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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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A peacemaker speaks

The shooting in Connecticut has been on my mind all weekend.  I’ve been somewhat silent as I watch friends on Facebook or Twitter or elsewhere rally behind a cause that essentially says “more violence = less violence”.  This whole concept is just abhorrent to me.

It feels low.  It feels base.  It feels like moving backwards.

The suggestion that arming teachers and administration would somehow have prevented this tragedy tells me that people I used to respect and like would rather see more violence, more fear, more aggression than try to establish peace and compassion.  The fact that these suggestions are often accompanied by “evidence” that seems suspect or at least slanted doesn’t help their cause with me.  I will not say that the other side doesn’t have skewed statistics either, but at least they are not advocating for more violence so that definitely wins out for me.

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Denver is a mad, mad world…for all

The Denver community is in a tizzy this week.  The founder and “un-organizer” of KinkforAll made some pretty divisive statements (as summarized in the Silence is Golden presentation from the “unconference”) about the BDSM community which ended in discouraging the locals involved in the community from attending the event.  Much has been made of his statements, including by me on FetLife and elsewhere all over the internet such as Twitter, Google Groups, the Denver Westword not to mention the site of the un-organizer himself, MayMay (please for the love of god, please do  not click on the link or else you will be subjected to a load of mostly irrelevant links with 47+ linking back to his own blog or spaces that he has some primary control of most of the content).

While I take issue with the un-organizer’s uncanny ability to stay just as un-organized in his writing, making it virtually impossible to discern what he actually believes from the gratuitous, self-serving nature of making links back to his own blog, thus driving up traffic and feeding a narcissistic tendency that is wholly evident from a simple reading on its face…I only briefly visit that issue in this post. That is my personal opinion of him based on my read of him.  Granted I have never met him in person and despite his “invitation” for someone to meet him for coffee before he leaves the Denver area on Tuesday, I just can’t after going through being triggered by another outing scare.

See, what I find utterly offensive and reprehensible about this man is how this self-proclaimed, sex-positive advocate and sexual freedom fighter has the gall to link someone’s legal name to their FetLife profile, thus effectively outing them.  Involuntarily outing someone doesn’t seem like the work of a sex-positive advocate.  In fact, it seems much like what happened to me when conservative bloggers decided to do something similar.

Even mentioning this incident today to my husband put him through a visible state of panic and fear.  We both remember what happened when I was outed.  It’s taken us over 5 years to fully recover and still haven’t financially.  In the grand scheme of things I’m not sure which was worse…my rape or my outing.  Both had a profound effect on my sexuality, inevitably inhibiting my freedom and the safety I feel in expressing my ideas even in such a general way here.  And yet, for as much work as I have done to recover and heal, today I still had the knot at the pit of my stomach, afraid I’d be MayMay’s next non-consensual victim.  Afraid I’d have to face difficult questions about ruining my kids by being kinky, queer and poly.  Sex-positivity goes hand in hand with self-determination.  All of us should be allowed to control the time, place and manner we choose to become open about our sexuality.  It should never, ever be decided for us by someone playing blog-politics with our lives. And what’s sad…I have more forgiveness for the conservative bloggers who outed me than I do for MayMay at this point. Why?  Because MayMay should know better.

At what point did sex-positivity become about outing people?  I don’t care if it’s one person or a hundred.  His selfish need to be -right- on such a small and insignificant event (which by the way the majority of the kink, gay and lesbian communities knew nothing about) blew away any credibility he had left as a sex-positive advocate in my book.  And I have no problem warning other communities that he visits fall-out they can expect.  For he fails to recognize the true human cost of his relentless pursuit of righteousness and justifies his disrespectful behavior with a taunting recitation of his own website where he calls FetLife unsafe.  And yet, none of that excuses the shameless disregard for the human cost in his obvious pursuit of his spiteful agenda.

Denver will recover, it always does.  Like I have said in the past I feel Denver has a strong community base.  The Denver BDSM community has been having conversations about racial, gender and class privilege for the whole time I have been involved.  We’ve been more active in calling each other out when there is a sex-negative agenda.  We’ve been educating about queer leather, trans inclusion and a whole host of topics in between. Which is why so many in Denver were eager to be a part of KinkForAll.

The people who have been offended by the words and actions of the past few months are not Denver’s “elite”.  These are the ones who have been in the trenches making “traditionalist leaders” re-evaluate their terminology, practices and even identifications.  These are the people changing the face of kink everyday and doing so without recognition or thanks.  And yet, despite all of this, these extraordinary men and women were brave advocates for those same traditionalists to be included and be welcome to contribute side-by-side with them.  We may not like what they have to say, but they are part of the “all” in the title and we won’t leave them behind.

We could debate all day about the meaning of the word “kink”.  I can say that back home it’s defined as someone who “lets you in the backdoor”;  whereas in other communities I’ve been a part of it means you do more than just piss in someone’s mouth.  But while kink isn’t always synonymous with BDSM, at the very least they are closely related and certainly never mutually exclusive.  Excluding members of the kink community -or- specifically targeting them -or- outing them -or- exploiting them really betrays a weaker-minded agenda than the stated intent of providing an open forum for discussions about sexuality.

Sex is a difficult topic for many and must be approached with care and dignity for all present.   BDSMers for the most part are able to talk about sex much more easily and openly than most people i have met and have a lot of value to add to any discussion about kink while still respecting the boundaries of those new to the topic. In fact, my topics were these: Conflict Resolution for Multiple Methods of Loving, the politics of slut-shaming culture, the impact of the Sexual Freedom Movement on racial and ethnic minority communities (and vice versa), Healing through the Sacred Whore/Prostitute Archetype, creating culture, responding sufficiently to sex offenders within our environment, the experience of recovery after being outed. None of these were exclusively BDSM-oriented and could have benefited the discussion.

Yet, I chose not to attend after finding out that a) the media had been invited, b) they would be livestreaming/videotaping the sessions and c) that as a BDSMer/queer leather femme I might be targeted by this man’s personal bias.  What’s worse is that mine is not the only voice that was silenced by MayMay’s personal prejudices and agenda. Many more valuable voices were likewise left out as a response to not wanting to promote this problematic agenda even further.

I will always be supportive of the idea of a conference, a gathering, a teach-in or any other model that promotes open, safe and constructive (rather than “uncomfortable”) discussions of sexuality. I will fully support efforts to confront privilege whether it be in the BDSM community or beyond in an equally constructive way.  But when it is executed poorly because of the directed and unchecked prejudices of one person, then the community must take up the responsibility to create a forum of its own where the stated intent of “all” is respected and openly welcomed.

This fall-out has shown me we still have so much further to go.  In a world like this where Rush Limbaugh calls a Georgetown student a “slut” and a “prostitute” for wanting to testify about reasonable access to birth control  (which can have health benefits unrelated to preventing conception) do we really need to nitpick over what the meaning of kink is?  After all, none of that matters when examples like the Limbaugh one above exist every single day and members of his own party won’t even denounce him publicly for such egregious and unwarranted attacks on something as simple and easy to understand as birth control.  The nuances of kink, BDSM, and fetish pale in comparison to the work we have to do in the rest of our world about basic sexuality.  And if we ignore these opportunities and decide instead to exploit the precious freedom we’ve been able to create we do a disservice to our own selves and the vision we have for greater acceptance.

Liberate from the madness.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

What is a Slut. The response

A few days ago, this article by Katheryn Hale was sent to me by a friend who wanted me to comment on it.  Knowing that I am rather pro-slut she specifically wanted to know whether I approved or disapproved of this commentary.  I am a proud and happy slut.  I am happy to reveal my number and go into gross detail about what each encounter meant to me.  I consider myself an advocate for responsible slutting.

Want to know how I feel about the article?  I wholly disapprove.  I sat there in shock as this commentary in EdenCafe of all places was insulting those of us who have an active and equally healthy sex life.  Not to mention the fact that this article showed absolutely none of the sex-positive or even woman-positive imagery I had grown to expect in my daily readings, it did it in such a demeaning and judgmental way that I have no choice than to respond to some of the more choice judgments.

“Whore” and “slut” are terms almost always applied to women, particularly promiscuous ones. While they’re very similar behavior-wise, whores and sluts differ by their degree of promiscuity. Whores are often associated with prostitution. These women have many sexual partners, but they’re selling their bodies primarily for monetary gain, whether they actually want to be a prostitute or not.”

She starts the article by assuming that sluts should end up at the bottom of this heap.  She acts as if any of us are morally equipped to judge someone else’s sexual choices or encounters, much less determine that some classifications of sexual women deserve to be at the bottom.  What is interesting at that she classifies “whores” as being better since they’re getting paid for their promiscuity and later in the article states that the fact that “whores” maintain some sense of safety and control over their choices.

But it’s this statement that set me off: 

Sluts, however, are willing to have sex with just about anything that moves. They’ll engage in dangerous sexual activities at a whim, all while only being concerned about pleasure. At least whores are both aware of the risks and are willing to protect themselves whenever they can. Even if a slut knows about the dangers of frequent unprotected sex, she’ll most likely not give a hoot about safety precautions pre-intercourse.”

WHAT.THE.FUCK?!

Sluts are willing to have sex to satisfy and assert our own pleasure, our own choices, their own values and not those of someone else.  We do not have sex with just about anything that moves; in fact, we exert a great deal of choice over who we have sex with and how.  And even if Ms. Hale had bothered to define what are “dangerous sexual activities” (is it sex with strangers, sex without condoms, sex in public, group sex, kinky sex, mile-hi sex?) trust me when I say that we sluts have one thing in common: we assess our risks and make knowing and informed choices.  The fact that we do so more quickly than your average bottled-up housewife does not necessarily make it “on a whim”.  But even if it were on a whim, why is that a problem if we are walking in fully aware of and prepared for the risks involved?  Even if the sole concern isn’t primarily for pleasure, at least we do actually consider our own pleasure before deciding to have sex with someone.  Shocking, I know.  But certainly not anything that should be used to judge anyone…that is, unless your premise is based on an assumption that sex should not be pleasurable. And if so, you should really be more upfront  about that.

But more than that, I’m offended by the assumption that think that our sex is “unprotected”.  The fact is that sluts are owners of our sexuality.  We are enforcers of a healthy sexuality.  And more than anything we aren’t so caught up in the paradigm of fear about what is “down there” that we actually know our own anatomy, our own pleasure centers and are educated and assertive enough to understand and make conscious decisions about our level of safe sex.  We are more likely to be prepared with condoms, have had frank discussions with our health-care providers in order to keep ourselves safe and are more likely to walk out on someone who refuses to respect any boundaries we require regarding safety or activities.  We are active and informed consumers of sex, from the side-effects of some of the materials used to make the sex toys we use  down to the rules of engagement for a new sex partner.

Are you prostituting? You’re a whore. Were you caught cheating with your lover’s best friend? You’re a whore. Did you contract an STD, have an abortion, or appear on Maury Povich for a paternity test? Whore, whore, and big time whore.

Here’s my take:

Are you prostituting?  You are a sex worker.

Were you caught cheating with your lover’s best friend?  You’re likely a cheater.

Did you contract an STD?  You’re either not taking the right precautions in sexual activity or you were terribly unlucky.

Did you have an abortion?  You are a woman who has had to make a very difficult choice (and you might have been forced to because you were a victim of rape or incest or marital abuse).

Did you appear on Maury Povich for a paternity test?  You’re attention-seeking and possibly harboring some unresolved issues, but not likely an actual whore.

Am I the only one who sees this line of judgment as problematic and infinitely fallacious?

When a woman becomes a slut, she is no longer treated like a woman, let alone a human being. She becomes an object to abuse, and no one cares because nobody wants to associate with sluts.

No, it’s when other women, like the author, who treat empowered and sexually assertive women as less than worthy that we are treated like this.  I didn’t see anything in this article that treats “sluts”, “whores” or any other woman who has had more than 3 sex partners with anything resembling respect or admiration.  So why would anyone else treat us with respect?  It seems that the author cannot even bring the sensitivity or sensibility to treat woman who are obviously far more sexually active than her with anything but distant derision and outright shame.  It is people like the author who are responsible for continuing to shame a healthy and positive sexual presence for women and thus legitimizing such horrid treatment as the default societal response.

It’s not hard to imagine just how threatening a sexually assertive woman might be.  How threatening it is for her to be aggressive, directed and yes, pleasure-driven much less to expose herself to other women who do embody these qualities?  After all, that might be far too empowering and would start to eliminate the millions of women who have been brainwashed into thinking that Cosmo can solve their sexual dilemmas by turning elementary school girlish titillation into some grand game of sexual doormat olympics.  All the author does is deter women from taking control over their own sexual satisfaction and setting reasonable and concrete boundaries about their level of involvement in a sexual encounter; thus silencing those who model any level of sexual control and maturity to our partners and friends.  She might prefer in fact if women were kept as demure little girls who allowed fear and insecurity to make our sexual decisions for us…and thus keep us repressed, lonely and pleasure-deprived.  After all, that’s been the predominant message over centuries of patriarchial society.  It is up to the woman to keep her legs closed and shame to any women who decides to open them willingly for someone she might be attracted to.

So, to answer the final question in the article, why yes, I am rather proud to be a slut, to sex-positive, to have touched others’ lives through my intimately physical interactions with them and to continue to focus on my pleasure, my safety, my boundaries and having sex as loudly as I can on my own terms.

Thanks for asking.

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