamory has made it possible, too, for me and many other people to experience different sorts of relationships with people one might not normally be compatible with. Including, for me, an incredibly sweet ongoing connection with a young man who is otherwise only into men, and a cheerfully intimate friendship with a cheeky chap who tells me he is 'awful at relationships' mostly because of the nomadic nature of his work, but has been consistently lovely over 15 years of extremely intermittent occasional dates (I suppose I could call this man my longest standing partner but we have probably only spent a week together over that entire time, pleasant as it was).
Poly makes it possible to be a small-but-good thing in someone's life, and vice versa, without having to put any more expectations on that particular relationship. It has enabled me to play more relationships by ear, to 'see where things go', without feeling under pressure to find the one 'perfect' mate. With a rather beautiful irony, that has also allowed me to meet and develop strong relationships with people who turned out to be much larger features in my life than I expected them to be, whom I would have automatically discounted if I had been looking for a monogamous partnership, simply because I didn't believe we would turn out to be as compatible as we actually are.

Non-sexual Relationships and Poly



I want to add in a note here about asexuality and poly. It is an assumption often made by people outside of the polyamorous community – and even some people within our community - that poly is 'all about the sex'. The first page I came to when looking for a good definition of the word described polyamory as 'the practice of having multiple sexual relationships'. I personally would argue that the focus of polyamory, for myself and most of the folks that I know, is much more about the loving than about the sexual aspect of the relationship. Also while I do not in any way define myself as asexual, I have had (and still have) some incredibly satisfying romantic relationships that did not involve sex.
So I want to make it clear that yes, asexual people CAN have romantic relationships, which can also be poly relationships (although they don't have to be) – there is a lovely long 'manifesto' about asexuality and poly here by a blogger I just found when I was looking for references for this essay: https://transpolyasexual.wordpress.com/2014/01/30/my-ace-poly-manifesto/ - and polyamorous people can have romantic relationships that do not include sex. That too is another type of relationship that I firmly believe would not have been available to me if I had been monogamous, thanks to ideas about 'emotional infidelity'. As a sexual person, I could well have have had to choose between the deeper emotional connection on the one hand and a partner I could sleep with on the other. I am incredibly grateful that, thanks to poly, I do not have to make that choice.

I am clearly not the only poly person with a sexual orientation to appreciate the non-sexual opportunities my nonmonogamous relationship model allows me, as this post by The Ferrett shows too. http://www.theferrett.com/ferrettworks/2015/01/a-nice-thing-about-polyamory/

And last but most assuredly not least, there is another, more familial form of love I have found through poly: the love that I feel for my metamours, or my partners' partners. We may not have sexual chemistry (although the complexity of my network within the UK has before now resulted in the invention of the term 'lolomylo' or 'lover's lover who is also my lover'), but we invariably have more in common than just our mutual partner. We may not always agree on everything, but at the end of the day we are connected, by the community we are a part of, by ideology and by our love for our partners. Some of my metamours are also close friends, many of them are activists and, for me at least, being a part of my relationship network very often feels like being a member of a league of superheroes.

Much like this, in fact:



What About You?



In conclusion, being ethically non-monogamous has offered me and those close to me opportunities to build many different kinds of relationships and to tailor those relationships to suit our lives, our needs and our selves. Has poly opened up new kinds of love to you? If so, in what ways? Are there any kinds of love that I missed?

With love (of various sorts!),

Maxine.




[Edit 2015/03/06: Minor changes. Fixed a couple of typos and added in a couple of extra hyperlinks. Made headings more obvious.]
emanix: (emanix)
Find out why we call them 'unicorns'.



Edit, 1st October 2014 (Because I realised I hadn't properly defined my terms!):

In the poly community, a 'unicorn' is a somewhat tongue-in-cheek term for a single, bisexual poly woman willing to date both members of a couple, usually in an exclusive triad.

If that's what you're looking for, you may have already heard people tell you that what you're looking for is incredibly rare, and that it's going to be a long hard journey. Most folks just shrug their shoulders at this and say 'that's okay, I'll just keep on looking til I find it.'

So I took a look at just *how* rare finding a unicorn actually is, how many you're likely to find in your own social circle, and how long it might realistically take to find someone, as a couple, to fit you both.

Full disclosure: I am technically a 'unicorn' myself. As a poly bi woman with no formal primary partnership, I am hypothetically open to dating a couple (though the 'exclusive' part isn't for me). But how many times in my 20 years of dating have I actually met and fallen for two people who were also into each other at exactly the same time? Well, I'll let you know at the end of the essay!




As many folks who read my blog know, it is mostly used as a repository for essays on topics that I encounter repeatedly. I've been writing this essay over about three years, adding a tiny little bit every time I see some new person ask the same question, and if you scroll down you'll see it's a pretty long essay. Stick with me. It's worth it.

Everywhere poly and interested folk gather, I hear the refrain “Why is it so hard for us to find the perfect woman to date us both?” often followed up with some sort of comment to the effect of “There's two of us, so that should make it easier, right?”

Sorry, folks! The computer says no!

Finding one single woman (or man*) to date as a couple is many many many times harder than finding a different partner for each of you. And if we look at the finding-a-date process step by step, the numbers will tell you why.

Let's begin our step by step starting with the straight male member of a male/female couple (just for example), and throw some numbers in for illustrative purposes.

So, wannabe poly triad-building guy, let's say that most of your dating experience has been as a single person. That's great! You know how that works. You go out, go online, mingle with folks, you check women out and you see who you find attractive. Let's assume that's about one in ten, or ten percent of the women out there. Hey, you've got some taste, right? But you've already knocked out 90% of the dating population as possibilities. But let's carry on. Ten percent of the available dating population just happens to be your personal version of 'hot'.

Now, you already know how if you are single only a certain percent of the hot women in your dating pool are going to be interested in you. So let's say that maybe ten percent of those women that you find attractive are willing to consider dating you (obviously your mileage may vary, but 10% is a nice easy number to use to demonstrate). Seems like you're off to a great start, right? Right. One in 100 isn't bad odds. You've still got a pretty good chance of finding a date for yourself here. But you're already down to 1% of the total dating pool (that's ten percent of ten percent), and you haven't asked any of the difficult questions yet.

Chance of finding a partner if you're single: 10% of 10% = 1% or 1 in 100

Now, if you are *not* single, you are limiting yourself to only the people within your dating pool who are open to nonmonogamy. Since the vast majority of the population are still not open to poly, we'll take a guess at that again being about ten percent, so now you're looking at ten percent of ten percent of ten percent, that's only 0.1% of everyone who's available for dating. You have already cut your chances of finding compatible people down to one in 1000, simply by being poly. So if you're dating as an individual, your chances of finding someone who's interested in just you are roughly one in every thousand women you check out. If you're surfing dating sites as an individual, or going out and meeting people in public, that's not too bad. Your female partner will probably have about the same odds if she wants to date other guys.

Chance of finding a poly-friendly partner for just one of you: 10% of 10% of 10% = 0.1% or 1 in 1000

But then you want a partner who will also date your female partner. So it gets more complicated.

Assuming you are an m/f couple both looking for a partner in common, you are also looking for a woman who is bisexual. But don't forget, you're still limiting yourself to being inside that group of 'people who are open to nonmonogamy AND attracted to you'.
Across the board of sexuality studies, the highest estimated percentage of the population who are interested in same sex relationships is approximately ten percent (usually it's less, but we're rounding it up to make things look more hopeful here!). If your female partner is looking independently for another female partner who doesn't need to be attracted to you, her odds will be about here: ten percent of ten percent of ten percent of ten percent, or in other words, about one in 10,000. Out of the general population, only one woman in 10,000 is likely to be hot, poly and as attracted to your female parter as she is to them.

Chance of finding a poly-friendly same sex partner for just one of you: 10% of 10% of 10% of 10% = 0.01% or 1 in 10,000

BUT you're still looking for a partner who will date BOTH of you, not just one of you, so it gets more complicated again.

Specifically bisexual people account for probably about half of that 'interested in same sex relationships' population (maybe a bit less). So again, you're cutting your odds down, this time to about 5% of your already limited group of 'hot women who are open to nonmonogamy AND already attracted to you'.
So that's five percent of ten percent of ten percent of ten percent. You're down to 0.005% of the dating population... That's one in 20,000, and we haven't even accounted for whether or not those women are attracted to your female partner yet – after all, we were so far just looking at women who were attracted to *you*.
So assuming your female partner is about as attractive as you are, and sexily compatible with about ten percent of the people she meets, that adds another zero in front of your chances.

(I'm also assuming here that you and your partner have *exactly* the same tastes, and exactly the same definition of what is 'hot' in a potential partner. If your tastes differ, that's going to reduce your options still further, but lets not, because that's just going to get depressing!).

Still following the maths? Right now, the percentage of hot bisexual women in the dating pool who are open to nonmonogamy AND likely to be interested in dating you AND interested in dating your partner as well is ten percent of five percent of ten percent of ten percent of ten percent. Out of all the potential women in the dating pool, you're now down to 0.0005%, or roughly one in 200,000 women. At this point you have probably run out of women in your dating pool. Hell, you've probably run out of women in your entire state, but hey, if you cast your net wide enough...

Chance of finding a poly-friendly partner interested in both of you: 10% of 5% of 10% of 10% of 10% = 0.005% or 1 in 200,000

And that isn't even taking into account whether or not those women are open to being in a *closed* triad with you, just whether they might be interested in dating you in the first place. The number of poly women who will be open to creating a closed triad with you will be even smaller. Oh what? About ten percent, we figure? That's one in two million women, folks.

Chance of finding a poly-friendly partner interested in both of you AND in exclusivity: 10% of 10% of 5% of 10% of 10% of 10% = 0.0005% or 1 in 2,000,000

You probably call your existing partner 'one in a million', but to actually find ONE woman interested in setting up a FIRST date with both of you, are you really prepared to make contact with two million women?

And folks wonder why they're still looking years later...


*These numbers work equally well if you're an m/f couple looking for a male 'unicorn', just flip the gender of the 'partner' bits of the workings out, I just went with the most common scenario I see for illustration purposes. It's a little different, numerically speaking, if you're already a same sex couple, but not very.




So how long would it take you to sift through two million women, anyway?

How about I throw in some more numbers in for you?

Let's say you're trying to do most of your dating organically, in person or through forums, poly groups and other social mingling. Let's also wildly exaggerate and say that you can meet one woman every minute of your day. If you could do that non-stop without eating, sleeping, going to work or anything else, that alone adds up to nearly four years.

More realistically, you'll probably only be able to devote an hour a day to meeting brand new people. After all, you have lives to lead. At one hour a day, that initial sift alone will take you something like ninety years (actually, I make it 91.32 years ).

Now let's say you spend ten minutes chatting to all the women you find attractive (another 91.32 years), and another ten minutes chatting with the women who seem to be attracted to you. That's only an extra nine years at this point.

Oh hey, you've found out some these women are poly! And bi! You've got to chat with them a little longer, maybe research their background a bit. You're going to have to introduce them to your female partner, see if they get on. You've made great progress though! That's such a short list of women it's not even going to take you a month to sift through and figure out who's into who. You're so nearly there, after a mere 192.74 years of searching, why it's enough to make you drop your walking stick and click your heels together. It's time to actually go on some dates!

So let's say you and your partner finally have a shortlist of women who are hot, bisexual, poly, and even better, attracted to the both of you. Let's say out of your initial two million women, you've managed to narrow it down to ten. You take each one of those women out on a couple of dates to see how you get along, and then you pop the question: “Would you like to be in a closed triad with the two of us?” It's only going to take you twenty days or so. Barely even three weeks worth of dating. Of course, most of the hot bi babes say no. Perhaps they can't see themselves cutting off their options that way. Perhaps they already have existing partners they don't want to dump just for the privilege of being with you. Perhaps it's just not their style (It's not you, it's them). It doesn't matter though. Out of those ten women you spent nearly three weeks dating, miracle of miracles, one of them has said YES!

And it only took you 192.79 years to find someone who wants to start to date both of you. Assuming you're still alive, you'll all be over two hundred years old by now, so I figure you'll all have the maturity to build a successful relationship from this point, plus be too tired to look for anyone else if it doesn't work out. Congratulations! You've found your unicorn! Well done!




...in other words, unicorn hunting is the relationship equivalent of spending every day sitting at home imagining what you will do 'when you win the lottery', rather than going out to work and building yourself a viable business.

That doesn't mean you need to stop buying lottery tickets, but in the meantime why not go out, build solid relationships, build friendships, build family even, with people who fit *you*, and maybe in doing so you'll happen across people who also fit your other partner or partners.

Yes, it sounds like more work and less 'romantic', but on the other hand it's a whole lot more reliable.


Check my maths!

You can see my workings as a spreadsheet here: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1sm5YD8WASdDDs3RcIKUzaLaqF2yMuJe9TBE8tW8tl9U/edit?usp=sharing





Some further reading for couples who are seeking to date a 'unicorn', or for bisexual folks considering dating both or part of a couple:

About bisexuality:
Bisexuality & Statistics: Twice as many dates? (2010-07-16)

http://www.bisexualindex.org.uk/index.php/Main/Bisexuality#equal

More about unicorn hunting, and some advice from experienced poly folk:
http://goodmenproject.com/sex-relationships/hunting-the-elusive-unicorn/

http://www.multiplematch.com/2012/11/why-unicorn-hunting-is-exercising-couple-privilege/

http://unicorns-r-us.com/

http://polytical.org/2012/07/triads-ts/

About dating a couple:
http://www.morethantwo.com/coupledating.html





So, as a 'unicorn', how many times have I actually met and fallen for two people who were also into each other at exactly the same time? --- 0.

That would be big fat zero. I have, however, been dating a wonderful couple for the last several years.
Because they were confident and independent enough to date separately, I was dating him for at least a year when a surprise 'spark' developed with her too. If I'd had to choose between both or neither right at the start though? I'd have had to choose neither, and that would have been a sad loss for all of us.
emanix: (emanix)
This afternoon I came in to a conversation on facebook inspired by this article: 6 fascinating people who own almost nothing. The conversation wandered into how a lot of the folks who claim to be embracing minimalism and the 'no possessions' lifestyle (and who often seem quite smug and self-satisfied about it) do, in fact, rather carelessly rely on the use of other people's housing possessions to support their lifestyle... something that works in small numbers, of course, but isn't sustainable over a whole population, clearly. There was also plenty of discussion about the lessons these minimalist folk have to teach us. So naturally this conversation got me thinking back over how I have been living my life over the last few months.

I try to be very conscious of when I am and am not relying on other people's kindness. I have been very lucky since I started being nomadic and living out of my backpack, back in March. A lot of people have very kindly offered me their hospitality and even keys to their houses, so despite working out my initial numbers based on staying in hostels and short lets and things, I've been able to save a lot through the generosity of my friends and lovers - and spend it on taking them out for nice dinners instead, or in one particular case, supporting their indiegogo campaign! When I am staying with people I try to give back in practical ways too, such as washing dishes or making meals, making sure the fridge is stocked, doing minor repairs, offering to baby-sit, helping with the bills if bills need paying, that sort of thing. If at some point I forget that there's a give and take there, though, and start getting entitled about it or assuming anyone other than (possibly) the government owes me a place to stay, or pretending I've done it all by myself, do please shoot me!

On the other hand, I think there are ways in which the nomadic lifestyle could be much more sustainable for a lot of people, which perhaps would emerge naturally if enough folks were doing it: there are already plenty of hostels offering dorm spaces and similar for backpackers (even while I was relatively settled in zone 3, I did occasionally ponder moving nearer in to the centre of the city and only paying rent as and when I needed to, given that the daily rate for a hostel in central London was about equivalent to my rent+bills and also included breakfast- but of course there were at the time other intangibles such as stability, and choice over one's housemates to consider, plus storage for the 'stuff' that I was lugging around from house to house with me). I do wonder how the current offering would flourish, change and compete if that market was to grow significantly. Extending it even further, what would the world be like if we were all guaranteed stable housing as and when we needed it, for as long as we needed it, ('at-will accommodation', if you like) and nobody owned property at all?

Speaking of property, one thing that backpacking really does for you as an individual is that it will make you think very hard about every single thing you buy or choose to carry around with you. When every new item you acquire means than something else has to be thrown or given away, buying 'stuff' begins to take on a different light. As an inveterate 'pack-rat', that's been a real eye opener for me, and particularly for folks who tend to horde 'stuff', I'd recommend trying it, even just for a short while.

I hadn't really intended to be nomadic for quite as long as I now have been. My initial intention was to put most of my stuff in storage just for a little while, go travelling to see friends and family for maybe two or three months and then settle down again, but as all of the work I do is non-location-dependent and I am under no particular pressure to stay in one place, the charms of the 'footloose and fancy free' lifestyle have rather drawn me in. When I do pass through London I have found myself rather naturally reducing my possessions in storage by roughly one crate each time I visit, when I look at things and realise I haven't missed them even for a moment. And the less stuff I have in storage, the less inclined I am to settle down and be weighed down by it. It has been a fascinating process.

I do find that I am shocked more than ever, when I walk by shops selling ornaments and suchlike, by the sheer uselessness of so much of what's out there. Tea, however, turns out to be really important to me (nobody who's met me should be surprised by this, yet somehow I was!) and I now make sure I have a small supply in my backpack to be certain that I have it wherever I happen to be, and usually a travel mug tucked in my belt, as well. Books are important to me too, but I have finally given in and gone the kindle route, because there is only so much paper one person can carry.


There is definitely a sense of freedom in knowing that everything you need for your every day life will fit into a backpack or a suitcase. Knowing that one has the option to take off at any moment means one is never at the mercy of a bad landlord or bad relationship, you can do crazy things like leave the country on a moment's notice, because you know you have everything you need with you, or fly south for the winter, which certainly has a tinge of luxury (though living abroad is mostly cheaper than the UK, in fact). In my case, at this particular time, it has also meant that I could up sticks and move to Manchester to spend time looking after my terminally ill grandfather as his health has been deteriorating over the last few months, and stay for as long as I'm needed. It's hard to put a price on that sort of freedom.

It's not for everybody, though: I know that if I was even slightly less physically able than I am right now, I wouldn't be able to handle carrying both my backpack and the 'mobile studio' I built to take around with me in a suitcase. I am dreading the next time my knee gives out and I have to use crutches, as public transport will be a whole different experience. I could be faced with the stark choice of settling down in one place or giving up my art (or being dependent on other people to move my case for me, which... well, let's say it's a last resort!). There are all sorts of reasons one might need to be static, or have more equipment than a person can reasonably carry. And of course if the work I did was location-dependent, there might not be any point to my minimalism. I'm not trying to pretend that the life I live now is easy to arrange, or even possible for everybody.

There have been hard times too. Finding time and space to myself has not been entirely easy. There have been times when my choice has been between offending my hosts or sharing space, and occasionally even beds with people (and pets) I would not normally choose to. Getting ill and needing several days of hardcore rest whilst visiting in a house without a dedicated guest room was... tricky. And if one has kindly been invited in as a guest, turning down that invitation, or backing out of a stay that one had already committed to, and saying to someone "Actually, I'd prefer to go and stay in a B&B or a hotel for a bit so I can get some space to myself", can seem impolitic, and difficult (or expensive) to arrange at the last minute when something hasn't gone to plan.
Not knowing what city one is going to be in next month can get a little exhausting, too, where long range planning is concerned, but the hardest thing I have had to deal with yet has been accessing medical care whilst on the move; something I have found incredibly difficult even as a relatively well off British citizen in stable employment. The NHS as a whole is not at all set up for patients who migrate, even between just two addresses, let alone many. Walk-in and access centres are not well advertised, and often websites are out of date (we turned up at one that was advertised online to find it had closed more than a year ago), and the ones that still exist are often poorly signposted and in obscure places. I find myself struggling to use the exact same sort of facilities I would have to visit if I was sleeping rough on the street, and wondering how (or if) anyone who is homeless through circumstances not of their own choosing actually manages to see a doctor, other than through visits to A&E. As I am dependent on a regular supply of thyroxine tablets to actually keep me alive, and also having had a chest infection for most of the last month on top of this, that's been pretty stressful.

But still, I do feel incredibly privileged and lucky to be able to live and work the way that I currently do. I hope I come across as neither smug nor self satisfied, but I do think there are some very valid lessons to take away from all this stuff... or from the lack of stuff. :)
emanix: (emanix)
Or, 'The Bastards! - A sympathetic technique for relationship harmony.'

Are you a Fixer? Do you offer solutions instead of sympathy? Does this sometimes cause friction in your relationships when friends or partners who are simply looking for a sympathetic ear find themselves bombarded with 'have you trieds' and 'did you think ofs'? Or are you the partner or friend who sometimes find yourself looking for sympathy only to find yourself in the middle of the Spanish Inquisition?

I'm definitely a Fixer. If someone shares a problem with me I immediately start looking for ways to make the problem go away. This has occasionally caused friction in my relationships with partners who felt it was intrusive or disempowering when they just wanted to heard rather than Helped. But I've found that one particular technique I have used over the last few years has really helped with this. I have also noticed that my friends have been pinching it to use with their own partners and other friends. Since imitation is the sincerest form of flattery I've come to the conclusion that it might actually be worth propagating further and sending it out into the world. So here it is: 'The Bastards' or How to Fix the Fixers and raise a smile, in one simple step.

Now I can't claim sole credit for the idea, since I pinched the original concept from Dossie Easton and Catherine Liszt's book The Ethical Slut. One chapter described a situation like the one I mentioned above, and suggested a way for the Fixer to switch off the urge to Fix and just be there for their friend who simply wanted a sympathetic ear. The writer or their friend would occasionally provide a period of 'Poor Baby', where those two were the only words they said, repeatedly, until their friend was done venting. When I read the description, I particularly thought of one of my partners, who would often be frustrated at my trying to Fix things when really he just wanted to get something off his chest. But my partner thought 'Poor baby' was too patronising. He didn't want babying, so much as the feeling someone was fighting at his side. He felt that 'poor baby' didn't really convey the appropriate air of righteous indignation at the state of the world. So I pondered this for a while and dug around for a phrase that I felt might better fit the mood. The phrase I came up with was 'The Bastards!'

And it turns out that 'The Bastards!' fits pretty much every situation. If it doesn't make sense? All the better. It's not about the logic. It's about the righteous indignation dammit!

"I've had a long horrid day at work."
"The bastards!"

"I ran out of milk!"
"The bastards!"

"Ow, this headache really hurts!"
"The bastards!"

"I'm having trouble in my relationship..."
"The bastards?"

"My grandad's in hospital with pneumonia."
"Those bacterial bastards!"

"I got disappointing numbers from my mortgage advisor."
"The calculating bastards!"

...and so on.

And that's it. It's that simple. Obviously it doesn't fix every problem in the world, but sometimes, well... it's not about Fixing. With a bit of practice, even the most hardcore Fixer can learn to set Fixing aside and bring out The Bastards when appropriate, and folks who know what they're looking for is sympathy rather than help can learn to ask for The Bastards. And we all, hopefully, get on that little bit more harmoniously.

Lucky Bastards!
emanix: (Default)
I was walking down the road this afternoon and this idea just popped into my head. Wouldn't it be interesting to take one of the most traditional statements of faith in the christian church (which, being the faith that was vaguely foisted on me as a child, is the main religion that I push against, culturally-speaking) kick out the rubbish, and write what I really believe?

For those who aren't aware of it, this is the Nicene Creed

So here, with somewhat tortured language because of trying to fit it vaguely into the same pattern, is my set of beliefs about the world.


The Emanixine Creed:
(probably a first draft)

I believe in a reality external to myself, some of which is observable with my own senses, some of which is not.

I believe in myself as a conscious being, as a person, and in other conscious beings, other people. I believe that continued existence and pleasure in that existence is a good thing, and a valid goal to strive for. I believe that every conscious being has a right to that goal, and any others that do not conflict with my goal to exist in comfort.

I believe that there will be no judgement after life, but if we are to strive collectively to apply the right to exist in comfort to every conscious being, we must judge within ourselves and within our communities, and hold ourselves to the highest standards we are capable of. I believe that the highest glory is in the sharing of happiness and increasing of knowledge, as well as the peaceful coexistence of every conscious being.

I believe in empirical science, not as a fixed body of knowledge, but as a process through which to understand the world, and the external reality in which I exist.

I believe in the universe as the giver of life, which proceeds from the laws of physics as we know them. I acknowledge that my understanding of the world is incomplete, and hope for forgiveness of any misunderstandings. I look for the continuation of this life, and the world to come.



If you were to write a creed for yourself, how would yours read?
emanix: (restricted area)
Cut as scary topic with dire warnings, and definitely NSFW - you have been warned.  )

Play safe, folks.

[Additional update, July 2015: In case anyone has stumbled across this post whilst looking for tips on how to safely experiment with solo breath play (otherwise known as auto-erotic asphyxiation), the answer is quite honestly "you can't." Sorry. If you don't have a romantic partner and are determined to engage in any sort of breath play, even including the things I have listed as 'safer' in this post, you might want to consider finding a friend who is willing to 'spot' for you, who will be present in the room to provide first aid or call an ambulance in case things go wrong. Even with something as simple as unassisted breath-holding or tantric breathing, the risk of things going badly wrong goes up exponentially without at least a 'spotter' present. My personal position on solo breath play is PLEASE DON'T. There is no way to experiment safely with erotic asphyxiation on your own.]
emanix: (Default)
Hi, I'm a polyamorous woman, and I don't exist. In fact, I don't believe that polyamorous people exist.

“Huh?” I hear you say. “But you just declared yourself polyamorous. Up there! It says so!”

I did, and I do. I call myself polyamorous because I see this as an important part of how I relate to other people in my life. So I call myself poly in the same way I call myself an agnostic, or a Londoner, or a wearer of polka-dotted shirts. I get sick and tired, though, of hearing about poly people vs. monogamous people as though we're different species. Worse, the constant bickering about whether it's 'natural' for human beings in general to be monogamous or not. Good grief! Are we animals? It seems like a lot of people are deeply invested in perpetuating the split, but it's a false dichotomy that drives me up the wall. This may be an unpopular position but here I go:

There is no such thing as a polyamorous person.

There is no such thing as a monogamous person either.


I find it bizarre how often discussions about poly versus mono the arguments seem to fall back to biology. Folk are either claiming that we are ALL supposed to be one or the other, or they're claiming that there's a hard-wired difference between the two. Really? It's like claiming there is a biological reason for being a liberal versus a conservative, or a vegetarian versus a carnivore . The difference between these people is simple, obvious and nobody's arguing it: belief. When the issue is how to run a country or what to eat for dinner we're all happy to stick with arguing that this or that is the more rational option – x or y is better because it benefits people (or animals) in this or that way. So why on earth, when the issue is how to organise relationships, does everyone start insisting that nature has all of the answers?

Seriously, why on earth is anyone asking which is the 'natural' way to be? The natural way for us to be, running along some of these lines of thinking, is naked, eating raw foods and huddling in natural caves for warmth. Except that's not true either – the natural thing for us to be doing, as creatures of logic and imagination is *thinking* and basing our behaviours on the result of conscious thought, whatever internal system of logic we happen to be using.

What does nature want us to be doing? You know... it really doesn't matter. We started ignoring what nature wanted from us the minute we started adapting our environments to suit ourselves instead of vice versa. What matters is what we THINK. In other words, the difference between the mind of a monogamous person and that of a polyamorous person is the thoughts and beliefs inside it – and these are mutable things. On a daily basis people make the decision to stop, or start eating meat, choose which party to vote for, make decisions about moral and cultural issues based on their experiences and understanding of the world around them. If we are rational adults – and I think we are all aspiring to be rational adults here, no? - then we base our decisions on what our logic circuits tell us, not our bodies.

I'm Emanix. I'm a carnivore. Not because I believe it's the only right way to be. Not because I believe it's more natural, or more 'evolved', or because there is a fundamental difference between my brain chemistry and that of my vegetarian friends. I'm carnivorous because to me it's what makes sense on a daily basis.

Oh, and I happen to be polyamorous too.

I've had a few comments on the carnivore thing. Yes I know what carnivore actualy means, yes it's hyperbole for the sake of humour. My artistic license can be viewed here: [link to Artistic License'] it states 'Licensed to bend the truth in the name of comedy'. Can we get back to the point now please?
emanix: (Activist)
I've seen it in all sorts of places, the assumption that bisexuality has to mean that a person is equally attracted to both sexes, not notice the difference between, and so forth... Marcus Morgan has a lovely rebuttal to that one in this article: Bisexuals: putting the B back in LGBT and I also love The Bisexual Index's FAQ: Bisexuals don't have to be equally attracted to men and women.

This isn't the logic fail I'm going to address today though.

The logic fail that bugs me, and keeps on bugging me is this: the idea that if I am exactly equally attracted to both sexes, I will have had exactly the same numbers of male and female partners. Why does it bug me so? It fails to take into account the huge % of population that *aren't* bisexual.

So let's get this erm... 'straight':
even if I am EXACTLY equally attracted to men and women, I have NINE TIMES more chance of finding a compatible opposite-sex partner than a same-sex one*

Let's go through the workings:

I'm not going to hunt down stats and references right now, since the important bit here is the logic, which is flexible to whatever the exact statistics are, but of the research I have seen, the *highest* statistic for members of the general population who are interested in relationships with the same sex is roughly 10%

So working with that maximum statistic let's follow this through to work out my chances of getting a girlfriend, versus the chance of getting a boyfriend as a bisexual woman.

Now, we've been told that 10% of the male population is open to same-sex relationships. With a bit of give and take for bisexual guys, and for those not interested in relationships at all, we can assume that roughly 90% of the male population is interested in relationships with women. So my dating pool of guys is potentially 90% of the entire population of males.

On the other hand, the proportion of females interested in same sex relationships is only 10%, so oh look! -

% of males potentially interested in me: 90%
% of females potentially interested in me: 10%

Assuming roughly equal populations of men and women, and that roughly the same number of men and women share compatible views and interests with me, this means my dating pool for men is nine times larger than my dating pool of women.

So if I really want to date the same number of women as men, looks like I'd have to put nine times the effort into chasing them down - oh wait, wouldn't that necessitate being nine times *more* into women, if I was really willing to put that effort in? Well gee, I think that it would.

(Of course the same logic works perfectly well for bi guys, it was just easier to focus on one person to use as an example, so I picked on me)

This also handily refutes the all too common hypothesis that being bi 'doubles' ones chances of getting a date. Sure, it might increase a little bit - my pool of possible dates goes from 45% of the population overall to oh, about 50% - assuming that nobody is being bigoted or biphobic, of course. But since I have had both straight men and gay women tell me that they wouldn't date me because I'm bi, I suspect that any actual increase in number is cancelled out by the increase in prejudice.

Still, on the positive side of things, while being bi doesn't double my chances of getting a date, it *does* double the number of people I get to appreciate aesthetically - gay guys and straight women included. Since enjoying the eye-candy doesn't require mutual attraction, I guess I can check out twice as many people on the street, as long as it's look but don't touch.

Hey, you monosexuals?

Here's lookin' at you! ;)


___
*yes, yes, I know, this is referring to binary genders in order to keep the statistical workings simple - for the purpose of being inclusive, please assume that when I am talking about same-sex and opposite-sex I mean 'exactly like me' and 'not exactly like me', respectively
emanix: (restricted area)
I have just been reminded by a post of Joreth's, that this tab has been open in my browser for a couple of weeks now: Reuters article on incidence of STIs in prostitutes, swingers and 'straight' population.

Possibly the most poorly titled piece of science journalism EVER.

Take a look at the statistics quoted in the article: "Overall, combined rates of Chlamydia and gonorrhea were just over 10 percent among straight people, 14 percent among gay men, just under 5 percent in female prostitutes, and 10.4 percent among swingers, they found. And female swingers had higher infection rates than male swingers."

What Reuters managed to read from that: Shock, horror! Swingers have TWICE the infection rate of prostitutes!

With a more sex-positive eye, however, let's re-read that. Swingers overall had an infection rate of 10.4% over the period of the study. that's just 0.4% more than 'straight' (I assume this means heterosexual, serially monogamous - it's never actually defined in the article) people. So the straight folk and swingers had very similar infection rates, which were both DOUBLE the infection rate of the prostitutes.

What does this tell us?

First it tells us that Reuters journalists are so biased against sex-positive folk that they have to ignore an amazing statistic to twist their headline into something with enough shock value to please their readers.

Second, it tells us that monogamous people don't have all the answers on safety... who would have thought?

[livejournal.com profile] joreth hits the nail on the head: "The number of sexual partners is not the most important factor in a person's health risk profile. Using proper safety procedures, and exchanging accurate medical information between partners and with medical practitioners are more likely to keep you safe than just reducing the number of partners."

The take-home piece of information from this study is NOT that being a swinger is inherently unsafe, but that being 'straight' does not keep you safe.

Clearly the prostitutes in this study, working in a legal profession (bless the Netherlands for being open-minded enough for that) by being aware of risk and observing safer sex methods managed to reduce their risk to a level far below the general population. What might they be doing to reduce their risk? Getting checked regularly and using barrier protection are the most obvious. Being aware of how, for example, different lubricants can alter your risk of infection is another. Another less obvious one is this: not automatically assuming that your partner is clear of infection.

Assuming that your partner is clear of infection because they have slept only with one person at a time is a mistake made by so many of the straight, monogamous community – I mean come on guys, you're in the majority (for now). If it actually kept you safe, these diseases wouldn't exist! You don't have to assume that your partner is cheating on you for them (and you) to be at risk of having an STI – they may well have contracted something before you met. Sexual health clinics in the UK generally won't offer certification, but are you certain that every one of your partners had the all-clear before you played together? If you're monogamous and haven't done testing, are you certain that your partners exes had the all-clear before THEY slept together? Or if not, what precautions did/do you take? Crossing your fingers, closing your eyes and singing 'la la la' is not a precaution, by the way. Nor is a wedding ring.

Out of interest, I've visited one swing club in the netherlands, and would go so far as to hazard a guess that the reason why the infection rate was so similar between 'straight' folk and swingers would be because generally the swingers are using barrier methods with randoms they play with at clubs, but where it comes to their usual partner, make pretty much the same assumptions about safety that the general 'straight' population do – “well he/she uses barriers with everyone else, so we don't need to get tested”.

I'd love to see a study like this comparing mono and poly folk. My hunch is that the poly community in general has a % that's even lower, since there is a high level of safety-consciousness combined with a relatively small number of partners, at least as compared to Dutch prostitutes.

Now there's a line I never thought I'd use!

Secrecy

Jun. 10th, 2010 12:35 am
emanix: (Default)
This is a little out of the blue, as it started as a forum post up until I realised I was proselytizing. Then I decided to put it here instead, since what else is a blog for?

Now I've mentioned this topic before, and referenced this relevant post by [livejournal.com profile] tacit, but having bumped into the forum thread about whether or not to be open about poly relationships on Modern Poly, I wanted to go into more detail about my views on this, as it is something I've experienced both sides of, and I have pretty strong views on this topic.

An academic article I came across recently had this to say about secrecy in relationships:

“greater secrecy was associated with reduced commitment to one’s relationship, lower self-esteem, and more reported health symptoms ...poses a threat to partners’ personal health as a result of generating negative affect (e.g., nervousness and fear)“

(from http://psp.sagepub.com/cgi/content/abstract/35/11/1452 )

In other words, being secretive about your relationships not only sucks as an experience, but it can also make you ill.

And now I'll tell you a story:

My own experience stems from when I was still quite new to poly (or at least to the idea that it was actually okay to be the way I had always been anyway) and still hadn't found a support network, online or in person.

I moved to a small and isolated community with a partner, let's call him P. It wasn't a highly religious place, but it was VERY old-fashioned in attitude. From having been very open about everything with our UK community, suddenly P was terrified we were going to be shunned by our new social group if either of us put a foot wrong, and he felt his job was at risk if this happened, so he demanded that I conduct my other relationships with the utmost secrecy.

I was not happy about this, but I put up with it because I loved him, we lived really well together, and thought we were in for the long haul. I went back into the closet both about being poly, and about my bisexuality as well, after one incident of platonic late night film-watching at a male friends house sparked a nasty whispering campaign that got back to P's ears and he felt very uncomfortable about it. If I couldn't be 'safe' around the men of the neighbourhood, I sure as hell wasn't going to give them more rumour fodder by coming out as bi. This was the sort of place where upright chaps stood around and talked about 'the gays' as though they were from a different (and highly contagious) planet. Being different was WRONG. It was like having walked onto the set of the Stepford Wives.

So I snuck around for several months, loathing the place more by the day, loathing myself also, and feeling like I was being watched, and whispered about everywhere I went. I know this wasn't entirely paranoia either, because certain rumours came back to my (and P's) ears from trusted sources. It was not a comfortable place to be. Being secretive about a relationship in such a tiny community is frankly, near impossible, and I literally worried myself sick at times.

As luck had it, shortly after I started seeing A (and for unrelated reasons), P and I hit a dealbreaker, and decided to call it a day. A had a somewhat different view about how to act in public – in short, if you act as though you are doing nothing wrong, people will respond accordingly. So we did. And it worked. We acted as though we were doing nothing wrong, and sure we raised a few eyebrows – I was still living pretty happily with P, and we were winding our relationship up slowly and amicably, but at the same time I was openly dating A, and the three of us were spending time together as friends. - but we were accepted at face value. Suddenly the goldfish bowl community seemed a much friendlier place, and I was genuinely sad when I left to move back to the UK (and y'know what, I managed to challenge some of the homophobic attitudes while I was there, too).

The curious thing here is that A and P were in exactly the same line of work – in fact, they were colleagues, yet P fretted about losing his job by being 'outed' (even about his partner's behaviour), whereas A felt the best way to safeguard his job was in fact to be open about things from the start.

In a way, they were both right. Essentially, P created the danger - and it was a real danger - of being blackmailed and exposed, entirely out of his own fears and discomforts. A, by being open and up-front, blew any possibility of blackmail or rumour out of the water, and created a safe space for us to exist right there in the public eye.

From my own experience, and judging by the careers of plenty of notable politicians (pick some examples local to you!), I'm tempted to say that the latter 'open' policy being better in the long run is obvious.

(A little note here: being 'open' does not have to mean yelling loudly to everyone in town 'I am dating X, Y and Z!' - it can just mean not lying or changing the subject it if someone asks you 'are you dating y?'. It doesn't need to mean snogging in public, but it does mean smiling and nodding when people see you together in town, rather than ducking your head down and hiding. It means walking with pride, as long as you're doing something that *you* feel is right.)

How the story 'ends' – I'm still in contact with P, but only occasionally. He went back to monogamy, and doesn't appear to have looked back. On the other hand, several years on, A is still very much a partner of mine, as well as seeing several other women, and he's still working for the same employer, who is well aware of our situation, and fine with it. So far, it's happily ever after.

Now everyone who finds themselves in a situation where they feel a need to be secretive has their reasons, and some of them are perfectly valid – there is no legal protection (yet) against discrimination towards poly people, and it takes a lot of balls to stand up and say 'this is who I am and I am proud of it'. Like [livejournal.com profile] joreth, I have chosen a line of work (as an artist) that means I am free to be just as open as I please knowing that it might lose me a client or two, but it will never lose me my job. - but what I keep on seeing time and again, in my own life and those of other people, is that it is quite astounding what even closed-minded folk will accept if you present it to them with pride and pleasure, rather than fear. Even more astounding is the difference it will make to your life, just knowing that you can stop looking over your shoulder to see who's watching.

Honestly, I think secrecy should be a last resort for people who are absolutely certain that their lives and/or families are directly at risk if they open up, and even then it makes me want to put my pointy breastplate on to charge down and rescue whoever is stuck in that situation*.

If it's only fear of public opinion stopping you, I would recommend every time, go open, march out with your head held high and smile. It's a leap of faith, but it's well worth taking.




*Sadly I don't actually have a pointy breastplate, or a charger, but I totally would if I did!
emanix: (Default)
(...because not all of my defining features are about sex)

Defining my Terms: Radical Agnostic - a part of my essay series talking about concepts that I find important to my life and way of thinking.

(This one will probably be edited repeatedly, though I'll try not to change the sense of it - if I do, I'll make it a new post)

I often refer to myself as a Radical Agnostic, but what does the phrase actually mean?

Agnostic, then - from the root 'a' meaning 'without' and 'gnostic' referring to knowledge. An agnostic person is a person who *does not know*. I'm not saying that there is a God, but nor am I saying there is not. What I am saying is that it's impossible to know, and that anyone who claims to know that there definitely is or isn't a God (or higher power in the universe of some sort) is, quite frankly, talking out of their backside. This brings me to the 'Radical' bit, which I pinched from Douglas Adams having heard him talk about being a Radical Atheist. Basically I add the 'Radical' to let people know that I really mean it.

Let me expand a bit...

I'm most certainly not a Christian, though I think he was a decent enough chap, for his day, and generally preached some sensible things. Be good to others, feed the needy, that sort of thing. For his day, he was pretty darned enlightened, and good on him. Son of God? I'm distinctly unconvinced. I'm afraid I find myself extremely unconvinced by the Old Testament too, for that matter. The whole idea of an all-powerful deity who 'loves' mankind (but only certain bits of it, depending on who you listen to) and wants us all to obey a rather arbitrary set of rules in order to hop up to the next level of enlightenment, computer game style... well, it all sounds rather far-fetched, to be honest. I'm not much impressed with the concept of most of the other god types out there either. I'm all for love, joy and world peace, but I find I'm incapable of believing in any omnipotent being that particularly gives a damn about the human race. It's just too unlikely.

And yet... I can't say for definite that there's nothing out there either. I have a vivid imagination, and can wot of quite a lot of things. For all we know perhaps we are the equivalent of some macroscopic computer game. Maybe there really is a god-like being up there that wants us to jump through these particular hoops because if he* can talk enough people into staying virgins until after marriage or whatever the particular religious oddity, then he'll score 1000 points and get to fight the big boss at the end of the level. I suspect it's not very likely, but I have no absolute proof that this isn't the case... and neither have you.

Science has limitations, and while it can tells us lots of things about the universe - what, when, where, how, which, who and so forth, it fails on a couple of important philosophical questions. One of which is 'why?' what's the point of it all? Science can't say much about that at all. Nor can science say much about what exactly put the universe here in the first place. Where did the big bang come from? What happened *before*? And religion - religion likes to say 'God came before' (occasionally with a slightly more complex backstory involving some being's entrails, and some other being's mischief, or someone giving birth to someone else, or whatever) but this only removes the same question by one more step - where did God come from? What came before God?

It's a question that I firmly believe is unanswerable, because every step further just leads to the same question again. Like the next digit of pi, like prime numbers, the question of what came before, or what comes next only leads to further study. Even if the universe is a loop, as some believe, it's no answer to how it came into being, or what will be afterwards.
My imagination loves the idea that someday there might be a unified God-plus-Universe theory that explains Everything, and somehow involves superstrings, the wiccan rede, and everything being inextricably interconnected, but I'm sure even if that happens there will still be the 'but where did *that* come from?' question.

So my 'religious certainty' is that we can't ever know, and rather than wasting time arguing about it, we may as well get used to living without the knowledge - perhaps even learn to appreciate the mystery. I'm also quite certain that it doesn't matter, because moral behaviour makes very rational sense, and I'll come back to that in a later post.




*Yeah, I know, male pronoun - in the context of giant godlike gamer geek I'm going to stick to the male stereotype, okay?

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