Portland Poly Utopia

Portland has so many amazing resources for those of us interested in, dabbling in, and practicing various kinds of open relationships. This last weekend, I attended a couple of workshops in the second annual Polytopia, hosted by Sex Positive Portland. It was a pretty gorgeous reminder of the diversity in our community. (And I was reminded of similar thoughts I wrote several years ago here.)

Did you know that Portland boasts THREE lifestyle/swinger clubs now? Club Privata (formerly Club Sesso), The Velvet Rope, and Sanctuary which promotes itself as more of a queer lifestyle club (which is a huge breath of fresh air- I haven’t yet visited the club, but am really excited to. We know the owners and have huge confidence about the space and atmosphere). We also have Catalyst, which is a kinky sexy space (I also have not yet been there, but have plans!). SPEEC (Sex Positive Education & Event Center) hosts a community calendar, and I am continually shocked and grateful for how many sexy, kinky, and loving events (attended by so many sexy, kinky, and loving individuals) are happening in this city.

Just a thankful note for living in a place that welcomes and nurtures queer, poly, kinky, sexy people.

 

My Framily

For the second time in my life, I am in a class requiring me to create a genogram- essentially a family tree that uses symbols to denote characteristics like gender identity, family ties, marriages, divorces, family secrets, miscarriages and abortions, pets, sexual orientation, mental health diagnoses, substance abuse, and any other applicable dynamics. In mine, I also include domestic violence, poly relationships, education, and geography.

A few years ago, I discussed creating a critical sexual genogram, which is a variation on the traditional method that I totally love.

The last time I made one for class, I created it based on family ties and marriages. This time, I decided to include my framily- those friends of mine who have, over time, become family to me. 

Especially right now, when the world seems like total shit, it is extremely strengthening and heartening to me to see, on paper, the people who rely on me and who I rely upon, who I trust and love and care about. Who I know are genuinely kind and compassionate people, who are all doing their best in their own ways, of making the world a better place.

I talked to my sister on the phone tonight, and she was asking me, How do I not let the stress I’m experiencing from all of The Shit get to me? There’s only so much I can do! I have to work and I can’t know everything about everything, and there’s so little in my control.

I feel you, sis. Making my genogram tonight was so helpful though- people matter. People doing their best to be kind MATTER. Small actions matter. It can be hard to remember that, especially when we have been watching such big, destructive things happening so quickly. Creating community, building authentic relationships, continually striving to be more compassionate and loving people- that all matters, and it does make a difference.

Cheers to small actions, kind deeds, and the people who make the world brighter. I love you all, FramBam. You help me keep the hope that things, eventually, will be better for everyone. 

Nasty Women

Sex workers are the original nasty women. I love this piece by Jacq The Stripper. 

Jacq covers many of the main points I’ve been wanting to say since experiencing the Women’s March this past weekend. 

I know how much privilege I hold in general, and how those privileges buffer me from the risks in working in the sex industry: I’m white, cis, able bodied, middle class, and I work in a legal part of the industry, with relatively supportive staff. Geographically, stripping in Oregon is another huge privilege. As best I can, I want to use that privilege to speak up for the rights of all workers in the sex industry.

I was stunned at the conflation of sex and gender at the Women’s March. Anatomy does not equal gender identity. Equating having vaginas and vulvas to womanhood leaves our trans sisters and brothers out of the conversation, and is harmful and exclusionary to trans folks working in the industry.

Reading about the back and forth that the March organizers went through about the inclusion of the statement on sex workers’ rights was both inspiring and disheartening. Like Jacq says, thank goddess for Janet Mock:

“I know sex work to be work. It’s not something I need to tiptoe around. It’s not a radical statement. It’s a fact. My work and my feminism rejects respectability politics, whorephobia, slut-shaming and the misconception that sex workers, or folks engaged in the sex trades by choice or circumstance, need to be saved, that they are colluding with the patriarchy by “selling their bodies.””

If you want to support nasty women, be sure to support sex workers. They are, we are, the original nasty women.

Nonoppressive Poly

I recently read this piece titled “9 Strategies For Non-Oppressive Polyamory” on the Black Girl Dangerous blog. It is from a few years ago, and completely thought-provoking. I shared it with my innermost open family and had some lively discussion about it. I write this piece from my position as a middle class, white, cis, queer, femme woman.

First of all, I agree wholeheartedly with the author when they write:

“Polyamory doesn’t get a free pass at being radical without an analysis of power in our interactions.  It doesn’t stop with being open and communicative with multiple friends, partners, lovers, etc. We’ve got to situate those relationships in broader systems of domination, and recognize ways that dating and engaging people (multiple or not) can do harm within those systems.  Our intimate politics are often the mostly deeply seated; it’s hard work to do.”

It is deeply important to me that my partners and I, my poly family, and my larger poly community continue to find value in self-growth, self-awareness, and becoming healthier in communication and relating to one another. Dating as poly does not automatically mean that someone is “healthy” or “open-minded” or more self-aware than someone else, and it is not some destination that one reaches in personal growth and evolution. We must continue to deconstruct and reconstruct our relationships so that they are as healthy and compassionate as possible.

Go take a look at the piece and then come back.

To start, here are the two points that I take some issue with:

“4. Remember that polyamory doesn’t make you radical all on its own, regardless of which directions your desire is oriented.   We all have these preferences based on race, class, ability, gender, etc that need deep work and questioning.  Dating 5 White cisgender people at once isn’t necessarily a radical act.”

I basically disagree. I think daring to show love, commitment, and care to more than one romantic or sexual partner IS a radical act in a capitalist and patriarchal society, especially for women, as we have historically been tied to monogamy (whereas men have had much more freedom to experience nonmonogamy). I also do not think that one must date people who hold marginalized identities in order to “prove” to anyone else that they are radical lovers. Please, do your work on uncovering your biases and prejudices and intentionally educate yourself and use your privilege to support people from marginalized communities. Again, though, daring to be honest and authentic and sharing that authentic self with the world IS, in my opinion, a radical act that I wish I saw more of in the world.

“7. Keep in mind that ‘poly’ is not a category of oppression in and of itself.  This is not a monogamist-supremacist world.  There are material privileges that support your access to the possibility of non-monogamy–ie the fact that you are able to make this choice.”

This one is pretty dicey to me. I have had experiences coming out to people as open/poly that support me in thinking that I was being intentionally hurt because I was not monogamous. Our culture and society, too, privileges those in monogamous relationships and marriages. I do think that the system of monogamy is intertwined with the systems of patriarchy and sexism (and all of the other systems of oppression in various ways), and that perhaps it cannot stand on its own like patriarchy can. I think that for people who are rejected from their families of origin or denied child visitation rights because they are in nonmonogamous relationships, it is too black-and-white to say that “This is not a monogamist-supremacist world.”  In addition, while there are material privileges that may make nonmonogamous pursuits easier (more money and time off for dating), there is also the argument that having nonmonogamous relationships supports families in lower income positions.

To close, I do want to highlight a couple of points that resonated with me:

“1. Don’t treat your partners like they’re less or more than one another based on super hierarchical divisions.  Numbering and ranking don’t make for resistive queer relationships; openness and compassion do.  Your secondary partners are not secondary people–they’re just not the folks you might devote the most time or energy to in a particular way.”

Yes, yes, yes. A partner may be more primary because I share a home, finances, and long-term goals with them, as well as a longer history and the intimacy that comes from having navigated many ups and downs with them. That does not mean that another partner does not have value or priority in my life, and it is important to find the specific ways of communicating that to people in my life. I like this recent Kimchi Cuddles comic addressing the issue of “primary” relationships.

“9. Finally, remember that polyamory is not a new or edgy concept invented in the Western world.  It’s a millenia-old idea to have and value multiple relations.  Let’s avoid perpetuating that cultural erasure.”

Again, yes. Nonmonogamous relationships and cultures are much older than 1960s swinging in the U.S. Just as we can find evidence of patriarchal and monogamous relationship structures and cultures dating back as old as humans, so can we find evidence of matriarchal and nonmonogamous relationship structures and cultures just as old.

Superstitious

I’m sitting/sweating in my 83* kitchen, with a bowl of orange chicken courtesy of Costco, listening to Stevie Wonder’s “Superstitious.”

Something deep has shifted for me this summer. Something deep inside has shifted in a way that will never shift back to a “before.” There is only “now” (and the “future,” which I could never predict anyway).

This week I’ve eaten: Chicken burrito. BshelovesmeshelovesmenotBQ kettle chips. A truly insane amount of 85% dark chocolate. Green chile chicken sausages. A disgusting amount of mac ‘n cheese. Malted ice cream. And now the orange chicken. I’m PMSing, to be sure, but also going through the most unique “break up” that I’ve experienced.

Pretty much everyone who cares about me could have (and did) predicted that I’d be here now, three months later, a bit heartbroken and (yes, still) confused as fuck. It was still worth it, and maybe it’s not entirely over. (If she’d text me back, I could get on with that conversation).

Besides feeling heartbreak over someone who didn’t even think of us as “dating,” (despite sleepovers, falling asleep in each other’s arms, kissing, having emotionally and mentally intimate conversations, and being treated like each other’s “daters”- introductions to friends and families and touching lower backs in front of people) this summer has also been a witness to:

-My desire to have my own bedroom. I’m moving up into the attic! J, you can do whatever you want with that front bedroom.

-Conversations with our best friends about them moving into our basement. Communal living has never been more appealing to me.

-My concrete realization that touch and time are too important to me to go without in relationships.

-My sister and her girlfriend becoming engaged, and several other friends getting married or engaged.

-My decision to leave my full time job in lieu of teaching (continuing on with Human Sexuality and adding Women’s Reproductive Health) and dancing and continuing on with school.

-Intense community (dis)engagement in my local sex worker community.

-The closing of Club Sesso in Portland. So so so so much sadness over that.

-Further questioning of what it means to be queer, poly, communicative, assertive, and respectful. Why have I now met so many, and felt the attitude from others, that you can’t really be a woman who loves other women if you also love men? I don’t like it.

-Questioning unhealthy and abusive dynamics in relationships that are close to me.

-Some continued self-acceptance, appreciation, and love for myself and my physical body.

-Questioning of the importance of sex (shocking perhaps- especially if you are a longtime reader of mine). Specifically- witnessing the development of the feeling of romantic love without sex happening in a relationship. I’m still letting that sift through my brain.

-Reading a few books, all of which I would recommend- Janet Mock’s memoir on growing up trans, Redefining Realness; Sarah Katherine Lewis’ memoir on her work in the sex industry, Indecent; and local Sarah Mirk’s Sex From Scratch. I’m also in the middle of both of Brene Brown’s Gifts of Imperfection and Daring Greatly.

-My overhaul of my OKC account. I even bought the stupid A-list membership so I could change my username.

When I opened my computer, I felt excited- I haven’t let myself have this kind of down-time in so long. And enough down-time to where I have the energy and interest in blogging. I want to do it like I used to do it. And maybe I will, but like I said at the beginning, there can never be a “before.” There is only “now,” and for today, right now I am doing this thing that I love.

I hope all of your summers have been rich and full heart-achey and full of learning and longing and love. Hopefully I will see you all soon.

Vote for SexualityReclaimed!

My blog was nominated for the Annual Lifestle Awards!! Show some love and vote for your various favorite blogs, podcasts, clubs, cruises, and more here: http://www.annuallifestyleawards.com/vote-here/

Much thanks for the nomination! Yay for lifestyle community and celebration!

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Activism and movements

I love how when you sit in a classroom, someone often tries to teach you how to do practical things in the world. The class I took a few years ago on community organizing is just making me laugh out loud now; I just don’t think there is any classroom experience that could really prepare you for what it actually looks like and feels like to try to connect with people to move change forward.

In Oregon, House Bill 3059 would mandate that all entertainment clubs display posters that spell out what rights independent contractor entertainers (strippers, DJs, comedians) have, as well as maintain an anonymous hotline entertainers can call to report violations or seek clarification.

I think it’s a stupid bill, if at least a tiny step forward in spreading accurate information to strippers in Oregon on what their status actually is and how they are actually treated.

I think I have effectively alienated myself from a few people who are staunch supporters of the bill. And more closely aligned myself with other workers who think empowerment and respectability politics is pretty bullshit (as do I). But it’s kind of killing me that there are such divides within the community. That is exactly what dominant culture encourages people of oppressed communities to behave: divide and conquer. Fuckers!

You can’t organize a community that doesn’t want to be. You can’t effectively talk to a community and get a solid read on what it needs or wants if the community isn’t organized.

It honestly feels like a shit show. All of the interpersonal politics and drama and history that shapes and influences the real way policy (organizationally, institutionally, legally, culturally) is created. Some of it is petty and some if it isn’t. Some of it comes down to fundamental differences of opinion that can’t be bridged or glossed over; these differences really matter in building a movement, and yet it is still tough to know- is this the right way to go about pushing for change? Alienation never feels right to me, but maybe it should? How do we “call in” as opposed to “call out” possible supporters and opponents? How do you stay diplomatic while still remaining true to your message?