23 May 2008

Madonna vs Whore dichotomy (sex positivity)

I have read, recently, a wide number of articles (like these) and commentary about the whole Madonna versus Whore dichotomy that women are expected to adhere to... Some of this has been in the Australian media and the rest various posts and articles from the US.

Firstly, I think the standards that women, and people, are expected to maintain in the US are different from Australia. The US is a lot more conservative sexually (publicly) than Australia. Nipplegate caused a furore in the US, and was laughed at in Australia. We're somewhat more permissive here, and that makes my life SO much easier.

But anyway... with "personalities" such as Sam Newman in Australia degrading women and causing this reaction its evident that there are still double standards for women even in Australia. Catherine Deveny wrote about how wrong it is that women are expected to stay silent about issues or be labelled hysterical, in relation to the Sam Newman issue.

It's an ongoing issue and one that women play into themselves. How often have you heard one woman refer to another as a "slut" in a manner that is degrading? In my experience, women are crueler to other women than men. I don't know why this is and it upsets me every time I run into it, but it happens all the same. Perhaps for this reason I opted out of female and into the grey space between genders. I didn't wan to be a woman if it required acting like that and playing those games, and I'm not a man... so I'm me.

But back to topic, women have two roles to play... the Madonna - the good girl, virtuous, well behaved, willing to put up with crap and smile... or the Whore - the bad girl, sexy, asking for it (in all senses of the phrase), willing to tell others to get lost....

The articles and commentary talk about how men want a whore in the bedroom but want to be married to the Madonna.... they expect women to act at both ends of the spectrum simultaneously. The boys like the girls at the pub who drink, sleep around and have fun, but they won't marry them...

All of this is a huge load of crap of course. Men and women who expect such insane behaviour should be taken outside, shaken and given a stern talking to. I'm not a student of anthropology or the human condition, other than what I've seen through life, so I can't give an answer as to why this happens... but I have my suspicions.

The biggest is religion. There are very few mainstream religions that are sex positive. Since most societal norms, in my experience, stem from religion our culture isn't overly sex positive and has certain expectations of women. These expectations have, over time and especially recently, been eroded... women now work, allegedly earn as much as a man and are considered full human beings able to participate fully in society... well in Western society anyway.

So... what, you ask, does this have to do with polyamory? What does Western society call women who have multiple partners? That's right... we're sluts... and we revel in it. There are polyamorous people who struggle with what other people will think, who try to be the good girl on the outside, even I'm guilty of that with certain people I know won't cope with the real me, but generally we (regardless of gender and orientation) take joy in being different, in being sex positive, of knowing what we want, knowing where we can find it and demanding that we be accepted for who we are.

Sex is a good thing - its not the core of polyamory, but certainly is a nice perk - and pretending that you don't like sex because good girls don't is just insane. If you genuinely don't like sex... then that's your deal... but if you like sex, say so. Stop pandering to the societal norms that don't make sense and start being the entire you.

Love who you are, love the things you enjoy, be proud that you are a sexual being, sensual and aware of the effect you have on others. All these things will lead to much greater happiness than trying to fit societal expectations.

09 May 2008

Things I plan to post on

I need to write a list so that when I am over this cold and my brain is working, I can look at the list and write on the topics below.

  1. Types of people who are poly
  2. Why knowing what you want is important
  3. Madonna vs Whore dichotomy (sex positivity)
  4. Sexual assault - the aftermath

Not all of these topic seem immediately relevant to polyamory, but there are links... trust me.

Now I have something to remind me what I was going to think and write about, I should have four articles written soon.

02 May 2008

Letting it be what it is

Hey everyone, James here. I've been rather slack in getting my thoughts into this blog, but I've been trying to write more recently, so here I am!

The topic of this blog post is one close to my heart. While at ConFest over the Easter long weekend, my friends Anne and Pete ran some workshops on polyamory. I gave an answer to one of the participants' questions that got me thinking about one of the things I really love about being poly, but had never distilled into words before.

Polyamory allows relationships to be what they are.

I feel that, in the world of monogamy, there is great pressure from all sides for relationships to confirm to a certain archetype: meet, fall in love, get married, have satisfying sex, have children, stay together forever. Any ongoing relationship which doesn't match this template is suspect. If two people have been having a sexual relationship for years but have never felt the urge to settle down, their friends will almost certainly be asking when they're going to "tie the knot", and if they're not getting married when are they going to break up and find a "real" relationship.

Intense platonic relationships fall under the same pressure. When the participants are single, friends will be asking, "So, have you had sex yet?" The suggestion will be that a relationship without sex is no relationship at all. If the participants are not single, then intense, loving, affectionate platonic relationships are a source of jealousy and tension. The trouble is, if someone in that situation tells a worried partner that, "We're just friends!" they may not be telling the truth; polyamorous people often tell me of intense "platonic affairs" that feel as real as any sexual relationship.

The trouble is, trying to force these relationships into a designated shape will nearly always be a bad thing. I suspect we all know someone who found someone with whom they had amazing sex, and felt compelled to take it further, despite ample evidence that outside the bedroom they didn't get on so well. This will usually result in years of fighting, acromonious divorce, and unhappy children.

Then there are the non-sexual affairs, which participants and friends may feel should be sexual. When two people who love each other deeply, love each other's company, and talk for hours about intense and personal topics, but feel no real sexual attraction toward each other, forcing the relationship into a sexual arena is rarely a good idea. Such relationships may naturally develop into something sexual over time, but forcing the issue is unlikely to make anyone happy. Years of passionless marriage, with bland, unsatisfying sex at best, and no sex at all at worst, can lead to affairs, betrayal, and broken hearts.

Polyamory can neatly sidestep all of this bullshit. The reason is quite simple: in monogamy, you only get one relationship (aside from affairs) so you need to get all of your relationship needs met in one person. Most people need a confidante and friend, a soul mate, a partner, and a lover. They need someone who shares at least some of their interests, and someone who will meet their needs. In poly, you can meet your needs with multiple people, and this means that each person is not forced to try to be everything for you.

If you're poly, you can have your passionate sexual friendship, knowing that you'll go home to your own place to sleep and not have to share a living space. You can have a deep, non-sexual relationship without having to either forego sex entirely (or have sex without someone you are not physically attracted to).

As I see it, trying to reshape a relationship into something it was never meant to be is only going to hurt the people involved and break the relationship. Polyamory lets relationships be what they are, without pressure to make them into something else. This, I think, is one of the great gifts of being poly. In my own life, I have a lover named Jack. Early on we had a great conversation in which we both admitted that we didn't know precisely what our relationship was, where it was going, and what form it would ultimately take. More importantly, neither of us cared. There is true freedom in that, and it's one of the things I love most about this lifestyle.

. . .

Edit - I've heard through the grapevine that something I wrote in this blog entry has offended someone I care about. Even though no names were mentioned, they felt something I wrote made them feel personally identified and (I think) unfairly judged. It was not my intention to hurt anyone, so I have deleted the offending phrase and also deleted an anonymous comment made by that person that referenced that comment.

If you read this, please get in touch and talk to me about it. I'd like to apologise and try to explain.