Search

A Ferret Called Wilson

Chasing Happy, Chasing Dreams

Tag

humanity

It Doesn’t Have to Be

My father worked in construction for over twenty years, only getting his first full time job after I had already left for college. Before that it was always one job to the next, always hoping that the big businesses would respect the unions instead of hiring illegal Cuban workers under wretched working conditions. He never got sick leave or vacation. He had to use a porta potty every day. There was no cooler on site and he had to carry all his tools in and out every day for fear they would be stolen. Often the workers were not given parking spaces near their job sites, which made things even more difficult.

Today, I live in Japan and I am dating a construction worker — apparently I am my mother’s daughter. A happy man, he never complains about his working conditions and he’s healthy and strong. I doubt he has even considered seeking an alternative form of employment. All around me there is constant construction. It seems as if the Japanese only sell land and expect new owners to bring their own house with them so that my neighborhood in eight months of living here has yet to see a day where there wasn’t construction on my block. I think every building but my own has been operated on by now. The people that I see working seem focused and calm. They take their afternoon breaks in the shade of the neighborhood and the local convenience store provides decent, healthy meals, clean toilets and cold drinks. It does not seem a bad life at all, though perhaps physically tiring.

So it occurred to me that my father’s miserable career did not have to be that way. It could be that construction workers are treated with respect as proper members of society. It could be that we don’t try to provide them the barest basics at the least cost to ourselves, but rather that we provide them what is decent and necessary for a decent man to live a decent life in decent, comfortable conditions.

This realization rides on the back of a tidal wave of knowledge crashed down on me by my exposure to the book Sex At Dawn. A complete volume purportedly on human sexuality, it is actually a treatise on the capacity and even intrinsic craving of humans to provide and experience compassion. Every day we see the capitalist dogma of selfishness and competition and we think to ourselves that this is the only we that we can be. We see all around us the failure of human altruism and we say that nothing can be done because this is the way we are, but this is not the way we are.

We are compassionate, social, affectionate creatures who have been forced into a world that preys upon our fears of betrayal. Rather than nurture our need for companionship, we are taught to fortify ourselves against loneliness and isolation. We look around and we see citadels of greed all designed to protect the human inside from isolation that doesn’t have to be. If our world was one in which we were taught that our fellow humans would care for us, we would not need to fortify, protect, horde, negotiate, lend, inherit… if we could only drop the assumption that this is the way the world has to work, we would be able to finally see the injustice that we reign down upon ourselves. Injustice like treating critical members of our society like trash simply because “competition” says that if they were worth more that they would have had enough money to provide better for themselves.

This idea that man can be measured in dollars is sickening. We are forced to conclude that women are not as valuable as men because we make less money. Blacks are less valuable than whites because they make less money. South American countries are less sovereign than North because they have less money. Human value just is. You cannot measure it, and you don’t have to. It is possible to live in a better world than the one we live in. All it takes is a realization that it doesn’t have to be this way.

Dear My Origins

Dear My Former Church,

We haven’t spoken in a long time. In fact, we haven’t spoken since that critical day in August, 2010, when I realized that you had been lying to me all this time. It’s been hard for me to live without you, but as the song goes, “I spent so many nights thinking how you did me wrong and I grew strong. And I learned how to get along!” I don’t need you anymore and I’ve come to realize that, accept it, and own it. There is a scar from our past which will always be with me, but now that the wound is closed and I have come to be able to breathe again I thought I should write to you to give us both a little closure.

I was young when we met, bright eyed, beautiful and vulnerable. You came to me with the promise of joy and protection from the cruel world. You told me that I was weak and you were strong and that you would love me and only want what was best for me. Naturally I was swept away by your promises. What innocent virgin would not be? I bound myself to you and made your presence known in every action, every thought, and every interaction I had in every single day of my life. You told me that I was broken, that I was dirty, that I was the cause of man’s downfall. You told me that my suffering was just and inescapable punishment for my inherent sin and I believed you while at the same time asking you, nay even begging you, to explain to me how your love was apparent through all that judgment.

You were jealous then, and you still are. I didn’t understand until I was married how far reaching the tentacles of your jealousy were. You told me that to marry young and virgin was the height of my virtue and that only a complete denial of my physical self could be closer to your ideal. So I did that. I married young and virgin and innocent. When on my wedding night my husband proclaimed to me that “[He] was going to have sex with [his] wife!” a strange thing happened. For all my young years I had been fighting against an ever increasing tidal wave of sexual energy. It threatened to throw me body and soul out of the light of your glory and into the frothing sea of carnal passion below. You promised me that on my wedding night instead of plunging to my spiritual death, that this tidal wave of energy would instead raise me up, send me soaring in virtuous marital bliss, but when my gown came off and I open my thighs for my new husband…

there was no wave. Indeed it was as if the entire ocean had dried up before me.

Of course neither you nor my brand new husband seemed in the slightest bit bothered and the both of you just kept plowing on without me. And so it was that I spent the better part of the next decade in a desperate losing battle to reunite my rebelling spirit with the joy and safety that you had promised me. You know how well that went. You promised me that if I could only make it as far as I did that ever abundant life and joy would be made available to me, but instead you abandoned me to the care of a man. A single, solitary, miserly, inadequate man. Even though I returned to you time and again for an explanation, your promises and your love were as dry as the tidal wave of my former passion. You told me then in my desperation and my loneliness that I should be happy because you had given me everything I could want. You told me that my lack of happiness was my own fault for rejecting your gifts to me.

And so it was one humid summer night that I went back to the cliff where I had last seen the raging sea that threatened to swallow me whole so many years ago. I remember standing on the edge of that cliff and looking down into the sea and wondering if it would indeed kill me. But then I looked for you there on that cliff and though you warned me not to jump, I saw the truth of what your promises held for me: pain, loneliness, self-loathing. Your promises to me were no more alive than an empty desert who so long has not felt rain that it has given up even the memory of moisture. My choice was apparent. I could stay with you and have a slow wasting death of which every day would be safe and secure in the knowledge that there was no more life to be had. Or else I could throw myself off that cliff into the writhing, frothing sea below. Perhaps it would kill me. Perhaps I would drown, or perhaps I would not. Perhaps the waves would cradle me and toss me, bringing thrill and kindness to my parched existence.

You know what happened that night. There is no way you didn’t hear me screaming and calling out my passion. I nearly choked on the surge of life that flooded my body. And I know what you said then, too. You said to all who would listen to you that it was the voice of suffering that rose up from the water. You called them to look at my face and see pain and madness, a fallen woman indeed. But let’s be honest with each other. I feel that after all these years we owe each other at least that much. You did to me what any spurned lover would do. You muddied my name and discredited me so as to mitigate the pain of your own rejection.

Were you a human, I would forgive you for your faults, but you are not a human you are a church. You are massive conglomeration, a katamari of all that is good and all that is mislead in humanity and you wield your power over us young and helpless. Isolated and naive you make of us easy prey. I wish I could say now, My Church, that I forgive you your trespasses, but you do not forgive those who trespass against you, do you?

I guess in the end, though, I am not without fault. I wanted to believe you. You did tell me one thing which was true and that was that in my heart, at the deepest center of my being, I would know truth from lie. And I knew you were lying to me. Your story never made very good sense, but I used all my energy to force that burning star of Truth at the back of my consciousness into the clean and tidy cage you offered me. You told me I should love my neighbor as myself and I knew this to be truth. But you also told me that I should love my husband more than myself and this never sat well with me. How could I love my neighbor, my brothers and sisters in God, as myself and then love one person of my choosing more so than all of them? I tried to convince myself that it was simply a matter of expediency that one necessarily had to spend more of their time with their husband than with the rest of humanity so it made sense to love him more.

You also told me that my body was a temple to the One True God and that I should never celebrate in it. Wait, what? Are temples not for worship? How can I worship with my body if I never use it? You told me that my body, being a female body, was necessarily unclean, but why would a holy and divine being bestow upon me a temple to its glory that was unclean and unworthy of celebration?

I knew these things did not make sense just as I knew that your promise of unconditional and unbounded love did not actually extend to me because of my womanhood. And yet you were so charismatic, so convincing and you made the outside world seem so scary that I would have chosen you then a thousand times over.

Well, I wanted to tell you that I have grown now. I jumped into that frothing sea and I drank it until the waves subsided and they carried me spent on their backs until I reached the shore. I have found my peace now with my body and my womanhood, but not with you. So I thought it was fair warning to let you know that I’m coming back to finish you off. No longer will I allow you to prey upon the young and the innocent. No longer will I stand by and try to justify your lies to my sisters who, unlike myself, are still too afraid to take the leap. You who would sow fear and distrust amongst those that I love are forever my enemy and I will fuck you out of existence.

You have been warned.

On Humanism

Last week was a week for feminist bashing. First, a post by a member on a men’s support forum that I frequent blamed the liberated modern feminist for the shape of modern male body shame. More recently there have been a number of articles published commenting on Hillary Clinton’s impending rise to power and on the form of feminism presented by Ms Sandberg in this article. I used to think of myself as a feminist, but I think feminism is outdated, and a misnomer, for what the true meaning of the movement represents. Today, I think of myself as a humanist.

I thank my fellow bloggers, les femmes, for helping me to find words to express my standing, and I thank a a particularly genuine forum member at the support forum for the inspiration to remember my own humanity in the midst of the anger.

Humanism. It isn’t feminism because it doesn’t seek to place women on equal footing as men, or to insult men or put them down, and it isn’t masculinism or patriarchism because it doesn’t seek to maintain the long standing oppression of women. Humanism is the philosophy that all humans have value, that we are all made of flesh, that we all feel pain, we all cry, we all fear the unknown. Humanism seeks to undo the damage that centuries of body shaming and millennia of power seeking have put on our collective psyches. Humans wants peace for all humans in their own hearts, and in their relationships with each other.

After the claim was made that modern feminism is responsible for the shape and style of small penis humiliation, another man added an explanation: feminists seek to topple the patriarchy, but instead of going for the strongest males, they attack the weakest first and use the cheapest shots. This naturally results in women shaming non-alpha male types for their insufficient sex drives, small penises, lack of ambition and generally non-alpha male patriarchal personality types.

I understand where this man is coming from. He feels inferior to the alpha-types that define what ideal modern masculinity looks like, but it is easier to blame women, outsiders, for attacking him than it is to blame his fellow men. He would like to be an alpha, but he isn’t. However, if he rejects the image of alpha as fundamentally flawed, he incites ridicule from other alpha males — the strong and empowered males that he claims women are afraid to challenge, but whom he himself also fears. Rather than accept that he fails to meet the standards he upholds, or to take the responsibility to change the things in himself that he disapproves of, he finds an outside entity which is socially weaker than he is and attacks it instead.

Thanks to the gentle words of another member on the forum, when I read these accusations I saw them for the expression of impotence that they really were, rather than the attack on myself that they felt like. I suggested that where he wrote “feminists” he might instead write “people who seek power over others” and where he wrote “alpha males” that he might instead write “those who currently have power and social approval.” I think what this man was really trying to say is that people attack the weakest representations of their enemies when they feel threatened, and that in doing so they harm those who are in fact closest to themselves, perhaps even their allies.

To be a humanist takes a wider perspective than to be a feminist. It is not enough to topple all the males, but rather, we must select from within the whole of masculinity what bits are truly harmful to us and what bits are nothing more than the imperfect and clumsy attempts of other human beings to fight for their own happiness. After all, men still are in a position of power over us. We don’t like it and we don’t want to accept it, but we can further our own goals if we acknowledge it and make allies where we can.

I am no political strategist. In fact, I am quite simple in my understanding of humans. I see the philosophy of humanism as a torch in the night. By recognizing the humanity in all of us, even those who would appear as my ideological enemies, I can make better choices, see more clearly, and feel less threatened by the violent world that I live in.

Woman — the Ultimate in Unvalued

Years ago as a teenager in the Christian Church, not so long after puberty struck, I asked my community, “How do I know that God loves women as much as he loves men?” The answers I received were profoundly depressing:

  • God gave a woman the honor of giving birth to his son.
  • Women are the more beautiful sex.
  • Women are naturally more pure than men.

The first response said to me that the value in a woman is entirely contained within her uterus. The second told me that women are not useful for anything. The third told me that if I sinned, more specifically if I were sexually active, then I was more to blame than a man because my nature made me naturally less susceptible to temptation. What terrible messages to send to a confused and lonely teenager!

Today, almost twenty years later, the messages I receive about womanhood are no less depressing. Consider this video documentary on “People with questionable genders.”

Where are the women here? They are absent. They are hidden. They exist like ghosts, only as references to give context to another problem that some men face: gender dysmorphia. According to this documentary, only men are faced with the difficulty of living in a society that rejects them and only men are given the choice to live false lives or to actualize themselves.

It is not politically correct to criticize transsexuals. However, it seems to me rather naive to say that a transwoman and born woman are the same. The former was born into a life of privilege and chose to reject it. The latter was never given the choice. It is rather similar to comparing a monk and a beggar. The former chooses his poverty in exchange for actualization of himself. The latter, on the other hand,  has no flag of moral victory to wave in the face of his enemies.

Once, years ago, I was discussing with a male acquaintance of mine. He bemoaned the freedom that women had to dress as men without repercussion, but that men were considered gay or somehow deficient in their masculinity if they did so. Clearly, I said to him, this difference arises from the fact that a woman is considered an inferior being. It is natural for her to want to emulate masculinity whereas a man who rejects his gender has no justification and therefore deserves the ridicule. Our philosophical discussion ended there. Most men are uncomfortable when their privilege is pointed out to them.

 

 

I keep Coming Back to Sex

It is a reality I am slowly coming to accept: I am addicted to sex.

But I am not addicted in the traditional way, rather more philosophically so. As the international AIDS activist and specialist on Arab sexuality Shereen El Feki said,

“If you want to know a people, you start by looking inside their bedrooms”

And really, I think Ms. Feki is on to something here. Sex is freedom and freedom is empowerment over our own lives and our own destinies. What that means is that sex threatens, or enforces, the power others have over us.

So I keep coming back to sex because I love life and sex is life. Two people having sex can create new life, but they can also emblazon the spark of their own lives. Never have I met a happy person with a dissatisfying sex life. Likewise I have never met a person with bedroom troubles who was happy in every other aspect of their lives or their own self image.

Because sex is so intimate, it is frightening and thrilling to share with another person. However, the individual who is willing to face that fear and all of its consequences in order to reap its profound benefits is able to face their fears outside the bedroom as well. Such an individual is difficult to control, and that is why sex is freedom.

The Clitoris is for Men

Several weeks ago I read a post by an advice columnist who I am not on particularly good terms with and it rankled me. The advisee, a young male, was concerned that he could not bring his female partner to orgasm with penetration. The advice he received was twofold: First, he was shamed for his male supremist desire to bring his partner to orgasm through penetration. Second, he was instructed in the “universal knowledge” that the clitoris is located outside the vagina and is not sufficiently stimulated by penetration and that he was required to provide oral, manual or electrical stimulation directly to his partner’s clitoris if he wanted her to orgasm.

Well, recent and extremely overdue research on the female reproductive anatomy has produced this three dimensional image of the human clitoris

The Internal Clitoris
The complete clitoris as presented on the Museum of Sex (NY) blog. The yellow portion is the clitoris and the blue structures are the bladder (left) and the vagina (right), which leads into the uterus (upper most).

Take a moment to appreciate this image. Exactly where is the clitoris again? It sure appears to me to be inside the female pelvic cavity, wrapping around the urethra and the vagina and extending forward to the mons pubis and backward towards the anus. Just by looking at this image, if you were to ask me if the clitoris was better stimulated by rubbing a finger on the glans clitoris, the tiny little nub sticking out and down on the left side of the image, or by rubbing some phallic object against the inner circle of it by way of the vagina, I’d go vagina every time.

So why was I so upset by the advice given to this young male? Besides it being out of date, it was also advise for a man seeking a goal and completely neglected the woman in question. More specifically, imagine being the owner of such a magnificent and complex organ of sexual satisfaction and imagine never once having been able to wield it properly. Now imagine you have a partner who wants to learn how to help you wield that organ to achieve its full glory, but when he seeks the necessary knowledge on how to do this, he is told that your organ is busted and isn’t actually meant to work that way and he should stop trying. No one once asks you what your opinion in all of this is.

This brief interaction between two men discussing a woman’s body without her input is not a new phenomenon, nor is it an example of bonding behavior we would expect to see only between extreme political conservatives. In fact, this is just one more case of a history of conversations between men for the benefit of men. As far back as I can remember, every storybook character I ever read about was either a woman seeking a husband, or a man. Every historical figure I ever studied was a man, save for the exceptional woman who was noted for her womanhood. In movies, women were the reasons that men became great, but they were never great themselves. God Himself is a man. In my adolescent years I was desperate, as all adolescents are, for a role model. I dove deeper and deeper into the philosophy behind what I was given to study in school, digging for some universal truth about humanity that would validate my existence. What I found was the vastest of empties. I would search in the books that we read for a female character that had positive traits and what I discovered was that in order to emulate these characters I had to be beautiful, and I had to be romantically unattainable. Attainability, was anathema to female success. The only women of virtue in any of my studies were desperately, painfully and permanently alone. It is a wonder I survived adolescence at all.

Modern times, full as they are with sexual freedom and women’s rights, still prove to be no more welcoming of the human female than the histories were. Indeed, even on a subject so intensely personal, so intensely feminine as the existence and nature of the clitoris, women are not even invited in to speak. The clitoris, it seems, exists only for validation of the male ego, and if he wants that ego validated, he better get to it directly and not waste time on pleasuring a woman in the process.

The Differences between Polyamory and Monogamy (part 2)

Monogamy has a long history rooted in social status and political maneuvering. Nomadic humans used marriage as a way to establish family ties that would save lives in times of crisis, specifically food shortages. When technology advanced far enough that people could store their food and wealth and pass it along down the generations, marriage was a way to legitimize the property transfer process. Fast forward thousands of years to Medieval England where the Catholic church struggled with the Anglo kings for political control. At this time it was common for marriages to be made and dissolved between clans as was politically expedient. By declaring marriage a Holy Sacrament, the Catholic church forced all future political contracts to be subjected to its approval. This is where the moral notion of monogamy arose.

Along with its moral imperative, the history of western marriage means monogamy comes with several other assumptions about what it means to be in a relationship. Among these are the notion ownership and control over another human being as well as the idea that being in a relationship with someone somehow prevents others from initiating a similar relationship with that person.

Belief in ownership of another human being leads to behaviors that are hurtful to the person being viewed as property. Traditionally when marrying, a woman became property of her husband. The two became “Man and Wife,” further reducing the woman from the category of a human to the category of being related to a man. To her, the man was her livelihood and just as she was his property, both had reason to defend their relationship against outsiders. Other women become enemies, specifically those who are unwed, because their affection detracts from what is available to the wife. From the perspective of the husband, other men close to his wife pose a threat to their social status because the ability to protect one’s property is part of masculinity, but also because a bastard son screws up the whole inheritance process. Unfortunately because the wife is viewed as an inferior being to the men, and because one woman who is dependent on her husband for sustenance is easy to control than an entire city of strangers, often enforcement of monogamy became a matter of punishing the wife rather than fending off the other men.

Today marriage is less about inheritance and livelihood, but it is still very much about social status and peer respect, and even couples who do not marry, but date within the monogamous framework, operate as though they were practicing for a marriage of the traditional sort. Jealousy is common and is sometimes interpreted as a sign of affection while being cheated on is a source of embarrassment. Society also expects that a monogamous couple in a Long Term Relationship will eventually begin to merge their lives, sharing finances and living spaces even before marriage becomes an explicit topic of discussion. Merely introducing someone as your significant other in any way means that friends and relatives will expect you to know that person’s whereabouts at all times, count you as two people when arranging carpools or parties, and communicate with that person as if they were you. And for many couples, these assumptions are not far off point.

To contrast, the history of polyamory is very different. To begin with, polyamory means many loves. Sometimes this is a fixed number of partners and sometimes it is fluid. I would like to focus on the types of polyamorous relationships that are open in the sense that there is not a predetermined number of partners that commit to each other exclusively. As an official socially acknowledged romantic structure, polyamory has only been observed in a small minority of cultures, notably those without the concept of paternity. Familial ties must necessarily pass through the mother, as does property transfer, and without the notion of paternity, the idea of sexual fidelity holds little value. As a corollary, economic security is also independent of sexual ties and so the choice to become romantically involved, or sexually involved with another human means little in terms of changes to one’s identity or social or economic status.

So polyamory exists inside a culture that has no social framework or historical basis on which to accurately acknowledge romantic partners, and it also lacks the moral imperative that monogamy holds. What this means for polyamorous people actively in polyamorous relationships is that, among other things, they lack the language to describe themselves or their partners. Members of a polyamorous relationship often find they have to explicitly undo the assumptions that others carry about their lives when discussing their partners. One particularly difficult one is the notion of availability. A polyamorous person in an open relationship is never officially unavailable, but declaring the presence of any romantic partner means that potential partners will keep their distance out of respect for the assumed ownership. Attempting to correct this assumption is full of all sorts of social pitfalls including replacing it with a different assumption that one is sexually loose or indiscriminate. It also means that there is no pre-existing commonly accepted template on which to build a relationship and that polyamorous people must negotiate their relationship structure and their boundaries on a case by case basis. Compared to monogamous relationships, polyamorous relationships must essentially build themselves from scratch both internally and externally with every new partner.

Much of the difference between polyamory and monogamy comes from the assumptions made by people, both inside the relationship and out, about the purpose of having a romantic relationship. Much of the rhetoric today praises true love and romance and assumes that the blind pursuit of these virtues will naturally lead to lifelong monogamy. In this paradigm marriage is a natural conclusion of the process of romance and monogamy is self enforcing. Polyamory builds itself on the idea that “true love” may be nurtured between more than one pair of people and as a consequence has no natural conclusion for the results of this love. While monogamists can use their social roadmap to plan their lives, trusting that when things fall apart there is already an infrastructure available to help them back on their feet, polyamorists must carry all the tools to plan and all the tools to recover from failure with them at every step of the way. The result of these differences is that the identity of a monogamist fluctuates with their relationship status while the identity of a polyamorist remains more or less constant.

 

On the Differences Between Monogamy and Polyamory (part 1)

Polyamory is in many ways the opposite of monogamy. If monogamy is the practice of forming and maintaining romantic relationships with only one person at a time, the polyamory is the practice of being open to multiple romantic relationships at once. While most people are familiar with the concept of monogamy and polygamy, polyamory has many subtle differences that overlap with both of these concepts. Like monogamists, polyamorists are capable of deep emotional bonds with their partners and often aspire to the same ideals of honesty and love. However, unlike both monogamists and polygamists, polyamorists may or may not aspire to lifelong commitment, and in addition to having multiple partners of their own, their partners are also free to have multiple partners as well. This is a key difference between polyamory and polygamy; polygamy is inherently imbalanced. Perhaps, however, the most important difference between polyamory and monogamy is that in a monogamous relationship, both partners are committed to achieving all of their fulfillment within the boundaries of their relationship with each other whereas in a polyamorous relationship two partners can choose how much fulfillment they want to receive from each other and how much they want to receive elsewhere. The implications of this subtle difference are profound.

I am at the age where many of my friends are marrying or at least beginning to contemplate marriage. While as a divorcee I am deeply suspicious of marriage, my friends often say to me, “but we already live together and neither one of us intends to ever break up, what’s the difference?” The difference is huge, I assure them. What is it exactly? Once married, you lose your outside option. To my married readers, have you ever wondered where all the affection and romance went from your relationship? Does it not seem as if as soon as you got married, your husband stopped offering you foot massages with scented oils, your wife stopped going to the gym? Once you marry, your partner can no longer walk out on you as easily. This means that you lose the motivation to care for yourself and to care for your partner in the same way you did before you married. Many of us swear to ourselves that we will be different, that we will not change when we marry, but we also swear to ourselves that this year we will finally lose those last five pounds, too. Marriage gives us comfort and certainty that we will not be abandoned (as easily), but it also relaxes our standards of care. It is true that many couples can survive happily decades into the marital contract, but it is folly to believe that every one of them will be able to maintain the relationship they had before tying the knot.

In a similar vein to the bounds that marriage provide, monogamy provides a closed context within which we can feel safe, but also lax and trapped. A single individual is required to provide emotional and sexual satisfaction in addition to providing companionship and partnership. This package deal is very attractive for the same reasons that it is restrictive. Take just one aspect of a relationship: emotional support. Over our lives we wax and wane in our need for support and our ability to provide it. If we are in synchronization with our partner, then we can trade the support we need with ease, but if both of us are in crisis, or if one partner is simply exhausted and no longer able to provide the support needed by the other, then there is no outlet for the build up of pressure. No amount of love, care or commitment can cure exhaustion; only rest can do this. So what we get is that in a closed relationship the exhausted party and the needy party erupt into conflict.

Compare this situation to an open relationship. When one party is in need of emotional support, there is no designated provider of that support. If she has two partners, she can ask one or the other, and when it is clear that one source is exhausted, she can turn to the other to fulfill her needs. Certainly there is no guarantee that this will satisfy her need, but it does provide relief for an overextended partner both because there are other alternatives and also because morally he is not obligated to solve her emotional crisis. The knowledge that exhaustion on his part is not an indication of failure to uphold his responsibilities in the relationship by itself can provide a soothing balm to the tension a crisis engenders. It can give him patience. It can also serve as a check to the partner in crisis. Because she has no commitment on the part of her primary partner to solve her emotional problems, she must be careful not to overload him and to maintain a healthy sense of awareness of her own responsibilities towards her own emotional health.

While a monogamous relationship provides an implicit guarantee of emotional support, the supply of that support is restricted by the ability of one’s partner to provide it. On the other hand, a polyamorous relationship does not provide such a concrete guarantee of support, but its inherent openness means that when provided, that support can be given more honestly and received more fully. Which relationship structure is preferable depends on one’s own tolerance for uncertainty and one’s ability and commitment to personal health. A monogamous relationship is a guarantee of a sort. It allows one to “play cards” such as the “if you love me” card, or the “this is your responsibility” card. These can be incredibly reassuring as can the notion of ownership that monogamy provides. The polyamorous structure means accepting in advance that those cards hold no value. Any partner can walk out, or form a new relationship at any time which means at every moment all partners must take care to ensure that they all still desire to maintain the relationship with each other. Many people are unwilling to tolerate this kind of uncertainty in their most intimate relationships. For all things, there is a cost.

Friends

Visiting my home town for the first time since moving abroad, I got the opportunity to meet with many of my good friends. There was a conference in town — the biggest annual conference in my field — so my mind has been spinning hard at the philosophical level, too. I want to share a few of the life revelations that came to me while spending time with these awesome people.

The first came to me while sitting at one of the fancy designer gourmet restaurants that my city is famous for. My friend, who until recently made her living making lattes and bagels, had come into possession of a gift card and we were determined to milk it for every penny. Our waiter was an absolutely stunning young white man with a backside that threatened the seam of his trousers in a most irresistible fashion. He had movie-star stubble and perfectly shaped eyebrows. Obviously, he was gay.

Towards the end of our meal, I noticed another stunning silhouette. This man was tall and slender and his white shirt nearly glowed against his ebony skin. He was dark, clearly an immigrant and mesmerizingly beautiful. My friend caught me staring and I explained that I simply wanted to know if the view from the front was as good as from behind. Then, as he turned, it dawned on me how incredibly surreal the situation was. Black men? Working in a gourmet fanssy shmanssy restaurant? Sure, he and his colleague were just bus boys, but they were visible in an upscale establishment. Surely this was a sign of social progress.

Alas, no, my friend explained to me. The white gay many was the waiter and the two black men of unidentifiable sexual orientation were bus boys, so clearly the oppression of the black man continues. What followed was a very short and very tense argument between my friend and I. She is a passionate advocate for social justice. I am a passionate advocate for personal happiness. To my friend, all that was visible was the still present discrimination against a social minority. What I saw was a pair of immigrants who happened to be of a similar physical description to a long oppressed social class doing their job in full view of the posh and snobby social majority that is the consumer base of that restaurant. I saw change towards a better world and my friend saw only the vast divide between what is and what could be.

She got angry with me, I think, for being happy. To my friend unless we are all equal there is injustice and injustice is unforgivable. I said to her, “It’s progress! It’s ok to celebrate progress even if there is still a long way to go. Celebrating a little bit of progress is not ceding the victory.” While I was busy feeling proud of myself for having produced one of those lines that, if I ever became famous, would be spun through the inter-memes for generations to come, my friend was busy seething. There are many things that I could say in justifying my position. I believe in rewarding people for doing things right, even if they are still a little, or even a lot wrong. Mostly this is because I have attempted to teach weasels how to do tricks, but also because I believe in being happy. Social justice is a far off goal, if achievable at all. Why would we choose to be angry for our whole lives over the inability to achieve a distant and difficult goal when we could be happy for every miniscule step we make in the right direction? I am not sure. My friend is not an idiot, so I’m sure she has a good reason. I simply cannot fathom it.

Later in my trip I managed to catch up with another friend of mine who is also a wonderful person, but whose life strategies differ from mine on some really raw points. She is stupidly happily married for some ten years or so now. That fact by itself means that we have a lot of divide to bridge in order to be friends, but she is also actively non judgmental of others (of herself, perhaps she is less forgiving), which means that having a big divide on any subject isn’t really a big deal. In the last year or so she has been making serious efforts towards overcoming some of her own personal demons and today, after being abroad for three months, I got to see the first glimmer of progress.

In a short two-hour dinner she dropped so many life revelations on me that I doubt I could list them all if I tried. One, however, stuck out in my mind on account of it being a wholly new perspective for me, and also on account of it being about sex. The vast majority of people, she said, are extremely uncomfortable with sex. Even the “sluts” of the world with partners numbering in the three digits have difficulty with the word “clitoris.” We also talked about a close friend of hers who recently shared a meme, “All a girl ever really wants is one boy to prove they are not all the same.” Later that night as I dosed fitfully in my still present jetlag, I remembered a friend of mine from the men’s forum Measurection. He once lamented that his life’s dream is for someone to look at his naked body and declare his penis to be “hung like a horse,” or something to that effect. As the three thoughts brewed in the background of my red-lining mind, a realization of my own simmered to the top.

I believe that everyone harbors shame. To some extent we all have shame about the physical bodies were are confined to and about the entity that we call our selves. We seek affirmation of our own identity in the love and affection of a partner, but doing so requires vulnerability. We cannot achieve that affirmation without exposing what it is in us that we are ashamed of, and when the partner we choose denies us, they only reaffirm the shame we already carried. Sex is a beautiful and powerful tool to circumvent our existential fears and achieve the total acceptance we crave. What many people don’t know about orgasms is that the truly spectacular ones can only be achieved when the ego is banished from our consciousness, leaving just the raw mindless truth of who we are behind to experience the moment unhindered. It is no wonder, then, that the majority of people in this world are uncomfortable with sex, or that they place as much value as they do on their own social prowess. I guess, in a way, it is also little wonder why I love the topic so much. If you teach some one how to have truly awesome sex, I think it’s impossible for the rest of their lives to remain stagnant and unfulfilled.

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑