exercising the poison pen

one of my older posts (this one) got picked up on tumblr the other day. it was only “retumbled” or whatever the term is a couple of times, but it resulted in a few hundred extra hits, & then was posted on some aggregator site. pretty weird. i never think anyone reads this thing, & then i check & i’m getting like 350 hits a day.

one woman who came across my post via tumblr apparently liked everything i had to say about the use & abuse of trigger warnings, right up until the example at the end, about RV sales messiah tom raper. she said she’d be happy to link & repost if i excised the last few paragraphs. that kind of annoyed me. just as i am always surprised to find that people read this blog, i am twice as surprised when people link to it. i don’t write this shit hoping for links, & i’m sure as hell not going to edit anything i write here in order to get links. this isn’t the first time that i have fielded a request to re-write or edit something here in order to make someone more comfortable. what part of “if you don’t have anything nice to say, come sit here by me” are people not getting?

i guess this ties in with all the shit about hollaback that went down a few weeks ago (look for posts tagged “up the ladies!” for context). hollaback lawrence is now under way, with a goal of launching in mid-august. i am not involved. a few folks who are involved have encouraged me to come to meetings, but i have declined, less out of disinterest than because i know my presence at meetings will make certain individuals flip out & i don’t really think that’s good for them, me, or the hollaback project in general. as much drama as i have fielded in my life due to my irrepressible need to voice controversial opinions, i don’t actually enjoy drama & am not going to go out of my way to facilitate it.

as far as i can tell, some people are still feeling pretty grumpy about my opinions regarding hollaback. the more the time that goes by with grumpiness unabating, the less inclined i feel to do anything to make anyone feel better. it’s just such a stupid fucking thing to hold a grudge over. there are just a few people in my life for whom i will actually go out of my way to smooth things over in the event that they are offended by something i do or say, & none of those people have any issue with me at the moment.

feminist book club has kicked off its summer sessions. our first topic this month was polyamory, & we read the ethical slut. polyamory is one of top ten all-time least favorite topics. i totally support people having whatever kinds of relationships work best for them. i personally am in a monogamous relationship, but i concede that’s not the right fit for everyone. but long philosophical/political conversations about polyamory really grate on my nerves. a few years ago, one of my friends, a big fan of open relationships, facilitated a workshop on polyamory. she called it “radical relationships”. i told her that her workshop title was kind of aggravating because the implication is that polyamorous relationships are somehow more “radical” than monogamous relationships. i am not 100% on board with defining ANY relationship configuration as “radical,” because it’s really all just a lifestyle choice & suggesting that a lifestyle choice is inherently “radical” is kind of a perversion of the term. but if people insist on using that word, i will suggest that the most radical kind of relationship you can have is a healthy one, & that might be monogamous, polyamorous, who knows, who cares?

there were a few other book club people who shared my lack of enthusiasm for spending two weeks discussing the feminist implications of polyamory, thank goodness. i had decided to go to book club & just try to keep my mouth shut & let other people have some space to talk about their perceptions. i was very relieved when a few of the people who talked said exactly what i wanted to say, such as, “it’s fucking annoying when someone who otherwise has all the privileges in the world goes around crowing about how oppressed they are because they’re polyamorous. everyone wants to be oppressed these days.”

the next book club topic was sex-positivity, for which we read a book called opening up, which…you guessed it. it was all about fucking polyamory! again! i muddled through about half of it & then i stopped reading in disgust. there was all this language about “being true to yourself,” “expressing your sexuality,” “exploring your desire in a healthy way,” etc etc etc. all i could think about was, like, eleven-year-old child brides in afghanistan forcibly married to 40-year-old men. it’s such a huge fucking overwhelming privilege to explore your own sexual predilections because your sexual liberation is just a given. & while something being a function of privilege does not necessarily mean it is wrong & bad, it is annoying to watch people work out their tender feelings over something that is such a function of privilege.

opening up also contrasted polyamory against monogamy in really weird ways. the author suggests that a person make a pros & cons list for both monogamy & polyamory, to see if they are really cut out for the rigors of polyamory. the pros for monogamy were things like “enjoying a sense of romantic security” & “acceptance from family & community”. the pros for polyamory were things like “challenge your assumptions about yourself” & “concede that one person can’t fulfill all your needs”. um, i’m in a monogamous relationship, but that doesn’t mean i necessarily have this built-in sense of romantic security. monogamous couples can still break up. queer monogamous couples may still face ostracization from family & community. & while i may have but one boyfriend, i have never kidded myself for a minute that he can magically fulfill all my needs. i do still have friends. & i feel no pressure to sexualize those friends in order to “challenge assumptions about myself”. my relationships with other people are not a forum for me to work out my psychological baggage, hello.

i could go on & fucking on about this, but i think i’m having a blood sugar moment & should probably go snack on some potato salad.

Published by Ciara

Ciara Xyerra wrote zines for the better part of two decades. She has a brilliant & adorable preschooler named Ramona & sews as much as she possibly can. She lives in Lawrence, Kansas with her boyfriend. She enjoys catching up on "The New Yorker", meatball subs, keeping it cranky, intersectional post-third wave feminism, dinosaurs, & monsters. If you have nothing nice to say, she recommends that you come sit here by her, so you can say not-nice things together.

5 thoughts on “exercising the poison pen

  1. all i could think about was, like, eleven-year-old child brides in afghanistan forcibly married to 40-year-old men. it’s such a huge fucking overwhelming privilege to explore your own sexual predilections because your sexual liberation is just a given. & while something being a function of privilege does not necessarily mean it is wrong & bad, it is annoying to watch people work out their tender feelings over something that is such a function of privilege.

    This kind of echoes my own thoughts about reclaiming sex work. I have no doubt that sex work can be liberating and fulfilling for many women, and they should be free to tell their stories, but for 99% of women sex work is NOT a free, liberated choice and I don’t think certain types of women from privileged, lefty backgrounds understand this. A woman telling tales of being a feminist stripper certainly isn’t required to bring up child prostitution or the exploitation of pimps or what have you, but I don’t think I’ve ever read one sex work zine where it’s even been casually mentioned that, hey, this really ISN’T a choice for most women, it’s a terrifying reality.

    Did you read this big ball of fail on Feministe? It pissed me off so much that I broke my own vow of never commenting on Feministe articles. In addition to totally erasing same-sex monogamous couples (yeah, that “monogamous privilege” is really working out for gay couples, amirite?), she also makes some really fucked-up assertions as to why people “choose” monogamy. #1, of course, is that it’s a “jealousy containment device” which, I’m sorry, but that kind of logic is exactly what I’d expect from a polyamorous person. I almost get the impression from reading “poly blogs” (and I don’t search them out, sometimes they just fall into my lap, like this article) that they seem to think monogamous folks walk around all day in a whirling cloud of jealousy, which the poly person has blissfully progressed past. I’m not so sure of the logic of a poly person writing an article titled “In Praise of Monogamy” in the first place. Clearly she can’t praise it objectively, since she rejected it! I also have some strong feelings about polyamory and how it intersects with the science fiction/geek community but they would definitely be controversial and/or “triggering” so IDK if I want to go there. But it all comes back to “everyone wants to be oppressed these days,” as the feminist reading group member so succinctly put it.

  2. Agreed, so much. I tried really hard to voice a similar “what makes a polyamorous relationship inherently radical?” head-scratcher in response to a Radical Relationships (ie. Polyamory) workshop back when I was a contentious 18-year-old, then I went through the obligatory anarchist polyamory phase, and now I’m back at, “can we please stop talking about polyamory as the be-all end-all solution to difficult relationship dynamics”? This is usually set into high-gear when self-righteous polyamorous people proclaim all monogamous relationships to be “power relationships” and other related bullshit. Like, there’s so much more that comprises good relationships than some reductionist tripe about how many people you’re having sex with.

  3. I got to your blog through, well, some rambling link-clicking that I can’t even track back because it started around 7AM this morning and I’ve been off and on amusing myself with other projects.

    With that out of the way, I truly enjoy your perspective and your blogs! It’s like a breath of fresh air for someone like me, who is also interested in feminism and disabled as well/ I think you have very fair, balanced thoughts on your topics and I find myself agreeing with you.

    I read a few feminist blogs that are sometimes very narrow in view, that I appreciate your writing,

  4. Good call, both of you. I’ve also seen polyamory rhetoric used as an excuse to neglect and manipulate one’s partner under the guise of “you’re just socialized to feel jealous,” or to pressure someone who’s in a monogamous relationship to fool around with them by saying “get out of monogamy land,” which is of course in no way healthy, let alone radical. Learn to be a decent human being and expand your radical rhetoric beyond the slogans of Microcosm merch.

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