Wednesday 23 March 2016

Quick Linky Love - Great Article on Polyamory

Just read this article and there were so many things that resonated. It's a short read, but hopefully will get you thinking... Feel free to comment here on what stood out for you!

What Polyamory Taught Me About Love on Refinery29

Tuesday 8 March 2016

How Not to be a Dick

Darlings,  I wish I knew. It's a daily mantra for me: Don't be a dick. And and important one. One can't always avoid it. It's human nature, I'm quite sure, to be mostly selfish, relatively grasping, as manipulative as one can get away with, and generally a bit of a dick to other people as long as it's making us feel good. Being a grown-up - or some iteration thereof - means recognising those moments as often as possible and, relatively if not equally often, trying to not be said dick. Particularly tough moments arise when we are feeling vulnerable, or defensive. In poly life, you can guess, there are many opportunities for vulnerable and/or defensive moments.

Here are two useful pointers (useful to me, anyway).

  1. You don't know what your partner is thinking. You may be convinced you do. You may know them so well that you can get a pretty good idea of what they're thinking. Still. Unless they say "this is what I think", and articulate their thoughts and/or feelings clearly and you confirm with them that you have understood what they said, you don't know. You have no idea. Don't behave as if you do. Especially don't be a dick because you think you know what they're thinking and it's making you feel vulnerable/defensive.
  2. Your partner doesn't know what you're thinking. They're not a mind-reader. They also can't divine the content of conversation you've had with other partners, or your sister, or your bestie. If you haven't told them something directly, chances are they don't know it. Don't behave as if they do, or should. Don't be a dick because it makes you feel vulnerable or defensive to have to share stuff with them.

We are not mind readers. Communication is key. Yes, we get freaking tired of the constant talking about stuff, and having to repeat yourself three times because you have three partners and each of them needs to be properly filled in on why you are thrilled to bits or a sobbing mess is boring, but it's very very necessary.

Here endeth today's sermon.

Tuesday 1 March 2016

Wow, it's been a while

I'm sorry I haven't written in forever, dear reader(s). Last year went .... well, pear-shaped is a kind description. Last year went for a ball of shit, frankly. I have many, many things to say about this. I had things to say all along, but there were a lot of emotions flying around and I wasn't sure if all of them were real emotions or some were just my brain messing with me because of stress. Some stuff I'm still not sure about. But I'm ready to start talking about it.

Last weekend I spent time with some wonderful old friends, and one of them reminded me of the reason I write this blog: if even one person can unravel the weirdness of being in a relationship with one or more other people a little more easily because of something I've said, I've contributed something good to the world. Or something.

So prepare to learn about The Answer to Why You Shouldn't Move in With All Your Romantic Partners; The Big Issue With Falling Into Relationships Instead of Consciously Choosing Them; The Revelation Regarding Self-Help Books (Especially Love Languages); The Glory of House Meetings; How I Learned to Be a Joiner and Then Hated Everyone and Left, and more exciting installments. Possibly slowly, because I'm still doing that thing where I work all day and learn to be a sex educator also, and running a household. And I'm getting old so I go to bed early.

Be good, chickens. Leave me comments so I know you're still out there and maybe care about these Adventures in Love, Life and Putting on Weight.

Tuesday 28 July 2015

In Other News - Sex Education FTW

Hello kittens. A couple of posts back I talked about a Big Life Decision I'm working on. Well, this is it. I'm implementing a five year plan to become a Sex Educator. If all goes according to plan, my girlfriend will be joining me and we'll become rich and famous and... Ha! No, not rich and famous, though hopefully we'll be able to pay the bills. What we will be is fulfilled, we hope. Doing work that we are passionate about and that (hopefully) makes a difference.

Throughout my life, I, and many of the people I've known and loved, have been affected by a lack of knowledge and emotional understanding of sex. From people who take sex way too seriously to people who don't take it nearly seriously enough. People who've fallen pregnant or gotten STDs because they don't know enough about safer sex, or don't have the wherewithal to insist on it. People who have been abused or raped, by strangers and by partners. And those are just the people I know. All over our country, young people are growing up with barely a passing knowledge of their own anatomy, and very little information to help them make decisions about what is and isn't acceptable to them. Sex workers, unprotected and looked down upon, are unable to protect themselves from dangerous customers, johns who refuse condoms, or unsterilised needles. Getting an abortion may be legal, but it's not exactly easy, and every street corner offers 'cheap abortion', with an advert for illegal 'virility pills' right next to it.

We are not good at talking about sex in our country. We are really not good at being sex positive and treating sex and discussion of sexuality as healthy, important parts of life. We have very few sex educators, and they struggle to have their voices heard. Dr Eve, Catriona Boffard, Dorothy Black and some other very strong people have worked hard, and respect is due. But there's a loooong way to go.

Step 1, for me? Educate myself. I work in a sex shop, so that helps. I have access to books, and toys, and I spend a large part of my day talking to people about what they need from sex. I'm also privileged to know or have access to wonderful people from the LGBTI, poly and kink communities, who constantly educate me and others. Those of you who watched the recent SABC doccie on poly will know that the marvelous Avri Spilka spoke eloquently about emphasising safer sex. I continue to learn from her and many other amazing teachers and friends.

Educating myself includes expanding my own sexual horizons. I don't believe that I need to do everything in order to understand or talk about it, but I do need to try all the stuff on my bucket list. Butt plugs are featuring this week. I got a super-cute one yesterday. Nope, I've never used a butt plug. I'll let you know how it goes. (wink) I'll also be attending workshops and, hopefully soon, courses on counselling. (And yes, if you have any excellent suggestions, comment away kittens.)

Being poly doesn't make me awesome at sex. I may never be awesome at sex. But I'm going to work damn hard at being an awesome advocate for sex positivity, in my life and in my work, and at being the best I can be as a sex and sexuality educator. And I'm pretty sure I'm going to love this journey.

Next up, I'll be reviewing two BIG books on sex that I've just laid hands on... with extra commentary from my teens as to which is most useful from their perspective.

Tuesday 21 July 2015

But what is Crazy?

Oh haai! (I do totally think I'm hilarious for making a meme slash recent news incident namecheck greeting that only South Africans will understand. Now you know: I'm a dork.)

So I read this blog post today, and it really resonated for me. Most obviously due to a recent *situation*, on which more later, but also because it tends to be a rule with many poly/kinky people: don't stick your dick in crazy.

Let's start with a spot of sexism deconstruction. The wording of this irritates me. Of course, it could apply in m/m relationships, and I do know some girls with dicks too. But in general this phrasing implies both that it's men who need rules of this nature (because somehow they can't recognise destructive behaviour and/or wouldn't care if they can dip their wicks?), and that it's women who are crazy. Since accusing women of hysteria, craziness, mental instability etc has looooong been a thoroughly overused tool for misogyny of all hues, that kind of pisses me off.

So let's pretend I've come up with a similarly catchy and yet far less sexist and annoying phrase that will catch on any day now. I haven't, yet, but hey. The point behind it is worth examining.

Now, of the poly people I know, and the kinky people I've talked about this with, this is a fairly universal relationship 'rule', as well as a personal rule. However, it is usually further defined for clarity. Most common is to break it down to: don't get emotionally and/or physically involved with, or play with, someone who has serious mental health issues and is unwilling to seek treatment and/or acknowledge those issues. That last bit is key. Many people I have had relationships with or am in relationships with have suffered from depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and various other mental health issues. Many of my friends are in the same position. With very few exceptions, all have sought help and treatment, and are open with those to whom it is important about their issues.

It can be very hard to be involved with a person who has mental health problems. It can be tiring, challenging, and frustrating. It involves a great deal of patience, empathy and learning. And when you have multiple partners, those resources may already be in short supply. If you have multiple partners and more than one of them has problems, it can *really* leave you short of spoons. I have no issue with someone choosing to exit a relationship with a partner who is undergoing treatment for mental health issues, as long as they do it with honesty and kindness. If you do not feel able to provide the support and love needed by your partner, or feel that they are not able to meet your needs (and have discussed that with them), then by all means, take the honest route and scale back the relationship.

I don't believe in veto. Having a veto is simply not a sensible way to cultivate multiple honest, caring relationships, as far as I'm concerned. However, the other day, I found myself yelling 'veto, veto' about someone my partner had not even expressed romantic interest in. (Yeah, this is the *situation*.)

They had been introduced by a mutual friend, who said that this person was interested in the kinky side of things, and wanted to know more. As the boyfriend is a thoughtful, experienced and responsible ambassador for kink, the friend suggested he would be a good dinner companion. And he had a perfectly lovely conversation, I think, with this new person.

And then when he told me about the dinner the next morning he mentioned I might know this person - our city being small - and said a name. That's when I yelled 'veto'. I took it back, of course, but I also repeated that I did not want this person anywhere near me or my family, nor did I want her to know that I was associated with our mutual friend or the kink world, nor did I even, truly, want our friend to ever see her again.

Of course, I can't control what boyfriend chooses to do. Although I know he will respect that I don't want him to mention me and I will never be around if he chooses to see her again for any reason. I also can't control who our friend chooses to be friends with, or what she discloses to them.

Why, you may ask, is this blog post so damn long? Or, why did you freak out and yell veto? Well, in my experience, this person is exactly the kind of crazy I do not want be within 500m of. The kind of crazy that has created worlds of hurt for other friends and acquaintances of mine. The kind of crazy that makes false accusations, and spreads rumours and will use private knowledge about a person to hurt them, for no particular reason other than paranoia and a victim complex, fuelled by what seem to be some very serious mental health issues.

Now here's the thing. I have no idea if this person has sought treatment, or fulfilled any of the acknowledgement/understanding/honesty criteria that I would expect when engaging with someone with mental health problems. In my experience, that was not the case, but things may have changed since I disengaged from any contact with her. Mutual acquaintances say no, but they may be wrong.

And so I wrung my hands for a few days. Because I hate to be unfair. And I particularly hate to be unfair to people who might actually be trying to turn their life around. Or have turned their lives around. But I look at the history of this person and all I can think is: wow, it would take years of treatment for her to be strong enough to enter into the kink lifestyle without doing serious damage to herself or others. And I don't believe she has disclosed that to the people she is engaging with about this. Which makes all my trust issues jump up and yell 'veto'.

So, yeah. I do believe you can have wonderful, fulfilling relationships with people who struggle with mental health problems. And I do believe that people with issues are more than their issue, and that they have, often, learned wonderful tools for dealing with their problems that benefit them and the relationship and you, greatly. And I do believe in giving people the benefit of the doubt. But there are times when the 'crazy' is patent. And there are also times when past experiences are triggers, and you have to be honest about those. If you tend to have a poly network, like I do, and practice kitchen sink poly, like I do, and have partners who are kinky and try to be responsible, honest kinksters, like I do, then you need to talk about people who make you yell veto. And you need to be heard.