Update

I’ve officially moved into the new place. Seem nice so far.

Work has been pretty much the same: lots of learning, but also a fair bit of corresponding stress. I find out tomorrow what new project I’m on and when exactly the internship is going to end.

I have a lot of differing feelings about that, but mostly I’m hoping that I’m able to extend the internship into September and that I manage to make it a job. It’s a good work environment where I’ll learn a lot.

Still, trying to pick up as much learning as I can in my free time has been taxing and stressful. Wasn’t really expecting to have homework this summer, but there you are. Finding a balance between “I need to learn everyone and impress everyone” and “I need to not end up babbling about RSpec tests in an insane asylum somewhere” is a significant challenge. Really wanting to do well in a job as challenging as this is a perfect recipe for triggering the unhealthy bits of the perfectionism of a perfectionist like me. So freak-outs are still happening.

That said, I seem to have been doing reasonably well in general over the past week or two. I had a review this past week, and my feedback was generally pretty positive, so I think I have a decent shot at making this thing work. If I don’t, I’ll still have picked up things, so trying to concentrate on that.

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A Bridge Over Sufficiently Advanced Ignorance

I spend a lot of time thinking about the trans community. It fits in a goldilocks zone in my brain of a community that is both incredibly marginalized and reasonably close to me through people I know who identify as trans.

It seems to be so difficult for the people in the community and the people outside it to come to understandings about things. It’s difficult for reasons which are often, well, incredibly human, and difficult to find a way to deal with.

In a nutshell, I think the problem is twofold: the first is that there’s a huge inferential distance between the trans community and most of the people outside of it. The second is that the trans community is an incredibly marginalized community, and as with all communities that are, the issues they deal with are powerfully emotional.

So you have a combination of explosive chemicals—emotional issues, and a huge inferential distance, sufficient that people outside of the community are regularly ignorant to the point that they will say or do incredibly hurtful things without realizing it (the results of sufficiently advanced ignorance being, often, indistinguishable from those of malice). Then, when they are called out on it, they lack the knowledge to effectively process the criticisms they receive, and often assume the people who are angry with them are overreacting in the extreme.

I do this as much as anyone. I’m a cis, heterosexual male. There’s a lot I don’t know, and I regularly react with annoyance to trans issues. I just don’t tend to mention it at the time. I tend to, when my brain goes to that “Why should I have to learn new pronouns?!” place, sit on the reaction for a day or a week or a month until it simmers down enough that I can look at things more rationally and less emotionally. When I manage to do that, I almost always end up in a different place about the issue than I was when I initially reacted to it. I’m totally on board with the necessity of learning people’s pronouns now, for example.

The other day I had a conversation that helped me to identify a bit more with the marginalized side of things. I went to look at a place to rent. The guy there was incredibly friendly, and I liked him a lot (though for unrelated reasons I was unable to rent the place). I mentioned over the course of talking to him that I was polyamorous (better for him to know now than learn down the line and freak out), and he said that it didn’t bother him at all, but followed that up by clarifying that he was monogamous because he loved his girlfriend.

Now, like I said, perfectly nice guy, I’m sure he meant nothing by it, and that he didn’t mean it to sound the way that it did. However as much as I liked him, the more I thought about that conversation later in the day, the more I felt like punching him in the face. How dare he suggest that poly people don’t love their partners just as much as monogamous people do! How dare he be so dismissive of my ability to care about the people I end up in relationships with! How dare he put me in the position of having to decide whether I’m willing to risk not having a place to live in order to correct him on that!

This is the problem. He was a perfectly nice guy, and I’m sure meant nothing whatsoever by saying that, and I imagine if I’d decided to correct him on it, he might even have responded positively if I could’ve corrected him without being too prickly about it (which maybe I could’ve, maybe I couldn’t’ve). This is a case where sufficiently advanced ignorance was enough to put me in the position of being offended and angry at someone whose only crime was not realizing the assumptions implicit in what he’d said. His ignorance was understandable, and my anger was also understandable, but the combination of the two was potentially volatile.

It doesn’t help of course, that there are plenty of people who are genuinely ignorant assholes who don’t give a shit, and distinguishing them from people like this guy isn’t always easy. Explaining to the good ones rationally and reasonably why what they’ve said is wrong and offensive isn’t always something the marginalized person can reasonably be expected to have the energy to do. It’s happening against a background of deeply personal sustained, and very often seemingly constant oppression.

I don’t know what the answer is in these situations, and I really want there to be one. I want there to be a way to communicate across wide barriers like this without explosions, but I’m not sure there is one. And in the grand scheme of things, sometimes I’m probably going to be the person on the other side, unknowingly doing damage to someone I care about. People I like and respect are going to be on that other side, too.

I don’t know what to do about it. But I want there to be something. I really do.

Panic

So I’m officially panicking once more about finding housing. A few different promising places have ended up going to other people for various reasons, and the clock is ticking ever closer to the date I have nowhere to live. Not much to this update, really, just being terrified of everything.

By ResearchToBeDone Posted in other

Nifty

About to hit 1,000 total views. I SHALL CELEBRATE BY EATING THIS DELICIOUS MINI WHOLE WHEAT BAGEL!

Epiphany and Further Rambling

I just realized one of the things I was driving toward in the last post.

There’s a part of my brain that still thinks like I used to. That part of my brain thinks that treating sex the way I’m treating it is wrong. That part of my brain thinks that approaching sex in the more casual way that I often do now is disrespectful to the people I’m doing it with. That part of my brain expects other people to buy into the narrative I’ve just barely managed to escape.

I think what I really want right now is just to be told that it’s okay. Because I think it is okay. I’m honest and open and communicative about what I’m doing. I’m safe, I respect people to the best of my ability.

I’ve always had the inclination to take care of the people in my life to an extent that isn’t healthy for me or for them. It isn’t healthy for me because I don’t have the spoons to be as caretaker-y as I feel inclined to be, and it isn’t healthy for them because it means I don’t trust them to be able to handle their own shit. That’s one of the things I’ve been saying to myself recently: there’ a balance you don’t want to be too far on either side of. You don’t want to be a cold, uncaring person, but you also don’t want to overdo the caring about people to such an extent that you don’t let them do it for themselves, which is an important thing for everyone to learn. It’s an important thing for me to learn.

Anyway, back to the sex thing. As a result of the world in which I grew up, it’s easy to feel like enjoying casual sex or not wanting to be monogamous is somehow doing it wrong. That it’s cheating the system, or that it’s disrespectful of the people you’re doing it with, or that it’s simply wrong.

But even if it turned out to be the wrong way of going about things, that wouldn’t make it wrong to have tried. Doing the experiments you need to do to find out how you want to live is important. Maybe some day I’ll discover I do want to be monogamous, or that casual sex is just as bad as I thought growing up. Who knows. In any case, I certainly haven’t discovered that yet. For the time being, there’s still research to be done to figure it all out. Since I don’t know all the answers yet, experimentation is really all there is to do. I have a responsibility to figure this shit out.

That philosophy is more or less the reason for the name of the blog. Didn’t realize I’d be coming to that, but…well, here we are.

Rambling About Sex

My approach to sex and sexuality has changed drastically over the past year. So much so that I feel like I’m a kid again, in a sense—just learning the ropes of a new set of concepts and emotional responses to things. It’s hard to describe. I feel like I’m in an entirely new space, and as such, like I’m flying blind.

It’s not as terrifying as it would’ve been once. I am flying blind, but I’ve flown blind a few times now, and I have a bit of a better hang on it than before.

A few months ago I experienced, for the first time, a hook-up where I didn’t worry in the slightest about what it meant or where it was going. It was just a fun thing I was doing with a friend, and that was that.

I like that sensation. There is a certain desensitization that comes with it, but all in all, it makes things much more comfortable.

The biggest change has been that I’ve gone from thinking of sex as a Big Fucking Deal, to just another fun thing I can do with people. It can still be emotional and complicated and intense, but so can just about anything.

Another change has been realizing, slowly, that I’m not the only one who’s like this. I tend to assume other people think the same way I do, and I spent so much of my life making a big deal about sex that I assume that’s how everyone else comes at it, too. Turns out they don’t. I know, weird, right?

There’s a part of my brain that still, shall we say, keeps to the old ways. It watches me not processing and reprocessing and worrying and is waiting for the other shoe to drop.

It’s the weird thing about emotional/conceptual trailblazing—you always think of the old way of doing things as right and safe. I had a conversation about polyamory the other day which touched on this. A couple new to poly was talking about worrying what their motivations were for wanting to have other partners. You always worry about the new trail, not so much the trail that’s already been blazed. Even though, let’s face it, you rarely have any knowledge of who did the original blazing and whether or not they knew what the fuck they were doing.

Mostly just thinking out loud, not sure where I’m going with this. Maybe I’ll know when I get there.

The Flipside of Being Honest

Listen to anyone talk about relationships for long enough and the subject of honest communication will come up. Especially in the poly community, you hear the virtues of honest communication extolled practically every other sentence. This is a good thing. This is one of the reasons I feel more at home in the poly community than in more heteronormative communities. I’ve always been compulsively cerebral about my relationships with people, and in everyday life that makes me feel like an outsider. In the poly community, that makes me feel normal.

Almost every conversation about honesty focuses on the importance of being honest with your partner. This is a very important skill, but there’s another side to it that I think needs to be addressed. It is also important to be a person to whom it is easy to be honest. This means being able to stop talking and listen, it means not punishing your partner for how they feel, and it means being appreciative when you know they’ve shared something with you that was difficult to share, even if it was something you didn’t like hearing.

Honesty is hard, but we have a lot of control over how hard it is. It’s always going to cost spoons to say the hard things, but how many spoons it takes is something the listener has a lot of control over.

The quintessential stereotypical example of a person who fails to encourage honesty is the girlfriend who, when her boyfriend tells her he’s spent time with a female friend, immediately accuses him of cheating. Honesty rewarded with suspicion. The right way to go about that sort of situation if it makes you uncomfortable is to thank the person for telling you, and then say that it makes you uncomfortable and you’d like to talk through that discomfort. Or whatever similar pattern works; the point is: you don’t blame the other person for your hurt feelings.

If you’re the one being honest about spending time with a friend of a gender you’re attracted to, it can be an easy conversation or it can be one that costs a lot of spoons, and the difference is in your partner’s response. If you’re being honest about something potentially more difficult, like wanting to spend more time with a new partner, any way of having the conversation is going to cost some spoons. But some will cost 3 where others may cost 10.

We all make judgments about which conversations are worth having, whether consciously or unconsciously. We all weigh the emotional costs of our actions. If you want someone to be honest with you, the best thing you can do is make it so that when they have to do that emotional calculus, the weight against having the conversation is 3 spoons and not 10.

In a nutshell: Honesty is a two-way streak. Everyone who wants to be in a relationship where people are honest has a responsibility to try to be honest, and a responsibility to be receptive to and appreciative of the honesty of others.

Status Update

Well this has been a week of freak-outs.

Have decided to stay in the area for longer than I originally planned, and I’m now looking for a year lease somewhere nearby. We’ll see what happens. I’ve discovered that getting mail at the place I’m currently staying is harder than…something pretty hard. I’ve also discovered the joys of trying to switch insurance plans.

Additionally, I’ve discovered that I have a halfway decent chance of getting hired here, but that is contingent on my learning a tremendous number of things reasonably quickly in an effort to convince people I’m all smart and such. This is gratifying and terrifying at the same time.

Back pain still seems to be relatively under control, though there are bad days and good days. I’m getting more exercise than I have in a long time, generally at least 2 hours of walking a day. I’m trying to find a place where I’ll have to walk at least 20 minutes or so to get to work so I know I’ll keep that up. We’ll see what happens.

All in all, there’ve been a lot of freak-outs this week, but I’m basically okay. Still slowly managing to meet people, and that seems to be going well, if slowly, and with a certain amount of anxiety.

So…that’s going on. A bunch of people visited here and read my post on harassment at atheist conferences, and then linked it, which was really cool, though I feel like I did a bit of a bait-and-switch with them, blog-wise.

“Here, read my thoughts on issues in the atheist movement, HAHA, I TRICKED YOU YOU’RE TOTALLY READING A BLOG ABOUT MY PERSONAL LIFE!”

So hopefully no one was too disappointed.

It’s interesting trying to keep a balance of rants and real-life things here. Even though I like ranting, if I do it too much I burn out, and I always assume the personal life stuff is uninteresting to anyone who doesn’t know me, though it’s generally the more cathartic option.

Thoughts, thoughts…

Seriously, though, fuck the people who deal with mail here. They have been astoundingly bad at it. I have at least two pieces of mail coming my way soon and I have my doubts about being able to get either of them, given this week.

If You Want to Have Consensual Sex at Events, You Should Be FOR Harassment Policies

I’ve been following the controversy around sexual harassment issues at skeptic and atheist conferences for the last couple of months now, in ever-increasing horror. How this came to be seen as a big deal to so many people on the anti-harassment policy side, I have no fucking idea, but I want to talk about one aspect of it I haven’t seen touched on much, just to put things in some perspective.

Whenever controversy around harassment happens, all the “What About The Men” characters seem to zero in on the idea that policies dealing with harassment will prevent anyone from having sex or even flirting. This is wrong. In fact, I suspect exactly the opposite is true: effective harassment policies enable people to be comfortable enough with whatever level of sexual interaction they are interested in (if any), from flirting to sex.

Sexual harassment policies are about preventing unwanted sexual advances. They are not about preventing wanted sexual advances. Thunderf00t’s story about biting a woman’s leg, for example? Completely irrelevant to the issue, because the woman herself expressed that it was entirely consensual. Sexual harassment policies come into play when a person feels something nonconsensual was happening, and reports it. Unless this woman felt a need to report the event in question, which she obviously didn’t, a harassment policy would’ve had no effect whatsoever. Zero. Nada. Zilch.

Again, sexual harassment policies are about preventing unwanted sexual advances. And here’s the thing: when unwanted sexual advances are a problem, it’s more likely that even wanted  sexual advances will be treated warily.

In a nutshell: the key to having an event where people open to sex are comfortable with sexual advances is having an event where there are policies in place to prevent inappropriate sexual advances (read: harassment policies).

Harassment policies, properly implemented, are only a threat to the sex lives of predators. That’s why they all talk about reporting “harassment”, not reporting “two people being all adorably flirty over there”.

Anyone who’s ever been to a BDSM event probably knows this incredibly well. You want an example of proof that harassment policies don’t ruin opportunities for fun and sex? Attend a BDSM event. Most of them, literally, have safewords that you can shout at any time for any reason and designated staff will come over to you and (if necessary forcibly) stop whatever is going on. No checking to see if it’s “really” inappropriate, no forms to fill out. Whatever you are doing, and whoever you are doing it with, it gets stopped. There is no harassment policy at any skeptic event that goes this far (which makes sense, given the context).

And yet, as you might imagine, sex happens all the time at these kink events. All kinds of sex. I’ve been to plenty of kink events where people have been literally (safely and consensually) set on fire. I’ve experienced it myself in fact. The harassment policies did not prevent that from happening, they enabled it. They made me and other people feel safe enough to allow it to happen.

I’ll say that again: the existence of policies dealing with harassment and safety made me comfortable enough that I was willing to let someone douse a part of my body in cool-burning alcohol and set it on fire.

You can think that makes me crazy or not, but the point is this: policies that deal with harassment and safety enable fun. They don’t stop it from happening. They help make it so people who want to have fun feel comfortable enough to have whatever type of it they want to have, whether it’s listening to speakers, socializing, having sex, or whatever else.

If you want to have sex at conferences, and you are arguing against having harassment policies, then you are either (a) working against yourself, or (b) a predator.

Depressive Dip

Well, stress has hit a bit of a high point, it seems, and I’m combating a significant dip in mood. There are a lot of factors that have contributed to this. Feeling like I need to study my ass off to be doing well at work, expending my remaining energy attempting to meet people (also several of the people I have met and at least one I was planning to meet are out of town at the same time, in a sort of inverted serendipity), and some complicated personal life issues.

So today is really sucking.

It’s one of those strange things about sucky days when dealing with depression that you can identify the bright spots without feeling good about them. Identification is something, though. It may be a positive indicator that I am, in fact, thinking of this as a spot of depression, and not as part of an ongoing journey through a world of depression.

Mostly, I think I just need to meet a few more people and find a few more relaxing things to keep busy with on my time away from work. As much as I have confidence in my ability to be an enjoyable person to spend time with, there’s something very anxiety-inducing about the sense of lack of control you get when trying to build a group of friends in a new place. I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before I manage to find a solid group of people to spend time with. Once I manage to find people to meet and places to meet people, I think the rest will follow easily. For the first time in my life really, I’m pretty confident in my ability to make a good impression. And what’s better, I’m pretty confident that my ability to make a good impression on people is because I’m able to be myself, rather than because of any pretending. It’s just the foot in the door part, the finding people sufficiently interesting and compatible that the connection starts to take over and roll along on its own.

I was thinking today about the idea of being charming. One of my old therapists once told me I was, and I’ve never forgotten it. I imagine it’s generally true. I don’t feel like charming is really something you direct at someone, the way it’s often portrayed. E.g. I hate the phrase “good with women”, because thinking about the idea of being charming in those terms makes it sound like something you direct at people, rather than something you share with them. I think being conversationally charming (at least my style of it) is a result of being able to invite someone into the type of fun you like to have in conversations.

Anyway, I’m rambling. Off to attempt to find something social to do.