Monday, January 12, 2015

Silence by default

Since I have been talking about being polyamorous on my blog I have had a lot of conversations with people about the decision to come out publicly.  There have been some people who have been actively supportive of the decision but there are a lot of people who reacted negatively.  Unsurprisingly my poly friends generally reacted very positively but the negative reactions came from all quarters - family from both sides, work acquaintances, and other friends.  The negative reactions generally focused around the issue of Wendy not being eager to be public about polyamory on my blog.  There was a consistent assumption that if Wendy didn't want me to talk about it that the issue should have been done and settled; her right to privacy absolutely trumped my right to talk about myself in my own space.

It isn't as if my family comes from a tradition of keeping secrets from everyone about everything - generally I think they have fairly normal standards that way.  My friend group is mostly the same.  I am definitely the crazy outlier sitting comfortably 3 standard deviations from the norm in this regard.  Even now with me talking about relatively openly about sex and relationships here I am still holding an awful lot back that I would very happily slap up on the internet if it wouldn't upset those close to me.  I often think about embracing radical honesty but I couldn't do that without renegotiating an awful lot of my relationships.

Deciding what to post and what to keep secret is a tricky thing.  I don't make those decisions in a vacuum because I want to be sure that if I am sharing someone else's secrets that they are on board with that decision.  However, I won't allow anyone veto power over talking about my own secrets.  I can and do show restraint sometimes when asked though.  For example, I waited more than a year to make the first post talking about my own polyamory even though I was itching to spew it forth immediately.

The thing that doesn't add up in my mind is why so many people seem to place privacy as on an entirely different plane of importance than disclosure.  There seems to be an assumption out there that if anybody doesn't want a thing being said then it shouldn't be said.  I don't buy into that view at all.  Rather I strongly prefer the assumption that all things are fair game instead; silence should exist but it should be exception, not the default.  That doesn't mean you have an obligation to divulge your own secrets, just that you won't dump on me because I choose to talk about my own stuff.

This extends to the things I want to hear as well as the things I want to say.  Other people often say "Ewwwww, TMI!" when somebody else starts talking about their sex life even when it is cloaked in metaphor and indirect references.  My reaction is the total opposite - I just want more details!  This stark difference is especially obvious when other people express a desperate desire to not know anything about their family members' sex lives as though somehow it would be better if everyone related to them was asexual.  In my own head "So this is the new thing I am knitting" and "So X and I were bangin' on the kitchen table and this hilarious thing happened" are equally appropriate dinner conversation for family gatherings.  Not that I am more curious about my family's sex lives than my friends', it is just that I see them as equally interesting while the rest of the world seems to see one as utterly taboo and the other as merely a bit risque.

These preferences do not blind me to the obvious; I am able to easily determine what the world thinks is appropriate.  I just disagree with the standards I see to such an extent that I can hardly fathom how we ended up the way we are and I can't be happy hammering myself into the box that other people seem to inhabit quite comfortably.  Secrets sit inside me and fester, burning away like terrible heartburn that has but one cure - setting the secret free into the world.


  1. My only thought on this is that once released, you can't get a secret back. But a secret can always be released no longer how long you hold it (well, until all the secret holders are dead with no evidence of said secret). So it's a one way function, hence the greater desire to keep it from firing.

    Not arguing for/against, just offering possible explanation.

    I really enjoy that I can take a conversation anywhere, and you'll not only be right there with me, you'll be enthusiastic about it. It's nice not having to worry about social norms as much.

    1. True. I tend to look at it thusly: Every second that I keep a secret inside is a second I can't get back. You lose something each way, and I know which way I want to lose.

  2. Well I'm not just non-negative about this, I'm really glad it happened. You keeping a secret was a bad thing for me. I'm not delusional - I know it was yours to keep or to not keep. Also, it didn't affect me very much at all because I could talk about you being poly with pretty much anyone I cared to talk about it with.

    But I would also rather hear than not hear the details of my friends relationships, and since reading your blog seems to be the main way I keep in touch with you these days (I mean, you live almost 7km away, how am I going to bridge that gap?) I'm glad I can read about that here.

    Also, I think on maybe two occasions I had to not say something in a comment here that I would have rather said. Not being able to spout off about something on the internet is pretty much the worst thing that has ever happened to a person.