Wednesday, February 12, 2020

To Genesis P-Orridge: Thank You

Genesis Breyer P-Orridge,

More than a decade ago, I told you that you saved my life.

I was in college. My roommate at the time had downloaded D.o.A: The Third and Final Report of Throbbing Gristle to listen to while we worked on our calculus.

A few tracks in, and the calculus was forgotten. We were both in awe—and increasingly uneasy.

It was Hamburger Lady that destroyed me. It was a “blind” listen for me—I knew almost nothing about TG, and certainly not about the song. I missed most of the lyrics on the first listen, at least with my conscious brain.

But not the sound.

I knew the next day when I came back from class that I would play it again. And that when I did, I’d be crossing a bridge I couldn’t come back from.

I played it. I listened. And for the first time in my life, I knew real fear. Real horror. That which is unspeakable and splits sanity asunder.

I slept with the lights on for a week. I went to and from class like a robot. I avoided my dorm—because that was where the sounds had played. Every surface felt sullied. Within the mundane, I began to perceive the nightmarish.

It wasn’t like the world had been painted in different colours. It was like the surface veneer of hygienic, safe, suburban apathy had been peeled back to expose the rot underneath.

I finally saw the truth of that rot:

People suffer.   

And around me, people were just walking on by, going about their lives, like it wasn’t even there.

But I could see it when I looked at them—the fear. The fear is always there, when you peel back the surface.

They are just so scared they can’t even look at it, stare it in the face, unflinching, and declare that some things truly are unacceptable.

And that is why the refrain of the human race is, “Shut up. We don’t want to hear about it.”

And so, suffering continues.

At first, my reaction—beyond the fear, was hate. I had to keep obtaining new copies of D.o.A. because I kept destroying them—even as physical objects, they frightened me. I considered you a kind of aural terrorist. You’d caught me off guard. You’d used sound as a weapon of sorts—you’d deliberately blasted apart my sense of safety.

But love can look pretty similar to hate, and when I examined my violent internal reaction, I dug deeper. I learned everything I could about your life and your work.

Here, at last, was someone who was deeply, unflinchingly honest about suffering in the world.

Here was someone who would not shut up—whatever efforts were made to silence you.

It’s been more than a decade since I traveled to meet you and Lady Jaye. 

It would be hard to explain how magickal finding out about you was. There was never a sense that I’d discovered someone new. The sense was that I had at last identified a golden thread that had woven always through my life, unseen, but tangible and ever-present.

While I was delving into my past to prepare for my autism evaluation this past year, I found an old essay I wrote for an ezine about my first trip to NYC in high school, a couple years prior to discovering you and your work.

The essay describes beautifully—too beautifully—the ugliness of parts of the city. To me, at that time, even the squalor I encountered in the city’s slums was part of its allure—suffering was mere ambiance, aesthetic. I had overlaid a perception of the ascendant, the heroic, some secret dignity upon its every crumbling brick, its every homeless citizen.

Reading it while I prepped for my eval shook me. I had forgotten where I’d come from.

I’m not sure I actually saw it until that moment. Before you came along and obliterated my safe, serene surface world, I literally was a solipsistic empathy vacuum.

I had lived in a suburban snow globe my whole life to that point. I had (and have) Theory of Mind deficits. So when I stepped outside it during that school trip to NYC, when I saw poverty and social neglect, I didn’t recognize it as suffering. I was, in the most demeaning possible sense of the word, a tourist.

Listening to TG was like having someone shove my head underwater. Hamburger Lady was an auditory representation of the abject state of the comatose burn victim’s experience—not just a description of her wounds. A part of me was forced to mirror that state when I heard it.

I saw the horrors you wanted me to open my eyes to from the inside. Your music was an empathy shortcut.

Her suffering was unbearable to me. I needed it to end. And I was as helpless to end it as she was.

And so, I discovered compassion—and rage, and heartbreak.

And then … Psychic TV and Thee Majesty were there to pick up the pieces. Through your positivity, your honesty, your declaration that we create ourselves—you helped me find the courage to fight the horrors of modern existence in whatever tiny ways I can.

When I was still in high school, when I wrote that essay about NYC, I was on a nihilistic path. I’d cared always to pursue what was beautiful, and what was true—but only that.

There is a quote I love from UG Krishnamurti: “All the accumulated knowledge, experience, and suffering of mankind is inside you. You must build a huge bonfire within you. Then you will become an individual. There is no other way.”

I had believed that such a bonfire would demolish all—that I would transcend this world, shake it off, and abandon it to the ashes.

But in you, I saw someone who was dedicated to building that bonfire, but who had rejected solipsism and indifference—who had chosen to care for this world. You burn the dross, and protect what is most beautiful: true will.

You showed me the value of pursuing what is good. I still have Theory of Mind deficits. But you taught me kindness.

You set me free.

I don’t know if there is any universe where our paths ran parallel. In this one, they split, because I was still on that compromised path when we met. But I have carried that golden thread with me every day of my life since, and have fought to look unflinchingly in the face of suffering, and fight back.

Eventually, it was enough to pull me onto a brighter path.

The young person who fell down the rabbit hole thanked you for saving her life.

Today, I want to thank you again. Time has not lessened my gratitude. It has deepened it in ways I’d never have expected.

Every day for the rest of my time here, I will continue to speak the truth, to be kind, to fuel the bonfire, to create myself, and to set others free to do the same, to honour my will and theirs, and to protect all that is authentic in this world.

So I’ll conclude with the immortal words of The Beach Boys:

God only knows what I’d be without you.

I hardly knew you, and you hardly knew I existed—and that is the kind of change you forged in my soul. Gods only know how many lives you’ve changed as deeply as mine. But if I am even a scrap of evidence, you can guess. In a pit of coal, amid the suffering, the rot, the apathy, the malice and indifference of so many, you are a diamond. The difference you make in this world is vital, deep, incandescent, and beyond any measure.  

Monday, April 9, 2018

On the Edge of a Knife: Introduction

The line between pain and suffering is monumental.

It is the difference

Between volition and violation

Between self and oblivion

Between sense and madness

Suffering happens when pain—or some other agent or experience—crosses and smudges that critical line.

I am writing this today because I’m scared shitless. I’m not going to lie. Eleven years ago, sudden, chronic, intense pain turned my life upside down.

Scratch that. Not just pain.


I have had the great fortune to fight effectively forward, and for years now, that pain has been relatively in remission.

Right now, I am going through a tough time. Knock on wood, gods willing, and with nature and luck on my side, I am just dealing with a hitch in the road. Regardless, I have finally decided to face my fears head-on and try and get proactive again with managing this condition.

But I also struggle with anxiety, and I hyper-focus—likely a result both of the anxiety itself and of likely but undiagnosed autism.

Facing fear for me is incredibly hard. I am sure anyone can say that. But the harder I fight, the harder depression and terror tend to crash in on me, and right now I am reliving a lot of memories I’d sooner forget. Ironically, that is both from the flare-up and the new efforts at addressing the long-term condition.

To help me confront my fears and move forward positively—and to honour a promise I made before my fear got into full swing, I am going to do the same thing I did last time to cope, only this time I am going to do it out loud, and I am going to do it in this blog.

I am going to share my obsession with topics involving pain, torture, trauma, isolation, captivity, powerlessness, control, and will.

I have long intended to write a philosophical series on BDSM, but I can see now that the reason I haven’t been able to approach it is because doing so involves delving into that line I mentioned before between pain and suffering.

And that requires a broader look at both.

So going forward, I will be examining the brutal psychological and spiritual effects of acute and chronic suffering in a way that I hope is more honest and substantial than most of what I read online.

My thesis is that BDSM’s spiritual value is in providing an experience and a life philosophy that stands in direct opposition to suffering.

True torture—whether at the hands of human beings or nature—is a brutal erasure of the line that divides self from oblivion.

BDSM—or any practice of conscientious sadism or masochism—is the opposite. It is the practice of recognizing, honoring and protecting that sacrosanct line. It is pain which doesn’t cause true suffering, or disfigurement of the soul.

Instead, it heals and reinforces the structure of the soul, empowering the will of the practitioner. Indeed, the guiding precept of conscientious sadism or masochism is that of the healer—not to avoid hurt, but to do no harm.

It is the choice to bring order to a chaotic universe, to bring love and respect to a world characterized by indifference. It requires a full acknowledgment of the evils of that world as a necessity. There is no other way to navigate the boundaries of that narrow, essential line without violating it.

I would say that finally writing all this in public takes courage—but it doesn’t.

Perhaps the only useful thing—and I hesitate strongly to call it that—about suffering is the fact that it is a stark reminder that the only true horrors in life are external to our souls.

They are impositions on our will, never the result of our will itself. True will is never something to fear—only the suppression of it.

You might fear how the world will react to who you are.

But you never, ever have to fear being yourself, because that is always a force for good.

It doesn’t take courage to embrace that. All it really takes is the perspective and the diligence to let go of the illusions you’ve been force-fed.

Your battle is with the world, not yourself. Save your courage for your real enemies. Don’t fight shadows inside yourself.

I hope that you will join me on this journey, and feel empowered in following your own calling.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Monday, October 19, 2015

The Marquis de Sade: A Late Eulogy

“Either kill me or take me as I am, because I’ll be damned if I ever change.”

When I was 14 years old, I fell head-over-heels in love for the first time.  His name was Donatien. 

He’d been dead 186 years.

Life is so damned inconvenient.

Nevertheless, sometimes you’re given exactly what—or whom—you need, even when time and space get in the way.  At the formative age of 14, what I needed most was a mirror, something to reflect my own identity back at me, clearly and truly.  I’d never had such a mirror, which meant I wasn’t at all sure who or what I was.

Of course, other people seemed to have their own plans regarding who and what I should be.  They were more than happy to reflect their own projections back at me, to try and show me my image through the distorted mirrors of their own ambitions, needs, and fears.  My childhood was smothered in conformity.  I had parents who censored everything I saw, listened to, and read to the best of their thankfully inept abilities.  My childhood was in a word uninspired, tantamount to sitting in a waiting room. 

Somewhere in that vacant fog, I heard Enigma and their classic album MCMXC A.D, but I never pinned down the name of the artist until my teen years.  When I did, I became curious what Sandra was whispering about in Sadeness Pt 1, which of course led me to discover the Marquis de Sade.

It’s one of life’s mysteries that when you discover something essential to you, even before you get to know it, you sometimes feel it in your bones.  The moment I saw his name, I knew I needed to snap up anything and everything I could about him.

But who was Donatien Alphonse Francois de Sade?  A dead revolutionary who didn’t even rate a footnote in my high school history textbook?  A violent criminal who wrote disgusting texts to justify his cruel acts?  An edgy libertine obsessed with sex, sex, sex?  It depended on who you asked. 

If any of these descriptions had actually summed him up, I think I’d have been bored silly.

Imagine my surprise when I discovered that Sade—the supposed depraved monster, the man who so many people assume was a moral vacuum—wrote this:

“Our reason alone should warn us that harm done our fellows can never bring happiness to us; and our heart, that contributing to their felicity is the greatest joy Nature has accorded us on earth; the entirety of human morals is contained in this one phrase: Render others as happy as one desires oneself to be, and never inflict more pain upon them than one would like to receive at their hands.”

What a beautiful sentiment from a man whose name literally has been equated to the infliction of that pain, whether in the playful sense (which I believe he’d have appreciated) or in the destructive sense (he'd have appreciated the irony).

This sentiment can be read in a short essay called Dialogue Between a Priest and a Dying ManThis piece is often overlooked of course, because there is little here to connect to our culture’s obsession of sex, sex, sex.  Dialogue Between a Priest and a Dying Man will do nothing to titillate bored couples in the bedroom.

At the time I read it, I was an atheist, which was not appreciated in my parents' household, nor had such a perspective gained the popular ground it seems to enjoy today.  My beliefs have changed in conjunction with the evidence of my experiences, but Sade's moral philosophy remains a core one in my life.  Reason and heart alone--these are what inform my beliefs and my choices, not the dictates of others.

Sade in the French Revolution

The Marquis de Sade was quite courageous to espouse atheism at a time when the church was incredibly powerful.  In fact, he was incredibly brave to champion many of the ideas that he did.  His commentary not only on sexuality, but also on religion, nature, the human race, and politics enraged Napoleon Bonaparte, resulting in his imprisonment without trial.  In fact, Sade spent more than a third of his life behind bars in a variety of prisons as well as an insane asylum, where he died at the age of 74.

The man was by no means perfect.  He certainly was a sexual predator, and some of his indiscretions were vile.  The majority however have been greatly exaggerated, both in his time and after it (today I doubt they’d rate more than a blip in a tabloid).  His first 13 years in prison were at the behest of an angry mother-in-law.  During that time he was accused of an accidental poisoning, but the charges were later declared groundless.  Yet somehow he is remembered more for the many false and embellished charges lobbed his way than anything good he did in his life.

When the French Revolution set him free, Sade, who was opposed to the death penalty, became a judge in a revolutionary court.  He sought repeatedly to prove the innocence of those who came before him, and even saved his hated mother-in-law who condemned him to prison in Vincennes from execution.  Charged with being too lenient, he was sentenced for execution himself.  Thanks only to a typo (and the subsequent end of the Terror), his life was spared. 

Who would think a man who went down in history as a bloodthirsty, well, sadist, would literally risk his neck to save his bitter enemies—enemies who condemned him to a fate of imprisonment which he likened to “this grave where they have buried me alive”? 

Society not only offered Sade vengeance, but actually demanded he kill his fellow human beings, that he give into his most base instincts.  He refused, on the basis of his heart and his reason.

Yet the Marquis de Sade is remembered for the sadistic acts he wrote about … not the merciful acts that nearly cost him his life.

On Writing

While I haven’t had a chance to read it, I have heard the Marquis de Sade wrote an essay called “Reflections On The Novel.”  Why did Sade choose to dwell on vice in his writing?  In his own words:

“Never shall I portray crime other than that clothed in the colors of hell.  I wish people to see crime laid bare, I want them to fear it and detest it, and I know no other way to achieve this end than to paint it in all its horror.  Woe to those who surround it with roses.  Their views are far less pure, and I shall never emulate them.”

In this essay he apparently also advised never to write for money—at least not as a priority.

I’ve been thinking about this lately, because money, fame, praise, and all forms of external feedback are why the vast majority of writers write.  They write to a formula, they write to please “beta readers,” they write not to honour the highest truth in their hearts, but to please the fickle mob.  This … they call art.

Don’t get me wrong.  I don’t have anything against the person who honestly derives their greatest joy and meaning from pleasing others.  I don’t have anything against someone who writes primarily for a financial payoff and calls it what it is—content.  I also have nothing against members of television writing teams who miraculously manage to inject something genuine into a collaborative process under the heel of an ongoing profit motive.

I do have a problem with individuals who say they are creating magnificent, honest works from their hearts when they are actually pandering to the whims of the mob.  I realize the grain of inspiration at the center of their works sometimes is derived from their hearts, but they’ve allowed public opinions, trends, publishing houses and writing advice columns to make revisions.  They have twisted their works accordingly.  If this represents their hearts as they claim, their hearts too have been twisted out of true, and belong to the highest bidders.  

True will comes from the individual, not the masses.  True art reflects true will.

They’ll tell you it’s for the sake of making writing better, that their willingness to butcher their own work is proof of their seriousness.  But achieving greatness in writing doesn’t entail handing one’s words to others to vivisect.  It means doing that hard work yourself, like a painter or sculptor or any other type of artist, and doing the thousands of revisions your soul demands with the passion they deserve.  Those revisions should be driven not by the whims of the masses, but by your heart and reason

Writing is about becoming a surgeon, not letting others be your butchers.

I bring this up because I write novels, and I am so lucky not to be caught up in this desperate race to please others.  I am part of a tiny percentage of writers who treats their work as a sacred trust, a ritual, a link to the divine.  It is an offering I give to the gods of my experience that grant me an inspired life and do so directly.     
And every day, I hear that I am wrong.  It is everywhere in blogs and advice columns all over the web.  "Don't listen to to your heart or reason--listen to us.  We know what you want to say better than you do."

I don’t mind being part of a tiny minority, and I can even accept that my work will never be my living.  But I do mind that the other 99%  pretend nobility and sacrifice—or count someone like me as a failure among their ranks.  I’m not a member of their ranks.  The only commonality is that I work in the medium of words, as they do.

I got to wondering, “Why is that?  What set me free?  How did I learn to place value on the truth in my heart, and not on the expectations of others?”

And then I realized.  When I was 14, I had a mentor.  From across the barriers of time and death, Sade taught me what true integrity looks like:

“Either kill me or take me as I am, because I’ll be damned if I ever change.”

The priests of Sade’s fundamentalist time were gatekeepers.  They stood between the masses and salvation, telling them what to believe, how to act, what was true, and what was divine.  If they did not get in line, Hell awaited them.

Of course, the priests told them this to keep them in their place, so that they could continue to hold power over their lives.  Their mission was always to keep the disenfranchised from seeking Heaven on earth, or trying to create it themselves.  When we find salvation on our own, we no longer need priests.  We are empowered, independent, free.  We lead individual lives, lives that cannot so easily be reined in and controlled.

The gatekeepers of our time are everywhere.  The parents who deny us love unless we subscribe to their traditions, the politicians and CEOs that deny us bread unless we join their corporate machines.  The fundamentalist priests—they are still here too, telling us that their god speaks to us through their books and their sermons.  

But perhaps the most insidious gatekeepers are the nameless masses—ordinary people who have not had the courage to see that we derive knowledge from our experiences and meaning from our hearts. Having sold their integrity to others, they now seek to drag the rest down, because when they see integrity, it reminds them of just how much painful work they'd have to do to ever set themselves free.

In the world of writing, those gatekeepers are the publishing houses and the beta readers and the public who believe that great art must be subject to their discretion—that it comes from what others believe we should create, and not what we do.  " "Don't listen to to your heart or reason--listen to us.  We've let others butcher our souls.  Now let us butcher yours."

They do this for the same reason as the priests of old: power--or perceived power.  In truth, it is nothing but weakness. To quote another role model of mine, William Blake, "Those who restrain desire, do so because theirs is weak enough to be restrained; and the restrainer or Reason usurps its place & governs the unwilling.  And being restrain'd, it by degrees becomes passive, till it is only the shadow of desire."

That’s why I wanted to take this time to reflect on a man who changed my life.  Though he never met me, Sade held a mirror in front of me.  In him, I recognized the values in my own heart.  He showed me that actions matter more than words, that blood spilled or spared never lies, and that integrity is the cornerstone for any moral system worth devising.  When the Revolution swept over France and a whole country went mad, he chose the hard path—the path of kindness. 

He made his choices not because some priest, gatekeeper or imaginary god told him to, and not because the masses respected, liked, legitimized, or appreciated him.  As Sade said,

“All human morality is contained in these words: make others as happy as you yourself would be, and never serve them more ill than you would yourself be served. These, my dear fellow, are the only principles which we should follow. There is no need of religion or God to appreciate and act upon them: the sole requirement is a good heart.”

While the world remembers either a monster or a sex-obsessed libertine with no thought save for himself, I remember a man who spared his bitter enemies from the execution block at the risk of his life, a man who once went to prison not for assaulting a prostitute, but simply for practicing his rhetoric on her paid time, a man whose dry humour was utterly delightful.  Sex-obsessed he was, but the love of his life was his platonic best friend.  And at 74, he took the time to teach the teenage laundry maid he was screwing how to read and write.  What an utterly idiosyncratic individual.

In many ways, Sade never entirely grew up; in a childish, petulant manner, he threw a tantrum anytime he didn’t get his way.  So many of his mistakes weren’t the result of cruel, cold-blooded determination, as so many would think, but most often of a blithe, lonely innocence that sometimes didn’t realize the destruction it was wreaking until it was too late. 

Why do so many remember him differently?  Part of it is probably that history is written by the victors—and de Sade is hardly someone we’d term a victor in the traditional sense.  Part of it was the myth he himself created.  But perhaps his own words explain it best: “Truth titillates the imagination far less than fiction.”

Was the Marquis de Sade in truth a hero?  I don’t know what it takes to call someone a hero to others, and he certainly wasn’t a hero to every person he met.  But he was a hero to me.  He taught me if you really believe in something, it is worth going to extremes to speak the truth and live a life through action that honours it as best you can.  He never let others tell him how to write, what to believe, what was right or wrong, or how to live.  He never let others stand in the place of his heart or reason as false gods.  In a way, he was there for me when no one else was.  I try to live a life he would be proud of.

In discovering Sade, I discovered myself.  Fifteen years later, I don’t write this eulogy to say goodbye, but to say “hello again.”  I also do it to remind you who are reading this that other people are not your gods.  They have no right to tell you what to believe or how to act or to restrain your true desires.  Have the courage to be yourself.  Don't let anyone censor your soul.  Stand up for yourself and live a life of integrity, like Sade.


Friday, July 3, 2015

What Polyamory Isn’t

Polyamory:  The philosophy or state of being in love or romantically involved with more than one person at the same time.

That’s the definition I get when I Google it.  It’s not bad actually.  There are variable definitions of polyamory, but that one actually fits pretty closely to my own.

I always liked this one for myself:

Polyamory:  Where partners have the freedom to allow their relationships to take their natural course, whatever that might be.

You’ll notice neither of these definitions involve sex.  Being polyamorous can mean you’re having sex with more than one person, but remember, asexual people can be polyamorous too.  I’m not asexual, but I enjoy many different types of intimate relationships.  I feel that each relationship has an utterly unique expression, because every person is unique.

Just as every person is unique, every person has their own unique approach to how they structure their life, and our orientations are filtered through what fits us.  One person’s polyamory looks different than another’s.  Diversity rocks.

But please note:
  • Polyamory is not the same thing as promiscuity.  Sure, some poly people are promiscuous.  So are some mono people.
  • Polyamory is not the same thing as swinging.  Many swingers certainly are poly people, but not all poly people are swingers.  Likewise, some sexually non-monogamous people may be romantically monogamous and still identify as swingers.  These are overlap categories, not interchangeable labels.  If someone tells you they are poly, do not assume they are or are not a swinger.  And do not assume every swinger identifies as poly.  It is always best to ask.   
  • Polyamory is not about casual one-night-stands.  Poly people can have them of course, and so can mono people.
  • Polyamory is not identical to an open relationship, though it is one form of open relationship.  Open relationships are a broad umbrella.  Some forms may focus more on casual sexual interactions and some may even exclude emotional attachments.  Remember, poly is about more than sex.
  • Poly is not just a lifestyle.  It is for some people, but for others it is an orientation.  For some people it may carry situational flexibility; for others it is set in stone.  If someone tells you they are poly, they may be referring to their lifestyle, orientation, or both.  The only way to know is to ask.
The above list is included for general reference.  Hopefully what you gather here is that poly is a broad umbrella, just like mono.

What I really want to talk about is deliberate mis-use of the word "polyamory."  Not linguistic laziness or arguments over nuances.  I want to talk about when the word "polyamory" is used to disguise disrespect and justify unhealthy behaviors in relationships.

At this link, you’ll find a piece of shit eBook which demonstrates what polyamorous is not—but what some people want you to think it is.  I run across a lot of crap like this, and it really pisses me off.  This guy is essentially saying polyamory is something you tell women you’re dating until you finally find a real “in-love” relationship, at which point you can retire from that sub-par shared existence and settle into a life of happy monogamy. 

That's insulting to pretty much everybody.  I wouldn't have a problem if he just called it "non-exclusive dating for monogamous people playing the field" or something like that.  But borrowing the name of an actual orientation?  Lame.  Poly people don't have relationships with multiple people because they're dissatisfied with those people and looking for the person they can be satisfied with.  They have relationships with multiple people because all of those relationships are deeply fulfilling to them.  It isn't a means to an end.  It is the ultimate happy expression for them.

Check out these horrible excepts which are awful, awful, awful:

“To determine if you should be monogamous with a woman or polyamorous with her, you need to know how to tell the difference between loving someone and being in love with someone.”

“The next rule is that you must let her go at some point – you cannot hold on to her forever. You both should enter a polyamorous relationship knowing that you are together only temporarily, so if she finds a man who is better for her than you are, you must encourage that relationship.”

“Constantly reinforce the idea that you are not ultimately going to be the man for the women you are polyamorous with so that they don’t start to think you’re in a consummate love relationship when you’re not … Until you each find ideal mates, you must help each other to do so and learn everything you can from each other along the way.”

… Stuff like this annoys me, but what really set me over the edge was that today, I talked to an acquaintance who asked me to help her by giving her perspective.  She told me she is monogamous and having a hard time adjusting to her partner suddenly announcing he must live a poly lifestyle as befits his apparent orientation.  When I started the conversation, I expected her to give me a situation where both she and her partner were behaving reasonably and having a hard time understanding each others’ orientations.

Instead, she tells me about a guy who sounds like he read this eBook and adopted it as his dating mantra so he can hedge his relationship bets.  I don't know if he's a bad guy or just a lost guy.  He's not the subject of this blog--just one person who has fallen into a familiar pattern I have seen many times before.

I am tired of people grabbing the word “polyamory” and hiding behind it like a shield while they treat their partners with disrespect or hedge their bets in their relationships.  It doesn’t matter whether the person doing it is poly or monogamous.  What they are doing is disrespectful, to their partners, and to responsible poly people who are working hard to cultivate meaningful, lasting, powerful relationships.
Here is a list of unhealthy things polyamory is not:

  • Polyamory is not cheating.  Polyamory is not about having sex behind your partner’s back.  Nor is it about “legitimizing” cheating.  Just telling someone else “I’m having sex with other people” with total disregard to their emotions is a violation.  Will everyone in a poly or hybrid relationship be comfortable 100% of the time?  Probably not (life is messy), but no one should be disregarding anyone’s feelings or needs.  Poly is not a way to say, “I am going to and have sex with whomever I want, and if you don’t like it, you can fuck off.”  That is just craptastic behavior.
  • Polyamory is not a flag you can wave so you can go irresponsibly shagging whomever you want with no responsibility or consequences.
  • Polyamory is not about having someone “on the side.”
  • Polyamory is not a way to conveniently hedge your bets on one relationship while you evaluate another.   
  • Polyamory is not an excuse to run off on your partner and avoid dealing with issues in the relationship.
  • Polyamory is not about breaking the rules or trust in a relationship.  There are many shapes that poly and hybrid relationships can take.  The rules set by parties in a relationship can vary, but those rules are to be respected and honoured.
  • Polyamory is not an excuse to avoid commitment, or a relationship structure that the poly person engages in until he or she finds “the one” and then settles into a life of blissful monogamy, leaving behind a trail of broken relationships and “expendable” partners. 
  • Poly is not about disregarding your partners’ emotions or emotional needs.
  • Poly is not an excuse to avoid one person and replace your intimacy with them with another because you are too much of a coward to deal with the problems between the two of you.  This is not about avoiding responsibility.  It is about taking responsibility for multiple intimate relationships, and all the challenges that go therewith.  
  • Polyamory is not a quick fix for a relationship that is in trouble.  Again, avoiding an issue by turning to someone else for comfort will resolve nothing on its own.  In some situations, it may make things worse. 
  • Poly is not something you do because you are unhappy with your current partner. 

The takeaway here should be this:

To people being hurt in relationships:

If someone is behaving like an abusive, selfish jackarse to you, it is not because of that person’s orientation.  That is not what being poly is about, any more than it is what being mono is about.  Anyone of any orientation can behave like a jerk.

Having healthy poly relationships and healthy mono or hybrid relationships involves the same qualities:  trust, respect, honesty, compassion, patience, communication, and decency. 

If those qualities are absent, it is not an orientation issue.  It is just a bad relationship—or a relationship that is damaged and needs help, if you think it’s worth fighting for.

To people hurting others:

If you want to be a jerk, or a coward, or hedge your bets in your relationships … stop hiding behind “polyamory.”  I don’t care if you’re actually polyamorous or not.  Maybe you are, maybe you aren’t.  Whatever your orientation is, you will not find or create happiness or stable relationships by behaving like a jerk or coward.

And all you are doing is hurting the rest of us—those of us who are poly and strive to lead responsible lives and build healthy, happy relationships.

It really sucks when I tell someone I am polyamorous and they think I am saying I am a cheating jerk who has found a loophole to get away with it.

Building any solid relationship is really hard work. 

Building multiple ones is even harder.  It doesn’t involve less work or less insecurity.  It involves more of both.  It isn’t an escape from responsibility.  It’s exactly the opposite.  It is a responsibility to be your absolute best to every person you become intimate with.

While there are many differences between us, in that sense, poly and mono people are exactly the same.  We owe the people we love the very best we can give them.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Link Time! John Oliver on Transgender Rights

I love this guy!  Great segment on the rigors of being transgender in a world that prizes social constructs over individual lives and identities.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Link Time: Gendering Emotions

Since I'm still on my hiatus, I will share this nifty little infographic thingy I ran into today:


And huzzah on marriage equality in the USA!  Never thought I'd see the day!  We're one massive step closer to a friendlier, more open and accepting society.