Glossarylalia

I have a few new things to talk about, especially the folks who asked questions (privately, apparently no one wants to be public about this stuff).  First, though, because I keep getting caught up in terminology, I figure I should set up a glossary for the blog.  This is not definitive and definitely not normative, but I get enough poly-wankery arguing about terms in person and definitely want to head it off here.  Not least because if I describe something as a “date” or say I’m “seeing” someone, that person is almost certainly reading this blog and I want them to know for sure what I mean.

capital-R relationship is what I have with someone with whom I am romantically involved and who gets to have input on my life decisions.  I have one of these with Carrie and (currently) no one else, and don’t intend to establish more, but if the vagaries of the world and emotion stuff me into another one I will roll with it. This probably corresponds to “primary” the way that a lot of people use it but pfeh.

A date is, for me, any time that I meet someone when one or more of us has romantic and/or sexual intentions (hereafter referred to as romanticosexual).  I’m only really sure I’m on a date if one of the following is true:

  • I have clear intentions
  • The other person states their intentions
  • One of us uses the word “date”
  • We end up making out (note that this can retroactively make a friendly meeting a “date”)

Dating is the state of having been on one or more dates with someone and being likely to be on one or more future dates.  This state is compatible with states like “friendship”, “in a relationship”, “friends with benefits”, etc.

Polyamory is not used on this blog to refer to “any relationship which is not monogamous”, which is, I think, sloppy.  Polyamory is significantly more specific.

Poly/open is the construction that I use when referencing non-monogamy in general as opposed to polyamory in specific, because there is a difference, and I’m still mildly uncomfortable identifying as “poly” due to baggage the word brings along.  I will use “polyamorous” to describe myself for convenience, but it doesn’t quite fit, IMO.

Relationships are a superset of the above capital-R relationship, and include anyone I’m dating as well as friends with-or-without benefits, family members, etc.

Romance is a fuzzy word that I’m using as a catchall for the difference between friendships and someone that I’m seeing or dating which is not accounted for by sex.  I don’t have a clearer wording here, but feel free to suggest.

Romanticosexual is my own portmanteau with relatively obvious meanings that I coined because every time I tried to use dating to mean anything except 50’s-style shake-and-a-burger-and-a-movie-and-a-makeout-in-my-dad’s-car-style stuff someone wanted to pick a fight with me about it.  So, fine, “dating” means what it means above and this gets to be my catch-all word and no one can argue with me about it because I fucking made it up.  It gets a little under 20,000 hits on Google and most of those are non-English.

I am seeing someone that I am dating and whom I have been dating for some arbitrary number of dates that is more than one but probably less than five.

Sex, when not being used to refer to a person’s physical sex, means any time two people have physical and that contact involves one or more genitals.  I would happily refine this if someone has input, but whatever I use has to be universal wrt gender and has to include things that are not PiV or PiA intercourse.

This is a living document and will be updated as appropriate.

Q&A/Discussion

I have some other posts to write, but the recent ones here have been so weighty that I feel the need to throw some filler in between.

Thus, I invite any readers with experience in or questions about open relationships to open up in the comments about related topics.  Or if not, this still gives me a little mental pause while I reset my blog gears for other things.

A followup

I want to follow up on this post a bit.  Trigger warnings again.  This post discusses rape and sexual assault.  It also discusses auto theft, for what it’s worth.  It possibly takes others’ experiences and uses them to make a point, but I do feel that the point needs to be made.  These are not my burdens, though, and never will be.

The first thing I want to address, for me, is that some people didn’t catch that it was satire.  Even those that did catch it usually needed to get through a few paragraphs before it became obvious.  Even people  who are very close to me weren’t immediately aware that I was not drawing an actual equivalency between rape and accusations of rape.  It’s a testament to how deeply rape culture and misogyny run that even people who know and love me couldn’t be sure that I wasn’t suddenly revealing a previously unknown and disgusting attitude until they got to the end of that post. A friend likened it to A Modest Proposal, saying that eating babies is also an uncomfortable thing to talk about, but tellingly no one ever believed for a second that Swift was actually proposing cannibalism. We live in a world wherein the idea that someone could suddenly reveal a rape apologist living in their head is far from absurd. And those close-to-me people who read this generally had a sick-to-their-stomach feeling that I think I didn’t need to put them through to make my point.

And here is my point: as far as I can see, we can have two scenarios when someone is accused of sexual assault or rape:

  1. We can have a strong presumption of innocence, as we do now, and we can effectively protect abusers and rapists at the expense of their victims, with the trade-off that very few people will be negatively impacted by false accusations
  2. We can have a strong presumption of guilt, and in return protect victims over their abusers,  but at the same time run the risk of persecuting some number of innocent people.

When this comes up, especially when I talk about my belief that, at least socially if not legally, we ought to operate under scenario number 2, someone nearly always claims that everyone is “innocent until proven guilty” and thereby claims that we should discard these accusations without absolute proof.  But we don’t actually operate that way, certainly not socially and generally not even legally.  The actual legal burden is proof beyond a reasonable doubt; I put it to you that if you know two people had sexual contact, and one says that contact was non-consensual, it is unreasonable to doubt.

If I call the police and tell them that someone has stolen my car, and they find that person with my car, I am not required to prove that I didn’t lend it to them.  I’m not required to prove that I don’t have a history of lending my car out, nor that I haven’t let that person drive my car in the past.  And yet these are all things that are commonly required of victims of sexual assault and rape, which are much more serious than auto theft, lest anyone think I mean to draw an equivalence here.

Even if the cops couldn’t prove that someone stole my car, my friends wouldn’t take sides in the process.  No one would shun me for having my car stolen.  None of my friends and family would continue to associate with the car thief.  And this is all true even if I did give the car to the person I’ve accused.  But of course, faking a car theft is an incredibly rare event and so we quite reasonably assume that, absent other evidence, a theft accusation is true.

This is what we ought to be doing with accusations of sexual assault, which I put to you are almost certainly just as often true.  I don’t, nor could I, cite statistics for you, given the current difficulty in reporting and prosecuting these crimes and the commensurate low report rate. However, given that actually being assaulted is far worse than being accused of assault, we should be operating in a way that discourages assault over discouraging accusations regardless of the relative rates.

We are instead, as a society (perhaps not you and I, dear reader, who are of course enlightened and caring beings) protecting the criminals over the concerns of their victims.  We require a much higher bar for a victim of rape or sexual assault.  We put them through a great ordeal if they come forward, and then we ask them to prove for certain that a thing happened that is almost unprovable and which almost certainly actually happened.

There’s obviously a threshold for this.  I’m not arguing that if someone says to you “Bill Clinton raped me” and you have no reason to believe that they’ve even met Bill Clinton, you should take that super seriously.  But if someone says “X did Y to me without my consent” then so long as you have reason to believe that X actually did Y, requiring someone to prove the “without my consent” part is completely unreasonable and not something that we ask of victims of any crime that is not sexually violent in nature.  Naturally, if X can prove consent, then we can let X off the hook, much the way that if I sell someone my car they’d better get the title from me, or else trust the hell out of me that I’m not going to report it stolen.

And, as indicated in A Nightmare Scenario, this would shift the burden of care.  Men, who benefit from the current paradigm, would suddenly have to have some care with whom they had sexual encounters.  We’d have to vet those people more carefully.  We’d have to trust the people we’re sleeping with, and not just want them.  If we didn’t, we’d be taking our reputation and potentially a chunk of our lives into our hands, each and every time. Just the way women who sleep with men do now, just the way men who sleep with men do now, just the way that trans folk who sleep with cis men must, just the way that people of color who sleep with white people do now, just the way that anyone who is drawn to someone more privileged than they are must do.  The current effective assumption that all accusations of rape are lies without overwhelming proof magnifies and exacerbates a difference of power that doesn’t need any help.

And make no mistake: when you silence victims, you are assuming that they are lying.  When you block them from making “criminal accusations”, the way the Fetlife admins do, you are treating all accusations as lies.  When you ask a victim to be absolutely sure that they didn’t consent, you are treating them as liars.  When we, this society, treat rape and sexual assault as if they required 100% proof, as if without video tape or clear signs of violence they can’t be prosecuted, things we do with no other crime, we are treating victims as liars.

The BDSM/fetish community has a serious problem with this, and its problem sparked this discussion, but it’s one which mirrors the superculture’s obsession with protecting men from harmful accusations of sexual assault.  Yes, if we were to make these assumptions, we would get laid less.  The buzz would be harshed.  That happy invulnerability, that ability to have sex with no consideration of the consequences, that would be dented.  Straight men would get laid less.  I would get laid less.  That is not a reasonable objection.  It is not worth protecting rapists over their victims in order to make sex easier.

Taking a trip

Not really sure where my readership is these days, but I’ll be in NYC August 22nd to the 26th if anyone wants to say hello.  I was going to have a “bachelor party” in Indiana with my friends from home (a LAN party, in this case), but the plans fell through.  Let me know, we’ll have a drink and toast to my impending nuptials.

Oh, hello, new readers

We’re having a relatively busy day over here, thanks to the kerfuffle at Fetlife and folks finding this (which I swear is satire, I know that’s confused a couple of people).

If you decide to stick around a bit, you can find the blog’s launch here, which sort of describes the mission and intent of my keeping this little journal.  There’s some of my thoughts on dating and gender here, here, and here.   If you just want more (possibly) humorous bits about dating and nonmonogamy, there’s this and this.

If you’re just passing through, enjoy the internet.

Contacts

One of the weirdest aspects of dating in this day and age is that contact information is so permanent now.  Phone numbers are portable, email addresses last forever; physical addresses change but almost no one sends snail mail any more.

Every time I let a new site troll through my contacts for people I should connect with, a lot of my results end up people I went out with once, or people I almost but didn’t quite go out with.  And I don’t really date that much, so I’m sure it’s worse for other people, although I’m a heavy user of social media and that probably also has an effect.

It’s just strange to be shown these people every so often, and be forcibly updated on their lives.  I don’t mind, per se, but it does make me wonder how many of them are, say, reading this blog, or following me on tumblr, or what-have-you.

It’s not strange when these are people who are still at least peripherally related to my life, but a lot of them are that-person-who-got-weird-in-the-email-exchange or that-one-who-just-stopped-talking-to-me-without-giving-a-reason or that-one-night-stand. In an earlier era, I could (and did) completely forget even the names of people in these roles, but now there’s a record forever that we had contact and the internet keeps wanting us to talk to each other.

A nightmare scenario

(This probably needs a trigger warning for sexual assault discussion)

Fetlife is apparently taking steps (link may need a site profile) to prevent users from naming names of the other users who’ve sexually assaulted them.  Of course, people are upset, but I thought maybe I should explain what they’re trying to do here.

Imagine a world in which anyone could just, willy-nilly and without any consequences, accuse men of rape. Why, men would have an incredible burden to bear in such a society! We’d have to be very careful whom we let into our lives, and be sure that anyone we spent time alone with was someone we could trust.  We’d have to avoid being alone with strange women, lest we be hit with a damning accusation out of nowhere.  When going on first dates, we’d have to be sure someone knew where we were, and was willing and capable to act as an alibi if we got a strange vibe.

It wouldn’t prevent us from living our lives, of course, but some part of our minds would always have to be devoted to making sure someone knew where we were and could vouch for us.  At night, walking down the street, we’d have to be careful not to enter dark areas where we couldn’t be seen.  We’d probably want to do most things in groups of other men. In particular, those men who did get accused of such by a good friend or family member would have–justifiable!–trouble learning to trust women again.  And of course, despite the stereotype that would develop, most of the accusations would come from friends and family.

In such a world, the prevalence of rape accusations would no doubt be incredibly high.  I’ve heard estimates that, if such a thing could happen, as many as one in five or even one in four men might be accused of rape in their lifetimes, and even those men who weren’t in that large minority would always have that possibility hanging over their heads.

Luckily, we have people like the Fetlife admins, and basically all of the rest of society, to levy enormous social consequences on anyone who makes a rape accusation.  Of course this means that rape goes wildly under reported, but it does mean that some small number of innocent men are spared tarnished reputations, and that’s–clearly–much more important to us.

See this post for a more clear and serious discussion