Monthly Archives: March 2010

Is this a mommy blog?

A parenting blog? A social justice blog? A personal blog? Something else entirely?

All of the above?

I ask because this lovely post over at the clever Better Baby Box (read her post Suicide is Painful. seriously.) got me thinking, especially in the light of recent hubbub (in North America at least) over “mommy bloggers” and my own recent mullings over this blog and its structure (or lack thereof).

She writes:

Raising My Boychick, written by Arwyn, does deal with some parenting issues. In reality, though, it’s a blog about society, gender, asking questions and occasional geekiness (Dr. Who, anyone?) My kind of blog. Some of her posts have opened up entire avenues from which to view the world.

And, really, while I never would have said that about what I write myself (my stock answer to “oh? what’s your blog about then?” is either the tagline1 or simply “feminist parenting”), it does seem apt.

Last August, Annie at PhD in Parenting put me in the mommy blogger category of “Social commentary inspired by parenting“, which sounds about right to me, too.

Then a dear friend, when I asked her whether she thought mine was a parenting blog, said this:

you are a blogger who happens to be a mom. you are an incredible writer who makes people dream things they’ve never even thought possible. you are a woman who writes about what she sees in her society, in her world. some of it is great, some of it is major suckage, some of it has to do with parenting, all of it has to do with being human.

Which stroked my ego not a little, but also says some things that ring true to me as well.

But none of that is what I would have said. So am I wrong? Are they? Or is this blog too all over the place — or, to be more charitable (or more egotistical), too broad and complex in scope — to be limited to one short description?

What do you say? What sort of blog is this, anyway? How would you describe it in three words, or one paragraph, or 140 characters, or whatever it takes? (How long does it take to describe RMB, and what does that say about here?)

Indulge my introspection2.

  1. “Feminist thoughts inspired by parenting a presumably-straight white male.”
  2. This is not a plea for further ego-stroking, however; rather, I hope it to be an opener for conversation about categorization and labels and boxes and the difference between self-definition and outside description. Plus I’m outrageously curious to hear what y’all’ll say.

Sexual dissonance in bisexual monogamy

One of the points of the post Why I loathe “Everyone’s bi” was this:

Not everyone struggles with the times when their lovers — their beloved, committed, beautiful partners — don’t feel like they have the right shape/right reactions/right gender, though they feel so very right at other times.

I was surprised at the reaction it got — to me, this is one of the more obvious, fundamental and problematical parts of bisexual monogamy. Not because we can’t be monogamous, not because we cheat any more often than anyone else does (and on the flip side, not because I have been brainwashed against polyamory), but because of the very nature of sexuality, and non-monosexuality in particular. The nature of my sexuality.

Sexual dissonance

Inspired by the term gender dissonance1, the term sexual dissonance attempts to describe the experience of not-rightness that some people experience when in (or imagining) a sexual situation with someone of a nonpreferred gender. Monosexual queer people (such as gays and lesbians) might have experienced this trying to be “straight”. Straight folk might have if they tried “experimenting”2. And, though it’s not quite the same as monosexual dissonance, nonmonosexuals can too.

This is complicated — because while nonmonosexual people can experience it, not all do. Not all monosexual people have any idea what I’m talking about either. And it’s a feeling that’s so very hard to put into words:

Kissing. Touching. Loving. Wanting. Panting playful sweaty messy fun-having. But… not-right-ness. Wrong shape, wrong smell, wrong feel, wrong reactions, wrong movements, wrong… something, when everything was so right before, last week, last month, last year.

Sexuality fluctuates

Where does this come from, in those of us who are attracted to multiple or many or all genders? If we’re bisexual, surely we should be immune to sexual dissonance, right?

Sexuality fluctuates. It changes over months, over years, over days. Some — most? me, anyway — nonmonosexuals are familiar with this, with our attraction to any gender, or to variations on expressions of that gender, changing over time. More for some than for others, sometimes imperceptibly, but it does; it dances and weaves and sways, like a lover on display, back and forth like lovers joined. And for those of us in the middle, as it were, we can dance and weave right out of attraction to the gender of our current partners.

I joke (and it is a joke because sexuality doesn’t work quite like this and gender definitely isn’t a binary but in a very important way it’s also not a joke at all) that 5% of the time I wish The Man were a woman, and 5% of the time I’m really glad he’s a man, and 90% of the time I just want to get off — which makes him perfect for me 95% of the time. And really, who can ask for better than that?

Working around it

We work around that 5%, The Man and I. We can work around it, because I am nonmonosexual and his gender isn’t repulsive to me sexually, even then. We can work around it because when it comes right down to it what I want is him, the person I’ve loved for my entire adult life, even if he’s not always exactly right for me. We can work around it because he’s known about my sexuality since before I told him, since before we were together. We can work around it because he gets it, as much as any monosexual person can, and respects that he can’t ever get it more than that. We can work around it because he has no jealousies, no hang ups about gender or machismo, no feeling like he has to be everything to me all the time. We can work around it because he has a lower sex drive than I do, and he doesn’t complain when I just don’t initiate. We can work around it because my frustration during those 5% times is met with sympathy and creativity from him, not shaming or anger.

Monogamy isn’t something I feel particularly attached to, but loyalty to The Man is, and he is monogamous. Polyamory can be a workable option for some nonmonosexual people who experience flux like this and sexual dissonance from it, but it isn’t the only one.

We’re all really queer

I’ve talked to a lot of really clever nonmonosexual folk3 about this phenomenon. Some have known almost instantly what I was talking about — and some of them were relieved that it wasn’t just them, that it didn’t mean something was wrong with them that they felt this wrongness sometimes. Some have no idea what I mean, and while they don’t doubt it, they don’t get it, either, even when explained to them. I haven’t been able to discern any patterns in who experiences it and who doesn’t. Male-partnered, female-partnered, non-binary-partnered; doesn’t seem to matter. One relationship for life or serial monogamy, all one gender partners or “one of each” — those who’ve experienced it and those who haven’t seem spread across the board.

But we — all of us monogamous nonmonosexuals, whether we have experienced sexual dissonance or not — are all queer.4 We are all bisexual, or pansexual, or whatever term we prefer. We are no less queer because we have/n’t felt this even when monogamous for years, or for a lifetime.

“I don’t see gender”

Sometimes nonmonosexual people — especially those who have never experienced sexual dissonance — say something like “I don’t see gender” or “gender doesn’t matter to me”. And I get it. I’m bisexual/pansexual/multisexual. I get where that comes from, because, frankly, I do not understand how someone can simply NEVER be attracted to a given gender, can not EVER be attracted to someone because of their gender. I don’t understand monosexuality, because I’m not monosexual. (I accept it, and respect its validity — but I don’t understand it.)

But here’s the thing — gender is real. Gender does matter. Maybe you don’t discriminate against someone because of their gender, even in sexual attraction, maybe you find yourself attracted to people of all sorts of gender, maybe you really will shag anything that moves, but still? Gender matters. We all have gender, even if it isn’t a big deal to us personally, even if it isn’t binary or singular, even if it isn’t what society expects us to have based on our bodies at birth. And to say gender doesn’t matter, or that you don’t “see” gender, is dismissive, insulting, and hurtful, especially to those of us who experience dissonance from gender, in ourselves or in our partners. It’s saying you don’t see us, don’t see our pain, don’t see our triumphs, don’t see our work, don’t see our lives.

Not everyone experiences sexual (or gender) dissonance. Not everyone cares what gender their partner is, in general or ever. Not everyone gets what the big deal is. That’s ok.

But gender is still real. See it.

Why does this matter?

I don’t ever hear anyone talk about this. From some of the reactions I’ve gotten from other bisexual people in monogamous relationships, they haven’t heard anyone else say it before either. For whatever reason — fear of rejection, self-doubt, invisibility of bisexuality itself — we don’t talk about this. But it happens. For some of us, because we don’t talk about it — because we can’t talk about it because we don’t even have the language5 — it’s a really big deal. It can bring self-recriminations or break marriages.

And it shouldn’t. There’s no valid reason it should. Only kyriarchy. Only bigotry. Only ignorance. Only silence.

I was afraid of putting this post up. I was afraid of contributing to stereotypes about bisexuals, of giving fuel to the idea that we are incapable of monogamy or are more likely to be unfaithful. Because I have to say that sometimes — during that 5% especially, yes — monogamy is hard. But (for us, I speak only for us) it is worth it, in the end. Its very difficulty, coupled with honesty, with working through it and around it, strengthens our relationship. He knows exactly what I put aside for him; I know exactly what he’ll do for me.

I won’t call sexual dissonance a blessing, exactly, but neither does it have to harm a relationship.

Get honest. Then get creative.

  1. Gender dissonance: A form of cognitive dissonance experienced by trans people due to a misalignment of their subconscious and physical sexes.
  2. Though straight folk who are not Kinsey 0s might have experienced sexual situations with people of the same gender without experiencing sexual dissonance, so it’s not guaranteed.
  3. Mostly women, because, well, mostly I talk with women.
  4. Queer is an inclusive term for non-heterosexual sexualities. Saying nonmonosexuals are all queer is not to say that monosexuals are not.
  5. I spent several hours talking with many smart people on Twitter trying to name this phenomenon before we came up with sexual dissonance. The next best idea was MC Hammer Syndrome (“can’t touch this“), from the clever Emma. Among my many queer and straight and monosexual and bisexual friends, none of us knew a term for this experience. How can we talk about it if we can’t even name it?

A “beautiful blogger” and a me meme

Beautiful Blogger Award

Torn between cynicism and seeing sweetness, this time I choose... sweet

The following can be blamed in its entirety on Shiny. Also on the trouble-making dear folk on Twitter who responded to my plea for topic ideas. You know who you are.

Also, THIS POST IS NOT SAFE FOR FAMILY. If you are related to me by blood, or by marriage to anyone related to me by blood, navigate away now. I will never acknowledge or admit to anything herein should you ignore this warning. So just don’t read it. Bye!

What goals, if any, do you have in life?

Travel in a TARDIS, have another baby and do all those baby things again, publish a book (or several), become successful and highly paid as a maternity-focus massage therapist, catch babies (or be in the room when their parents catch them), get professional photos done in which I look smashingly gorgeous, pose nude for art (wait, done that one), own a tortoise, keep chickens, learn to garden, perform cunnilingus (right up there with travel in a TARDIS in likelihood it’ll ever happen — and as its happening is predicated most probably on the death of The Man, I’m ok with that), be on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, give a talk at a conference (without fainting), go for a full year without having a migraine, live to be at least 99, and simultaneously die in a plane/in my sleep/having sex with The Man.

So, y’know, not much.

When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?

I wanted to be a doctor, like my mom. Or an actress — I wasn’t too bad. Well, ok, yeah, I was half bad, but just good enough that I had delusions of professionalism. Other aspirations (mostly later) were linguist, journalist, professional student (almost managing that one, despite, or perhaps because of, never making it through more than one class at college at a time) — but never, ever a mother. Actually, I still don’t want to be A Mother. Though I do quite like having a kid.

First kiss

My first kiss, the one I don’t count, was with another five year old girl under my parents’ bed. I wanted her, as much as a five year old can want anyone (which is more than adults like to admit to, I think) — not that I knew WHAT it was I wanted (I “knew” about sex, but, again, about as much as a five year old can know, and didn’t know anything other than the heterosexual procreative model), but I definitely knew I wanted something.

The kiss I do count, over a decade later (nothing in the intervening years) was in the back seat of The Man’s sister’s car, which he’d borrowed to take me and several of our friends to the Rocky Horror Picture Show in Berkeley, CA. For the record, I kissed him first — so, it was only a brush of the lips, but damnit, when you’re 16 and in the back of a car and have just tickled your best friend into submission in your lap, that counts.

Favorite cocktail

This is an interesting one, because I don’t drink. I was raised by a teetotaler and an adult child of alcoholics, we never had alcohol in the house (except for one bottle of rum used — in 2-tablespoon increments — to make our annual Christmas eggnog), and I grew up pretty convinced drink was Of The Devil. Or The Patriarchy. Or, well, something bad. And while I’ve since given up a hard line stance against it, and have even imbibed on rare occasion (and been drunk once, which, to his everlasting annoyance, The Man was not around for), I still don’t drink. I don’t like the taste of alcohol (and I can taste it, in the most minute amounts, no matter what else is in it), with my migraines and mood disorder alcohol would not be the wisest drug to use, and with a family history of and personal predilection toward addiction, I find it most prudent to simply abstain. And given that I get emotional contact highs from being around others who are partaking, I don’t find I’m missing much.

What are your weaknesses?

My ankles. My moods. My rage. My massive ego, and the truly ridiculous self-effacement I’ve cultivated to counter it. My inability to promote myself without either a) 10,000 qualifiers or b) going to unhealthily grandiose places in my mind. My addiction to chai, to Doctor Who, to being addicted. My inability to follow through. My fear of change. My introversion. My extroversion. My self-sabotage. My sedentary middle-class American lifestyle. I could countinue, but this isn’t much fun for me. Moving right along…

First memory

Probably my first memory is grabbing our special pillow and climbing up into my mother’s lap. I only remember that one snippet, and the feeling of love and happiness and belonging that goes with it, but talking with my mom, the pillow was our nursing pillow, and I wasn’t yet two years old, because I weaned on my second birthday. I have several other memories from my early years (including reminiscing with my father when I was about two and a half about “the good old days” when we were driving during the move from SoCal to the Bay Area), and by age four or five have started remembering a narrative of my life with lots of long-film memories.

Best imaginary friend growing up

Oh gods… I hate you two for asking this one. Ok, here’s the thing: I am probably pathologically imaginative. At any moment, I am here, but I am also likely… not-here. And I’m not sure whether this is something that everyone does and no one talks about, or I’m just… fucking bugnut crazy. But anyway. Growing up, I was a, um, pretty big Star Trek: The Next Generation fan, so my imaginary friends were Wesley, Data, Guinan, Picard, Troi, and so on. One day I realized that Q felt more real to me than God did. (The next day — or month, or something like that –, though, She tapped me on the shoulder, and we had a little conversation, so that’s alright. But that’s a story for another day.) We’ll not talk about my best imaginary friends of today.

***

So here’s where I’m supposed to tap three more bloggers and hand them a pretty picture and make them do this too. But, um… no. Though there are a couple people who don’t blog regularly who I would love to see go through this little exercise (ahem, Jenn and Susannah). But mostly I’m ok having this and all other chains end at me.

What’d you think? Any surprises? Anything else you’re dying to know about me? Any good stories this inspires you to share about yourself (please do!)?

NPFP Guest Post: This Is Rape Culture

Welcome to RMB’s Naked Pictures of Faceless People, a series of guest posts from diverse anonymous bloggers. (Read more about NPFP’s origins.) These are the posts that are jumping to get out of us, but for whatever reason — safety, embarrassment, conflict of interest, protection of loved ones’ reputations or feelings, or so on — we don’t or won’t or can’t post at our own blogs. Anyone is welcome to submit or discuss a potential post by emailing me at arwyn at raisingmyboychick dot com.

TRIGGER WARNING There is a trigger warning on this post for descriptions of rape and near-rape situations. Please do not read if doing so would put your own health or sanity in jeopardy.

This Is Rape Culture

Twelve years ago, I almost raped someone.

We’d had a fun date. I brought him home. We kissed, started making out. I was twenty years old, self-centered, horny. I thought “whee! sex!” I started flinging off clothes and happily pouncing. I had no idea anything was wrong until he pushed away, saying “no, no, I can’t do this,” hastily grabbed his things and left.

I was so confused. I absolutely could not conceive of a man who, confronted with a naked and willing woman, would not want sex. Even as I rejected the cultural idea of the chaste woman who must be seduced, I had internalized the idea of the man who will never say no.

For those of you who are saying, as I said to myself for many years, “but nothing bad happened. He said no, he left. Nothing happened after he said no.” Consider what might have happened had he not felt safe enough to say no, or not been able to process his uncomfortable feelings into the word “no.” Would I have noticed that anything was wrong? For how long had he been projecting “no” in his body language before he vocalized it, but I’d chosen not to see, or convinced myself that he didn’t mean it?

A dear friend recently told me how he had been raped, many years ago. They had started playing, it seemed okay, but then it wasn’t. He thought he said no, but she held him down and…. afterwards, he thought about walking in front of a bus.

The difference between my friend’s story and mine might only be the ending.

I had pressured my first boyfriend into sex after he clearly said “I don’t want to have sex until marriage” and I heard “I’m thinking about sex and marriage! I’m serious about our relationship!” That time, I was seventeen. Again, I had no context to comprehend the concept of a man who didn’t want sex.

Another friend tells me with frustration of the women who have told him “I know I said no, but I didn’t mean it. I thought you would keep pushing if you were really interested.” What happens when a man who has been socialized by women who think like this meets a woman who really doesn’t want his attention? Does it even occur to him that she could mean it when she says no, unlike every other woman he has been with?

I realize all this sounds like rape apologism, but it’s not. This is not to minimize rape or its effects. Neither is it to classify all rapes as ethically murky, or to classify only some as “real” rapes. Rape is a matter of violating the consent of the person being raped. End of story. But in anti-rape culture, the rapist is constructed as a morally bankrupt monster intentionally perpetrating this worst of abuses, and I don’t believe that’s always true, because of how rape culture has constructed us.

This is not rape apologism. An explanation is not an excuse. This is to demonstrate how horrific and pervasive rape culture is. It not only condones rape, it makes otherwise good people into rapists. By internalizing gender stereotypes that script sexual interaction and don’t allow for deviation. By making explicit conversations about consent “uncool”. By encouraging universal values that we assume not only for ourselves but for the whole world (“I like sex; sex is good; sex is good for you, too, and you’ll see if I push you hard enough.”).

When I was a teenager, like most teenagers, I was neither a depraved monster nor a model of decorum. I had a solid ethical core, but had not fully figured out how to manifest those ethics in my behavior. I figured, when I bothered to think about it, that if there was a problem someone would tell me. I’m not that person anymore. But I don’t think I was all that unusual.

Rape culture almost made me a rapist. That it didn’t is more a matter of luck than my moral character.

——————————-

Please support the Naked Pictures of Faceless People project by commenting on the posts. Comments which attack or attempt to guess the identity or any aspect of the identity of the blogger will be deleted, however. Protect and respect this space as though it were your own work on display here, naked and faceless.

Anonymous comments are welcome on NPFP posts. Simply put “Anonymous” or any pseudonym in Name, and either your own or a fake email addresses (ex me@me.com) as the email. NOTE: If you have a Gravatar associated with your email address, it will show up even with an anonymous name! In which case please use a different or a fake email address.

The Most Awesomest TARDIS Dishcloth EVAR knitting pattern

I knit. Um, a lot. I also watch Doctor Who, well, about the same amount (I’ve a very hard time sitting and doing NOTHING; I like having my hands busy). So when I was looking for dishcloths and found this, well, I knew I had to make it. (That’s a Dalek, by the way, the oldest and biggest baddies in the Whoniverse.) Which led me to this pattern, which, while pretty cool, led me to musing “I could do better than that…” And so I did.

The Most Awesomest TARDIS Dishcloth EVAR

I said I knit, not practice photography

Some people thought it was pretty cool — even unblocked and with my truly atrocious iPhone photography — and asked me to write up the pattern. And so I did that, too.

I present to you:

The Most Awesomest TARDIS Dishcloth EVAR pattern

Gauge: c’mon, it’s a dishcloth. Use a worsted/8-ply/y’know, medium-ish cotton yarn and a reasonably sized needle for that yarn and you’ll be fine. Like I’m going to swatch for a dishcloth!

CO 38 (I use a variation of a long tail cast on, but whatever works for you — not too tight is better, but, um, it’s a dishcloth. The Doctor won’t hate you for having a tight bottom.) (Oi, stop snickering!)

Row 1, 3, 5: (K1 P1) 19 times

Row 2, 4: (P1 K1) 19 times

Row 6: (P1 K1) twice, P30, (P1 K1) twice

Row 7: (K1 P1) twice, K30, (K1 P1) twice

Row 8: (P1 K1) twice, P4, K22, P4, (P1 K1) twice

Row 9: (K1 P1) twice, K4, P22, K4, (K1 P1) twice

Row 10: (P1 K1) twice, P30, (P1 K1) twice

Row 11: (K1 P1) twice, K6, P18, K6, (K1 P1) twice

Row 12, 14, 16: (P1 K1) twice P8, K2, (P4, K2) twice, P8, (P1 K1) twice

Rows 13, 15: (K1 P1) twice, K6, P4, K4, P2, K4, P4, K6, (K1 P1) twice

Row 17: (K1 P1) twice, K6, P18, K6, (K1 P1) twice

Row 18: (P1 K1) twice, P8, K14, P8, (P1 K1) twice

Rows 19, 21, 23: (K1 P1) twice, K6, P4, K4, P2, K4, P4, K6, (K1 P1) twice

Rows 20, 22: (P1 K1) twice, P8, K2, (P4, K2) twice, P8, (P1 K1) twice

Row 24: (P1 K1) twice, P8, K14, P8, (P1 K1) twice

Row 25: (K1 P1) twice, K6, P18, K6, (K1 P1) twice

Rows 26, 28, 30: (P1 K1) twice, P8, K2, (P4, K2) twice, P8, (P1 K1) twice

Rows 27, 29: (K1 P1) twice, K6, P4, K4, (P2, K1) twice, P4, K6, (K1 P1) twice

Row 31: (K1 P1) twice, K6, P18, K6, (K1 P1) twice

Row 32: (P1 K1) twice, P8, K14, P8, (P1 K1) twice

Row 33: (K1 P1) twice, K6, P4, *K2, wrap yarn around needle twice, K2*, P2, rep from * to *, P4, K6, (K1 P1) twice

Rows 34: (P1 K1) twice, P8, (K2, P2, unwrap and slip wrapped yarn [with working yarn in front], P2) twice, K2, P8, (P1 K1) twice

Row 35: (K1 P1) twice, K6, (P6, sl st wyib) twice, P6, K6, (K1 P1) twice

Row 36: (P1 K1) twice, P8, (K2, P2, sl st wyif, P2) twice, K2, P8, (P1 K1) twice

Row 37: (K1 P1) twice, K6, P4, *K2, sl st wyib, K2*, P2, rep from * to *, P4, K6, (K1 P1) twice

Row 38: (P1 K1) twice, P8, K16 (including 2 previously slipped stitches), P8, (P1 K1) twice

Row 39: (K1 P1) twice, K6, P6, P2tog, P4, P2tog, P6, K6, (K1 P1) twice

Row 40: (P1 K1) twice, P30, (P1 K1) twice

Row 41: (K1 P1) twice, K5, P20, K5, (K1 P1) twice

Row 42: (P1 K1) twice, P5, K20, P5, (P1 K1) twice

Row 43: (K1 P1) twice, K6, P18, K6, (K1 P1) twice

Row 44: (P1 K1) twice, P7, K16, P7, (P1 K1) twice

Row 45: (K1 P1) twice, K9, P12, K9, (K1 P1) twice

Rows 46, 48, 50: (P1 K1) twice, P30, (P1 K1) twice

Rows 47, 49: (K1 P1) twice, K14, P2, K14, (K1 P1) twice

Row 51: (K1 P1) twice, K30, (K1 P1) twice

Rows 52, 54, 56: (P1 K1) 19 times

Rows 53, 55: (K1 P1) 19 times

Bind off, weave in ends, and off you go through time and space!

Happy team TARDIS scene

For those of you who do better with charts:


Tomorrow (or… soon!) I return to kyriarchy blame with at least one of the following posts: A new Naked Pictures of Faceless People on rape culture; Part 2 of How to Pick an Anti-Kyriarchy Preschool; a rant on “D’y'ever have to massage, y’know, gross people?”; or whatever else catches my fancy and/or ire at a time I actually have the chance to write about it.

Private