Posts By: Shauna Aura knight

Chanting, Trancing, and Ecstatic Techniques for Aspecting Part 1

shutterstock_76776415Using ecstatic techniques of singing, dancing, and drumming to draw down deities or get possessed by spirits is both an old ritual technology and a new one. It’s been used for thousands of years and you see this in the tribal customs of many religions that have continued on to the present day.

It’s a technique that also has become used more and more in modern Pagan groups, though many Pagan groups have had to rediscover it since certain traditions didn’t seem to use any ecstatic processes for this ritual function. Thus, as these techniques are rediscovered, the old is new again. However, it means we have to re-look at these techniques and look at what will work for us in our own traditions and rituals, and what won’t. And it also serves to burrow down a bit into why it works.

I was specifically asked via my Facebook group on Ritual Facilitation Skills how one could use singing and chanting as part of drawing down, but the answer’s a little more complex than that. It’s worth pointing out the framework of the person asking; she’s forming a small group, so perhaps 3-4 people to start with, and she comes from an Alexandrian tradition.

The TL:DR on this post is, if you want to use singing and chanting techniques in ritual, you have to learn how to do it, and you have to teach your group to do them too. More, you have to get their buy-in, their willingness to do it without you having to pressure them. If you have a very small group and some of them are reluctant to sing and aren’t willing to engage whole-heartedly, these techniques may fall flat.

If you have a group of five people, but only two are willing to sing, it’s like two people trying to carry a 200 pound cauldron while the rest of the group stands there and watches: not going to work out well.

What Is Aspecting, and what is Ecstatic?

Let’s start with definitions of terms. Trance possession, drawing down, invocation, and aspecting are all terms for the same basic function, but they have different connotations, as I mentioned in my last post. Trance possession is typically done with a lot of ecstatic support.

When I say ecstatic, what I mean is physically embodied techniques that take us into a deep altered state. We’re talking drumming, singing, dancing. Now, some ecstatic techniques involve sensory overstimulation, and some could involve sensory deprivation (dancing with a blindfold, sensory deprivation water tanks, etc.) Sometimes alcohol or entheogenic substances are used.

You will commonly see ecstatic work used for trance possessions in African Diasporic traditions like Vodoun when people are ridden by the Loa, or in traditional tribal cultures where the whole community is singing and dancing together and the shaman/spiritworker (or other specific people) go into shaking trances. I’ll go ahead and use the word shamanic in the anthropological sense of how the word is commonly used; these techniques are common in shamanic traditions where the tribal spiritworker is supported in their work by the singing and dancing of the whole tribe.

There’s a great documentary, Dances of Ecstasy, that I often recommend as it offers up video of several different world traditions that use trance techniques. The DVD is available on Amazon or you can order it directly from the people who created it.

Working Within A Tradition

It’s worth pointing out that I have little experience with Alexandrian or British Traditional Witchcraft, and that’s the framework the original question comes from. I’m familiar with what I’d call the “standard Wiccan ritual” format that comes from BTW since I’ve attended plenty of them, so I’m using that as sort of a guideline here for the rest of my response.

However, if you’re in a similar tradition, one potential resource is Janet Farrar. Janet trained with Alex Sanders so she comes from those traditions, but her ritual work has evolved over the years. She gave a talk a few years ago and spoke very specifically about how they are doing a lot more ecstatic trance work in their rituals, and the way they do drawing down is closer to what’s usually referred to as trance possession.

So if you’re working with traditional witchcraft and Wicca, it’s possible that Janet Farrar herself might be a good resource for how to do this within the constraints of your own tradition. She may have written about this as well, but I’m not familiar with the content of her books. (Feel free to comment or message me if you are and can recommend one of her books that might go into her approach on this).

Constraints and Intentions

One of the reasons I don’t work with what I call the “standard Wiccan ritual format” is in part because those traditions tend to offer too many limitations on the shape of the ritual. I could get into orthodoxy and orthopraxy, but the idea is that when you study in a particular tradition/religion and you’re told that the ritual must be done like this, otherwise it’s not correct, that becomes a limitation on what you can and can’t do in your ritual and still call it XYZ tradition.

I take a completely different approach. I’ve mentioned it in a few articles, but basically the way I do ritual is entirely geared toward engaging the group in a trance state. I build up layer and layer of participation to get people willing to sing, move, dance. I’m concerned with trance technique, not orthodoxy.

Some traditions have a set format for how things must be done, and sometimes those things make it hard to engage a group in participation. I talk about one ritual in my book Spiritual Scents where each person was expected to sage/smudge the person next to them, one at a time. With 60 people, that ended up taking 45 minutes, just for smudging. We were all bored to tears before the ritual even started.

The energy was flatlined.

Thus, I look at traditions and expectations around ritual and I may shift things a bit to make it more ecstatic. Cakes and Ale is one I have gone after in some of my articles too; in a larger group, Cakes and Ale is (in some traditions) supposed to be the Big Divine Communion Moment. And instead, it’s this long, annoying process of passing out styrofoam cups, juice with preservatives, cookies with preservatives…not very magical. People start having side conversations while they wait for their juice and cookie–the energy diffuses.

In my ritual work, I don’t do smudging or cakes and ale, and that’s for a few reasons but one is that if it’s going to take a long time and be boring for the group, that’s not going to make it easy to sing and build energy.

Thus, one of the pieces of advice I always offer up is, look at the intention of each piece of your ritual and what it’s supposed to achieve. If you’re told to do ABC format, and the intention is building communal energy, but the ABC format doesn’t do that…perhaps your tradition needs to be updated. Perhaps a different ritual technique would better serve that intention.

Take a look at each piece of your ritual and honestly explore whether or not the ritual techniques you’re taught to use actually effect that intention.

Ritual Logistics That Impact Ecstatic Work

It’s worth mentioning that my specialty is large group ritual; I’m not always the best at small group ritual. However, in large group ritual the challenge is getting a bunch of strangers to energetically connect and be willing to sing/dance/look like a dumbass in front of strangers. In a small group, you have the advantage of intimacy and connection. As the group’s connection builds, it can become easier to do the ecstatic work because you have that relationship and you’re not worried about looking stupid while you sing, dance, etc.

I mention all that because if you want to use singing and other ecstatic/embodied techniques, people need to feel comfortable enough to do them. In our culture, most people don’t feel comfortable singing. We’re taught that only “good” singers should sing.

I get away with it in large groups because, among other things, I’m loud enough to anchor the chant and keep the melody until the group starts to feel comfortable. Plus in a group of 50+ people there’s a certain amount of anonymity.

But the other reason I get away with it and get people singing that weren’t expecting to sing is that I’ve structured my whole ritual to build people up, to help them participate more and more until they feel safer. I don’t ask them to jump in and sing a complicated chant right away, I don’t ask them to jump in and dance in the middle. I ask for them to speak a word, or sing a tone, or to move their arms or maybe sway from side to side. And then a little later, I ask for more sound, more movement, more words.

I build it up layer by layer.

There’s an axiom of facilitation (workshops, rituals, etc) that what you do in the first five minutes sets the tone. That’s true, but it’s more complex than that. If I want the group to participate (not just watch) I do have to set that up in the first five minutes. But, I also have to layer that up through the ritual. I can’t expect someone to be comfortable anchoring a chant, or go into deep ecstasis, if they’ve been standing and watching me talk for 20 minutes. People go into “audience mode” and then getting them to do anything participatory is like stirring glue.

Now…as you can tell, this topic is deeper than just getting people to sing. I’m not explaining simple concepts, so this post has gone on pretty long and we haven’t even gotten to actual singing and chanting techniques. Part 2 will do just that, and you’ll really want to read it now that you have some background information. I also go into some of the chanting and music techniques I use as a personal practice and to train my voice. Sounds simple to say, but you can’t lead chants in ritual if you haven’t prepared yourself to sing.

Part 2 tomorrow!

 


Filed under: Facilitation, Ritual Tagged: aspecting, chanting, dancing, drawing down, ecstasis, ecstatic ritual, invocation, Pagan, Paganism, possession, ritual, shruti box, singing, singing bowl, theology, trance possession, trance work, trancing

Aspecting, Trance Possession, and Theology

680723_xlI’ve had a few questions lately related to aspecting and trance possession, so I thought I’d do another couple of posts on the topic, specifically on how to approach aspecting/drawing down when you’re a pantheist, atheist, or generally working with deities as archetypes instead of as polytheistic gods. I also want to get into some of the ecstatic trance techniques I use and how those can be used with aspecting and drawing down.

Background

I wrote a longer series of posts for HumanisticPaganism.com on my general approach to deity and archetype in ritual. I wrote the Pantheism, Archetype, and Deities in Ritual series in response to a request from blogger John Halstead, but also in response to technical/ritual facilitation concerns I had from this article on the Atheopaganism site. My issues aren’t with the theology of the author–they’re with the ritual techniques that work to get people into “the zone.”

But the post does bring up the struggle of working with deities as myths and archetypes when you have an atheistic/humanistic view, because it’s a challenge.

How do you work with these in rituals, how do you still have a powerful ritual, without betraying your theological and philosophical beliefs?

If you want more of a background on my theological approach to ritual, here are links to the whole series of posts. Part 3 goes specifically into my approach on aspecting and trance possession when we’re talking pantheistic archetypes vs. polytheistic deities, but I’ll repeat a bunch of it here in an abbreviated form for context.

I’m a pantheist/archetypist. I’m barely a theist; I have had mystic communion experience with the divine, and specifically, with deity forms, but I see these very much as masks/filters/lenses through which I’m connecting to that larger/incomprehensible whole. I see the archetypes/deities/heroes as stories with a certain amount of invested energetic power. As part of that larger whole. I can’t quite call myself an atheist.

When I teach ritual facilitation, I almost exclusively focus on logistics and techniques. I use ecstatic techniques because they work. Singing, dancing, breathing, drumming…these evoke a trance state. It’s just science.

When I facilitate rituals, I do refer to them as gods and deities, and sometimes by name if we’re working with a particular story, but I usually make it clear before the ritual starts that I don’t really care what someone’s theology is. People can join my rituals if they are polytheists and believe in them as distinct gods, if they are pantheists, if they are atheists who just see them as archetypes. I’m still going to use the word gods for ease of use.

Well–unless it’s a hero story like King Arthur, etc. But in almost all other cases, I’m comfortable using the language of myth and deity because it’s effective. For me, it’s important to let people know that I’m not really trying to teach theology. When I lead a ritual, I’m just trying to get people to “the door,” as it were. I’m not there to tell them what’s past the door, what it looks like. I’m not there to preach my own theology. I’m just trying to help them get to a state of consciousness where they can have a potent experience.

There are several terms for the function of invocation, and they have slightly different nuances. There’s drawing down or invoking, there’s trance possession, and there’s aspecting. Aspecting is a term more often used by Reclaiming, and some other traditions. Aspecting holds the connotation that the human aspecting the deity is in control of the process, and that they aren’t being fully 100% possessed. Whereas trance possession holds the opposite connotation, that the human being the “vessel” or doing the “horsing” is blacking out and not going to remember what the deity did while in their body.

There’s another word I sometimes use, “Embodying,” which is a lighter version of aspecting. I use this when I mean that someone is either doing a light aspect of a deity, or even just speaking (in first person) in the voice of the deity. And, this is something I do for deities (like Hephaestus or Brigid) or more gender-neutral archetypes (The Worker at the Forge) or for hero/story characters (King Arthur, the Lady of the Lake, Merlin).

Terminology is difficult. Even the word “invoking” has different meanings depending upon tradition. The way I learned it through Reclaiming and Diana’s Grove, “invoking” just meant “inviting that spirit/deity/energy into the ritual space” vs. horsing the deity/spirit in someone’s body. We called that aspecting.

Let’s Pretend

The Atheopaganism article offers the idea that atheist Pagans would make it clear that, even if they’re talking about a particular god or goddess, that they make it clear that it’s “just pretend.” My issue with the idea of clearly stating that we’re just pretending is that rituals, and in specific, engaging the trance state, doesn’t work very well with this. You’ll lose a lot of your ritual power if you keep reminding people they are pretending.

One of the most powerful pieces of ritual technique is engaging a trance state, and if you keep reminding people that this is all pretend, you’re going to keep yanking them up out of it.

There’s a ritual axiom I use; don’t use transitions like, “And now we’re gonna raise energy,” or, “And now we’re gonna talk to the mask of god that isn’t a real god, just a mask,” or something else that takes people out of the groove. I personally think that it’s sufficient to lay my own theology out on the table before I facilitate and empower people to make their own choices about how they work with gods/archetypes.

The anthropomorphization of deity, and connecting to those huge forces via a proxy/mask in ritual is incredibly potent. It’s why we have statues and paintings and shrines to deities. It’s why we have ritual theater, it’s why we have aspecting and drawing down in ritual. The science of it is in trance work. When you close your eyes and imagine an experience, your mind can make that experience very real. Hypnotherapists can use this to help people re-imagine and re-remember an old painful memory but with a different outcome. It’s transformative.

Chanting, Trancing, and Ecstatic Techniques

One of the reasons it’s important to work with what gets us into trance, and to not fuss so much about whether or not it’s “real,” is because it’s difficult enough to engage the trance state. If you’re trying to work with a deity or archetype in a ritual and trying to get the group to buy into the concept, if you keep yanking them back, no amount of ecstatic techniques will work because everyone’s going to be self conscious.

One of the major paradoxes of ecstatic ritual is, getting people singing and dancing is one of the most effective ritual techniques. And, it’s one of the most difficult techniques to effect, largely because modern people are so self conscious.

And if you’re trying to use singing and chanting in order to get someone trance possessed/drawing down/aspecting, and you keep pointing out that we’re “just pretending,” you’re going to shoot yourself in the foot.

But what if you want to use some of those techniques for aspecting work? How do you do that? What techniques will work?

I’ll go more into using singing and chanting, and other ecstatic techniques in aspecting in my next post, because that’s a complicated topic all its own.


Filed under: Facilitation, Leadership, Ritual Tagged: aspecting, chanting, deity, drawing down, invocation, Pagan, ritual, trance, trance state, trancework, trancing

Reblog: How To Spot A Spiritual Sexual Predator

I reblog this with some recommendations and some caveats. This post is an excellent overview of many of the red flags of predators within the Pagan community. This is something I’ve written about and talked about at length and I think it’s important for more people to be aware of these dangerous traits.

Here’s one caveat: Many of these red flags are not, on their own, problematic. It’s the constellation of red flags that are the issue, just as with so many other things. The author brings up that sustained eye contact and charismatic behavior is a predatory behavior, and that’s not exactly true; not on its own. So remember–just because some Pagan you know does some of these doesn’t automatically mean they are a predator. Use discernment.

Another caveat: The post is bigoted against polyamory and open relationships. For that reason, I hesitated to share this post, however, the rest of the overview of behaviors is so spot-on that I still find it an excellent resource on spiritual predators. Here’s the thing; just because someone is polyamorous doesn’t mean they are a predator. I’ve seen lots of ethically open relationships. Heck, I’m in one now myself, though it was unexpected. However, where I see poly being predatory is with these additional red flags: When the person is pressuring you to be poly and extolling the virtues of polyamory and how polyamory is better than monogamy, or when the person is telling you they are poly and they’re actually using that as a line to cheat on their partner. Again, use discernment. There’s a big difference between someone new to being polyamorous and enthusiastic about it, and someone who’s trying to manipulate you into a sexually coercive relationship.

 

 Link to article: How To Spot A Spiritual Sexual Predator

“It surprises me not an iota that a sexual predator would become a prominent new-age guru. The guru-student relationship is fertile land for sexual misbehavior to flourish in. There are too many guru sexual predators to list, but I’ll highlight a few who were exposed relatively recently: John Friend of Anusara Yoga, Bikram Choudury of Bikram Yoga, Eido Shimano Roshi of New York Zen Studies Society, Joshu Sasaki Roshiof Rinzai-ji, Swami Shankarananda of Shiva School Of Meditation And Yoga, and Doug Phillips of Vision Forum….”


Filed under: Activism, Leadership, Pagan Community Tagged: abus, abuse, leadership, monogamy, polyamory, predators, sexual predators

Return of the Light: Seeking Joy

WinterKnightWishI have a hard time with the word “fun.” The words “happy” and “joy” are difficult words too, for that matter. Yet, a year ago around the Winter Solstice I committed to finding more real joy in my life and actually experience that elusive sensation known as happiness. And I found some of it, though I have more seeking to do. Part of my Winter Solstice practices is reviewing the past year and looking forward to the next.


Recently I was trying to explain Yule and the Winter Solstice to my non-Pagan boyfriend. My own spiritual tradition has changed a bit over the years, so I had to think for a bit about what the Solstice still means to me.

I couldn’t really define it by a religious observance with a group, since I don’t have a group I practice with. I couldn’t define it by public ritual offerings as I haven’t hosted rituals in Chicago for a year. I’m a pantheist–barely a theist at that–and there aren’t particular deities I work with that have any Yule practices I’m obliged to perform.

Since my boyfriend is a science geek, I told him a bit about the astronomical importance of the Solstice…in a nutshell, imagine it’s thousands of years ago, the nights are getting darker and longer, the sun is setting further and further south…and suddenly, the sun slowly starts to return north. The nights get shorter. It’s a time of hope that the winter is going to end, that the days will return and there will be food and plenty again.

In fact, as an astronomy geek, that’s always been one of my core attraction to the solstices. I swear, in a past life, I was one of those crazy people who thought that hauling large rocks into place to mark astronomical observances was a great idea.

What Is My Practice?

After I explained the sciency part of things, I had to think about what the Winter Solstice even means for me these days. I tend to work with the dark season from Samhain to Winter Solstice as a time for reflection on the past year, what I accomplished, what I didn’t.

Solstice is, for me, a more spiritual take on New Year’s resolutions. I feel the death of the old year, the things undone, the things I want to release…and I also feel the light of the new year. I look forward to what I’d like to focus on in the coming year.

And as I thought about that, I realize that a lot of my spiritual work isn’t done through solitary ritual with candles and all the trappings–it’s done through writing. Some of you reading this are probably thinking, “Duh. Of course writing is part of your spiritual work.” But sometimes I suppose we each have to re-remember these things for ourselves.

Thus, this post is part of my spiritual practice. And since I took a big risk in seeking joy, I wanted to dig into what it meant for me, and how it played out.

Elusive Joy

I’ve always been a workaholic; I was a straight-A student in school and I suppose that’s probably where I developed the idea that “fun” was for unfocused slackers. I’ve always had a hard time articulating that work–writing, painting, studying, event planning–is “fun” for me. Happiness wasn’t always such a difficult word, but for the past decade, I’ve struggled with depression. When someone asks me what would make me happy, what would bring me joy…I’m genuinely at a loss for what to say.

I’ve been emotionally numb for a long time. People say things like, “Wow, you have another book out! You must be so happy!” And I just think, no, I really don’t feel anything except relief that it’s  done and I’m not stressing about blowing deadlines.

However, in the past year, I have found some things that genuinely brought me joy, those elusive moments of actual happiness.

What Brings Me Joy?

Singing:
I sing to keep my voice warmed up and to reduce my anxiety/depression. Sometimes singing on my own brings me joy, but typically singing is more uplifting for me in group rituals when there’s all the layered chanting and harmonies.

Music:
I have playlists of music and certain songs bring out intense emotional responses. It’s not always joy in the sense of, being happy…sometimes it’s tears. But for me, the ability to feel at all is a joy in itself, even if I’m weeping in grief, in sorrow.

Painting:
When I give myself over to it, painting is so meditative and centering. I will offer that when I go on an art-making jag, I do increase my stress level in the sense that, I have zero desire to check email and respond to communications, or deal with my other to do’s. These to do’s can sometimes pile up when I’m painting for days and days, and my awareness that they are piling up makes it harder to enjoy the process of painting. I will say that I deal with less insomnia when I’m painting. For that matter, if I’m having a bad depression day, I can often still paint even if I have too much brain fog to write or do anything that requires more focus.

Friendships and Romance:
I’ve spent a lot of my life terrified that I’d be lonely forever. Or, sticking with unhealthy relationships so that I don’t have to feel lonely. The past years, I’ve spent a lot of time alone–I’m far less afraid of alone now. Some friendships have sustained me, though my Pagan hermit lifestyle has cut me off from other friendships, and I’ve faced difficulties the past years connecting with romantic partners. There’s a fair amount of science around how lack of touch can contribute to depression, anxiety, etc. About six months ago I started dating someone and–to our mutual surprise–we fell for each other. Love is a heck of a thing, and being with my partner makes me really happy.

Getting Paid:
This past summer I was driving home after a weekend festival. I was sunburned, it was at least 95 degrees in my car, I had a five-hour drive in front of me, but a song I liked started playing and I just smiled. I just felt joy. Why? I got paid. I not only sold artwork, but I got paid for my travel expenses and a decent stipend beyond that.

Joy isn’t usually what I feel after an event. Exhaustion, yeah. Dread for the drive home. Relief that the event is over. Aftereffects of social anxiety. Sometimes I feel a little pleasure if a ritual went particularly well, but the work I do is difficult and it’s hard to get groups of people to participate in ecstatic rituals. Sometimes after an event I’m scrabbling for any positives I can take away.

I had this ludicrous surge of joy realizing that I’d been paid a reasonable fee for my work–and it is work. It’s my soul’s calling but it rarely pays the bills, and it doesn’t feel very good to put myself out there with long days and travel and not get paid for it.

Reducing Stressors

I sometimes call this “Reducing the suck.” It’s hard to fill your cup with joy if there are holes punched in the sides. In the past decade of personal and spiritual growth work, one of my focuses has been on removing various stressors, specifically, the stuff that makes me less effective at my work and in my life. Typically I find that a lot of these are things that I agreed to don’t have time to actually complete. This leads to the really sucky spiral of dropping the ball and disappointing people.

 

I’ve worked to notice the things I am, by my nature, not necessarily good at, or things that irritate me to do.

One red flag for stressors is if I am consistently procrastinating something. It turns out, for instance, that although I have all the skills to edit Pagan anthologies–and I’m very proud of the Pagan Leadership Anthology that will be released soon–editing anthologies is difficult for me. I’ve written more about that in the intro to the Pagan Leadership Anthology, but in a nutshell, editing an anthology is far more about communication with the authors and managing the project than it is about writing. And when I’m overwhelmed with anxiety, I spiral into communication avoidance-land.

The past two years I’ve also floundered when I took on paid work as a graphic designer. I’m a good designer; I’m a crappy freelancer. I especially struggle when I’m traveling and teaching. Traveling takes a lot out of me and I have had difficulty getting paid projects done on time. I was talking about this to Taylor Ellwood; he’s a Pagan author and publisher, and he and I are co-editing the above-mentioned leadership anthology, but he’s also a business coach. I realized that freelance design work is essentially my fifth job. I write fiction, and nonfiction, and I’m an artist, and I travel and teach workshops, and then I also do graphic design.

I take on graphic design work because the first four jobs don’t pay well and I live far below the poverty line. This should be pretty obvious but taking on extra work when you’re already working 12-16 hour days, when you’re already stressed out…well. Not really a good equation.

I suppose that brings me to another clear stressor, and that’s money. Another obvious point but worth stating: When my bank account is approaching zero and I haven’t sold any artwork or books lately, and I have no paid graphic design work, there’s not much that’s going to make me “happy.” The best I can hope for is feeling “not terrified.” I will say that this year I made more than in past years. I focused more on events that paid me to present, I raised the prices on my artwork, and did more vending of my artwork than in past years. Vending itself is a stressor, so that’s something I have to keep in mind for the coming year.

I reduced some stress this past year by not organizing any Pagan events in Chicago. I’ve been running Pagan rituals, classes, concerts, and other events in Chicagoland on and off for years, and–while I love running events, there’s the stress of:

  • Getting enough volunteers to run the event and take ritual roles
  • Planning the ritual without knowing how many ritualists or attendees I’ll have
  • Working with presenters, musicians, and the people hosting them
  • Dealing with the venue including flaky venue contacts
  • Marketing the event to ensure there will be enough (paid) attendees to cover the costs of the event
  • Running the event and dealing with all the last minute problems

…Yeah. When I’m running a public ritual, I have no idea–until the event is done–if we broke even on the rental fees, or if we’re in the hole and I have to figure out how to cover the shortfall.

I’d like to go back to organizing occasional events, but I really can’t do that without some kind of financial backing, and without at least a few committed event organizers. I enjoy planning events if there’s at least one organizer who enjoys planning.

Health is another stressor. I’ve been dealing with anxiety and depression for a long time now, and some of that is related to my hypothyroidism and Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS). Over the years, I’ve minimized the impacts of these ct on my health and life, from adding in vitamin supplements to eliminating wheat and dairy, losing over a hundred pounds, and techniques from cognitive behavioral therapy to meditation/mindfulness to reduce anxiety and the spiral to depression.

However, in the past years, some of the symptoms of PCOS have caused me some serious grief, in specific, my acne has gotten progressively worse despite eliminating a lot of the foods that seemed to exacerbate it. I’ll be blogging on Patheos in more depth about my experience of how body image connects to my anxiety. Currently I’m taking antibiotics which reduce the acne–and thus–my anxiety and depression, but I need to explore treating the PCOS and not just the symptoms. However, that costs money I don’t have.

These stressors feed into one another; health issues that could be easily resolved with proper medical treatment, but I can’t because of my limited income. When I try to take on paid work to buy myself more time to do the work I actually love, I end up overextending myself…and then I drop the ball on projects like books I’m writing.

This past year I also reduced how many incendiary/activist blog posts I wrote. I used to write for Pagan Activist, but when I took on writing for Patheos and for Witches and Pagans, I was overwhelmed with blogging. Plus, I noticed that the activist-focused articles calling out the Pagan community on our flaws…those posts got me the most nasty comments. There are still plenty of issues to wrestle with in the Pagan community, and I still write about them, however, to prevent burnout, I have written less on those issues, and I consider more carefully when I write those posts.

Goals for this coming year:

A focus on financial abundance: While I don’t want my life to be about making money, I’ve also hit the edge where not having enough money for food, bills, medical care, etc. are serious risks. My challenge here is that focusing on financial abundance may mean I have to do less of the work that I love, so I’m struggling with that. I don’t think there’s any way for me to make a living wage teaching and writing about ritual and leadership, but I’m going to try and find a way to make that work bring in more money so that I can continue to justify time to write and teach on those topics.

This means you’ll see me posting more about my books and artwork for sale, and I’m accepting sliding-scale donations to pay for my time writing articles and creating educational videos. I’ll be traveling less, and focusing on events that pay me. Likely I’ll blog less and focus more on writing books.

Health: I need to take the next steps with dealing with my PCOS. This is going to mean some shorter-term anxiety in the form of filling out a lot of paperwork to get financial assistance with healthcare, but the potential positives are worth that.

Love: I’ve found a romantic relationship with a man I love, and that relationship will take time and care. It’s my first time having feelings for someone when we’re in an open relationship, but being with him sure does make me happy, so it’s worth dealing with the complexities.

Event Organizing: I really miss doing this, and I want to find a way to do some events in a sustainable way. I’m definitely on the lookout for co-conspirators who might want to plan some bigger events, like a Pagan leadership conference or a Faerie masquerade ball.

I’m also looking forward to more singing, painting, and writing that genuinely makes me happy.


Filed under: Personal Growth Tagged: abundance, activism, anxiety, burnout, depression, financial difficulties, happiness, health, joy, love, seeking joy, self reflection, stress, wellness, winter solstice, Yule

What Brings Your Life Meaning?

WinterSolsticeArchIn my process of seeking joy this past year, I ended up reading a lot of articles and watching TED talks about what makes people happy, what people regret, and what gets people through the trauma and difficulty. Are you looking for more meaning in your life?

For the Winter Solstice I’m thinking a lot about what brings me joy, and I’ll be posting a bit more on my own process this past year about seeking joy. However, it’s worth starting out with some basics.

If you read a bit about existential psychology and philosophy, it’s clear that one of the things that impacts human physical and psychological health is a sense of our own existence, a reason for existing, a purpose. When we have a purpose and a focus as part of our identity, it’s possible to weather the dark times and challenges. In fact, this comes up a lot in spiritual work; when people have no sense of meaning in their lives, they flounder. They struggle.

I can honestly say that it’s my focus, my work, my sense of purpose within that work, that has been my silver thread through the labyrinth of pain that is dealing with depression. It’s the sliver of light that called me forward when I dealt with abuse from my peers in school as a kid, and from my more recent abusive relationship.

Often times when I teach workshops on “Finding Your Personal Magic,” finding meaning is the essence of that.

Meaning and purpose isn’t the only important thing, and there are other facets to happiness and joy. In fact, I’ve sometimes focused so much on what I find meaningful and my soul’s work that I’ve neglected things like friendships and relationships.

I’ve found some guidance on those from the regrets of the dying and the experiences of people who have recovered from trauma. Here are a few articles that inspired me in my own work this past year, and they might provide some direction for you. Are you seeking joy?

Sense of meaning and purpose in life linked to longer lifespan
A “study of 9,050 English people with an average age of 65 found that the people with the greatest wellbeing were 30% less likely to die during the average eight and a half year follow-up period than those with the least wellbeing.”

Having a sense of purpose may add years to your life
“Our findings point to the fact that finding a direction for life, and setting overarching goals for what you want to achieve can help you actually live longer, regardless of when you find your purpose,” says Hill.

Top 5 regrets of the dying in hospice 

  1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
  2. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.
  3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
  4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
  5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.

Top 5 Post Traumatic Growth
People experienced “greater appreciation of life, changed sense of priorities, warmer, more intimate relationships, greater sense of personal strength, and recognition of new possibilities or paths for one’s life and spiritual development.

If you’re really interested in learning more about the importance of meaning in our lives, one additional resource is Viktor Frankl’s book Man’s Search for Meaning. It’s worth pointing out that Frankl was a Jewish Holocaust survivor who wrote about his horrific experiences in the camps, so the first part of the book is a difficult read. That being said, Frankl was also a psychiatrist, and his experiences in the camps led him to more deeply understand how meaning helped people survive the camps.

I also recommend the book Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. Looks like you can also find some of his work online if you search on his name; here’s a TED Talk, and of course Wikipedia outlining the essence of his work with the concept of flow.

 


Filed under: Personal Growth Tagged: anxiety, depression, existentialism, finding meaning, Personal growth, personal magic

Being A Girl: A Brief Personal History of Violence

Posted by on Dec 8, 2015 in Uncategorized | No Comments

Shauna Aura Knight:

Sadly, this is the story of so many. A tough read, but worth it.

Originally posted on The Belle Jar:

1.

I am six. My babysitter’s son, who is five but a whole head taller than me, likes to show me his penis. He does it when his mother isn’t looking. One time when I tell him not to, he holds me down and puts penis on my arm. I bite his shoulder, hard. He starts crying, pulls up his pants and runs upstairs to tell his mother that I bit him. I’m too embarrassed to tell anyone about the penis part, so they all just think I bit him for no reason.

I get in trouble first at the babysitter’s house, then later at home.

The next time the babysitter’s son tries to show me his penis, I don’t fight back because I don’t want to get in trouble.

One day I tell the babysitter what her son does, she tells me that he’s just a little boy, he doesn’t know…

View original 1,487 more words


Filed under: Uncategorized

Do You Have a Spell for That?

shutterstock_101395927 [Converted]I get asked a lot of interesting questions when I travel and teach, or from people on social media; often, they are people I don’t really know all that well. Though I primarily teach leadership and facilitation skills, people often ask me, “Do you have a spell for that?” I’ve also seen people post rants on Facebook about some of the–for lack of better words–sloppy tendencies of many Pagans to take shortcuts. Both of these in many ways tie into some of the bad habits many people fall into when facilitating rituals, as well as issues of personal and spiritual growth. Often these are what I can classify as beginner mistakes, but they aren’t mistakes limited to people new to Paganism.

Out of the Box

I’ve seen a few rants on how modern Pagans just copy and past rituals and spells from the internet or books, vs. doing any personal work. My first thought on this is that using rituals “out of the box” (and by that I mean rituals they found online or in a book, or even that they learned from a mentor) can be a great way to start. It helps people gain familiarity with the structure of ritual by having an example to try out.

The problem comes in when people take it dogmatically–and that’s an unfortunate tendency people have, even when they are Pagans who have converted from more dogmatic faiths. People are often looking for rules and guidance and “Do it like this and it will work” sureties. I hear that all the time as a subtext when Pagans are asking me about spellwork. “And if I use this color candle, it’ll work, right?” or “What if I don’t have that exact oil?” “I need a sure-fire spell for ___, what do you have?”

In my opinion, many “out of the box” spells don’t work work because people don’t know how magic works. “What’s a spell you use for shielding,” or, “I need a spell for ___, do you have one?”

I don’t believe that physical spellwork (using oils, incense, candles, or herbs) works dogmatically. Nor do I believe that if you recite the spell exactly and perfectly it’ll work. I also am not a polytheist, I’m a pantheist. I don’t believe the gods or spirits grant wishes if you are in their favor (and ignore them if you aren’t in their favor).

A lot of people treat spellwork like it’s some kind of recipe that, faithfully followed, will instantly deliver the results you want without any additional work on your part.

That’s the kind of spellwork that you typically see on shows like Supernatural. Burn the right concoction, trace the correct sigil, and say the exactly correct words, and your spell will work. Well…works great as a system of rules for a fantasy TV show, but real life is messier than that. I mean–don’t get me wrong, I also write paranormal romance novels, so I occasionally use the flashy magic like that in my books. But I try to keep really clear on what’s fantasy, and what kind of magic is actually going to help someone in the real world.

So yeah; I think spells and rituals that you find in books or online, or even things that are passed down from your family or other oral tradition, are a great place to start. They can be a framework, training wheels. But that doesn’t mean if you do everything “right” it’ll work.

Now–this also doesn’t mean that you have to reinvent every spell, every ritual, each time. There is an inherent value in repetition. In fact, that’s one of the root meanings of the word “ritual.” But I’ll get to that in a bit.

Ritual Repeat

Sometimes having a ritual outline or script to work from is really helpful to start with. It lets you know what you’re supposed to do and when you’re supposed to do it, and offers up some sample words and phrases. The problem is that a ritual on paper is really different from a ritual with an actual group of people. I write about this particular ritual logistic all the time; most Wiccanate traditions (traditions that come out of or borrow pieces from Wicca) use Cakes and Ale in the ritual. These rituals are typically written assuming a small coven.

However, when a group is asked to put on a larger public ritual at something like a Pagan Pride, something that worked well for 15 people causes a major traffic jam for 100 people. Cakes and Ale can be a beautiful sharing for ten or twenty or even thirty folks. For those big public rituals it usually becomes a train wreck of logistics.

This is why I often stress being aware from dogma. Or more specifically, orthodoxy and orthopraxy…that is to say, being hidebound to documents or practices. If you facilitate rituals from the “It must be done this way!” perspective, then you will often end up failing to meet the actual intention of that part of ritual. Just because you’re doing it the way you read it or it was taught to you doesn’t mean you’ll achieve the spiritual goal of that piece.

What’s the intention of Cakes and Ale? Is there a better way to achieve that intention when you have a hundred-plus people? Just because the ritual in the book says that each person must, one at a time, take the cake and the ale, does that mean it’s a good idea to do it this way?

Pre-written rituals are a great guide, but I always caution people to not get hung up on the logistics. Sometimes, there’s a reason something must be done a certain way. Other times, it’s just that the writer was writing out the ritual with a specific assumption, such as you’d only be doing this in a coven of thirteen people. There are definitely times when spells and rituals need to be adapted. I think a lot of the skillset of moving into advanced work is being able to discern when this is the case.

Scripted Ritual

I have a whole soapbox about scripted rituals, and I’ve written a few articles on it already so I won’t rehash too much of that; I’ve written a few articles on the topic that appear in Circle Magazine, and also are collected in my Ritual Facilitation book. I think in some cases, the poetry of a pre-written ritual can have some magic, but only if the people facilitating that ritual have bardic/theatrical training. The reason is that the words written by the ritual writer might be authentically magical for them…but, generally most people offering a ritual will be able to more authentically connect to their own power/magic/juice by putting things into their own words vs. trying to memorize someone else’s.

The rituals I offer are typically extemporaneous, meaning each ritual facilitator internalizes the piece of the ritual they are facilitating and puts it into their own words based upon their experiences. This essentially forces each facilitator to go deep and do their own personal work to develop a relationship with an element, a deity, or whatever piece/facet of the ritual they are working with.

And it takes time to develop that relationship, just as it takes time to develop the public speaking skills to do a good job leading a group ritual.

Keeping the Pattern

There are definitely times when keeping the pattern of the ritual helps make the ritual more successful. Whether we’re talking about a spell or ritual that has been handed down in a particular tradition or through your family line, or something that has emerged through a festival community, or through another vehicle of tradition, sometimes the specific form of the ritual itself is part of the magic. Or, some of the logistics are what help make the ritual work.

There is absolutely power in repetition.

One way this works is just our consciousness, our brains. There’s a reason the word ritual is synonymous with “repetitive/rote,” because when we do something over and over, it automatically puts us into the right state of consciousness. That’s just science.

An example: At Diana’s Grove and in the Reclaiming tradition, many people use the middle-eastern frame drum to facilitate trance journeys. Specifically, a rhythm in 8 (1-2-3 1-2-3 1-2) played softly. Or, for you trance drummers, Doum Tik Tik Ka Tik Tik Ka Tik….You can watch a room full of people drop right into trance when that rhythm starts because they’ve entrained their consciousnesses that it works. Ritual, repetition, our brain likes it.

Added to that is the group mind; when something works for a majority of the group, there’s a sort of “hive mind” thing that happens and a newer, less experienced person will go into the flow. So if that tradition has been working together for 10 years, or 40 years, or however long, the newer person will have the benefit of that group response.

Another power of repeated work like that is that it does (typically) work to help each individual practitioner to build up their relationship with the aspects of that working. I think that any working becomes deeper once people understand it and its parts, vs. learning it by rote.

The green candle means nothing without understanding what it means on a more than intellectual level, an emotional level. When you’re doing an elemental invocation, you’re going to have more juice when you actually have a relationship with that element, vs. just lighting the sacred candle and speaking the handed-down pre-scripted words that don’t mean much to you.

That’s not to say there isn’t power in often-repeated words. I use a heck of a lot of repeated phrases in my own rituals, usually with chanting. There is power in the poetry of repeated phrases, chants, and songs. Mantras, or the Lord’s Prayer, or popular Pagan chants, or even sayings like “Blessed Be” or “So Mote It Be” or “Merry Meet, Merry Part, and Merry Meet Again.” The rhythm of the words, the repetition, serves the entrainment function of our brains, but it also will go deeper as we understand what the words/poetry/song mean for ourselves and our own relationship with ____, whatever ___ is. Elements, gods, the divine, spirits, etc.

 

Why Didn’t It Work?

Most magic has nothing to do with the wand, the athame, the incense, or the color of candle. It’s all about our own consciousness and internal work. The tools help get us into the state of consciousness that helps us to do the magic, but we still have work to do after that. In fact, a lot of my issue with people who are looking around for spells is that they are, in fact, looking to outsource their power. I find a lot of people out there feel completely overwhelmed and powerless in their own lives, and what they want out of Paganism, Witchcraft, and the Occult is the Phenomenal Cosmic Power to…take your pick. Get revenge, get out of an abusive relationship, make more money, make someone fall in love with them.

But, I think that’s why people naturally gravitate to those pre-written spells online or in books, and why it’s far easier to sell a 101-level book than the more advanced stuff. The more advanced spellwork and ritual work requires discernment, personal work, engaging our shadows, and adapting and negotiating work to tell the difference between, is this tradition a useful element, or is this dogma that doesn’t serve what we’re doing?

 

 

 

 

 


Filed under: Facilitation, Ritual Tagged: magic, repetition, ritual, spells

Ritual Skills: Anchoring, Fire Tending, and Edge Walking

Posted by on Nov 6, 2015 in ritual | No Comments

36302646_lOn the Ritual Facilitation Skills Facebook group that I started, I sometimes get interesting questions about ritual techniques. Someone asked me about anchoring, fire tending, and edge walking, specifically because they’d had a hard time finding resources on this. Here’s an overview of each of them.

One of the challenges with talking about ritual is really basic; there are often different definitions for the terms. Different traditions use the terms in different ways. Take the word invocation, for example. Some groups refer to drawing down, some call it trance possession, others call it aspecting. And worse, groups that use the word “aspecting” for the function of taking a deity or archetype into one’s body…these groups tend to use the word invocation in a very different way to refer to inviting deities or archetypes to the ritual. Then there are other words like channeling or being a medium for spirits. You can see where things get a little confusing.

Anchoring

I bring up aspecting/trance possession because there’s some overlap here, at least in my experience. For clarification, my background is largely in the Reclaiming tradition, or Diana’s Grove-style ritual, which is in many ways derived from Reclaiming’s style of ritual. In most cases when I hear people talk about anchoring, they are talking about a “light” aspecting where you’re holding space, often connecting to a specific deity or archetype.

If you’re listening to participants vs. speaking, that’s usually referred to as witnessing, but I’d call it a form of anchoring.

I typically refer to anchoring as a role when I have a ritual where there are several altars/shrines and participants will be visiting one or more of them, and each altar has an attendant. That attendant is anchoring a role at these altars. Sometimes the role is specifically a light aspect (light/partial drawing down) of a deity or archetype. Sometimes it’s anchoring the role of the Challenger, or the voice of an element. Sometimes it’s witnessing, sometimes it’s speaking. Usually for roles like that I have people asking challenge questions, or just trance questions pulled out of the main trance journey.

Example

Sometimes it’s more powerful for an anchor to wear a veil that covers their face/eyes, particularly if the anchor is witnessing things others are speaking. Other times, deep, intense eye contact is more potent, it really depends on what’s happening at the altars.

If I’m taking on the role of Brigid at the sacred well, and people are coming forward, I might look deeply into their eyes and say, “Will you dip your hands into this pool of magic, into this pool of limitless possibility? What are the gifts that you bring? What is the magic that you call forth into the world? Will you claim it now?” And then they put their hands into the bowl of water and choose a small stone, for instance.

Someone might take on the role of the Horned One. “Will you travel now into the below, into the depths, into the Underworld? Will you risk this journey to claim your power, to face your shadows?”

Or an altar focused on fire, “What will you release to the flames? Will you write down your wish, your dream, your hope? Will you burn it there in the fire to release it out into the world?”

Or, “What will you whisper to the darkness, to the deep earth, to the roots of the world tree, to the dark goddess? What are the words you can speak to no other, what burden do you carry that must be released?”

In my experience, it’s usually asking themed questions, challenge questions, or helping guide people to doing some kinesthetic/physical action based on the trance work in the ritual. Or witnessing, in which case you’re either sitting in silence, or you’re only speaking to get people to speak something in return.

The other way I’ve heard anchoring used is more generally, anchoring a role. That could be in ritual “So and so is anchoring the chant,” or in general group leadership, “So and so is anchoring the event planning.”

Fire Tending

Fire tending for me is more about brass-tacks logistics, but there’s also a spiritual aspect of it that probably depends a bit on your own theology/cosmology. I believe that the spiritual aspects follow if you get a solid foundation in the logistics. First, learn about fire. Learn how to build a fire. Learn especially how to build a fire without smoke. I travel to so many places and try to sing around smoky fires; green wood is not good for burning, nor is moldy wet wood. You want good, cured wood. Learn how to stack a fire; log cabin stack works well for a low, reasonably-sized fire that people can still gather in around. Big fires are great for woo-hoo, but notice the fire and what it does to group intimacy. Woo-hoo isn’t so great for connection, for eye contact. Those are part of the logistics of fire too; what impact does the fire have on the ritual, on the group?

Back to logistics: Learn how to start a fire; maybe fire starter logs or some used candle wax, but try to learn how to start a fire without gasoline or other major accelerants. Why? Well, one reason is simple; if you’re using a lot of smelly chemicals to start a fire, it may be hard for people to get in close because of the fumes. When I lead a ritual, I’m almost always trying to engage people in connection and community building, and that’s hard to do when the fire is pushing people away.

I learned physical fire tending at Diana’s Grove from a guy who knew his shit. It was very apprenticeship-based. I watched him, then he had me build fires and he told me what I was doing wrong. A log cabin stack has to have logs that are close enough to catch, but far enough apart to give the fire room to breathe, for instance. A lot of fire building becomes instinct once you watch the fire and understand it.

Some festivals allow volunteers to help with fire tending, though sometimes it can be a bit clique-ish. And, let’s face it; a lot of people drawn to fire tending are also pyros, so it’s more about building huge fires for them than it is about watching the group and the impact of the fire on the group. However, if you want to learn fire tending, try volunteering to assist at a festival or other event. You’ll learn a lot in the span of a few days or a week. Watch the fire, watch how the experienced fire tenders do it. But also, don’t forget to watch the group, particularly during ritual fires.

For my part, I only do outdoor fire these days when I’m at festivals. Typically when I’m doing rituals I use indoor fire, which is candles and a cauldron fire with the epsom salts/alcohol.

Edge Walking

Speaking very frankly, this particular ritual skill is an area I kind of suck at. I’m great in the center bringing the energy to a peak, but I don’t really have a natural energetic sense for what to do with the folks on the edge. And there are two types of folks who hang out on the edge. Some are really shy and uncomfortable, particularly if it’s their first ritual or they aren’t ready to participate more fully. Others are fully participating, they just do it from the edge. Ok, there’s a third category; these are the folks who really don’t want to be there and are somewhat energetically draining your group by not only not participating, but being distracting by starting side conversations or standing there with their arms folded glaring.

I’ve learned skills over the years for working with the folks who aren’t comfortable participating. And let’s face it, at the beginning of most rituals, that’s almost everyone. But I’m doing that work from the center, not as an edge walker, if that makes sense. I’m giving people lots of ways to participate, I’m layering the participation so that it’s easier and safer in the beginning (everyone talking at the same time, everyone doing a movement, vs. one person speaking to the whole group).

However, edge walking as a ritual role tends to be people who are more comfortable on the edge, and they’re working with that edge energy. Edge walkers tend to be uncomfortable in the center, but they who are good at holding the edge and working to keep those on the edge engaged.

For those of you used to being in the center, especially for ecstatic rituals, it’s important to understand that the edge is a very different experience than the center. In the center, you’re hearing the layers and the harmonies, the heat of the fire. When you’re on the edge, the sound is dissipated, the group is less cohesive, the firelight is less bright. Very different experience, and an experienced edge walker helps to bring some of the energy of the center out to the edge.

Some ways I work the edge from the center are typically (slowly) bringing people in a little closer, deliberately inviting them to come in so that the proximity expands the center by filling it, by creating a cauldron instead of a big open circle.

Some edge work can include anchoring the chant from the edge so that the chant carries out. Or, if there are folks on the edge having side conversations or being distracting, helping to politely let them know that they can either participate in the ritual or leave. It’s typically really difficult to do that as the center anchor; I can manage it, but it’s not subtle and if you shame folks, you’ll kill a lot of your group energy and cohesion.

Edge work could also be as simple as checking in on folks sitting on the far edge and making sure they are ok; if they want to be closer in but are mobility challenged, you can offer to help them move their chair closer in. Or if they are cold and need to be closer to the fire.

It could also be checking in with the center; when I’m in the center, I have no idea what the energy is like at the edge. If there’s an edge walker, they can give me a hand sign to communicate. Perhaps the folks on the edge are way not connecting to the energy at the center. One solution to that is to bring the chant down to a heartbeat, then bring it back up. This way, the folks on the edge have another opportunity to “get on the horse” as it were. Easier when the horse (the energy, that is) slows down and they can hop on; you can’t hop on a horse at full gallop.

Have any resources to share on these  ritual roles? Have any questions on ritual facilitation? Drop me a note, or post your questions or links to resources in the Ritual Facilitation FB group.


Filed under: Ritual

Is Your Paganism Intersectional or Is it Bullshit? A Meditation on the Ballard Query.

Posted by on Aug 13, 2015 in Uncategorized | No Comments

Shauna Aura Knight:

Fantastic post. A couple of fantastic posts on why it’s important for Pagans to take a stance (in essence, to be an activist–to take an action). So many Pagans tell me, “But I’m not an activist,” or, “I don’t mix politics with my Paganism.”

“The adage rings true once again for me: the personal is political. I believe that not taking a stance actually sides with the oppressor, or the systems in place that oppress us. There is no neutral ground here. Desmond Tutu was right.”

“So why is this important for pagans? Well, as a marginalized group of people we also exist along many other lines such as ability, national origin, class, sexual orientation, gender etc. Our experience as pagans intersects and is affected by our experience as other kinds of people as well. In some cases, we may reinforce dominant cultural norms within our own pagan circles.”

Originally posted on hecatedemeter:

7ofearth

Byron Ballard recently asked:

[A]in’t you people got no gods to worship? No holy days to celebrate? No Ancestors to deal with, er I mean venerate? In short — don’t you people have some sacred work to do? Justice work? Environmental work? Community weaving?

To which I’d only add: No landbase to relate to? No wights for whom to pour blots? No foxes to know?

Gods & Radicals (which has been doing simply amazing work and where the writing, qua writing, is generally first class — which is, you known, not something I say about many Pagan blogs, authors, or articles and, yes, I’m a real snob about writing) has a post up that shows what’s possible:

This week I performed a trabajito in the form of sigil writing and spell casting to protect the protestors who, at the time of this writing, are dangling themselves across the St. John’s…

View original 446 more words


Filed under: Uncategorized

Is Your Paganism Intersectional or Is it Bullshit? A Meditation on the Ballard Query.

Posted by on Aug 13, 2015 in Uncategorized | No Comments

Shauna Aura Knight:

Fantastic post. A couple of fantastic posts on why it’s important for Pagans to take a stance (in essence, to be an activist–to take an action). So many Pagans tell me, “But I’m not an activist,” or, “I don’t mix politics with my Paganism.”

“The adage rings true once again for me: the personal is political. I believe that not taking a stance actually sides with the oppressor, or the systems in place that oppress us. There is no neutral ground here. Desmond Tutu was right.”

“So why is this important for pagans? Well, as a marginalized group of people we also exist along many other lines such as ability, national origin, class, sexual orientation, gender etc. Our experience as pagans intersects and is affected by our experience as other kinds of people as well. In some cases, we may reinforce dominant cultural norms within our own pagan circles.”

Originally posted on hecatedemeter:

7ofearth

Byron Ballard recently asked:

[A]in’t you people got no gods to worship? No holy days to celebrate? No Ancestors to deal with, er I mean venerate? In short — don’t you people have some sacred work to do? Justice work? Environmental work? Community weaving?

To which I’d only add: No landbase to relate to? No wights for whom to pour blots? No foxes to know?

Gods & Radicals (which has been doing simply amazing work and where the writing, qua writing, is generally first class — which is, you known, not something I say about many Pagan blogs, authors, or articles and, yes, I’m a real snob about writing) has a post up that shows what’s possible:

This week I performed a trabajito in the form of sigil writing and spell casting to protect the protestors who, at the time of this writing, are dangling themselves across the St. John’s…

View original 446 more words


Filed under: Uncategorized

Exploring Open Relationships: Part Four

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At the moment I’m largely limited to dating people who are going to be ok with being in an open relationship because I’m not going to just settle into monogamy by default at this point. It’s also worth pointing out that where I live (SE Wisconsin) most of the liberal/Pagan-friendly folks I’ve met are in (or prefer) open relationships. I’ve jokingly referred to my online profiles as “poly-bait” since most of the folks that contact me that write more than just a “Hey baby” message are in open relationships.

 

*** Note: This series of articles goes into me exploring what relationships mean to me, and what I want out of relationship. As I tend to, I write this from a pretty open/vulnerable place, but it might be TMI for some folks. Thus, you’ve been warned. ***

My relationship difficulties have been compounded the past years by the fact that I’m very cautious when it comes to dating within the Pagan community. 90% of my social interactions are with Pagans, but most Pagans are “off limits” for me because I’ve met them in context as an author/teacher/ritualist. From an ethical perspective, I strongly feel that need to ensure I’m in a peer dynamic with someone before I’d consider a relationship, and even then, I’m leery because of the potential for community drama if the relationship doesn’t work.

Been there, done that, burned the t-shirt.

The Future?

I’m starting to accept that maybe I never fall in love. I don’t like that idea, I really don’t. Maybe my hormones are to blame; maybe my body just doesn’t produce enough oxytocin for the “falling in love” thing. Or maybe I met my “one true love” and it didn’t work out. Maybe it’s just a chemical factor of dealing with depression, or just faulty wiring in my brain chemistry. Maybe it’s because I think too much. Maybe it’s from dissociating my emotions when I was a kid to cope with the bullying. Who knows.

Right now I’m focusing more on balancing out my own conflicting tendencies in relationships.

See, when I find someone I like–even if it’s not “big love”–I tend to get complacent; I don’t really want to seek out new partners. I think it’s largely because of my introvertedness, and certainly in part because my focus is on my work. It’s difficult enough for me to give one partner enough attention, much less more than one partner.

Nowt that I’m actively dating two men at the same time, and exploring relationships with others, I’m not sure that I’m all that good at this. I feel kind of socially overwhelmed, and I’m pretty sure that when I give time to one person, I’m failing to give time to another, and that’s more social stress than I really want to handle. I keep coming back to the fact that I’m not really polyamorous, and multiple relationships are more work.

And it’s work I’m not really good at, if I’m honest with myself.

It’s certainly part of my introversion that I can only cope with having emotional relationships with so many people. I just don’t have a lot of brain space for more; I only have so much social capacity. Just as I can only have so much general social activity before getting exhausted, I seem to have that capacity limit for more intimate friendships and romantic relationships.

I also wonder if there’s some significant functional difference between folks who are genuinely polyamorous and those of us who aren’t. In my case, I’m always going to end up focusing my relationship compass point toward the place where I am getting the most needs met. The person I have the most emotional connection to, the person who is the most compatible with me, the person I seem to share the most chemistry with.

The thing that most monogamous people fear when their partner says, “I want to open our relationship and date other people,” is that their partner is going to 1. Start spending more time with the new partner and neglect them, and 2. Prefer the new partner that they are dating and leave them. I’ve seen open relationships where that doesn’t happen, and I’ve seen open relationships where it does. Maybe that’s the core difference between someone who’s genuinely wired for polyamory and someone who’s wired for monogamy, I’m not sure.

All I can say is that open relationships can be a time suck.

Time and Relationships

The irony in some of this is what initially drew me to open relationships was the casualness factor. After writing a few thousand words on this topic in this series of blog posts, I’ll just be blunt: I got into this to find a way to have intimacy and sex with people I had at least a basic emotional connection to but without a huge time obligation to. I can’t do completely anonymous sex, my attraction engine just doesn’t work that way. I’m too much of a sapiosexual, and I need a connection with someone. However, nor can I lie and promise someone monogamy, long-term-relationships, and falling in love when that doesn’t seem realistic. I needed to find a way to get that need for connection, intimacy, and sex met in a way that worked for me.

Frankly, I don’t have the kind of hours available each week for someone who is looking to me for their primary (or sole) romantic relationship. True, I’d make that time if I really fell for someone and thought we had the potential for a solid relationship, but I’m not willing to put in that kind of time for someone I don’t have that level of connection to.

Maybe that’s harsh, but that’s where I draw the line.

My relationship this past year has worked out great in this respect. He and I have gotten together sometimes weekly but usually once a month. Sometimes we go out, sometimes we don’t. We talk a lot online, we get along really amazingly well though we occasionally argue on philosophical topics. What has made our relationship work–other than the fact that we’re mostly sexually compatible–is that we don’t have huge expectations of each other time-wise. We have fun when we have time to have fun.

Monogamy or Open?

I’m also not unaware of the irony of some of my relationship challenges. All I ever wanted was monogamy, but I’m apparently not great at that because my partners don’t feel they get “enough” of me. And in open relationships, I’m not particularly good at that either for the same reasons; being with multiple partners, and (potentially) in at least friendship relationships with their partners, is often way more social energy than I have to offer to other human beings. (Some weeks all I can cope with are my cats.)

Right at the moment my relationship with my new boyfriend is working well, in part because he and I were both surprised to find ourselves really not just attracted to one another but also connecting on an emotional wavelength. The chemistry there is far deeper than I expected.

But I suppose this also reminds me as well why I’m just not naturally polyamorous, because it’s difficult for me to be attracted to one person and seeking someone else. It’s also been difficult for me to pay adequate attention to two boyfriends at the same time, so I’m struggling with that. I’m starting to feel a bit like I do in a monogamous relationship when my partner’s disappointed that I’m not able to give them enough of my time that they feel valued. And that’s stressful.

Maybe some day I fall in love. Maybe I find a deeply-fulfilling long-term monogamous relationship with someone. Or maybe it’s more monogamish; open relationships don’t scare me the way they once did, so long as I’m confident in the core relationship. In the absence of deep-big-love, it’s nice to connect to people in relationships. I’ve connected to some amazing friends in this way, and sometimes I have even found more emotional connection than I expected.

Friends-love plus chemistry is still pretty rare and amazing, in my experience, so I’m always grateful when I experience that.

Transparency and Explorations

If I reflect back on my previous relationships, there’s no less emotional commitment from me in an open relationship than when I was in monogamous relationships. The difference for me now is, things are more transparently on the table, as it were. I don’t have to pretend that I’m only ever going to be interested in that one person romantically Until The End of Time. And this way, I can be more transparent about when I need to take time to focus on other things, whether that’s a date with another lover, or if I have a book I need to finish editing.

Exploring open relationships has one additional benefit. Perhaps TMI, but I write romance about threesomes, and I have interest in that and a few other sexually adventurous things. Being in open relationships means that I have the option to try out a few of the fantasies on my bucket list. Maybe (in reality) they are as awkward as people tell me, but, I’ve talked to other friends who’ve had fun with them, so who knows. All I can say is that most people living in the assumption of monogamy don’t get to even consider doing anything like this, and tend to think of themselves as deviants for even wanting anything outside of their one relationship.

In fact–I see this a lot when I’m promoting my romance novels. I’ve written some menage-a-trois werewolf romance novels, and that genre’s pretty popular, as well as books with foursomes, fivesomes, and moresomes, usually featuring one female character and her multiple male mates. Usually it’s in the “shifter” genre (werewolves, wereleopards, etc.)  of paranormal romance, but there are other romance novels where it pops up. Apparently this is a huge fantasy that many women have, but never act on, because it’s so “bad” and shameful they’d never consider doing it. 

The male fantasy of being with two (or more) women is sort of a staple of porn, but women who have a similar fantasy are thought of as sluts, whores, and deviants.

Being a sex positive person, I don’t see any of these things as inherently bad, but there’s such a cultural stigma about anything that isn’t heterosexual/monogamous, or that isn’t geared toward the male gaze and heterosexual male desires, that most people never explore any of that.

Conquering Lonely

Living alone for the past years has helped me to get past some of my fear of loneliness. And, though not all of my experiences of dating in the past years have gone well, they’ve at least helped me to consistently disprove that old tape that says, “I’ll never find anyone to connect with, never find anyone that gets me.” I’ve found a number of people who get me, and I’ll meet others in the future who get me.

The old tape still plays in my head, and what I know of human psychology says that I’ll always deal with that. But I have a nice little workaround for it now, because I can pretty easily say, “You’re wrong. That’s not the truth.”

What the past years have certainly taught me is that there are a lot of different ways to do relationships. Monogamy doesn’t have to be the default, but monogamy isn’t also some failing on my part for not being open-minded. Just as people have chemistry (or they don’t) people also have preferences. I’m not truly polyamorous–loving multiple people–but nor am I into totally casual sex either. In general, I experience that polyamorous folks tend to focus more on love relationships, and swingers tend to focus more on sex, particularly sex that centers on a heterosexual couple’s relationship. However, there’s a huge amount of crossover and a spectrum between them.

I’m not entirely sure what to call myself or where I’m at. I’m in open relationships at the moment, and I’m open to monogamy with the right person. What’s more important to me these days than defining what types of relationships I’m in are my boundaries around my work. That’s where my priority is. I think, as I’ve written this, I’ve ended up with more questions than answers, but that’s no surprise for me.

Future writing:

I’ll be working up some future articles about sex, sexuality, and relationships. What would you like to read about?

A few topics rattling in my head are the difficulties of being in open relationships, specifically, the huge social stigma attached to them. And also, some of the social trends I’ve encountered in the differences between folks who identify as polyamorous, the folks who identify as swingers, and the crossover space between those. There’s also the whole sex positive vs. sex pressuring, the whole cultural identity around “We’re such deviants, we’re so counterculture, we’re bad and naughty,” and a few other things I see out there that impact and interweave with our cultural ideas (and problems around) sex. (Me, think too much about this stuff? Naw.)


Filed under: Personal Growth Tagged: Pagan, polyamorous, polyamory, swinger, swingers, swinging

Exploring Open Relationships: Part Four

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At the moment I’m largely limited to dating people who are going to be ok with being in an open relationship because I’m not going to just settle into monogamy by default at this point. It’s also worth pointing out that where I live (SE Wisconsin) most of the liberal/Pagan-friendly folks I’ve met are in (or prefer) open relationships. I’ve jokingly referred to my online profiles as “poly-bait” since most of the folks that contact me that write more than just a “Hey baby” message are in open relationships.

 

*** Note: This series of articles goes into me exploring what relationships mean to me, and what I want out of relationship. As I tend to, I write this from a pretty open/vulnerable place, but it might be TMI for some folks. Thus, you’ve been warned. ***

My relationship difficulties have been compounded the past years by the fact that I’m very cautious when it comes to dating within the Pagan community. 90% of my social interactions are with Pagans, but most Pagans are “off limits” for me because I’ve met them in context as an author/teacher/ritualist. From an ethical perspective, I strongly feel that need to ensure I’m in a peer dynamic with someone before I’d consider a relationship, and even then, I’m leery because of the potential for community drama if the relationship doesn’t work.

Been there, done that, burned the t-shirt.

The Future?

I’m starting to accept that maybe I never fall in love. I don’t like that idea, I really don’t. Maybe my hormones are to blame; maybe my body just doesn’t produce enough oxytocin for the “falling in love” thing. Or maybe I met my “one true love” and it didn’t work out. Maybe it’s just a chemical factor of dealing with depression, or just faulty wiring in my brain chemistry. Maybe it’s because I think too much. Maybe it’s from dissociating my emotions when I was a kid to cope with the bullying. Who knows.

Right now I’m focusing more on balancing out my own conflicting tendencies in relationships.

See, when I find someone I like–even if it’s not “big love”–I tend to get complacent; I don’t really want to seek out new partners. I think it’s largely because of my introvertedness, and certainly in part because my focus is on my work. It’s difficult enough for me to give one partner enough attention, much less more than one partner.

Nowt that I’m actively dating two men at the same time, and exploring relationships with others, I’m not sure that I’m all that good at this. I feel kind of socially overwhelmed, and I’m pretty sure that when I give time to one person, I’m failing to give time to another, and that’s more social stress than I really want to handle. I keep coming back to the fact that I’m not really polyamorous, and multiple relationships are more work.

And it’s work I’m not really good at, if I’m honest with myself.

It’s certainly part of my introversion that I can only cope with having emotional relationships with so many people. I just don’t have a lot of brain space for more; I only have so much social capacity. Just as I can only have so much general social activity before getting exhausted, I seem to have that capacity limit for more intimate friendships and romantic relationships.

I also wonder if there’s some significant functional difference between folks who are genuinely polyamorous and those of us who aren’t. In my case, I’m always going to end up focusing my relationship compass point toward the place where I am getting the most needs met. The person I have the most emotional connection to, the person who is the most compatible with me, the person I seem to share the most chemistry with.

The thing that most monogamous people fear when their partner says, “I want to open our relationship and date other people,” is that their partner is going to 1. Start spending more time with the new partner and neglect them, and 2. Prefer the new partner that they are dating and leave them. I’ve seen open relationships where that doesn’t happen, and I’ve seen open relationships where it does. Maybe that’s the core difference between someone who’s genuinely wired for polyamory and someone who’s wired for monogamy, I’m not sure.

All I can say is that open relationships can be a time suck.

Time and Relationships

The irony in some of this is what initially drew me to open relationships was the casualness factor. After writing a few thousand words on this topic in this series of blog posts, I’ll just be blunt: I got into this to find a way to have intimacy and sex with people I had at least a basic emotional connection to but without a huge time obligation to. I can’t do completely anonymous sex, my attraction engine just doesn’t work that way. I’m too much of a sapiosexual, and I need a connection with someone. However, nor can I lie and promise someone monogamy, long-term-relationships, and falling in love when that doesn’t seem realistic. I needed to find a way to get that need for connection, intimacy, and sex met in a way that worked for me.

Frankly, I don’t have the kind of hours available each week for someone who is looking to me for their primary (or sole) romantic relationship. True, I’d make that time if I really fell for someone and thought we had the potential for a solid relationship, but I’m not willing to put in that kind of time for someone I don’t have that level of connection to.

Maybe that’s harsh, but that’s where I draw the line.

My relationship this past year has worked out great in this respect. He and I have gotten together sometimes weekly but usually once a month. Sometimes we go out, sometimes we don’t. We talk a lot online, we get along really amazingly well though we occasionally argue on philosophical topics. What has made our relationship work–other than the fact that we’re mostly sexually compatible–is that we don’t have huge expectations of each other time-wise. We have fun when we have time to have fun.

Monogamy or Open?

I’m also not unaware of the irony of some of my relationship challenges. All I ever wanted was monogamy, but I’m apparently not great at that because my partners don’t feel they get “enough” of me. And in open relationships, I’m not particularly good at that either for the same reasons; being with multiple partners, and (potentially) in at least friendship relationships with their partners, is often way more social energy than I have to offer to other human beings. (Some weeks all I can cope with are my cats.)

Right at the moment my relationship with my new boyfriend is working well, in part because he and I were both surprised to find ourselves really not just attracted to one another but also connecting on an emotional wavelength. The chemistry there is far deeper than I expected.

But I suppose this also reminds me as well why I’m just not naturally polyamorous, because it’s difficult for me to be attracted to one person and seeking someone else. It’s also been difficult for me to pay adequate attention to two boyfriends at the same time, so I’m struggling with that. I’m starting to feel a bit like I do in a monogamous relationship when my partner’s disappointed that I’m not able to give them enough of my time that they feel valued. And that’s stressful.

Maybe some day I fall in love. Maybe I find a deeply-fulfilling long-term monogamous relationship with someone. Or maybe it’s more monogamish; open relationships don’t scare me the way they once did, so long as I’m confident in the core relationship. In the absence of deep-big-love, it’s nice to connect to people in relationships. I’ve connected to some amazing friends in this way, and sometimes I have even found more emotional connection than I expected.

Friends-love plus chemistry is still pretty rare and amazing, in my experience, so I’m always grateful when I experience that.

Transparency and Explorations

If I reflect back on my previous relationships, there’s no less emotional commitment from me in an open relationship than when I was in monogamous relationships. The difference for me now is, things are more transparently on the table, as it were. I don’t have to pretend that I’m only ever going to be interested in that one person romantically Until The End of Time. And this way, I can be more transparent about when I need to take time to focus on other things, whether that’s a date with another lover, or if I have a book I need to finish editing.

Exploring open relationships has one additional benefit. Perhaps TMI, but I write romance about threesomes, and I have interest in that and a few other sexually adventurous things. Being in open relationships means that I have the option to try out a few of the fantasies on my bucket list. Maybe (in reality) they are as awkward as people tell me, but, I’ve talked to other friends who’ve had fun with them, so who knows. All I can say is that most people living in the assumption of monogamy don’t get to even consider doing anything like this, and tend to think of themselves as deviants for even wanting anything outside of their one relationship.

In fact–I see this a lot when I’m promoting my romance novels. I’ve written some menage-a-trois werewolf romance novels, and that genre’s pretty popular, as well as books with foursomes, fivesomes, and moresomes, usually featuring one female character and her multiple male mates. Usually it’s in the “shifter” genre (werewolves, wereleopards, etc.)  of paranormal romance, but there are other romance novels where it pops up. Apparently this is a huge fantasy that many women have, but never act on, because it’s so “bad” and shameful they’d never consider doing it. 

The male fantasy of being with two (or more) women is sort of a staple of porn, but women who have a similar fantasy are thought of as sluts, whores, and deviants.

Being a sex positive person, I don’t see any of these things as inherently bad, but there’s such a cultural stigma about anything that isn’t heterosexual/monogamous, or that isn’t geared toward the male gaze and heterosexual male desires, that most people never explore any of that.

Conquering Lonely

Living alone for the past years has helped me to get past some of my fear of loneliness. And, though not all of my experiences of dating in the past years have gone well, they’ve at least helped me to consistently disprove that old tape that says, “I’ll never find anyone to connect with, never find anyone that gets me.” I’ve found a number of people who get me, and I’ll meet others in the future who get me.

The old tape still plays in my head, and what I know of human psychology says that I’ll always deal with that. But I have a nice little workaround for it now, because I can pretty easily say, “You’re wrong. That’s not the truth.”

What the past years have certainly taught me is that there are a lot of different ways to do relationships. Monogamy doesn’t have to be the default, but monogamy isn’t also some failing on my part for not being open-minded. Just as people have chemistry (or they don’t) people also have preferences. I’m not truly polyamorous–loving multiple people–but nor am I into totally casual sex either. In general, I experience that polyamorous folks tend to focus more on love relationships, and swingers tend to focus more on sex, particularly sex that centers on a heterosexual couple’s relationship. However, there’s a huge amount of crossover and a spectrum between them.

I’m not entirely sure what to call myself or where I’m at. I’m in open relationships at the moment, and I’m open to monogamy with the right person. What’s more important to me these days than defining what types of relationships I’m in are my boundaries around my work. That’s where my priority is. I think, as I’ve written this, I’ve ended up with more questions than answers, but that’s no surprise for me.

Future writing:

I’ll be working up some future articles about sex, sexuality, and relationships. What would you like to read about?

A few topics rattling in my head are the difficulties of being in open relationships, specifically, the huge social stigma attached to them. And also, some of the social trends I’ve encountered in the differences between folks who identify as polyamorous, the folks who identify as swingers, and the crossover space between those. There’s also the whole sex positive vs. sex pressuring, the whole cultural identity around “We’re such deviants, we’re so counterculture, we’re bad and naughty,” and a few other things I see out there that impact and interweave with our cultural ideas (and problems around) sex. (Me, think too much about this stuff? Naw.)


Filed under: Personal Growth Tagged: Pagan, polyamorous, polyamory, swinger, swingers, swinging

Exploring Open Relationships: Part Three

ocean-sunset-dark-1113tm-bkgd-465Although I’ve been in a number of open relationships in my life, and intentionally so in the past years, I don’t really consider myself polyamorous. Nor am I accurately described as a swinger. I call myself poly-friendly, because I need to be friends with someone before entering into a sexual relationship, but I also am not falling in love with people or specifically seeking out love with multiple people.

I’ve also learned, over the past years, that it’s hard for me to focus on more than one romantic relationship at a time. Even in some of my relationships in the past years where my partner also has a primary partner…I know some of those men have felt that I wasn’t paying enough attention to them.

Currently I have more than one partner for the first time in my life, and I don’t feel I’m juggling that very well…or rather, juggling that well with all of my writing/art/traveling/teaching obligations. And being in open relationships has brought up some things I didn’t expect.

*** Note: This series of articles goes into me exploring what relationships mean to me, and what I want out of relationship. As I tend to, I write this from a pretty open/vulnerable place, but it might be TMI for some folks. Thus, you’ve been warned. ***

In the past, I’ve generally not had a lot of interaction with my romantic partner’s wife/primary partner. The word I used in Part 2 to mean my partner’s partner is borrowed from the polyamory community; the word is metamor. Right now I’m experiencing a new-to-me facet of being in an open relationship: I have had a lot more positive interaction with my boyfriend’s wife than I have had with any of my other partners’ girlfriends and wives.

My Partner’s Partner

In the past, I haven’t had much connection to my partners’ partners for a variety of reasons. For instance, I’ve been dating a man for the past year whose wife has extreme social anxiety and depression, and she’s really uninterested in any social interaction. Given I have my own struggles as an introvert with some social anxiety, I totally understand and respect that, though I admit that this has offered up some challenges in his and my relationship as it’s difficult to make plans together given she often has bad days.

One specific challenge I face with that scenario is that my own anxiety gets tripped when I don’t have solid, dependable plans, since my whole day gets thrown off anyways when I’m gearing up to do something social. If I’ve blown a day of work getting ready for social activity, and then the plans change, I’ve not only lost that day, but the resulting plan-changing anxiety can blow another day as well if I’m not really careful. And since I only see this particular boyfriend perhaps once a month, this causes some significant frustration for me. So, my relationship to her is more tangential in a sense in that she and I don’t directly talk, but this still has an impact on my life whether or not she and I hang out.

In a few other relationships I attempted, I found that I really didn’t get along with the spouse/primary partner. And that doesn’t mean they were bad–like I’ve said before, chemistry is what it is. Just as some people have personality types where they probably shouldn’t work together, there are also people that are just never going to work well as friends, and that’s ok. In some instances, however, the primary partner was actually fairly unstable or abusive. In one or two of those cases, the primary partner actively worked to keep their partner from being able to see me.

Now, in retrospect, those behaviors are some big red flags and I should have bailed on the relationship, but some things I suppose I had to learn for myself. General open relationship note: If you really don’t get along with your partner’s partner, that’s a real warning sign in an open relationship, even if you’re only going to have minimal interaction with them.

While I almost always initially grumble about having to put in the additional social time of meeting my partner’s partner (because, introvert with social anxiety here) I have found that in almost any open relationship, being at least on good terms with my partner’s partner is important. Depending on the open relationship, there are varying levels of expectations about how much social time one is expected to have with the partner’s partner.

In my case, my enemy is time. I never feel that I have enough time to get all my work done, and so the more social obligations I have, the less time I have to write or paint or do other work. And the more time I need to spend recovering from the physical/mental exhaustion I experience after what most would think of as social “fun” time. It’s a lot of pressure and part of my anxiety cycle. The anxiety and recovery profile changes significantly depending on various factors, but it’s something I have to factor in when I think about relationships, even friendships. People will often invite me over for something that’s “relaxing” or “fun” but in most cases, my definition of fun is likely to be a little different than the norm. Planning can help reduce my anxiety. (You might have guessed by now that I’m also not really big on spontaneity.)

Relationship Expectations

In terms of open relationships that didn’t quite work out as expected, I have also experienced a couple of partners who really wanted me to be part of their poly family, even though our relationship agreements were very clearly stated up front and I was only interested in being a casual/tertiary partner. In at least one of those cases, the man I was dating seemed to be harboring this fantasy where I was going to move in with him, his wife, her girlfriend, and the kids, even though that was far beyond the parameters of our relationship. His wife and her girlfriend did work to make me feel welcome, but my gut feeling tells me his wife and I probably would have eventually butted heads. We’re both strong-willed, stubborn people, and we probably would have ended up like oil and water if we’d ever tried interacting much more than we did.

It’s worth pointing out that when the parties involved in a relationship have very different expectations, that can cause some significant pressures and in this case it was a big part of his and my breakup in that particular dynamic.

What makes that breakup somewhat more tragic is that that boyfriend was the “safe place” I went to when I needed to see if I could still cope with having sex after my breakup with my abusive ex Mark. I wasn’t sure if I’d freak out during sex or freeze up or what. Fortunately, everything worked just fine, but I think what helped is that I connected with someone I already knew as a friend via the Pagan community–a coven leader I’d worked with before. I was comfortable that we were on a peer dynamic so I didn’t have to worry about that aspect of things. However, because he and his whole family are Pagan, when we broke up, that had the potential to create tension, if not community conflict, all on its own.

Metamor

With my newest relationship, I’ve had a fair amount of interaction with my boyfriend’s wife, and to a certain extent, with some of her other lovers. I’ve also met their kids, and some of their friends who are part of the local open-relationship-community. And some of these social interactions are a bit difficult for me to sustain, but they are definitely a factor in the dating-in-open-relationships process.

I think that this has all worked in this case because she and I actually get along pretty well. I genuinely like her. It’s worth pointing out how crucial stability is to an open relationship. His wife is stable, their relationship is stable. That makes me feel really good about my relationship with her husband; knowing that I’m not disrupting their dynamic really helps me a lot to feel safe and to trust my partner.

In a few other relationships, I’ve found that my partners started using me almost as a therapist in some ways; they’d complain about their primary partners and what they didn’t like about their primary relationships, and that isn’t at all the case here, so that’s really nice. (Interesting factoid: Most sex workers I’ve talked to have told me that their clients theoretically pay for sex, but often they just talk about the things they can’t say to anyone else, including talking about problems in their relationships.)

With my new boyfriend and his wife, I admit, probably will always feel a little awkward staying over at their place, but I think that’s probably more my general anxiety about staying in places that aren’t my own “introvert cave” than anything else. Heck, I feel awkward whenever I’m staying at anyone else’s place whether that’s a boyfriend who is single, or I’m traveling and staying at a friend’s place on their couch or in their spare room.

My new boyfriend’s wife has gone out of her way to make me feel welcome, and I don’t take that for granted. Not for a minute. And it’s not that previous partners’ partners’ haven’t also worked to make me welcome, but in this case, the dynamic just really works. It feels more comfortable to me than it has in any previous relationship like this. Usually when I try to sleep over at someone’s place I can’t sleep at all, and I’ve actually been able to sleep at their place, as well as in the hotel when we all went on a trip together.

What Is Relationship?

All this has really forced me to really look at and evaluate what relationship means to me, and what I want out of my life. If I really boil it down, I think that I like monogamous relationships in part just because they are simpler for me on a lot of levels. Particularly for an introvert with some social anxiety. I like the comfort of living with someone. I like movie dates at home watching movies on the couch. I like not having to go out to meet up.

In this new relationship, I spent a weekend with him and we did just that; I stayed at his place while his family was out of town and we ate, watched four sci-fi flicks, and just hung out in our pajamas. It was so comforting, and I realized that I hadn’t gotten to just hang out with a lover like that in years.

I will admit it: I hate the process of dating.

I like not having to worry about meeting new people and going through the whole song and dance of dating; vetting people, talking on the phone to screen them, going on the first “are you an axe murderer or so boring or full of yourself I want to gouge my own eyes out” date…all that.

I like intimacy. I like getting to know someone and have them get to know me so that I get to the point where I actually trust them. Relationship shorthand is so very important to me because it’s part of safety, part of security. There’s something amazing and brilliant when my partner knows I’m just not up for going out to XYZ social event, or that doing ABC is one of my major stressors, or that I can do DEF if we have a solid plan. Or even things like taking into account my food issues (I’m wheat and dairy intolerant, among other things) before making plans.

I’ve been in relationships where I’ve had to explain-ad nauseum–what I like, or don’t like, what works for me and what doesn’t, and that’s exhausting. Holding boundaries is exhausting when someone keeps pushing at them, and I’ve been in that dynamic over and over. With Mark, it bled over into emotional abuse. I was told, over and over, that it was bad and wrong that I didn’t want to go out with him and his friends, that “If I really loved him” I’d do this thing for him even though it would be damaging to me.

And, though I like the comfort of monogamy, the simplicity of it, of that shorthand and safety…and though I like the simplicity and comfort of not juggling multiple people…I’m long past the point in my life where I can move in and be in a committed relationship with someone just because I like the ease, the safety. Just because I want to shut up the tape that says “I’ll always be alone, nobody will ever get me.”

Part Four coming tomorrow!


Filed under: Personal Growth Tagged: cheating, dating, open relationship, Pagan, poly, polyamorous, polyamory, relationships, swinger, swingers

Exploring Open Relationships: Part Three

ocean-sunset-dark-1113tm-bkgd-465Although I’ve been in a number of open relationships in my life, and intentionally so in the past years, I don’t really consider myself polyamorous. Nor am I accurately described as a swinger. I call myself poly-friendly, because I need to be friends with someone before entering into a sexual relationship, but I also am not falling in love with people or specifically seeking out love with multiple people.

I’ve also learned, over the past years, that it’s hard for me to focus on more than one romantic relationship at a time. Even in some of my relationships in the past years where my partner also has a primary partner, I know those men have felt that I wasn’t paying enough attention to them.

Currently I have more than one partner for the first time in my life, and I don’t feel I’m juggling that very well…or rather, juggling that well with all of my writing/art/traveling/teaching obligations. And being in open relationships has brought up some things I didn’t expect.

*** Note: This series of articles goes into me exploring what relationships mean to me, and what I want out of relationship. As I tend to, I write this from a pretty open/vulnerable place, but it might be TMI for some folks. Thus, you’ve been warned. ***

In my newest relationship, I’m experiencing a new-to-me facet of being in an open relationship. In the past, I’ve generally not had a lot of interaction with my romantic partner’s wife/primary partner. The word I used in Part 2 to mean my partner’s partner is borrowed from the polyamory community; the word is metamor. I have had a lot more positive interaction with my boyfriend’s wife than I have had with any of my other partners.

My Partner’s Partner

In the past, I haven’t had much connection to my partner’s partners for a variety of reasons. For instance, I’ve been dating a man for the past year whose wife has extreme social anxiety and depression, and she’s really uninterested in any social interaction. Given I have my own struggles as an introvert with some social anxiety, I totally understand and respect that, though I admit that this has offered up some challenges in his and my relationship as it’s difficult to make plans together given she often has bad days.

My own anxiety gets tripped when I don’t have solid, dependable plans, since my whole day gets thrown off anyways when I’m gearing up to do something social, and since I only see him maybe once a month, this causes some significant frustration for me. So, my relationship to her is more tangential in a sense in that she and I don’t directly talk, but this still has an impact on my life whether or not she and I hang out or not.

In a few other relationships I attempted, I found that I really didn’t get along with the spouse/primary partner. And that doesn’t mean they were bad–like I’ve said before, chemistry is what it is. Just as some people have personality types where they probably shouldn’t work together, there are also people that are just never going to work well as friends, and that’s ok. In some instances, however, the primary partner was actually fairly unstable or abusive. In a few cases, the primary partner actively worked to keep their partner from being able to see me.

Now, in retrospect, those behaviors are some big red flags and I should have bailed on the relationship, but some things I suppose I had to learn for myself. General open relationship note: If you really don’t get along with your partner’s partner, that’s a real warning sign in an open relationship, even if you’re only going to have minimal interaction with them.

While I almost always initially grumble about having to put in the additional social time of meeting my partner’s partner (because, introvert with social anxiety) I have found that in almost any open relationship, being at least on good terms with my partner’s partner is important. Depending on the open relationship, there are varying levels of expectations about how much social time one is expected to have with the partner’s partner.

In my case, my enemy is time. I never feel that I have enough time to get all my work done, and so the more social obligations I have, the less time I have to write or paint or do other work. And the more time I have to spend recovering from the social “fun” time. It’s a lot of pressure and part of my anxiety cycle. The anxiety and recovery profile changes significantly depending on various factors, but it’s something I have to factor in when I think about relationships, even friendships. People will often invite me over for something that’s “relaxing” or “fun” but in most cases, my definition of fun is likely to be a little different than the norm. (You might have guessed by now that I’m also not really big on spontaneity.)

Relationship Expectations

In terms of open relationships that didn’t quite work out as expected, I have also experienced a couple of partners who really wanted me to be part of their poly family, even though our relationship agreements were very clearly stated up front and I was only interested in being a casual/tertiary partner. In at least one of those cases, the man I was dating seemed to be harboring this fantasy where I was going to move in with him, his wife, her girlfriend, and the kids, even though that was far beyond the parameters of our relationship. His wife and her girlfriend did work to make me feel welcome, but my gut feeling says his wife and I probably would have eventually butted heads. We’re both strong-willed, stubborn people, and we probably would have ended up like oil and water if we’d ever tried interacting much more than we did.

It’s worth pointing out that when the parties involved in a relationship have very different expectations, that can cause some significant pressures and in this case it was a big part of his and my breakup in that particular dynamic.

What makes that breakup somewhat more tragic is that this guy was the “safe place” I went to when I needed to see if I could still cope with having sex after my breakup with my abusive ex Mark. I wasn’t sure if I’d freak out during sex or freeze up or what. Fortunately, everything worked just fine, but I think what helped is that I connected with someone I already knew as a friend via the Pagan community–a coven leader I’d worked with before. I was comfortable that we were on a peer dynamic so I didn’t have to worry about that aspect of things. However, because he and his whole family are Pagan, when we broke up, that had the potential to create tension, if not community conflict, all on its own.

Metamor

With my newest relationship, I’ve had a fair amount of interaction with my boyfriend’s wife, and to a certain extent, with some of her other lovers. I’ve also met their kids, and some of their friends who are part of the local open-relationship-community. It would be a side tangent to dive into the ways my own anxiety makes some of these social interactions a bit difficult for me, but it definitely is a factor in the dating-in-open-relationships process.

I think it has worked in this case because she and I get along pretty well. I genuinely like her. It’s worth pointing out how crucial stability is to an open relationship. His wife is stable, their relationship is stable. That makes me feel really good about my relationship with her husband; knowing that I’m not disrupting their dynamic really helps me a lot to feel safe and to trust my partner.

In a few other relationships, I’ve found that my partners started using me almost as a therapist in some ways; they’d complain about their primary partners and what they didn’t like about their primary relationships, and that isn’t at all the case here, so that’s really nice. (Interesting factoid: Most sex workers I’ve talked to have told me that their clients theoretically pay for sex, but often they just talk about the things they can’t say to anyone else, including talking about problems in their relationships.)

Getting back to my new boyfriend and his wife, I admit, probably will always feel a little awkward staying over at their place, but I think that’s probably more my general anxiety about staying in places that aren’t my own “introvert cave” than anything else. Heck, I feel awkward whenever I’m staying at anyone else’s place whether that’s a boyfriend who is single, or I’m traveling and staying at a friend’s place on their couch or in their spare room.

My new boyfriend’s wife has gone out of her way to make me feel welcome, and I don’t take that for granted. Not for a minute. And it’s not that previous partners’ partners’ haven’t also worked to make me welcome, but in this case, the dynamic just really works. It feels more comfortable to me than it has in any previous relationship like this. Usually when I try to sleep over at someone’s place I can’t sleep at all, and I’ve actually been able to sleep at their place, as well as in the hotel when we all went on a trip together.

What Is Relationship?

All this has really forced me to really look at and evaluate what relationship means to me, and what I want out of my life. If I really boil it down, I think that I like monogamous relationships in part just because they are simpler for me on a lot of levels. Particularly for an introvert with some social anxiety. I like the comfort of living with someone. I like movie dates at home watching movies on the couch. I like not having to go out to meet up.

In this new relationship, I spent a weekend with him and we did just that; I stayed at his place while his family was out of town and we ate, watched four sci-fi flicks, and just hung out in our pajamas. It was so comforting, and I realized that I hadn’t gotten to just hang out with a lover like that in years.

I will admit it: I hate the process of dating.

I like not having to worry about meeting new people and going through the whole song and dance of dating; vetting people, talking on the phone to screen them, going on the first “are you an axe murderer or so boring I want to gouge my own eyes out” date…all that.

I like intimacy. I like getting to know someone and have them get to know me so that I get to the point where I actually trust them. Relationship shorthand is so very important to me because it’s part of safety, part of security. There’s something amazing and brilliant when my partner knows I’m just not up for going out to XYZ social event, or that doing ABC is one of my major stressors, or that I can do DEF if we have a solid plan. Or even things like taking into account my food issues (I’m wheat and dairy intolerant, among other things) before making plans.

I’ve been in relationships where I’ve had to explain-ad nauseum–what I like, or don’t like, what works for me and what doesn’t, and that’s exhausting. Holding boundaries is exhausting when someone keeps pushing at them, and I’ve been in that dynamic over and over. With Mark, it bled over into emotional abuse. When I was told, over and over, that it was bad and wrong that I didn’t want to go out, that “If I really loved him” I’d do this thing for him even though it would be damaging to me.

And, though I like the comfort of monogamy, of the simplicity of it, of that shorthand and safety…and though I like the simplicity and comfort of not needing to juggle multiple people, I’m long past the point in my life where I can move in and be in a committed relationship with someone just because I like the ease, the safety. Just because I want to shut up the tape that says “I’ll always be alone, nobody will ever get me.”

Part Four coming tomorrow!


Filed under: Personal Growth Tagged: cheating, dating, open relationship, Pagan, poly, polyamorous, polyamory, relationships, swinger, swingers

Exploring Open Relationships: Part Two

127654_5452When I was first exploring more casual relationships, this was also the first time that I was seeing/dating men in the Pagan community. I immediately ran into the social complexities of that. I had just finished the leadership program at Diana’s Grove, and I was realizing how very, very quickly a bad breakup could lead to disharmony. I think I managed to keep on good terms with most of those guys, but I recognized that the whole prospect was fraught with peril.

*** Note: This series of articles goes into me exploring what relationships mean to me, and what I want out of relationship. As I tend to, I write this from a pretty open/vulnerable place, but it might be TMI for some folks. Thus, you’ve been warned. ***

Heck, I realized there was even a challenge just by connecting to Pagans on an online dating site. Imagine; I’ve been talking to a Pagan guy for a while via an online dating site, and then I realize I’m not interested in him romantically…and then I run into him at a local Pagan event. That leads to awkwardness at the very least, if not worse. If we’re both just attendees that’s one thing, but when I was in the position of running events and leading workshops and rituals, the potential for complicated group dynamics increased. Or, if it turned out that they were the leader of a Pagan group I was thinking of working with.

Hurt feelings over romantic rejection have fueled more than a few Pagan conflicts. And, on the flip side, I was becoming more concerned that my position as a leader/teacher/ritualist would cause a power dynamic. How could I know whether someone was genuinely interested, or whether they were just attracted to the “glamour” as it were? You can see where this all starts to get complicated, and that’s before any actual dates/relationship have happened.

I faced this scenario with a number of the men I briefly became lovers with: We went out, maybe had sex, and I realized that we weren’t really compatible. In some cases I liked them as friends, but not romantically, but didn’t want to hurt their feelings…and yet, I certainly couldn’t keep having sex with them just to not hurt their feelings. And in our society, we are trained to take it as a personal affront when someone “friendzones” us. I mean, I know I’ve struggled to have better boundaries around the fact that some men just aren’t going to be attracted to me, and that’s not a judgment against me, it doesn’t mean I’m bad or not attractive, it’s just that people have preferences. Chemistry is a factor. You can’t “make” someone be attracted.

So frequently, I wish I could simply say, “I’m just not that attracted to you,” or, “The way you have sex isn’t really compatible with what I need,” or whatever the issue happens to be, and have that be ok.

During this time period, I also hooked up with a guy who turned out to be not polyamorous, but a cheater. He had told me he was poly before we got together. I discovered that he was, in fact, a cheater while he was driving 6 hours to Chicago. He was going to be in town for something and we decided to get together again so he was going to stay at my place. While he was on the road, his girlfriend instant messaged me in a panic; she’d logged onto his computer and found my information. I talked to her for about 5 hours and discovered that he was a chronic cheater. When he arrived, I told him he could sleep on the couch.

Here’s the rub. He and I had met on an online dating site but we’d first met in person after he attended a Pagan event I helped to organize. And his girlfriend identified as Pagan as well. She was absolutely enraged and in tears and she said, “I’ve heard so much good about this Diana’s Grove place, I’ve always wanted to go, but to find out that one of their leaders would cheat like this, I never want to go there ever.” I sat listening to her pain for hours, and it took that long for her to understand that I was in the dark on this. That I had thought he was polyamorous because that’s what he told me.

Hopefully you can see the impact of one little thing; one date, one time having sex, one relationship, can have huge ripple effects. You make a mistake, or someone takes offense at something, and people get hurt.

After that span of months I was really unsure what to do about relationships. And I was really longing for the simplicity and stability of a monogamous relationship again. Dating is a lot of work for an introvert! It takes time to vet people, to get to know them, to meet them, to discover if there’s chemistry…and for me, having sex for the first time is fraught with peril; without diving into TMI land, I have a few issues that make sex with someone for the first time a little difficult. And, because I know that, I have some anxiety around it, which makes that even worse.

When I’m considering having sex with someone, I first engage in a lot of transparent communication about what works for me, and what doesn’t. I can’t even tell you how many men have told me, “It’s all good, we’ll do whatever you need,” or “Yeah, that sounds hot, that’s cool,” and then in actual practice, they were quite disgruntled to do anything different from their usual.

I will say that this particular time period in my life did at least give me the skills to get better at weeding people out based on their behavior either via email, instant messenger, or phone chats. “Baby, you’ve never been with me before” is a big old red flag that is now almost a sure-fire way to get me to say “No, I won’t go out with you. Bye.”

Thus, when I met Mark, it was all too easy for me to fall into a relationship with him. He was a motivated community organizer that shared a fair percentage of my geekdom. I did resist it at first, and we talked a lot about the impacts of dating within the community, particularly at the leadership level. He seemed reasonable and grounded, at the time, so I fell for that. Of course, what I didn’t realize at the time is that he was cheating on his wife with me; he’d said their relationship was over. I’m upset that I’ve been fooled by that more than once.

I’ll fast forward through most of that, but I’ll touch on this point: When he cheated on me for the first time a year after we started dating, it was with a woman that I actually liked rather a lot. She had been polyamorous for a long time, and she had been shocked when she found out that he was cheating and that he wasn’t actually in a poly relationship. I invited her over to confront Mark, and the three of us talked things through like adults. I’m sad that I didn’t get the chance to know her better. In a different time, in a different place, I’d have been happy to be her “metamor.” That’s a word I learned that night–the lover of your lover.

I think that might have been the first time I ever seriously thought that I could have a friendship connection with someone that my partner was dating. I’d always thought that, in that scenario, I’d automatically feel antagonistic, and I didn’t. (Because it’s tangentially of interest, fastforwarding in time again, I’ve become friends with a number of the women Mark’s been in relationships with, whether women he cheated on me with, or women he dated after me.)

Mark agreed to go to therapy, and I began considering the notion of what it would look like to be in an open relationship. I was clear that I wasn’t ok with opening up our relationship until he could get a hand on his compulsive cheating, but I also recognized that I just didn’t have enough libido to keep up with him.

And of course–those of you who have been through this particular excruciating phase of a post-cheating relationship will probably resonate a lot with this. The problem with trying to rebuild after cheating is that sex can rebuild intimacy…but I was dealing with depression and I had almost no libido at all. I couldn’t keep up with him before the cheating, and after, I had even less desire for sex.

If you’ve read my Pagans and Predators series, you’ve read a fair amount about the latter stages of my relationship with Mark. More cheating, more betrayal. The thing was, I’d have been mostly ok with him dating other women if I genuinely thought that he’d still come home to me, but I could never trust that.

The other concern I had came from my own experience dating within the Pagan community, and watching other Poly people navigating that. I think there’s a math algorithm there–the more Pagans you date, the more likely you are to run into a community-destroying breakup catastrophe.

I’ve also found that Polyamory/Swinging/open relationships in general are also a compounded risk because if the relationship between two people doesn’t go well (or end well), each person’s other partner or partners sometimes get involved in the fallout.

I trusted my judgment, but I didn’t trust Mark’s. And, that’s for pretty obvious reasons at this point.

More than that, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. When I was married and we opened up our relationship, I didn’t ever date anyone. When I’m already in a relationship, I just don’t have the desire to go out and date people; meeting new people is tiring and exhausting. I’m an introvert, not an extrovert. Extroverts tend to thrive on meeting new people, they love the newness of it. For me, that’s work. And even if I end up liking that person, it’s still work. Because then the relationship has to be maintained.

And, let me be totally honest here: One of the biggest complaints I’ve faced in my long-term relationships is that I don’t pay enough emotional attention to my partner.

I face this weird paradox; men fall for me and they are in love with my passion and my creativity. They love my artwork, my writing, my event planning; they love the spark and fire and what I throw into that work. And they want me to turn that love and focus onto them.

I’ll be honest again: I’ve never felt that way for anyone I’ve been with.

I’ve had feelings of deep friendship with men I’ve been with, deep friendship love. But not hot, fiery, “I’m in love with you” oxytocin-rush kind of feelings. I’ve come close a few times, I’ve started to have some feelings with specific people, but I’ve never been in love with anyone I’ve been with.

In the past I’ve joked that I can’t really be polyamorous because I just don’t have time for more people. “My work is my primary relationship,” I’ve said. And in the past years, that really has become true in so many ways. And yet, I also don’t seem to be “present” enough when I’m in a monogamous relationship for my partner to be satisfied with the time I can give them. This has left me with a lot of confusion about what to do about relationships.

Part 3 coming tomorrow!


Filed under: Personal Growth Tagged: cheating, dating, open relationships, Paganism, poly, polyamorous, polyamory, relationships, sex, swingers, swinging

Exploring Open Relationships: Part Two

127654_5452When I was first exploring more casual relationships, this was also the first time that I was seeing/dating men in the Pagan community. I immediately ran into the social complexities of that. I had just finished the leadership program at Diana’s Grove, and I was realizing how very, very quickly a bad breakup could lead to disharmony. I think I managed to keep on good terms with most of those guys, but I recognized that the whole prospect was fraught with peril.

*** Note: This series of articles goes into me exploring what relationships mean to me, and what I want out of relationship. As I tend to, I write this from a pretty open/vulnerable place, but it might be TMI for some folks. Thus, you’ve been warned. ***

Heck, I realized there was even a challenge just by connecting to Pagans on an online dating site. Imagine; I’ve been talking to a Pagan guy for a while via an online dating site, and then I realize I’m not interested in him romantically…and then I run into him at a local Pagan event. That leads to awkwardness at the very least, if not worse. If we’re both just attendees that’s one thing, but when I was in the position of running events and leading workshops and rituals, the potential for complicated group dynamics increased. Or, if it turned out that they were the leader of a Pagan group I was thinking of working with.

Hurt feelings over romantic rejection have fueled more than a few Pagan conflicts. And, on the flip side, I was becoming more concerned that my position as a leader/teacher/ritualist would cause a power dynamic. How could I know whether someone was genuinely interested, or whether they were just attracted to the “glamour” as it were? You can see where this all starts to get complicated, and that’s before any actual dates/relationship have happened.

I faced this scenario with a number of the men I briefly became lovers with: We went out, maybe had sex, and I realized that we weren’t really compatible. In some cases I liked them as friends, but not romantically, but didn’t want to hurt their feelings…and yet, I certainly couldn’t keep having sex with them just to not hurt their feelings. And in our society, we are trained to take it as a personal affront when someone “friendzones” us. I mean, I know I’ve struggled to have better boundaries around the fact that some men just aren’t going to be attracted to me, and that’s not a judgment against me, it doesn’t mean I’m bad or not attractive, it’s just that people have preferences. Chemistry is a factor. You can’t “make” someone be attracted.

So frequently, I wish I could simply say, “I’m just not that attracted to you,” or, “The way you have sex isn’t really compatible with what I need,” or whatever the issue happens to be, and have that be ok.

During this time period, I also hooked up with a guy who turned out to be not polyamorous, but a cheater. He had told me he was poly before we got together. I discovered that he was, in fact, a cheater while he was driving 6 hours to Chicago. He was going to be in town for something and we decided to get together again so he was going to stay at my place. While he was on the road, his girlfriend instant messaged me in a panic; she’d logged onto his computer and found my information. I talked to her for about 5 hours and discovered that he was a chronic cheater. When he arrived, I told him he could sleep on the couch.

Here’s the rub. He and I had met on an online dating site but we’d first met in person after he attended a Pagan event I helped to organize. And his girlfriend identified as Pagan as well. She was absolutely enraged and in tears and she said, “I’ve heard so much good about this Diana’s Grove place, I’ve always wanted to go, but to find out that one of their leaders would cheat like this, I never want to go there ever.” I sat listening to her pain for hours, and it took that long for her to understand that I was in the dark on this. That I had thought he was polyamorous because that’s what he told me.

Hopefully you can see the impact of one little thing; one date, one time having sex, one relationship, can have huge ripple effects. You make a mistake, or someone takes offense at something, and people get hurt.

After that span of months I was really unsure what to do about relationships. And I was really longing for the simplicity and stability of a monogamous relationship again. Dating is a lot of work for an introvert! It takes time to vet people, to get to know them, to meet them, to discover if there’s chemistry…and for me, having sex for the first time is fraught with peril; without diving into TMI land, I have a few issues that make sex with someone for the first time a little difficult. And, because I know that, I have some anxiety around it, which makes that even worse.

When I’m considering having sex with someone, I first engage in a lot of transparent communication about what works for me, and what doesn’t. I can’t even tell you how many men have told me, “It’s all good, we’ll do whatever you need,” or “Yeah, that sounds hot, that’s cool,” and then in actual practice, they were quite disgruntled to do anything different from their usual.

I will say that this particular time period in my life did at least give me the skills to get better at weeding people out based on their behavior either via email, instant messenger, or phone chats. “Baby, you’ve never been with me before” is a big old red flag that is now almost a sure-fire way to get me to say “No, I won’t go out with you. Bye.”

Thus, when I met Mark, it was all too easy for me to fall into a relationship with him. He was a motivated community organizer that shared a fair percentage of my geekdom. I did resist it at first, and we talked a lot about the impacts of dating within the community, particularly at the leadership level. He seemed reasonable and grounded, at the time, so I fell for that. Of course, what I didn’t realize at the time is that he was cheating on his wife with me; he’d said their relationship was over. I’m upset that I’ve been fooled by that more than once.

I’ll fast forward through most of that, but I’ll touch on this point: When he cheated on me for the first time a year after we started dating, it was with a woman that I actually liked rather a lot. She had been polyamorous for a long time, and she had been shocked when she found out that he was cheating and that he wasn’t actually in a poly relationship. I invited her over to confront Mark, and the three of us talked things through like adults. I’m sad that I didn’t get the chance to know her better. In a different time, in a different place, I’d have been happy to be her “metamor.” That’s a word I learned that night–the lover of your lover.

I think that might have been the first time I ever seriously thought that I could have a friendship connection with someone that my partner was dating. I’d always thought that, in that scenario, I’d automatically feel antagonistic, and I didn’t. (Because it’s tangentially of interest, fastforwarding in time again, I’ve become friends with a number of the women Mark’s been in relationships with, whether women he cheated on me with, or women he dated after me.)

Mark agreed to go to therapy, and I began considering the notion of what it would look like to be in an open relationship. I was clear that I wasn’t ok with opening up our relationship until he could get a hand on his compulsive cheating, but I also recognized that I just didn’t have enough libido to keep up with him.

And of course–those of you who have been through this particular excruciating phase of a post-cheating relationship will probably resonate a lot with this. The problem with trying to rebuild after cheating is that sex can rebuild intimacy…but I was dealing with depression and I had almost no libido at all. I couldn’t keep up with him before the cheating, and after, I had even less desire for sex.

If you’ve read my Pagans and Predators series, you’ve read a fair amount about the latter stages of my relationship with Mark. More cheating, more betrayal. The thing was, I’d have been mostly ok with him dating other women if I genuinely thought that he’d still come home to me, but I could never trust that.

The other concern I had came from my own experience dating within the Pagan community, and watching other Poly people navigating that. I think there’s a math algorithm there–the more Pagans you date, the more likely you are to run into a community-destroying breakup catastrophe.

I’ve also found that Polyamory/Swinging/open relationships in general are also a compounded risk because if the relationship between two people doesn’t go well (or end well), each person’s other partner or partners sometimes get involved in the fallout.

I trusted my judgment, but I didn’t trust Mark’s. And, that’s for pretty obvious reasons at this point.

More than that, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. When I was married and we opened up our relationship, I didn’t ever date anyone. When I’m already in a relationship, I just don’t have the desire to go out and date people; meeting new people is tiring and exhausting. I’m an introvert, not an extrovert. Extroverts tend to thrive on meeting new people, they love the newness of it. For me, that’s work. And even if I end up liking that person, it’s still work. Because then the relationship has to be maintained.

And, let me be totally honest here: One of the biggest complaints I’ve faced in my long-term relationships is that I don’t pay enough emotional attention to my partner.

I face this weird paradox; men fall for me and they are in love with my passion and my creativity. They love my artwork, my writing, my event planning; they love the spark and fire and what I throw into that work. And they want me to turn that love and focus onto them.

I’ll be honest again: I’ve never felt that way for anyone I’ve been with.

I’ve had feelings of deep friendship with men I’ve been with, deep friendship love. But not hot, fiery, “I’m in love with you” oxytocin-rush kind of feelings. I’ve come close a few times, I’ve started to have some feelings with specific people, but I’ve never been in love with anyone I’ve been with.

In the past I’ve joked that I can’t really be polyamorous because I just don’t have time for more people. “My work is my primary relationship,” I’ve said. And in the past years, that really has become true in so many ways. And yet, I also don’t seem to be “present” enough when I’m in a monogamous relationship for my partner to be satisfied with the time I can give them. This has left me with a lot of confusion about what to do about relationships.

Part 3 coming tomorrow!


Filed under: Personal Growth Tagged: cheating, dating, open relationships, Paganism, poly, polyamorous, polyamory, relationships, sex, swingers, swinging

Exploring Open Relationships: Part One

HPIM1030.JPGI’ve always considered myself monogamous, even when I’ve been in open relationships in the past. All I ever really wanted, growing up, was to find my soulmate and be with him forever. For a while in my late-teens/early twenties, I was anti-marriage, but then, I was sort of finding my footing as a feminist and I was looking at marriage solely as an institution of the patriarchy. I suppose that didn’t really last long as I got married in my early twenties; the call to settle down with one person was the stronger call.

*** Note: This series of articles goes into me exploring what relationships mean to me, and what I want out of relationship. As I tend to, I write this from a pretty open/vulnerable place, but it might be a bit TMI for some folks on the inner workings of my experience of romantic relationships. Thus, you’ve been warned. ***

Ever since my (fairly catastrophic) relationship with my ex, Mark, I’ve pretty much been in open relationships. As I’m committed to the process of personal growth and of “know thyself,” I thought I’d share a few of my thoughts on this, since it’s definitely changed who I am and who I think I am as a person.

In the past, what I ended up doing was dating someone that I sort of liked but wasn’t in love with, and then I got comfortable with them and we sort of went monogamous by default. And, I wasn’t totally happy, I wasn’t in love, but it was nice to not be alone. In those relationships I know that I’ve thought, “I’m not in love, but I like them a lot. Maybe I’ll love them more in time. Maybe my attraction will grow.” It’s rare for me to find someone I click with to begin with (and rarer still for me to actually be physically attracted to someone) so I frequently experience the fear of relationship scarcity. Scarcity/Loneliness go hand in hand for me. “I’ll never find anyone I like, I’ll never find anyone that gets me” is one of the tapes that my brain likes to put on repeat whenever I’m not in a relationship.

So I’ve stuck with a few relationships long past their expiration date in part because of that fear of loneliness. And that’s not fair to me, or to my partners.

Since my really bad breakup at the end of 2011, I’ve resolved that I’m not going to get into a monogamous relationship with someone unless I’m falling in love, or at least, the realistic potential for that. For the past years:

  1. I’ve been living in a very conservative area of Wisconsin, and
  2. Most men aren’t really satisfied with the minimal amount of time I can commit to dating,

That’s left me primarily dating men who are in open relationships (either married or in a primary relationship). I have an online dating profile, and I’d say that 90% of the messages I get (that are from actual people with compatible interests) are from men in open relationships.

This has worked out well for me in many ways. My focus is on my writing and artwork, and I sometimes vanish for days at a time when working on a project. I check my calendar sometimes and realize that weeks have gone by since I’ve seen another human being in the flesh. For that matter, I’m sometimes on the road traveling and teaching for days or weeks at a time. When I’m with someone who’s already in a relationship, they already have a daily routine, they don’t have a huge amount of time to spend with me. Their family and primary relationship(s) are their priority.

I might see them once or twice a month, and that’s about all the social time I can spare if I’m going to keep my focus on my work. Men who are looking for more from me are going to get frustrated, so these days I work hard to communicate up front what I’m able to offer to a relationship.

Only once in the past 4 years have I dated anyone where I considered it a monogamous relationship. We met online, we really clicked, we spent the better part of a week together, and then he started to “ghost” on me. It was long distance, and I went to see him about a month later, and then he withdrew even further. After multiple queries on my part for more communication, he broke things off. I was just starting to have some feelings for him. I think he had an expectation of who I was from when we met online, and I somehow didn’t fulfill that expectation…and in retrospect, he and I wouldn’t have worked out anyways. I’m glad I gave things a shot with him, but that experience was rough for me because it just reinforced my “I’ll never find anyone who gets me” tape.

When I got married in my early twenties, I thought, “I’ll be in this relationship for the rest of my life.” I wasn’t in love, but my husband and I got along well. I thought, “I suppose this is as good as it gets.”

I always feel a bit awkward writing or speaking about this because there are a number of men in my life that I’m still friends with, and I don’t want to hurt their feelings. It’s not like they, themselves, were “bad,” this is more of a case of being incompatible, or just lack of chemistry. We humans take offense to, or hear as critique, things connected to how our partners felt about us in relationships. It’s not any man’s fault that I didn’t fall in love with them any more than it’s any man’s fault that they aren’t attracted to me; nor is it my fault I’m not attracted. Chemistry is what it is. So, as you read my perspective on these relationships, understand that I’m talking about my own processes, thoughts, and feelings (or lack thereof). 

I met my ex husband when I had just turned twenty, and I had just been with my first boyfriend a few months before that. I wasn’t in love with him either, but he was a nice guy and a good friend. I’d fallen in love before that, but that guy wasn’t interested in me that way, and (I’ll spare you the angst) I went into a depression spiral and gave up on true love. In hindsight, I understand that it’s not his fault he didn’t love me; like I said, chemistry is what it is. 

It took me most of my twenties to deal with my body image issues, so I was still fairly well sucked into the whole “Nobody wants to be with the fat chick with acne.” So when my husband fell for me, I went with the flow. I didn’t believe in true love and soulmates any longer, and I suppose I thought some version of, “Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth.” In fact, I recall some people in my life telling me this when I expressed that I wasn’t sure about getting married to him. “Don’t lose this guy, he’s good for you,” people told me. What I think they meant was, “You’re fat and not that attractive, and you found a guy that likes you, don’t screw this up and end up a spinster.

That fear of loneliness is a real kicker.

They meant well, I know they did, but I got married when I probably shouldn’t have. He wanted me to be in love with him, and I wasn’t. I liked him. We were fantastic roommates. We were both fiction writers and Ren Faire/Fantasy nerds, so that worked out. Sex was ok at first. But, I had no passion for him.

We got married when I was 23, and hindsight being 20/20…if I knew then what I know now, I’d have saved us both some pain and just stayed friends with him instead of caving to his desire to get married.

Opening Our Marriage

How he and I came to be in an open relationship is that he finally came out to me about some particular fetishes he was interested in. I had always known he had some fetishes and kinks I didn’t share; we’d tried out a little BDSM and role play early on, but most of that didn’t really work for me. I’m too kinky for your totally vanilla person, and I’m waaaay too vanilla for anyone heavily into fetish.

When my husband finally admitted to needing some heavy-duty fetish stuff, this was way out of my league. We opened up our relationship so that he could go explore that.

It was easy for me to open up our relationship. I wasn’t in love with him, so I wasn’t really jealous. That may sound harsh or strange, but when I look back at my younger self that sums it up. I loved him as a friend and I wanted him to be happy, but him spending time with other people didn’t really emotionally impact me much.

I didn’t take advantage of our open relationship, though. At the time, I was something around 330 or so pounds; that’s the heaviest I’ve ever been in my life, and my husband was far heavier than me. And whether it was his weight, or the fact that he was finally exploring his sexual interests, sex stopped working for us. But I was so overweight (and introverted, and busy) that I didn’t really feel comfortable trying to date anyone. Truthfully, I wouldn’t have even known how, I’d never really dated anyone to begin with.

In my late twenties, I did finally develop a crush on someone I met at a Pagan gathering. I knew that I’d never have a long-term relationship with that person, but I was interested in exploring things with him, and that’s the first time I ever actively pursued anyone.

I’ll fast forward through the massive life changes here–I broke up with my husband. The combination of actually having feelings for someone new and realizing that I was even capable of feeling that kind of passion and attraction, as well as discovering what I really wanted to be doing with my life (building Pagan community) as well as everything else that had built up over the years…I finally was in the headspace where I could end things. At the time my husband angry but later he thanked me. And I’m truly glad he’s happy; last I talked to him he had a boyfriend who was into the same fetishes and they were moving in together.

As for the guy I had a crush on–I tried being one of his polyamorous romantic interests, but that didn’t really work out either. He and I ended up as friends, though I had to nurse a broken heart to get to that place.

I then ended up in another relationship after someone introduced me to the Wonderful World of Online Dating. I’d intended to keep that as an open relationship so that I didn’t get stuck in the trap I had been in with my marriage, but he didn’t want to be in an open relationship so I (once again) caved. And that relationship dissolved after less than two years. I freely admit that I stayed in that relationship as long as I did because it was the first time I had ever had sex with someone where things were really good.

When that relationship ended, I went through a period of time I refer to as “borking my way through the Zodiac.” I didn’t make it all the way around the wheel, but I did instead discover a few things. One is that totally casual sex does not work for me. I can do friends with benefits, with a focus on the friends part. I’m too much of a sapiosexual. I need to know someone, connect with them. I had this theory that if I could just meet my sexual needs and not need to deal with the complexities of relationships, I’d be better off.

I disproved this theory for myself fairly quickly.

Part 2 will be posted soon!

 

 


Filed under: Personal Growth Tagged: ethics, open relationships, Pagan, poly, polyamorous, polyamory, relationships, sex, swingers, swinging

Exploring Open Relationships: Part One

HPIM1030.JPGI’ve always considered myself monogamous, even when I’ve been in open relationships in the past. All I ever really wanted, growing up, was to find my soulmate and be with him forever. For a while in my late-teens/early twenties, I was anti-marriage, but then, I was sort of finding my footing as a feminist and I was looking at marriage solely as an institution of the patriarchy. I suppose that didn’t really last long as I got married in my early twenties; the call to settle down with one person was the stronger call.

*** Note: This series of articles goes into me exploring what relationships mean to me, and what I want out of relationship. As I tend to, I write this from a pretty open/vulnerable place, but it might be a bit TMI for some folks on the inner workings of my experience of romantic relationships. Thus, you’ve been warned. ***

Ever since my (fairly catastrophic) relationship with my ex, Mark, I’ve pretty much been in open relationships. As I’m committed to the process of personal growth and of “know thyself,” I thought I’d share a few of my thoughts on this, since it’s definitely changed who I am and who I think I am as a person.

In the past, what I ended up doing was dating someone that I sort of liked but wasn’t in love with, and then I got comfortable with them and we sort of went monogamous by default. And, I wasn’t totally happy, I wasn’t in love, but it was nice to not be alone. In those relationships I know that I’ve thought, “I’m not in love, but I like them a lot. Maybe I’ll love them more in time. Maybe my attraction will grow.” It’s rare for me to find someone I click with to begin with (and rarer still for me to actually be physically attracted to someone) so I frequently experience the fear of relationship scarcity. Scarcity/Loneliness go hand in hand for me. “I’ll never find anyone I like, I’ll never find anyone that gets me” is one of the tapes that my brain likes to put on repeat whenever I’m not in a relationship.

So I’ve stuck with a few relationships long past their expiration date in part because of that fear of loneliness. And that’s not fair to me, or to my partners.

Since my really bad breakup at the end of 2011, I’ve resolved that I’m not going to get into a monogamous relationship with someone unless I’m falling in love, or at least, the realistic potential for that. For the past years:

  1. I’ve been living in a very conservative area of Wisconsin, and
  2. Most men aren’t really satisfied with the minimal amount of time I can commit to dating,

That’s left me primarily dating men who are in open relationships (either married or in a primary relationship). I have an online dating profile, and I’d say that 90% of the messages I get (that are from actual people with compatible interests) are from men in open relationships.

This has worked out well for me in many ways. My focus is on my writing and artwork, and I sometimes vanish for days at a time when working on a project. I check my calendar sometimes and realize that weeks have gone by since I’ve seen another human being in the flesh. For that matter, I’m sometimes on the road traveling and teaching for days or weeks at a time. When I’m with someone who’s already in a relationship, they already have a daily routine, they don’t have a huge amount of time to spend with me. Their family and primary relationship(s) are their priority.

I might see them once or twice a month, and that’s about all the social time I can spare if I’m going to keep my focus on my work. Men who are looking for more from me are going to get frustrated, so these days I work hard to communicate up front what I’m able to offer to a relationship.

Only once in the past 4 years have I dated anyone where I considered it a monogamous relationship. We met online, we really clicked, we spent the better part of a week together, and then he started to “ghost” on me. It was long distance, and I went to see him about a month later, and then he withdrew even further. After multiple queries on my part for more communication, he broke things off. I was just starting to have some feelings for him. I think he had an expectation of who I was from when we met online, and I somehow didn’t fulfill that expectation…and in retrospect, he and I wouldn’t have worked out anyways. I’m glad I gave things a shot with him, but that experience was rough for me because it just reinforced my “I’ll never find anyone who gets me” tape.

When I got married in my early twenties, I thought, “I’ll be in this relationship for the rest of my life.” I wasn’t in love, but my husband and I got along well. I thought, “I suppose this is as good as it gets.”

I always feel a bit awkward writing or speaking about this because there are a number of men in my life that I’m still friends with, and I don’t want to hurt their feelings. It’s not like they, themselves, were “bad,” this is more of a case of being incompatible, or just lack of chemistry. We humans take offense to, or hear as critique, things connected to how our partners felt about us in relationships. It’s not any man’s fault that I didn’t fall in love with them any more than it’s any man’s fault that they aren’t attracted to me; nor is it my fault I’m not attracted. Chemistry is what it is. So, as you read my perspective on these relationships, understand that I’m talking about my own processes, thoughts, and feelings (or lack thereof). 

I met my ex husband when I had just turned twenty, and I had just been with my first boyfriend a few months before that. I wasn’t in love with him either, but he was a nice guy and a good friend. I’d fallen in love before that, but that guy wasn’t interested in me that way, and (I’ll spare you the angst) I went into a depression spiral and gave up on true love. In hindsight, I understand that it’s not his fault he didn’t love me; like I said, chemistry is what it is. 

It took me most of my twenties to deal with my body image issues, so I was still fairly well sucked into the whole “Nobody wants to be with the fat chick with acne.” So when my husband fell for me, I went with the flow. I didn’t believe in true love and soulmates any longer, and I suppose I thought some version of, “Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth.” In fact, I recall some people in my life telling me this when I expressed that I wasn’t sure about getting married to him. “Don’t lose this guy, he’s good for you,” people told me. What I think they meant was, “You’re fat and not that attractive, and you found a guy that likes you, don’t screw this up and end up a spinster.

That fear of loneliness is a real kicker.

They meant well, I know they did, but I got married when I probably shouldn’t have. He wanted me to be in love with him, and I wasn’t. I liked him. We were fantastic roommates. We were both fiction writers and Ren Faire/Fantasy nerds, so that worked out. Sex was ok at first. But, I had no passion for him.

We got married when I was 23, and hindsight being 20/20…if I knew then what I know now, I’d have saved us both some pain and just stayed friends with him instead of caving to his desire to get married.

Opening Our Marriage

How he and I came to be in an open relationship is that he finally came out to me about some particular fetishes he was interested in. I had always known he had some fetishes and kinks I didn’t share; we’d tried out a little BDSM and role play early on, but most of that didn’t really work for me. I’m too kinky for your totally vanilla person, and I’m waaaay too vanilla for anyone heavily into fetish.

When my husband finally admitted to needing some heavy-duty fetish stuff, this was way out of my league. We opened up our relationship so that he could go explore that.

It was easy for me to open up our relationship. I wasn’t in love with him, so I wasn’t really jealous. That may sound harsh or strange, but when I look back at my younger self that sums it up. I loved him as a friend and I wanted him to be happy, but him spending time with other people didn’t really emotionally impact me much.

I didn’t take advantage of our open relationship, though. At the time, I was something around 330 or so pounds; that’s the heaviest I’ve ever been in my life, and my husband was far heavier than me. And whether it was his weight, or the fact that he was finally exploring his sexual interests, sex stopped working for us. But I was so overweight (and introverted, and busy) that I didn’t really feel comfortable trying to date anyone. Truthfully, I wouldn’t have even known how, I’d never really dated anyone to begin with.

In my late twenties, I did finally develop a crush on someone I met at a Pagan gathering. I knew that I’d never have a long-term relationship with that person, but I was interested in exploring things with him, and that’s the first time I ever actively pursued anyone.

I’ll fast forward through the massive life changes here–I broke up with my husband. The combination of actually having feelings for someone new and realizing that I was even capable of feeling that kind of passion and attraction, as well as discovering what I really wanted to be doing with my life (building Pagan community) as well as everything else that had built up over the years…I finally was in the headspace where I could end things. At the time my husband angry but later he thanked me. And I’m truly glad he’s happy; last I talked to him he had a boyfriend who was into the same fetishes and they were moving in together.

As for the guy I had a crush on–I tried being one of his polyamorous romantic interests, but that didn’t really work out either. He and I ended up as friends, though I had to nurse a broken heart to get to that place.

I then ended up in another relationship after someone introduced me to the Wonderful World of Online Dating. I’d intended to keep that as an open relationship so that I didn’t get stuck in the trap I had been in with my marriage, but he didn’t want to be in an open relationship so I (once again) caved. And that relationship dissolved after less than two years. I freely admit that I stayed in that relationship as long as I did because it was the first time I had ever had sex with someone where things were really good.

When that relationship ended, I went through a period of time I refer to as “borking my way through the Zodiac.” I didn’t make it all the way around the wheel, but I did instead discover a few things. One is that totally casual sex does not work for me. I can do friends with benefits, with a focus on the friends part. I’m too much of a sapiosexual. I need to know someone, connect with them. I had this theory that if I could just meet my sexual needs and not need to deal with the complexities of relationships, I’d be better off.

I disproved this theory for myself fairly quickly.

Part 2 will be posted soon!

 

 


Filed under: Personal Growth Tagged: ethics, open relationships, Pagan, poly, polyamorous, polyamory, relationships, sex, swingers, swinging

I Looked At A Rapist In The Mirror And Saw Him Smiling Back.

Posted by on Jul 9, 2015 in Uncategorized | No Comments

Shauna Aura Knight:

Intense, and perhaps difficult to read, but this articulates so well what is meant by “rape culture.” We live in an ambient, unseen culture of sexual assault, and until we look at it in the mirror, look at these behaviors, look ourselves in the eye, we cannot move beyond this culture.

Originally posted on RaceBaitR:

*This piece has been published with permission of the referenced ex-partner. Other relationships may have been slightly altered to protect specific identities.*

The first time I was sexually assaulted I must have been 9 or 10 years old.

I was violated by two family friends who were brothers and who would have been about 14 and 15.

Or maybe that was the second time.

The first time might have been by an older female cousin around the same time. She pressured me to go into a closet and make out with her. I think we may have done more, but I don’t like to think about that.

I didn’t object to any of these interactions. I was too young for that to matter, of course, but it was difficult for me to make sense of the fact that I consented without having the agency to do so, thus I had…

View original 1,200 more words


Filed under: Uncategorized

I Looked At A Rapist In The Mirror And Saw Him Smiling Back.

Posted by on Jul 9, 2015 in Uncategorized | No Comments

Shauna Aura Knight:

Intense, and perhaps difficult to read, but this articulates so well what is meant by “rape culture.” We live in an ambient, unseen culture of sexual assault, and until we look at it in the mirror, look at these behaviors, look ourselves in the eye, we cannot move beyond this culture.

Originally posted on RaceBaitR:

*this piece has been published with permission of the referenced person*

The first time I was sexually assaulted I must have been 9 or 10 years old.

I was violated by two family friends who were brothers and who would have been about 14 and 15.

Or maybe that was the second time.

The first time might have been by an older female cousin around the same time. She pressured me to go into a closet and make out with her. I think we may have done more, but I don’t like to think about that.

I didn’t object to any of these interactions. I was too young for that to matter, of course, but it was difficult for me to make sense of the fact that I consented without having the agency to do so, thus I had a hard time using the words “sexual assault” to describe what…

View original 1,188 more words


Filed under: Uncategorized