Monday, October 24, 2016

Fitting in

Elli wants a phone.  She has wanted one for a couple years now, but the desire has reached a fever pitch.  The other day I asked her why exactly she wanted a phone and what she intended to do with it.  She couldn't give me much of an answer aside from 'play games' and I felt like that wasn't compelling.  Later on that night though she came out of her room crying and told me that she knew why she wanted a phone.

"All of my friends have phones and it feels like they are in a club that I am not invited to and it makes me feel sad and left out."

I tried to comfort her and I suppose I succeeded to some extent.  I felt sad for her because it sucks to be the one left out.  I remember everyone in my elementary school getting Club Monaco branded sweatshirts and mocking everyone who wore anything else to school.  The sweatshirts were cheaper than a phone, but they sure were useless aside from signalling that you were a conformist.  At least the phone has functionality!

I hate buying into peer pressure and it irks me greatly to fork out money just because other parents have done so.  I don't want to be on that treadmill, and I don't want Elli to think that she or Wendy and I should be that way.  You can't win.  But I also don't want Elli to spend her school days pushed to the margins either and I just don't know how to bridge that gap.

There are plenty of arguments against giving kids phones.  One of them is that my generation didn't have cell phones when we were kids, so why should they?  Of course our parents didn't have computers, and yet we were pretty happy to have them, primitive as they were.  My parents also grew up in an era when beating your children over minor infractions was considered a normal, even noble, thing to do.  I sure wouldn't want that.  Generally speaking I don't think that "it was different in years gone past" is a strong argument for anything.

Arguments for giving kids phones exist too.  Elli being able to text us does increase her safety and her utility.  I could get her to go to the store for me more easily and effectively!  She could change plans with friends and easily check in with us when doing so!

Thing is, I don't want to spend fifty bucks a month for her to have a phone, nor many hundreds of dollars to buy something new and fancy.

Probably the best compromise is to give her a phone for social purposes but try to dodge the cost.  A used phone that only has a text plan is still pretty great for her - it grants communication at a low cost, and can still do lots of nice phone things through wifi.

At ten years old Elli is going to be far more tech savvy than I was.  Also a lot worse at chopping wood and fixing things.  Which I guess sums up pretty much every new crop of kids for half a century, at least.  Nothing new there.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Plot twist

This post is more sexually explicit and personal than most.  It isn't pornographic by any means, but it has frank discussion of my personal sexual dynamics.  If that isn't your cup of tea, stop reading.

Kink has been on my mind a lot lately.  I have been having a lot of kinky experiences and I feel like it has been really good for me in terms of understanding myself and others.  For me kink is a purely sexual thing and it isn't something I am interested in outside of that context.  Obviously for other people it works very differently - this discussion is about how I work.

Even up to a couple years ago I was pretty sure that I was not interested in kink.  Mostly it was because the things I wanted, deep down, were things that I couldn't figure out how to be morally okay with.  The thing that wiggles my waggle is being dominant and I couldn't figure out how to be dominant without violating my feminist principles as well as my instinctive worry of accidentally being abusive, especially towards women.  There was a lot of cognitive dissonance there.

It took awhile to actually recognize that dominance was what I wanted.  In large part this is because of my dual nature.  Initially it just seemed like a thing that I didn't want but that is because Director finds dominance extremely worrisome.  What if I do something wrong?  What if my partner is upset by what I ask of them?  What if I hurt someone by accident?  Much safer to just be cooperative or submissive.

But Passion doesn't like submissiveness at all.  Cooperation is fine and dominance is exciting and fun but submissiveness is boring.  Passion is in charge during sex so submissiveness doesn't work for me.

But I had to level up my feminism some.  Being a feminist isn't about sheltering women from experiences you aren't okay with, it is about empowering them and letting them chart their own course and it turns out that some of them really want to submit and get off on doing so.  If I won't believe women who say they really enjoy being submissive with me then I am being crappy to them by ignoring their stated beliefs and desires.  This shift didn't happen overnight and it didn't even happen on my own initiative.  Mostly it happened when women said things to me.

"Use me"
"I want to serve you"
"I am your dirty little slut"
"I deserve to be punished"

In most of these instances I was pretty surprised, at first.  However, the message was quite clear and it left me room to try things I hadn't tried before, and even have my mind be in a different place than it ever had been before.  I wouldn't necessarily have jumped to answer these calls except that in every case I knew that the women in question were ardent feminists who were absolutely strong and independent in most of their lives.  They knew what they wanted, and what they wanted was to be pinned down, smacked, and made to obey.

If at this point you are inclined to guess which of my lovers is kinky and which isn't, don't bother.  Some are, some aren't, and you can't tell at all from the outside.  Guesses will only get you in trouble.

Finally coming to accept that acting this way was ok on an instinctive level took awhile.  The theoretical acceptance was relatively straightforward but I had to viscerally accept it and that was much harder.  Eventually though I came not only to accept but also to enjoy it.

It has been a weird route to coming to this understanding.  There were trials along the way that didn't go well.  There were people that I did not match up well with in terms of kink specifically, even though otherwise there were plenty of good things.  That is something that I hadn't realized before really trying it out myself.  Sometimes even if I like a person and we have a sexual connection and we are both kinky the kink bit doesn't work.  It is almost like sexual attraction is, but on another entirely different axis.  When there was sexual chemistry the kink has come along slowly, immediately, or never, depending on the relationship in question.

There are also varieties of kink of course.  I am mostly into the dominance thing but there are so many other ways that kink comes out like bondage and pain that aren't really the thing for me.  Those certainly can be compatible with my desires, but obviously the most complimentary thing is submission.

I think the thing that is most enjoyable about dom/sub mechanics for me is that is simplifies sex so much.  When both people are equal, there is a constant give and take to decide what will happen next.  Are we starting or stopping?  Swapping positions?  Going faster, or harder?  Changing what we are doing entirely?  In non kinky sex I find I need to keep Director closer to the surface to negotiate with my partner over what we are doing.  I need to think, plan, weigh desires.  But when I am dominant and my partner is willingly submitting, I just push Director to the background and let Passion run free.  I just GO.  When I know that the thing that is turning my partner is me indulging my whims, doing as I will, I can leave my inhibitions behind and revel in the moment.  That freedom from responsibility, from negotiation, is a huge part of the appeal, and that works for both people.  Many submissive people have told me that the freedom from having to make decisions and be in control is the thing they love.

I know a lot of people will find this horrifying.  They would recoil if they saw it, and would think less of me.  If that is you, consider this:  Shoving a part of my body *into* someone else's body and slamming it in there really hard is an incredibly invasive act.  Yet vigorous penis in vagina intercourse is 'normal'.  Slapping my hand hard onto someone's ass though, that is kinky.  But between the two, intercourse is by far more likely to do damage or have other potential negative consequences.  So why be horrified by the kink, but not by the intercourse?  I suppose you could be horrified by both, in which case you seriously shouldn't be reading my blog.

Fact is, I am not trying to get anyone pregnant so sex is just about entertainment.  Given that fact, my partners and I ought to just do whatever is fun and our fun involves bruised asses and dirty words (among other things). There are no reasonable arguments from a safety standpoint - downhill skiing, martial arts, and even running are more prone to serious injury and just as prone to aches and pains.

The only real argument against my variety of consensual kink is that it squicks you out.  And that is fine, as far as it goes.  Some people get off on poop play with their sex, and that squicks me out.  But I won't tell them they shouldn't do that, because what difference does it make to me?  Their bed, their fun, their rules.

Sometimes I read about people discovering their kinkiness and often they end up realizing that their kink needs to be a huge part of their life.  A subset of them want to get into deeply kinky relationships where they give or receive orders 24/7.  Some want to bleed, or be set on fire, or any number of others things.  Many find that they just can't enjoy 'normal' sex or relationships much after that.

None of that really applies to me.  I like being dominant.  It puts me in a really fun place.  It is a thing I want to have in my life.  But I don't *need* it, not the way I need sex in general, and it certainly doesn't have to be with everyone.  It is icing on the cake.  Really tasty, but still only a small part of the whole.

I have found that it makes connections happen faster.  I think it is because it is on this different axis, and when people connect on just one level the attraction is strong, but when you connect in more ways it becomes more powerful.  It is somehow as though I have a new way to be attracted to people and that raises the maximum WOW factor.

Much of the changes in my mind lately revolve around letting go of inhibitions and control.  Allowing Passion to simply be, to let my carnal, savage, impatient side out to play has been really positive for me, and a big change in how I think.  Most of the time I am the same way I ever was, just old reliable Director.  But those times when I open the floodgates and let it go are potent and they leave me with a deep seated joy in life that permeates all of what I do.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Another reason why

This past weekend I received a lot of sad texts.  Both Tinkerbell and The Flautist had a rough time of it with family, and for both it was because they are polyamorous.  Their situations are different but there are some really important similarities.  Both came out to their families thinking that it would be fine and that people would be okay with it and both have had real problems being accepted.

It is worse on the holidays.  Something about ritual time together winds up the stress and anxiety level and having people be hostile to you in that situation is hard.  You can't get away without offending people and so often you have your own desire for a happy family time get torpedoed by people who insist on belittling or dismissing your choices.  I think because holidays are so wrapped up in other sorts of tradition people get into the mindset that everyone ought to pretend to be perfectly average people so you can all fit into the nice 'normal' box.

I am lucky with my own family this way - some of them really don't get my choices, but they haven't ever made it a problem when I visit.  I don't expect people to convert and I know that for many polyamory is inexplicable but as long as they decide to just set it aside and treat me as they always have I won't fuss.  I don't discuss it around Wendy's family, as I am sure that would be a disaster (though what shape the disaster would take I can't say exactly) so in that regard I am in a similar boat to my paramours.  Keeping silent to avoid a mess isn't fun, especially for me.

This is why I talk about polyamory here and why I won't just shut up about it.  People who accept all kinds of other life choices still consistently react badly to news that their relatives have open relationships or are polyamorous.  Moreover because it is still a small, fringe sort of thing people feel justified in being awful to polyamorous people.

Somehow because poly is still on the margins people largely have it in their heads that it is okay to be cruel and unpleasant to poly people in order to try to get them to stop doing it, or at the least pretend it doesn't exist.  There is a pervasive idea that just talking about poly is somehow offensive, crude, or rude, and that is so messed up.

If a polyamorous person is trying to recruit you, then certainly feel free to be dismissive.  But even then you should expect that if you try to recruit them into monogamy that they will be equally dismissive.  But if all they ask of you is to accept their way of being then you need to just do that.

Right now our society is in a place where it is expected that if a polyamorous person comes out to their family they will end up being treated badly.  The norm is that you either shut up and hide in the closet or end up being made miserable.  I shouldn't have the expectation that people I care about are going to be made unhappy every holiday and that I will get lots of stories of woe.  Who needs family that acts like that?

The way I fix this is by being loud.  The way the world gets better in this way starts with people knowing that poly exists, that lots of people do it, and that there is nothing wrong with it.

My being loud probably won't help the people romantically involved with me, certainly not quickly.  These changes take time.  But fielding sad texts on holiday weekends (and sometimes sending ones of my own) because of anti poly bigotry shouldn't be a feature of my life, and I am going to take what steps I can to nudge the world to a better place.

Monday, October 10, 2016

The locker room

Donald Trump's recent scandal involving the leaked video where he talked casually about sexually assaulting women and being able to get away with it because of how rich and famous he is has been a disaster for him.  That it took so long for this footage to surface is kind of amazing to me, but there it is.

The other thing that is amazing is the way Trump tried to defend himself in light of this video.  He used the words "its locker room talk" to try to downplay his comments about grabbing and kissing women without their consent and against their wishes.

So what does 'locker room talk' really mean anyway?  I think it basically comes down to talk that reflects how you actually feel but don't want to get caught saying.  It takes place in a location where people are segregated by gender and there is a strong tribe mentality to make it hard for anyone to report shitty behaviour within the group.

Trump has basically tried to defend his disgusting speech by saying that it is stuff he believes, but that normally he would try to only say that sort of thing when the people around are less likely to be offended by it, and when he really expects all the people in attendance to keep his dirty secrets.

That isn't much of a defence.

I am sure Trump really wanted us to believe that he was just kidding around and didn't mean it.  But it isn't my experience that locker room talk is that sort of thing at all.  Plus we know from many complaints against Trump ranging from unwanted touching to rape that he is happy to assault women whenever he wants with the expectation that his power and celebrity will shield him from repercussions.  This isn't a case of Trump going along with things other people said to fit in - it is an accurate reflection of his character.

It is still a sad state of affairs that Trump has 40% of the American electorate voting for him.  However, we can at least take solace in the fact that his polling is tanking, his party is abandoning him, and his prospects are dwindling.  There is some sense of outrage out there thankfully, and I hope that outrage carries Trump to a resounding defeat while the world look on with baited breath.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Pears and pineapples

I like to think about what choices I should make in various situations.  For example, if I am buying fruit in the winter I know that bananas are a better environmental and monetary choice than nearly any other fruit since they are cheap because they can be shipped here slowly on a boat and that also makes them a good choice in terms of being low emissions.

Sometimes though I struggle to figure out how to compare two totally different scales.  For example, this year I have been working out a lot.  I like the results.  I look better, I feel better, I am healthier.  But I am eating a lot more protein, and that has a cost.  It seems to me that environmentally speaking bodybuilding is a ridiculous and damaging pursuit.  Being big at the cost of a couple thousand eggs seems bad.

But being healthy is good.

So how do I compare these things?  What can I do to even put those things on the same scale?

It baffles me.

It is further complicated by odd feelings about the very idea of looking good.  People grade each other on a scale based on what else they see around them.  Being the richest person in your social group is a huge bump in terms of happiness, no matter which strata of wealth your social group falls into.  Same goes for how you look.  10,000 years ago people didn't go about thinking that everyone's hair was awful, they just graded it on the curve.

Which means that if I get bigger (and, by most people's metrics, hotter) then I am making everyone else around me feel less hot.  So while that isn't exactly evil, it is definitely an argument against working out being a general good.  It is like some kind of bizarre mad scientist's machine - lifting weights transfers a slight amount of hotness from all the people I know to me.

All of which is saying that working out is good for me, but I have these weird feelings like it isn't actually good for the world.

Not that this is going to stop me from lifting, mind, but it is going to make me think about this stuff a lot while I do.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

The cost of veggies

I was talking with the Flautist this weekend about being vegetarian.  She is one and always has been while I am an omnivore and always have been.  I have tried just eating veggies at times but it has never lasted long as I always felt my diet lacked something and I had serious meat cravings.  She told me about an argument against being vegetarian she had trouble with, which was essentially that growing crops kills plenty of animals so even vegetarians kill animals in order to eat.  This is of course true to an extent, but could easily be abused.

Let's be frank.  If you live in modern society your existence kills animals.  Your home is on land that could have housed animals.  Your food comes in trucks that run over animals.  The farms that make your food slaughter insects by the millions, dismember worms, groundhogs, and other underground critters, and wipe out forest habitat.  Your clothes and vehicles and everything else you have also comes from processes that wipe out animals.

Your very life is perched on a gigantic mountain of dead creatures.  Doesn't matter how environmentalist you are, how vegan you are, or how much it bothers you.  The only way to stop murdering other creatures for your own life to continue is to die.

Deal with it.

So given that we can't avoid being mass murderers of animals just by living in the society we live in, what are we to do?

We could decide that animal lives are clearly irrelevant and tuck into veal cutlets for every meal while throwing away as much waste as possible.

But we could also be thinking creatures and realize that we can't avoid the carnage we cause but we can minimize it.  Nobody can claim to be pure, causing no death and suffering by their passage, but we can work on ways to try to make the devastation we all leave behind a little less.

Being vegetarian is a fine way to do that.  A cow takes up far more cropland than veggies do, so vegetarians leave far less death behind them even if you ignore the death of the meat animal itself.  There are also strong arguments for vegetarianism from an environmentalist standpoint for basically the same reasons.

The two main reasons I see for people advocating vegetarianism are environmentalist and animal rights related.  Both have the same sort of structure though, for my purposes.  In our lives we destroy animals and do environmental damage whether we want to or not.  Also in both cases we can lessen that damage.

The trick is to not get caught up on any one thing, to my mind.  We don't have infinite energy, money, or attention.  We can't reduce the animal impact of our eating to zero, so absolutes like "It is wrong to kill animals for our food" aren't useful in the real world.  However, we certainly can take steps to try to make our impact less and each person is going to have different ways they try to do that.  Different people have different compromises that they can manage.

Some people can manage not eating meat.  Some can use no plastic.  Some can never fly in a plane.  The trick, I think, is to get away from absolutes.  It isn't that flying is right or wrong, it is that it has problems we should acknowledge.  Same goes for so many other things.  We should look at people with the expectation that they make real, serious attempts to make the world better in the ways that make sense for them, even if those ways aren't the ways we ourselves choose.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

On your own

Elli plays lot of video games.  This goes all kinds of different ways, ranging from her finding things on her own and learning them without my influence to her wanting to play games I play and pushing me to play with her.  I am often surprised by how she ends up finding games and figuring them out - sometimes she asks for help and I am baffled because I have no idea how the game works at all.

That kind of thing is fun though.  It is neat to see her pick up skills I don't have and explore new worlds all on her own.

It isn't as good when she wants to follow me though.  Recently I have been playing World of Warcraft again with Wendy and Elli wants to join up.  The problem is that when she has me along she never bothers to learn or think at all.  She expects me to hold her hand all the time in all decisions.  She has no interest in figuring the game out.  She just wants to follow my character around.

Quite frankly that is boring as hell.

Obviously I don't expect her to be an instant expert on a game, especially one where I have played for years and know so much.  I expect her to start at the beginning and have to learn it all.  What I wish though is that she would put effort in to do so.

I think it is hard for her because she can see that no matter how hard she tries she will never know all the things I know.  In a game I have mastered there is little point in her trying as she can never compete.  I get that.

It just means that games that I am really involved in aren't good ones for her to play.  It is far better for her, and far more fun, to play a game that I know nothing about so she can sort it out for herself.

I remember this kind of thing from my youth.  I remember having to learn how to install games on our family computer so I could play DOOM.  It took some doing, but I eventually managed it, and the process of doing so was really rewarding.  If my parents had just done it all and then told me what to do and how to play at every point it would have really lacked something.  Reaching out and exploring without a teacher hovering is critical to having fun!

While I like the idea of playing games with her it seems like a tall order.  Either I know a game inside out and she won't much enjoy it, or I don't know a game and am not interested in playing it.  I don't do games casually very often so it is hard for us to have similar levels of mastery.

It is a dilemma I have no good answers for yet.