Halloween & gender norms in college: Sexy xmas trees?

November 2, 2014

I gave my rhetoric of gender and sexuality students the opportunity to post their observations about Halloween and gender norms, so I thought I’d share a few of mine from college.

I don’t recall that college women tended to wear “slutty” costumes on Halloween when I was in school, but then again, that could be because of the time period (mid to late 80’s), the location (near Atlanta, i.e., the South), and the school (a women’s college).

Here’s the costume I wore to a frat party my first year in college, in 1985:

me-xmastree85-improved

The costume was downright conservative, with the “tree” made of a dark green sweater and dark green long corduroy skirt.  But I do recall that a group of guys at the party gathered around to sing “Oh Christmas Tree” and offer to put “presents” under my tree.  Hmmm, I guess you can sexualize even the most modest costume! (But I don’t recall feeling remotely threatened or bothered by the guys, just not all that amused.)

Here’s the costume I made for my boyfriend and me my second year, in 1986:

me-gordy-halloween-86-improved_Fotor

I don’t quite recall the thinking that went into dressing him up as a box of Bounce and me as “static cling,” other than that it had something to do with the fact that Bounce “controls” static cling.  But I’m pretty sure I didn’t mean to imply that it’s OK for men to “control” women.  More likely, I meant it ironically, especially since my costumes shows that the Bounce isn’t all that effective at doing what it claims to do!

When I think back to the other kinds of costumes I saw at frat parties (at Georgia Tech), I don’t really remember girls dressing in “slutty” outfits.   What stands out more in my memory are the costumes based on humorous plays on words, like my friend and her boyfriend who dressed up as doctors, so that they’d be a “pair a docs,” or another couple who wore black-eye makeup and t-shirts with the letter P on them, so that they’d be “black eyed peas.”

 

Creating Amy Avatars

September 10, 2014

I experimented with a few avatar makers to see how easy it would be to create a cartoon (and specifically Chibi style) version of myself for comic strips. But I was also interested in exploring what options were available for “performing” variations on conventional gender norms, which led me to create a very popular “gendered avatar analysis” activity for my WRTG 3020 students.

Avatar Makers

I chose the same basic features (red hair, glasses, purple clothes) in each of these avatar makers, but the results were pretty different! My favorite is the one created on Xiibi.com, which I used as the basis for the hand drawn version (see below for details).

Making the Custom Avatar

In the summer of 2014, I started playing with Anime Studio Pro and decided I wanted to try animating my Chibi-esque avatar. So I had to draw a version of her with separate moving parts. Here’s how I did that.

First, I drew everything but the eyes in Sketchbook Pro for iPad, keeping each “movable” body part on a separate layer.

I exported the file from Sketchbook Pro in PSD format to preserve the layers, imported it into Anime Studio Pro, and then used ASP’s vector drawing tools to trace each body part. (I had already discovered through trial and error that you get the best results in Anime Studio Pro if you draw the character directly in the app, but there’s no reason you can’t trace an imported raster image!)

I created the eyes entirely within ASP, using overlapping star shapes in varying shades of blue to create the irises and a tiny white circle to create the “reflect.” I also created a version of the eyes with the lids closed, so that I could animate a blink.

The last step was to rig the character using a “bone layer,” which was easy enough. But I quickly discovered the limitations of animating a character who can only face one direction. To create a character that can face forwards, 3/4 view, and side, I would need to draw her in each of those positions — and I lack the artistic skill to do that.

I’m sure I could’ve made some cute animations with her even in her limited position. But I started looking for an animation option that would give a non-artist more flexibility in character positions and discovered the world of 3D modeling and animation. I got so wrapped up in playing with Poser Pro, DAZ Carrara, Vue, and Cheetah3D that I haven’t even launched Anime Studio Pro again!

Thelma and Louise Say Hello

July 14, 2014

Thelma & Louise – 3D Models

This is my first “screen test” with Thelma and Louise, two little “junk drawer” creatures I originally made in clay and then decided to create in a 3D app for Mac called Cheetah3D.

Thelma & Louise – Clay Figures

These are the original clay figures for Thelma and Louise, although these are by no means the first versions I created in clay. It took several rounds of experimenting to come up with a wire armature suitable for animating and a design for the body and faces. The final versions are made from baked polymer clay over a wire and mesh armature, and only the arms and neck move for animation.

Thelma-Louise-original-clay-Dec2013-500

I really enjoyed working with clay, but I’m much more comfortable working in a digital environment, which is why I switched to the 3D models.

Now that I’ve created and rigged the 3D versions, I just need to get busy animating them!

Opening scene for animated story

July 3, 2014

Here’s another image I composed in Poser, a few weeks before I worked on The Reunion. This image is part of a series I made for two purposes: to help me learn the application and to help me “draw” the elements of a story I’ve been wanting to make for a while now. I had originally planned to make the story as a 2d animation, but now I’m considering making it as a 3d animation (with 2d toon effect) or as a storyboard. I’ve made a few other scenes for the story and will share those later.

The Reunion – full draft

July 1, 2014

This is what I’d call a “rough cut” or full draft of an image I made in Poser, which is an application that lets you pose 3d figures made by others. You can control the scene composition and lighting and you can modify and customize each figure to fit your vision, but you don’t have to know how to make the original 3d figures, which requires a whole different set of skills.

Mavka and the Unicorn

I had a few goals in mind for composing this image. Mainly I wanted to show characters in motion, even in a still image, but I also wanted to evoke a sense of story. Given the title of “The Reunion,” viewers can guess that the fairy and unicorn have been separated for a while, which hints at a longer story. I’d love to continue working with this figures to tell more of the story (of how the unicorn got lost and then found her way back to the fairy), if I can find the time!

Credits
The fairy is based on the figure of Mavka, by Smay, and the unicorn is based on the figure of The Unicorn, by Lady Littlefox. The house is based on the Acorn House prop by Applejack. Mavka and the Acorn House are available at Renderosity, and the Unicorn is available at RuntimeDNA.

While I’m Away

June 29, 2014

This was the first stop-motion video I’d ever made (in early 2012), and I did it the “hard way” — using a DSLR camera with no screen previews and compiling the images into iMovie. I now know better, but this turned out kinda cute anyway!

Ever wonder what your dogs get up to while you’re not home? I scatter the toys across the floor and when I come home, they’re all under Ginger’s blankets. This very short stop motion film shows how I imagine that process happens, although in reality Ginger is the one moving the toys.

Animation Experiments

May 12, 2014

I love to experiment with creative apps for iPad and Mac, just to see what’s possible both for my own creative projects and for students. Here I’ve gathered some of my (many!) experiments with animation, some of which are more “experimental” than others!

ANIMATION CREATOR HD (iPad)

Short experiment in digitally drawn frame by frame animation, made with AnimationCreatorHD on an iPad Air.

Learning goal: bring “life” to the animated objects by making very small adjustments in their resting positions (rather than keeping them lined up perfectly, which looked too mechanical).

STICK MOTION (iPad)

I made this just to test out some of the new features (and characters) in StickMotion for iPad. And to show what I’d want to happen if I ever kissed a frog who was once a person!

WIDEO (Web)

Just taking Wideo.co out for a spin (and making an overview for my storytelling students in the process).

PLOTAGON (Desktop)

I made this short video to convey some advice to my storytelling students and also to show them what’s possible in Plotagon. This was my first time using it, and I found it easy and fun!

STICK NODES (iPad)

Stick-person based animation is a lot of fun, given how easy it is. So I was thrilled to try out the new StickNodes for iPad. I’ve made a lot of little demos with it, including this one. First I created the dog, then I animated it doing silly dog motions.

STICK NODES (iPad)

This was one of my first tests using StickMotion for iPad. The awesome dragon comes with the app, along with a bunch of guy characters. I created the “princess” character using a downloadable paper puppet template that I cut into parts and assembled within StickMotion. For the effort involved, I should’ve used a much better quality puppet image, and a 3/4 rather than front-facing view!

FIRST DATE PLANNING, PART 1 (Mac)

My first attempt at stop motion animation with plasticine clay figures.

Filmed with iStopMotion for Mac, using an iPhone as the camera. The quality was crystal clear on my Mac, so I’m not sure what happened post-upload!

This was a test shot to help me figure out how to plan a larger story, since I’d never made stop motion with clay before.

Learning to Draw

March 12, 2014

Pencil Sketches

Characters – July 2014

Once Spring 2014 classes started, I put away my art supplies and didn’t get them out again until July. After spending all of June fully immersed in learning 3D modeling and animation, I decided it was time to try sketching again, this time in hopes of coming up with a few characters to use in a comic strip. At least, that’s my excuse for why I keep drawing so many women 🙂

Fantastical Faces – January 2014

I burned out on Draw Something after a few months and didn’t think about drawing again until the holiday break before Spring 2014 semester, when I started looking up resources to teach myself the basics. I discovered that I much prefer drawing in a physical sketchbook, using “fancy” drawing pencils, which makes it a bit harder to share sketches as I have to go to the effort of scanning them in.

(See what materials I recommend to students who are just starting out with sketching.)

I mostly sketched images of women, in a variety of “fantastical” forms not intended to be realistic.

This gallery combines both sets of drawings:

“Draw Something” Cartoons

In early 2013, I got hooked on the iPad game Draw Something, which helped me reconnect with a childhood love of doodling and also helped me discover that I can, indeed, draw in a cartoon style, if I follow a few general principles.

(1) Give myself plenty of time, as I’ll need to make a dozen or more “wrong” lines or curves before I hit on the right ones. (2) Have a reference image available, particularly if I’m trying to draw something another person needs to guess (like a well-known character).

Here are some of my favorite “somethings” I drew for the game:

Animated Chihuahuas

March 9, 2014

GIFBrewery for Mac makes it super easy to make animated GIFs out of video clips.  Here are two of my doglets in motion!

This is Sassy, a Chihuahua mix who adopted me in 2003, when she was about six or seven years old.  Sassy goes everywhere with me, including to class. But her most favorite thing of all time is having her belly rubbed, which she asks for in the cutest way.

animated GIF

This is Willow, a Chihuahua mix in constant motion.  We adopted her in 2010, when she was about two years old.

animated GIF

First Stop Motion Test with Household Objects

January 29, 2014

Approach: This was my first attempt at doing stop motion video (in 2012), using dog toys as an easy source of objects to move.

Tools: I took over 100 photos using an Olympus micro four-thirds camera on a tripod, and I used iMovie to assemble and export them in video format

Lessons Learned: make sure nothing in the environment is going to automatically change over the time you’re shooting. Like, say, a light coming on via a timer!

How social norms for gender impact everyone

June 8, 2011

Below is a response I wrote to a blog post by a student in the Summer 2011 section of WRTG 3020. We were discussing Riki Wilchins’ essay, “It’s Your Gender, Stupid,” but my comments might be helpful to anyone interested in gender issues, even if they haven’t read the essay.

June 7, 2011

I think it’s probably worth keeping in mind that Wilchins is mostly interested in how social norms about gender impact everyone, not just people who identify as LGB or T. So in that sense it doesn’t matter how many people in the population actually identify that way. (And as you can imagine, it would be impossible to estimate that number anyway, given how many people would be unwilling to publicly identify themselves as such.)

When the social norm is to conform to the norms for your gender or face negative social consequences, that impacts, and when the social norms for your gender limit acceptable behaviors to only about half of the full range of human behaviors, then everyone suffers. Elsewhere Wilchins uses the example of the football player who’s so afraid of showing emotion (for fear of being called a “sissy,” or worse, a “fag”) that he drinks too much and runs his car into a tree. Or the cheerleader who is so afraid of not measuring up to the standards of female beauty that she starves herself into anorexia. Those people aren’t LGB or T, but they’re nevertheless suffering due to restrictive gender norms. They’re not able to be fully themselves because they’re afraid of “failing” at their gender.

When Wilchins talks about gender being “productive,” she means that gender “produces meaning” — it gives meaning to things that wouldn’t otherwise have gendered meanings. For example, even something as simple as the way we look at our nails or the way we sit is heavily gendered. Because we live in a society that reinforces a strict gender binary, gender “produces” meaning out of simple human gestures. Men are teased for sitting like girls; women are teased for sitting like guys. And so on.

As for “gender as drag,” the idea there (which originates from the gender theorist Judith Butler) is that gender is a kind of performance that we all engage in. We all learn, at such an early age that we can no longer remember learning it, how to “perform” as our gender. “Drag” is simply a kind of performance of gender. Drag queens and drag kings do the performance to excess for the purpose of entertainment, but we all do it every day when we decide what clothes to put on, how to style our hair, what behaviors to emphasize or de-emphasize, and so on.

Consider how easily you can “read” most people’s gender — that’s because they’re all “performing” gender in a recognizable way. Contrast that to the person whose gender you can’t read. Chances are that person is mixing performances, doing a little of “man” and a little of “woman,” thus the confusion (which might be the person’s intent… or not).

I’m not sure what you mean by the scientific definition of sex. Sex refers to biological factors (hormones, reproductive anatomy, genitalia), and societies tend to construct genders to correspond with sexes. In most cases that means male bodied humans are men and female bodied humans are women, but some cultures recognize more than two sexes and/or more than two genders. Wilchins’ point, and the point of many gender theorists, is that it’s important to see the difference between sex and gender in order to see how gender works as a social construct.

As long as people think that women have to be a certain way or men have to be a certain way based on their biology, our freedom to develop into complex and multidimensional people with a range of human characteristics is limited.

Are you “really” a lesbian?

October 10, 2010

Response to student’s forum post in 10/2010

I understand your theory, but it’s based on the assumption that gender identity and sexual orientation are “built in” to who we are, that they’re “hard wired” or “encoded” into us, and we either recognize and embrace it or repress it. But to what extent might gender identity be something we “put on”, in response to social pressures? What if we “become women” because we feel we have no other choice? And if we can put it on, then we can take it “off” too, when we realize it doesn’t fit any more, or when we want to expand and try new things.

Likewise with sexual orientation. What if we each have the capacity to love (and be sexually intimate with) any other human, but social forces pressure most of us into believing we must only be interested in the opposite sex? Those same social forces would also likely pressure us into believing we must “really” be gay if we happen to experience some romantic or sexual feelings for the same sex. And yet those feelings are actually a normal part of growing up for most humans. Why aren’t they evidence that we’re “really” human? (Why the need to rush to assign someone a label?)

I don’t think I was really “always” a lesbian and just in denial of it. I loved some of my best female friends in the kind of “romantic friendship” way that is typical of girls. But I also fell madly in love with a variety of boys, including boyfriends with whom I had semi-serious relationships. I nearly got engaged to my boyfriend in college, and ended up saying no simply because I didn’t want marriage to interfere with my career aspirations.

When I fell in love with a woman shortly after college, I was shocked at first. I couldn’t imagine being even remotely physical with her, and sex certainly never crossed my mind. But I felt towards her what I had felt towards the men I’d been in love with and involved with, so it seemed to mean something more than just a friendship connection.

I suppose I could’ve written it off as a weird crush, but then it happened again a few years later, and that’s when I started to investigate the possibility of opening myself up to being involved with a woman. The more I thought about it, and read about it, the more my mind gradually opened to the idea. (Like any good academic, I did a ton of reading about relationships between women, in history as well as in the present, and started writing papers about lesbian identity and theory.) Eventually I really embraced the identity of lesbian and had relationships with women exclusively from my mid twenties to late thirties.

But when a long term relationship with a woman came to an end a few years ago, I had trouble meeting single lesbians in my age range who appealed to me (I’m more into the intellectual, not so much the sporty types). So I decided to see what it would be like to date a man. I ended up meeting a man I connect with on an amazing number of levels, and we’re still together (four years later). We’re very atypical in many ways (in terms of gender norms and all kinds of other social norms), but the fact remains that he’s a man and I’m a woman.

I don’t think that I’m “really” a lesbian on some kind of fundamental, hard-wired level, any more than I think that I’m “really” straight. If anything, I suppose I could be “really” bisexual, but then, couldn’t we all be? But most of us would never even entertain that thought long enough to give it the chance to even flicker into a reality. Society teaches women to keep careful boundaries around our sexuality (female friends are for friendship only and men are for romance — never mind that our best female friends are often better matches for us in every other way!) Society teaches men to keep even more careful boundaries, to the point that men are often unable to form emotionally intense bonds with other men.

The subject of the third unit, which we’re not going to have time to get to, is how we know what we “know” from scholarly and scientific research, and we were going to take a closer look at how most of the research done to date (and possibly any research of this type) is terribly flawed by all kinds of faulty assumptions and hidden (or blatant) social agendas. The flaws in the research are really quite shocking. The problem is that so much of what we try to study and learn about gender and sexuality is simply not knowable, at least not in any kind of scientific way. So that’s why we’re working on the personal essay instead, given that what we know through our own experiences is sometimes the best source of knowledge about these kinds of matters.

Letting Jigsaw go

March 30, 2009

I’ve known for the past few years that Jigsaw’s knee was eventually going to give her enough grief that I’d have to cut her retirement short and send her on to greener pastures. That day came in mid-March, 2009. She was one of the smartest, funniest horses I’ve ever known, and I still miss her. But I know it was the right time.

Why does she have to choose?

November 29, 2006

Originally posted on LJ on 2006-11-29 18:47:00

The writer of this letter to Cary Tennis’s advice column on Salon is in love with two men and feels like she has to choose between them. Tennis responds by suggesting that maybe she doesn’t need to choose right now.

I suspect readers probably found that to be a fairly radical suggestion, except of course for those familiar with polyamory. But the idea of being in love with two people is so common (in movies, books, real life stories, etc.) that’s it kind of bizarre to me that this isn’t always the advice. Just be in love with the two men. Why the need to choose?

The introvert/extrovert issue comes up again in two interesting ways:

(1) The writer of the letter assumes that her second option, whom she calls Robert, has “no life” without her because he spends his Saturday nights alone watching DVDs or reading books. Excuse me?! Since when did that constitute not having a life? She is clearly an extrovert and may have trouble understanding Robert’s introverted tendencies.

(2) Tennis concludes that the writer must be an extrovert because only an extrovert would get herself into the position of loving two men. Uhhhm, think again! Every poly person I know is an introvert to a small or large degree (including me, on the 100% introvert end of the scale).

I kissed a girl!

August 7, 2006

Originally posted on LJ on 2006-08-07 19:36:00

At long last, I’ve met a woman I am attracted to on many levels, and we are now experiencing the first blush of NRE. I’m very excited! We seem to be connecting well intellectually, emotionally and <ahem> physically, but of course everything is all so new and wonderful and we’re just getting to know each other.

She was familiar with polyamory when we met but had not had a positive experience with it, nor was she necessarily looking for that kind of relationship, but she seems to be doing OK thus far with the fact that I’m already involved with a man. I know she’s going to have to continue to give it some thought and see how she feels about it, but hopefully it will all work out.

Wow, have I missed being with a woman. Wow….

Current reflections on polyamory and the abundance of love

July 23, 2006

Originally posted on LJ on 2006-07-23 18:04:00

I’ve been thinking lately about what it is that drives me to polyamory, given that the impulse seems so bizarre to so many people. I am falling more deeply in love with the man in my life every day, and yet instead of that making me feel like I want to shut others out of my heart and focus only on him, I feel the opposite: as though I want to share the love!

I’ve been pretty emotionally closed down for the past couple of years, in a relationship that was such in name only, with no genuine depth of feeling behind it. And because there was so little love in my heart, I had little to give others (except of course the critters, although perhaps I gave them more than their fair share in order to compensate). But now that love has once again filled my heart, I feel like I want to fully experience it and not just with one person. I have mainly been reaching out for new friendship connections, but I am open to whatever journey might heart wants to take me on.

I mistakenly let it slip to my mother than aforementioned man in my life has the rather stereotypical thing of minding less if I date another woman than if I date another man, although he’s open to either. I hadn’t meant to mention the whole “seeing more than one person at a time” thing, but I had been explaining to her how I had gone from lesbian to bisexual and the point just seemed to fit in the context of the conversation. So then I had no choice but to launch into my condensed version of why there is nothing inherently better about monogamy, to which my mother replied, “It’s called commitment.”

I didn’t have my wits about me at the time or I would’ve replied that there is no necessary correlation between monogamy and commitment. I couldn’t be more committed to the man in my life (sorry, I just can’t say “boyfriend”); I’m not sure what greater commitment would look like. Living together, getting married, putting each other on our life insurance plans… that’s not necessarily about commitment, and certainly not about the promise of one heart to love and cherish the other. Some people genuinely want those things, of course, but they are also ways of satisfying social expectations regarding the direction a relationship must move in to count as “serious.”

I can’t say that it will never happen, but at the moment he and are not heading towards fulfilling any of these social criteria for “seriousness,” and yet our connection is deeper than any I have yet experienced. It could very well be that I needed to be in a relationship that was not on the conventional path in order to experience this degree of connection. The irony is that I think the same is probably true of my mother, since she so highly values her independence and alone time, but she’s stuck in the mindset that real relationships follow only one script.

So what does this have to do with polyamory? I am learning to feel again, to get in touch with my heart, and I certainly don’t want to squelch it by limiting myself to only one person. Not that I plan to go on a different date every night. That wouldn’t suit me at all. But I’m open to experiencing different kinds of connections and just seeing where they lead, instead of needing to categorize each new person in my life in terms “dating potential” or “friends only” (unless, of course, there is genuinely no chemistry). And I certainly don’t feel the need to deprive my heart of experiencing love from others just because I am so deeply connected with one person. Because one connection is possible, more are also possible. I don’t expect this to make sense, except to others on their own polyamorous journeys.

I’m not a big fan of the idea of the idea that I might’ve been “born this way,” but loving more than one person at a time (and being attracted to people not plumbing) just seems completely normal to me. Whatever “normal” means.

Still a tomboy after all these years

July 6, 2006

Originally posted on LJ on 2006-07-06 19:18:00

Two weeks ago I decided to irrigate my pastures, so I called for water, got out my shovel and tarps, and waited for the flood. The volume of water was amazing but I soon managed to herd it where I wanted it to go using tarp dams and mud walls. The water ran for two and a half days and for that time I did nothing but eat, sleep and manage water. I may have also made a few mud pies. It was fun!

Today I helped a cowboy put in some fencing in one of my pastures and he brought his eleven year old son to learn how it’s done. Dad did the hard work of pounding t-posts, but I did the not quite so hard work of nailing in insulators and stringing wire. The son mostly just watched.

Boy I sure would’ve loved to learn how to do stuff like that when I was a kid. I managed to be sort of handy, but that was all by guesswork given that I grew up in an all female household in which no one knew how to use a hammer or power drill. And yet I managed to fix a few things just by tinkering with them, like the ice maker and the dishwasher. I have no idea how those things work, however, and probably could’ve done a lot more good if I’d had someone to show me around a tool box.

It’s worth noting that I’m not particularly dykey and never passed as a boy when I was growing up. I spent a lot of time getting dirty while riding horses, climbing trees and making mud pies, but I also had a girly girl streak. I didn’t look like a tomboy, whatever tomboys are supposed to look like. Just like I never looked like a lesbian, whatever lesbians are supposed to look like. What does that even mean, and why is it that some people have a certain look no matter what they do with their appearance while others, like me, don’t look like anything in particular?

Anyway, the next task is putting a new 30×40 tarp on the hay stack. Ah, life on a farm…

Cosmetic labiaplasty is a real thing?

January 7, 2006

Originally posted on LJ on 2006-01-07 13:19:00

As I, perhaps unwisely, searched for photos online that would show the stages of a vaginal hysterectomy, I came across a series of photos that was ultimately much more disturbing: before and after photos of women who had had cosmetic labiaplasty.

I had never heard the term before, and never even imagined that such a surgery existed, except perhaps in the case of recovery from injury. And of course in the case of MTF sex reassignment surgery. But women having their labia reconstructed purely for aesthetic reasons? It boggles the mind.

It’s not as though any of the “before” shots were particularly strange looking. In fact, as someone with some degree of personal, face to face experience with this part of the female anatomy, they looked quite normal to me. The “after” shots, however, did not.

I’m not sure what the intended purpose is, although from doing a little reading it seems to me that some women want to return to a prepubescent look, for reasons I’d rather not fathom too deeply.

One site described the procedure as appropriate for women who are traumatized by the look or shape of their labia, particularly if they are asymmetrical or seem unusually large. But I didn’t see anything outside the range of normal on any of the “before” photos. And I’ve studied the photos in Femalia in addition to doing my own field research.

The site also mentioned that the procedure can help women who have experienced discomfort during intercourse, and that does seem to be a legitimate reason for corrective surgery, although it wasn’t entirely clear if the discomfort was actually physical (which seems hard to imagine) or just psychological, perhaps from the shame caused by having the genitalia of a sexually mature female.

I actually found these photos over a week ago, but the surprise of the finding is still with me.

Are we really still so old-fashioned about sex?

December 23, 2005

Originally posted on LJ on 2005-12-23 17:52:00

While recovering from the hysterectomy I had last week, I’ve spent some time reading various web forums on issues having to do with recovery, and I’ve been stunned by how often I’ve run across a woman expressing concern over the fact that will be unable to “service” her husband for six weeks. And I don’t think they’re using “service” in a kind of mocking way.

Several women mention how frustrated their husbands are and ask whether they should go head even before the six weeks is up, as they don’t seem to know what else to do. And some of the replies aren’t much better: women very shyly suggesting that they maybe please their husbands with their hands, maybe while sharing the shower with him, but making it very clear that they are NOT suggesting oral sex. They also apologize profusely for mentioning anything “dirty” in the forum, even though they’ve described manual sex in terms that are as clinical as you can get.

What is wrong with our culture? How can married people not know a multitude of ways of pleasing each other that don’t involve vaginal penetration?

I feel the same frustration whenever I watch a movie or read a book that contains characters who seem sexually dysfunctional, mainly because they’re trying to from zero to the “main act” in about sixty seconds, with no warmup for either party. I find it particularly puzzling when a sexual encounter is deemed to be “ruined” because the man can’t “get it up,” as though that was the only item on the menu. Surely if the two people involved had more options to choose from, not only would at least one member come away with some satisfaction, the other member’s member might wake up and get back into the action as well.

Whatever happened to the lost art of foreplay? For all our sexual freedoms in recent years, are we really still so old-fashioned? I feel sorry for the multitudes of women, and men as well, trapped in unsatisfying sexual relationships due only to misunderstanding what is possible.

How big is the poly umbrella?

December 20, 2005

Originally posted on LJ on 2005-12-20 11:22:00

I’m curious to know: do you think there are other relationship models besides monogamy and polyamory, and if so what are they? I know swinging is slightly different from either, but I’m thinking about beyond that.

I ask because it occurs to me that I’ve been using polyamory basically to describe everything that monogamy is not, and yet there are some ways of being in relationships that those in the poly community might not accept as being part of polyamory.

For example, some have networks of close friends with whom they have a kind of emotional and physical intimacy that under monogamy would be reserved for only one partner, but they may only be sexual with one person, meaning they don’t fit the criteria that so many people give for polyamory: that the person must engage in multiple love relationships that are also sexual or potentially so. For many, the fact of having more than one sex partner (in the context of a loving relationship) seems to be a defining ingredient of polyamory, given that without that, the person might as well be said to be monogamous but have several close friends.

And yet, even though that might describe my reality, in the sense that I’m not likely to have more than one sex partner at the same time, that doesn’t therefore make me monogamous, as I reject nearly everything monogamy stands for, at least for me personally (although I also think it can be harmful as an institution, as it seems to set people up for disappointment).

I identify with polyamory because I strongly believe in the value of letting each relationship follow its natural course, rather than forcing it onto one of the two narrowly defined paths given to us by society (friends only and marriage potential). I don’t want to set out to have a particular kind of relationship, as though there’s an ideal in my mind and I just have to find the right person to fit it, as that seems a good way to set myself up for disappointment. I’d rather just see how each connection develops and then see how it might fit into my life.

I also happen to have a very low sex drive, which means that it’s entirely possible that I may have several intimate relationships which are not sexual, but does that make me any less poly? I particularly like the idea of being involved with people who have other relationships, so that they can get their sexual needs met through other means and we can focus on other areas of intimacy. But under the definition of polyamory I most often run across, I wouldn’t count as poly. And yet, what I want is certainly not possible under traditional monogamy. So perhaps there’s another category for relationships that is a better fit? Or is the poly umbrella large enough to include these kinds of variations?

Connections between introversion and polyamory?

December 18, 2005

Originally posted on LJ on 2005-12-18 11:40:00

I’ve come across several forums for people who identify as introverts or specifically as INFPs and I’m surprised how often the topic of polyamory comes up. I’m also surprised by how often people will say that they couldn’t possibly do poly because they are introverts. It seems to me that introverts are particularly well suited to poly relationships, for a number of reasons. And that extroverts may not be as drawn to poly because they’re able to have their needs met through having a large circle of friends.

I generally score 100% on the introvert scale, meaning that it’s not possible to be more introverted than I am, and one reason why poly suits me is that it allows me to have emotionally intimate relationships and yet still have plenty of time to myself. Under the monogamy model, if I was in a relationship I would be expected to be that person’s “everything,” which is just too much to ask of someone who likes a lot of alone time. But under the poly model, I can get involved with people who have other relationships, so that reduces the demand placed on me for time and attention.

While I have some issues with the language of primary/secondary, I do find it useful to think of the kind of relationships that work for me as being “secondary,” in the sense that there is no expectation that I will be the person’s “everything,” so instead I can provide whatever connection and support seems to suit that particular relationship. Instead of having an “all or nothing” view of relationships, I can enjoy certain aspects of my connection to different people, without having to give any of them up in order to concentrate on “the one.”

I suspect that if someone did a study of the personality types of those who are involved with poly relationships, there would probably be a disproportionate number of introverts, and possibly specifically of INFPs, as most of the poly people I know fit under that category. Or at least the IN part, which some variation on the latter two. INFPs, and most introverts in general, are typically more prone to self-reflection and analysis than extroverts, and that is certainly a trait one needs to be successful at having multiple relationships. They require that one really think through needs and wants and behaviors and so on, instead of taking the easy way out of just following the social script.

Here’s a link to something I recently posted on the INFP_v2 community, in response to the question: what do you think about polyamory?

Uterus-less at last!

December 15, 2005

Originally posted on LJ on 2005-12-15 22:20:00

I’m back home now, after two nights in the hospital (which, presumably, the insurance will pay for; I didn’t dare ask).

The surgery part itself wasn’t so bad and the pain is tolerable, but wouldn’t you know if I’d have to go and have complications regarding breathing. Or rather, the inability to breathe.

I’ll be sleeping in the recliner tonight, as that seems to dissuade the elephant that insists on sitting on my chest whenever I lie down. I’m also anemic, but that is relatively easy to cure with the right diet. Hopefully things will get better from here!

Just think… no more periods. Ever!! And the pain that originally brought me to the doctor is also gone, which is a big relief.

Now I just have to explain to people why I look pregnant, when that cannot possibly be the case.

Is my insurance company run by men?

December 5, 2005

Originally posted on LJ on 2005-12-05 19:44:00

I just got word today that my insurance company approved the request for a hysterectomy, so as of the evening of 12/13 I will be uterus-free! And, hopefully, pain free, although I’m not holding my breath on that one.

At any rate, I look forward to the “chemical vacation” I get to take that day, and to a few days of some really good pain drugs. My mind and body are about due for some relief.

Update two days later:

I just learned today that while my insurance company has approved the hysterectomy I’m scheduled for next week, they did so on the basis that it be an outpatient surgery, with a limit of 24 hours in the hospital. How stupid is that?! This is major surgery! At the twenty four hour mark I will still have an IV and catheter in place, will still be on IV pain meds and not pills, and may not have eaten solid food yet. Hopefully if the hospital staff insists that I can’t leave yet, the insurance company will cave in and agree to pay for it.

Actually, I don’t really blame men. I blame TABOR. If the state of Colorado hadn’t gone into a recession and then been unable to climb out of it due to TABOR, my employer wouldn’t have been in the position of having to go with the cheapest provider of health insurance possible. The surgeon tells me that this insurance provider is the worst she’s ever dealt with, which is not terribly reassuring, but hopefully they will at least fulfill their promises.

I’m looking forward to being free of the hassles that have been bugging me, but hopefully I won’t come out the other end saddled with all kinds of medical debt.