The conversations you never have: taking a look at monogamous privilege

11 Oct

[[17Oct2011 EDIT: Thank you Bahli for the link! It seems somebody else has created a list of monogamous privileges. Check it out- it’s much more comprehensive than what I cover here and worth a read.]]

Just a quickie today, and I’m hoping for a lot of audience participation (I know y’all are out there reading, I see the stats, come comment!). Tell me the relationship privilege you’ve noticed!

I generally don’t make a big deal about being poly. I slip it into conversation where it’s appropriate, “oh, my sweetie’s girlfriend had a similar experience,” “yes, my sweetie works at xyz university…. yes I know I said he lives overseas, that’s a different sweetie,” and so on and so forth. Often, this immediately halts the conversation as people request clarification.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I love educating. It’s one of my passions! But, there are times when I really wish I could just talk about my life, without having to go into a long explanation of how it works… And it’s at those times that I realize that it’s a kind of monogamous privilege, the ability to talk about your life and love without people needing heavy explanation or defense.

So, in the spirit of Peggy McIntosh, I want to start thinking and talking about monogamous privilege. This isn’t meant to be a negative conversation about monogamy, I am totally into the idea of all kinds of relationship structures, as long as they’re what people want to be doing- but I do think it’s important that individuals within a majority population recognize the privilege they have in some circumstances, even if it’s small social details.

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Storytime: Coming Out as a Survivor, or, How Kink Saved my (Sex) Life

10 Oct

Now for something completely different: Story time.

Trigger warning: I will be talking about issues surrounding sexual assault and survivor sexuality.

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Polyamory: an introduction, kind of

7 Oct

Trying to encapsulate the entire world of non-monogamous relationship options in a single blog post is akin to trying to read all of six parts of Tolstoy’s War and Peace overnight. It’s impossible. For now, I’d like to introduce some terms and concepts that may pop up throughout this blog. This is by no means a comprehensive guidebook, but should give you at least a quick idea of what’s going on when we talk poly! Once more, mileage will vary: you may find different uses of these terms out in the world.

For a more thorough how-to on polyamory, I highly recommend The Ethical Slut by Dossie Easton and Janet Hardy. A great online resource for many things poly is Franklin’s Polyamory FAQ.

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BDSM: An introduction to some kinky ideas and terminology

4 Oct

Credentials and a disclaimer: A wonderful professor at the University of Michigan pulls me in once a semester to talk about this stuff. My information is coming from the collected resources of many years of study and community involvement, conversations and events, and personal observation. That being said, milage will vary. Every kinkster experiences and adapts the rules of kink to their own tastes and needs. Do not take this as kinky law, just as my interpretation of the culture!

The following is a review of some basic terms and concepts used within the BDSM community. For a list of more comprehensive resources, I highly recommend Clarisse Thorn’s BDSM Resource List

Kink is usually used as an umbrella term that encompasses the worlds of BDSM and fetish. We will spend more time in future posts going into greater depth about what all of these terms mean, but for now, a brief definition of each follows.

  • BDSM stands for Bondage/Discipline, Dominance/submission, and Sado-/Masochism,
  • Bondage/Discipline encompasses the physical elements of kink, including restraints and sensation play.
  • Dominance/submission encompasses the emotional and psychological elements of kink, including role play and consensual power exchange.
  •  Sado/masochism refers to the roles of one who takes pleasure in giving a physical sensation (or sadist), and one who takes pleasure in receiving physical sensation (or masochist).
  • Fetish refers to the sexualization of a not-usually-sexualized object, such as an article of clothing or object. In the world of psychology, having a fetish as a condition is when a patient cannot become sexually aroused without the presence of the fetish object; however, in the world of kink, the term fetish is used to describe any object people may find sexy.

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Lets talk about sex(uality)!

3 Oct

“The time has come to think about sex. To some, sexuality may seem to be an unimportant topic, a frivolous diversion from the more critical problems of poverty, war, disease, racism, famine, or nuclear annihilation. But it is precisely at times such as these, when we live with the possibility of unthinkable destruction, that people are likely to become dangerously crazy about sexuality. Contemporary conflicts over sexual values and erotic conduct have much in common with the religious disputes of earlier centuries. They acquire immense symbolic weight. Disputes over sexual behaviour often become the vehicles for displacing social anxieties, and discharging their attendant emotional intensity. Consequently, sexuality should be treated with special respect in times of great social stress.” — Gayle Rubin, Thinking Sex: Notes for a Radical Theory of the Politics of Sexuality

It is also time to talk about sex. Increased awareness of LGBTQ issues has led to an increased public discourse about sexuality, including policy shifts towards increased inclusiveness, and conservative public backlash as the movement has gained momentum. Even as policy changes perhaps slower than those within the movement may desire, the important thing is that, as a culture, we’re talking. Compliments of the internet, increasingly younger populations are able to find community in their diversity, and a generation of less-isolated gay youth are coming of age into the social and political arena. The closet door has blown off, and now America is adjusting to increased awareness and visibility of a diversity of sexual expression.

This is an excellent time to start some discussions about the rest of the rainbow, the forms of sexual diversity that spread beyond LGBTQ. This is a great time to start talking about expanding the rainbow.

I identify as a Radical Sexual Pluralist, a school of thought introduced by Gayle Rubin in the previously quoted document. According to this idea, there is no one “right” or “proper” way to experience sexuality. Sexual culture can be as intricate and diverse as ethnic culture, and as varied in it’s expression. It is my belief that in today’s modern era, any action that may be experienced as sexual that occurs between mutually consenting adults is okay.

I am also a Masters of Social Work Candidate at Western Michigan University. This blog was started as a part of my internship work with the Kalamazoo Gay and Lesbian Resource Center, and the Lets Talk about Sex(uality) film and discussion series will be coordinated through the center.

Through this lecture/documentary/blog series, I hope to start some conversations about different sexual minorities, and offer a variety of perspectives and approaches to stigmatized sexualities. Hopefully through this series, we can start a community conversation about the many shapes and flavors of consent, and help decrease our own personal judgmental beliefs about different groups of people. Stay tuned for book reviews, documentary reviews, this author’s personal musings, and guest bloggers from a variety of backgrounds.. Lets talk about sex(uality)!