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Whoa Boy: A man’s arousal is not my problem

I know that might be a controversial statement considering how often I get variations of “Hello sexy” in my inbox, but it’s the truth: I’m not the cause of a man’s erection.

I’ve known this since the very start of my sexual life and it’s been reinforced over time and validated by in-depth pillow talk and post-sex debriefings, men don’t get hard because of me, but because of their ideas about me. This knowledge became a means of liberation, a way to own my own sexual self and encourage my lovers to do the same.

Erections aren’t about or for me

Whenever I mention this, I inevitably get push back: Some insisting that their man is totally into them, men insisting that they’re totally into me. I’m not necessarily trying to convince them that they’re wrong, they have their experiences – but I have mine as well.

My experience spans decades. I was an early bloomer sexually. Over the 30 or so years I’ve been a sexually aware being, I’ve had more crushes than I can count, a diverse array of experiences and lovers from the sacred to the profane, I became familiar with the saints and the demons within us all. My “body count”, while high compared to most, doesn’t begin to encompass those who have never touched me yet still claimed me as the cause of their erection and/or orgasm. I am no stranger to the cis-male boner.

So understand that when I say this, I speak with the authority of some significant lived experience: Most men don’t get hard because of me.

No, they’re hard because of what they’ve imagined with me, a projected muse in the mind-movies of their fantasies. That’s not to say I don’t play a factor, but it’s detached from who I am. I am a channel of opportunity for their desires whether I want to be or not, whether I asked for it or not, whether they can act on it or not. A proxy, a stand-in for the excitement of potential scenarios, the thrill of fantasy, a vessel for playful imagination. A replaceable cog in the vast, sexual dopamine delivery system.

And yet, I forever get messages that look like this: “But baby, don’t you see how hard I am for you? Don’t you have a few minutes to help a guy out?”

No and No. Your erection isn’t my responsibility.

The contextual causality

It sounds cynical, doesn’t it? But consider, when we rely on the false formulas that all erections equal arousal, we skew some important truths.

An erection is a physiological response to stimuli, whether internal or external. The presence of a boner doesn’t automatically equal attraction or consent. For example, research has shown that “beer goggles” are actually sort of a thing. Likewise, an erection doesn’t mean male survivors wanted or enjoyed being sexually assaulted, a close cousin to the “she was asking for it” rape myth. Just like “Whiskey Dick” doesn’t mean I’m not attractive to him, the presence of an erection isn’t proof that I am either.

One man went so far as to recycle his dick pic photos, always claiming they were due to me in that moment. When I called him out on it he disappeared.

Bella

I am forever amused when men tell me that I’m the cause of their erection. Nah, boy, I just happened to be present either in your field of vision or a thread in your thoughts when you got one. If I was a mind reader, I’d see that while yes, I happened to be part of the field of stimulus, the erection actually came about due to certain thoughts, memories or physiological experiences. Consider the following real life situations (yes, these actually all happened to me):

  1. Ken is self-described boob guy. He was already half hard on his commute looking at the pretty boob-owners on the bus with him. He opens Twitter, scrolling for photos. A photo of my cleavage is one of many that fueled his lust to full hardness. That predisposition isn’t my doing.
  2. John sees me out of the corner of his eye flirting with the bartender. He notices I have a wedding ring. Boom! He’s hard because he imagines I’m cheating. This story isn’t my creation.
  3. Lucas has been bitter and lonely after a painful break-up. I chat with him in line at the grocery store and laugh at his jokes. He gets hard from feeling validated by an attractive-ish stranger. That role could be filled by anyone.
  4. Maurice has been catching up with his ex online, remembering all the great sex they once had together. I come home from work and he is hard and horny. That desire wasn’t because I suddenly showed up.
  5. Steve is out partying with his buddies and was rejected by my lesbian friend. He drinks until I’m cute, imagining a three-way with my friend until he’s hard. That backhanded compliment isn’t flattering
  6. Damian takes me to see a movie for our first date. There is a heavy gay leather sex scene that hits all of his repressed, sexual buttons. That desire is not at all about me.
  7. Ron is on a class camping trip and has never noticed me before. He wakes up with morning wood and I happen to be somewhere in a 200 foot radius. That wood is most definitely not for me.

Simply put: The boner isn’t because of me. The boner is because of the totality of the situation, the thoughts, the feelings, the memories, which only sometimes have anything to do with me.

The nature of my (role) play

Flirting is a better expression of interest for me. Playful banter that fans the initial, energetic sparks of attraction into some juicy mutual desire. Intellectual, witty wordplay with seductive innuendo. The tension of proximity, of express desire, of shared investment in the potential of sexual fireworks between us. Oh yeah…that’s the good stuff.

Good flirting is an art form. Back when I was in my prime, I was a master at flirtation and seduction. I could see a person’s desires as plain as you read these words here today. Written all over their word choices and body language, I could usually tell their deeper needs and I could tilt the conversation in that direction, adjusting myself to their ongoing display of desires. That is where the magic begins!

An erection is the least persuasive demonstration of desire. It limits my influence to a sexual impulse, a fleeting moment jumbled in with a ton of other thoughts and ideas. And even when it’s pinpointed to something I do or say, it still doesn’t say as much as when someone takes an actual interest in me, in my ideals and expression, in the magic I will actually bring to their world. Reductive, physiological responses aren’t enough – they have to be into ME beyond my cleavage and the sway of my hips.

Instead of wearing the costume of whatever image conjured that erection, their assumptions, their need, their aspirations, I prefer to play myself, not be a stand-in for someone or something else. And when someone only points to their erection as evidence of their attraction, it tells me that they know they don’t bring much else to the table – they treat me superficially becasue they are hiding from the depth I inevitably bring out.

At some point in my life I started recognizing that all spiritual exchange requires just that–an exchange. But when I serve as a placeholder, a meantime girl, a port in any storm, the exchange becomes more like a transaction. I was exhausted from providing more than I was receiving.

This caused me ultimately to stop sexual interaction with men who couldn’t see me, value me or be bothered to try to meet me where I am emotionally. Each message I receive I can usually pinpoint the desires. I can see their needs. And while I know I still have the skill to become exactly what they want, to get them hard for their own release, I am just uninterested in being anything but who I am. I don’t waste my precious energy unless those needs and desires align directly (not vaguely) with my own.

Your erection = your problem

In my world, an erection is only evidence a complex system of physiological and psychological responses to stimuli and thoughts. It isn’t evidence of arousal for me in particular. When men send me photos of their hard-ons, what I see is evidence of arousal from the exhibitionist nature of taking the photo. A photo of a hard dick doesn’t prove what someone actually thinks of me. (One man went so far as to recycle his dick pic photos, always claiming they were due to me in that moment. When I called him out on it he disappeared. Seriously, don’t do this.)

There is a certain freedom, as a woman, to know that a man’s hard-on isn’t because of me; it relieves me of any sense of responsibility or guilt to do something about it. How many times as a teenager did boys try to guilt me into oral sex through the coercive excuse of blue balls? Men have tried to convince me that my mere presence was enough to cause a hard on and then tried to make me responsible for relieving them of the burden of it.

“A person does not need a partner to relieve blue balls through sex. People can get rid of the symptoms by ejaculating through masturbation or by doing a nonarousing activity to distract them.”

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/324870#myths

Someone once said that I was making a harsh, blanket judgment and making arousal too simplistic. On the contrary, arousal is a beautifully complex and dense array of possibilities. It is just as much a conditioned response to cultural stimuli (racists being turned on by POC due to the forbidden nature of the attraction), as it is to physical attributes (an ass man getting an eyeful of cheerleader butts during halftime). It is memory (“Oh, the last time she did this she gave me a blowjob”) and it is hope (a hint of skin leading to daydreams of more). It comes in so many forms and rarely will there ever be one, singular source of arousal. Arousal is ultimately a magnificent cocktail of stimuli.

I’m simply pragmatic enough to understand that the part that I play in that cocktail is just one flavor of the mixture. I don’t carry the burden to satisfy the thirst completely, only to be who I authentically am in the moment. I get to choose whether he presents a problem worthy enough for me to delight in solving it.

Updating my old OKCupid profile

I’ve been using OKCupid since around 2005 maybe? It’s been the most Poly-friendly of dating apps for years. In fact, it’s responsible for bringing Warrior into my life (his ex-wife, my former girlfriend, met me from OKC).

My profile is as…thorough…as a profile can be. It’s got a ton of information in it. Enough for any prospective match to know what they’re getting themselves into. This profile has served me well over the years – I can usually judge matches based on how well they read my profile. But…like most things Janet, it says a LOT.

With all the changes they’ve been making recently, presumably for safety, as well as to keep up with the Tinder trend, I find myself updating a really old profile to fit with emerging times. While I disagree with the whole “real name” bandwagon (especially harmful to victims of abuse/stalking, members of marginalized communities and Poly/kinky members of conservative professions), if my name is going to be associated with this, I want to be more strategic in what I say.

I have used a variation of this profile since 2009. And while I have changed and grown as a person, my profile parameters have stayed the same.

Now, as I approach this task, feeling some internalized pressure to pare down what I say about myself, I have trouble letting go. My profile – my description of myself – is a statement of who I am, or at least who I believed myself to be, which is hard to let go of because it feels like saying goodbye to that woman.

So, to encourage me to start fresh on that profile, I’m preserving the original here so I don’t feel like I’m letting go of that past forever. But rather, I’m documenting the journey toward my new self instead. By putting this here, I allow myself to move on, to craft a new narrative of who I am and what experiences will feed my life in the months & years to come.

Saying goodbye to a wordier, more defensive version of myself, to make room for a better reflection of the power I bring to a connection and the path I want to be on today.

Enjoy the last remnants of the old me.

I was trying to pare down my profile to the essence and sadly I was unsuccessful. I admit, I’m not known my brevity, but I’m great at meaningful conversations, so maybe that makes up for it.

The most important thing to know is that I am happily and solidly polyamorous (couldn’t go back to monogamy if I tried). I have two primary partners (legal husband and Poly husband) and a girlfriend. I have two kids–teenagers–who make my life full and amazing. I give my family, including my chosen family, my all.

I am freedom loving, kinky, spiritual, a lover of laughter, liberal, expressive, way too serious, loving, passionate, vulnerable and confident although not usually all at once.

I love to experience that spark that happens between two people with great chemistry. Passion has been a defining part of my life, and it is a trait that is re-emerging after a long period of quiet reflection. I find passionate people, especially fellow geeks and politicos, especially attractive. Chemistry is found in the small moments, the crackle in the air during intense conversation or the overwhelming electricity of a touch or a smile. I just try to follow the connection and let it organically develop into whatever feels right.

I don’t respond well to pressure or uninformed expectations. I value honesty and openness. I tend to be find my deepest bravery and confidence in revealing my vulnerabilities and insecurities, and I’m trying to embrace the rewards of those risks. I celebrate small victories and learn from the crushing defeats; likewise, I tend to blow off small defeats and minimize large accomplishments.

I value thoughtful action, ethical behavior and compassionate communication. I love encountering the differences in one another that define our journeys. I recognize the inherent beauty and power of spirit. I try to be courageous every day and challenge myself to do what is right. I try to be ethical, approachable and understanding.

I embrace the term queer to describe my orientation. I am attracted to the whole person, inside and out, whether or not they conform to the gender standards or expressions others try to impose on them. But it’s not just gender…I love people who are equally fluid and open with their sexuality and therefore tend to gravitate toward bi (including curious, homo/hetero-flexible) or queer individuals. I consider myself a safe place for someone to explore and find acceptance for their sexual identity. However, I am not an experiment or a trainer for those new to their sexual exploration.

I crave sincerity in my relationships and reward that with my depth and passion. I am most strongly attracted to authenticity in all its manifestations. Most of all I enjoy being wanted for who I really am and am wary of surface level attraction.

I accept people, their interests, and their past experiences. I try to display the kind of openness I value. I am attracted to people who take personal risks in order to overcome their fears and past. I try to give people a safe place to be themselves without judgment or ridicule. But I’m not tolerant of deceit, manipulation or possessiveness.

I am trying to get back into finding and following connections again. After a very difficult few years where my family needed my full attention, I’m ready to start turning my attention to new people, new experiences. I’m ready for a renewal, a love for the life I want and have.

NRE for the non-existent love: ourselves 

Ever have a crush on someone so bad that you keep imagining the details of a relationship with them? Going through the way you’ll meet and discover the mutuality of your attraction with little electric bursts of twitterpation? And how the first kiss will just lock your souls together? But then reality intrudes and reminds you that either they don’t even know you exist or there is just no possible way to be together? 

  Yeah, I’ve got it bad. Not just one person either. I’ve got crushes on several unattainable people. People that I know well and others who I have barely met or spoken to. But despite the lack of mutuality, I still hold out a tiny sliver of hope, careful not to let it grow to expectation. 

As that emotion smolders, it feels almost almost like NRE, new relationship energy. Not quite the same but still that excitement of newness, the infatuation stage where you see all possibility and no downside. You feel all the passionate kisses instead of the awkwardness of first touch. You want to act on all the primal desires instead of the slow building of trust. 

I had always been hyper vigilant about NRE, even from my first poly relationships. When I feel the first twinges of it, I’d shut it down, always acting like the grown-up, dousing what energy we were creating together in an effort to tame and control it.  The only time I ever truly got carried away was when I first knew Warrior; that relationship completely swept me away (and 8 years later it still does). But getting carried away in that relationship caused me to neglect the partners I already had, creating a lot of hurt and distrust among us. And while I know it wasn’t all NRE, i do blame myself for getting so wrapped up in it without stopping to find balance or to check in with my partners. 

And in true Janet fashion, I shut down everything. Baby out with the bath water mentality.  I stopped dating, stopped even showing interest in others. I stopped flirting. I stopped even imagining being with others. I couldn’t even bring myself to fantasize. 

The past 2-3 months changed that.  Like an awakening. And someday I will write much more about that awakening, but it started essentially the same way that poly did for us. I finally got bold enough to start flirting back. And as I kept doing it, I kept finding my voice. Kept thinking that these people might not all be blind or crazy when they call me gorgeous. Even allowing the still dubious and inaccurate  “milf” or “cougar” title helped me accept that maybe I didn’t have to limit myself so much. 

Oh the attention was so welcome, so needed. I started flirting with some people online and even started a fun experience taking the dominant in me out for a test drive. Embracing the simple matter that:

 a) it doesn’t matter what people think of me; but

 b) if someone takes the effort to call me beautiful or intelligent, I need to honor that there is truth, even a sliver of honesty, in their words

With that and a LOT of meditation, I have started growing into myself again, regaining my confidence and my voice. I have adopted the new archetypes and roles that are fulfilling to me: Queen, writer, teacher, friend, healer, mother. And as I grow into myself I start to gain more insight into my life and the direction I want to be in. As I adopt these  new titles and roles in life I become better aligned with the patterns and energies around me, which is just an increase in my empathy. 

And the more I see of people without my protections and projections, the more I want to know them and for them to know me. The more I look into the world with my heart, the more I trust my intuition. The more I proclaim my space in this world, the more possibilities I see being poured into my life. The more people I meet and understand, the more I see the worthy qualities in myself. 

So even though I have these strong feelings for people I never have a chance with, I think that maybe perhaps NRE is more about seeing the best, happiest, more joyful qualities reflected back to us in the moments of passionate possibility. We start falling back in love with ourselves just a little bit more than we could before.  

The most unattainable relationship we’ve ever known is the love we can and should have for ourselves.  NRE brings out the joyful light, the lovable, sexy, imaginative and witty parts of ourselves that we need to see and embrace fully. And NRE allows us to feel desirable, wanted and lovable. 

And if these “unattainable” crushes (hey! A girl can still hope) can bring me that growing acceptance of myself and my desires then maybe NRE is healthy after all. 

Poverty Battle Royale: a commentary on welfare (Part 1)

Note:  I wrote this post originally in August, before my husband lost his job.  Now that we are on food stamps and Medicaid because of our mutual lack of employment, my reasoning and rationale behind this post is even more personal than it was before. I have added references to my own experience in blue.  This is intended to be a multi-part commentary. Links at the bottom to subsequent posts.
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Sometimes you meet some winners on OKCupid.  Earlier this month I met one the winners out there.  The self-assured, confident guy who is also sensitive, caring and intuitive (putting it lightly).  I have no idea how well that connection will turn out, but I’m willing to let it settle in a bit to see if it moves forward.

Then you meet some true assholes.  In fact, I’ve held off responding to most messages in the past few years because frankly I just don’t want to spend much time slogging through the waste of messages that I get on a daily basis. There was a time I replied to each and every one of the stupid messages I got, but now I’m much more comfortable with the delete and block feature.  First impressions count.  I put a lot of thought into how I approach someone before I rattle something off to them in the hopes they will reply back.  And if it doesn’t seem to fit, it’s not a biggie.  It means we likely weren’t going to hit it off in the first place.

However, every now and then, a message arrives and sometimes you have no choice but to relentlessly make fun of it.  I’m not normally a fan of mocking someone’s effort to find a special love, but sometimes the approach is so filled with hubris and presumptions that it begs to be publicized so we can point to it and make an example of it.

And in this case, this message from…let’s call him Timmy6917 (apologies to anyone with that username) was so arrogant, misguided and off-the-mark, that I felt obligated to spend a day researching my response which is posted below.

See, Timmy made three very crucial errors:

  1. He never once introduced himself, asked a question or even pointed to some commonality that might explain why he contacted me;
  2. He trotted out a lazy, conservative trope about welfare to a woman who is very clearly far left of center politically;
  3. He describes himself as “intelligent” and “sharp” in his profile, which sort of begs the question–who is he really trying to convince?

I needed to make sense of the rage I felt when I read his messages so I researched and I wrote.  I wrote 8 pages and could keep on going.  Writing out my thoughts on an issue that deals squarely with poverty and policy “suggestions” that rely on prevailing myths about poverty, I felt the need to expand even my own privileged horizons on this topic.  It was more cathartic than I ever thought it would be, or so I tell myself to justify the full day of work and sleep that I lost to this project.  It brought me back to a sense of pride for my political prowess.  All knowledge is worth having, I suppose. 

Disclaimer:  I did not actually send the following message to Mr. Timmy as he forever shall be known.  No, instead, I posted it as information for myself and my Facebook followers, many of whom know this subject far better than I can hope to emulate.  What Mr. Timmy got in reply was a curt notice that he failed to state an argument with his conclusion and that anyone who hopes to be a partner with me must demonstrate a minimal amount of kindness, respect and humanity.  I told him blatantly that the problem is not abuse of the welfare system, but rather limited and narrow viewpoints that shame those who live in poverty.  I have since gotten a reply from him, but haven’t read it because…well, I’ve already wasted enough time on someone that I never, ever want to meet much less fuck.  

Dear T,

Let me start off by saying that I’m not entirely sure what your basis is for the conclusions you’ve drawn.  You say Medicaid “is easily one of the most abused programs available”.  Okay?  Abused in what way?  Is it abused by the administrators of the program, those who receive benefits or the doctors/companies providing services?  And by cash programs, it would depend on which cash program (I’m going to assume Federal) that you’re talking about.  TANF? Unemployment?  WIC? Disability? Is your beef with the federal program itself or the state administration of these programs?  Or is it a state program you have an issue with?

But I hope to god that you’re not basing any of these broad opinions on the oft-debunked yet relentlessly persistent myth of the “welfare queen”.

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Scared to date

love-keyboard--large-msg-127265293321

So, it is says anything about the gravity of this topic, this subject line has been sitting here since October of 2011.

Hello. My name is Bella. I’m polyamorous and I’m afraid to date.

Hello Bella

Is there a support group for people like me? I have been polyamorous for almost 9 years now and for the past 4 years I have been afraid to date. I have been avoiding discussing why for a very long time, but like most things if I don’t just delve in and say it publicly, it will never get parsed out and thus never truly change.

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Turn-offs: pushiness

Maybe this will be an ongoing topic, but its worth stating that as I approach 8 years of being poly I have grown and developed and learned quite a bit about myself.

And today it has been reinforced that one of my biggest turn-offs is pushiness. I hate it.  No, I don’t want to webcam with you.  No, I don’t want to see you.  No, I cannot meet with you tonight just because you are lonely. No, I will not send you a pic. 

For future reference if you have to beg, cajole and push me into doing something in electronic communication it is pretty clear that the up close and personal experience will likewise be lacking in clear respect for my stated boundaries. If you cannot take no for an answer online, I thoroughly do not trust your ability to do so in person.

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