Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The Geek Social Fallacies of Sex.

xkcd

With all apologies to the original, which all geeks should read...

I think geek sexuality is an awesome thing.  God knows it's the only sexuality I've ever known.  Geeks are tinkerers who constantly try to improve and innovate, and geeks are not bound by many mainstream social rules, and these two things combine to create some fucking hot sex.  Also for some semi-mysterious reason the overlap between "geek" and "kinkster" is, like, 90% of both groups.

But geeks also are prone to weird social thinking, some of it a reaction to the ungeeky mainstream, some of it their very own invention.  Here's some common misconceptions that can fuck up geek sex.

GSFS 1: People can voluntarily control their emotions about sex.
This manifests a couple different ways:
"We've agreed this is casual sex, so as long as we decide not to develop feelings, we won't."
"Sex is just a physical activity, so adding it to our dating/friendship won't change our relationship."
"My partner promised not to feel jealous because I'm not monogamous, but they're betraying me by feeling jealousy anyway!"  (Note that in this example both partners are apparently carriers of this fallacy.)

Pretending you can just decide whether you'll feel any emotions at all is a geek fallacy stemming from the idea that you should be able to optimize your own brain to not do anything unproductive or unintended.  But geeks ought to know better, because come on, you can't even get a computer to do that.  This stuff comes on you, it gets you by the heart and the gut, and it doesn't ask you "pardon me, I'm an emotion, are you okay with experiencing me?" first.

What you can and should voluntarily control is how you express your emotions.  It's okay to feel strong emotions; it's not okay to attack people or break promises and use "I was emotional" as an excuse.  This is when it's time to tell your partner "hey, we need to talk, I'm feeling an emotion!"  Solving the problem may involve changing your relationship boundaries, it may just involve talking it out, or it may mean you have to end the relationship.  But the solution is never "that is an incorrect emotion, please stop experiencing it."


GSFS 2: The weirder your sex, the more enlightened you are.
I've done a whole post on this, so go there if you want extended pontification.  The short of it is: geeks have a tendency to mistake "less mainstream" for "better," and to conclude that sex that least resembles the mainstream is both the sexiest and the most virtuous.  So polyamory gets seen as more enlightened than monogamy, kink gets seen as sexier than vanilla, and monogamous vanilla geeks get a big steaming pile of "I guess you're just not very open-minded."

I think polyamory and kink have great things to offer geeks of all sorts, but "having sex with multiple people" and "having ouchy sex" aren't those things.  Those are just neutral activities, things to do if you like and not if you don't.  The real takeaways are conscious and explicit communication.  That's what makes us cooler than the squares.


GSFS 3: Cool chicks don't worry about sexism.
This isn't exactly a sex thing but God does it plague some geek circles.  I know because I've been the cool chick.  I've played the "don't worry, I'm not like those other girls, I'm not into gossip and drama" card; I've played the "well, you have my permission to objectify me, because I take it as a compliment" card; I've even played the "that mean lady was such an uptight no-funster for having boundaries" card.

Those cards are the fuck out of my deck now.  And I've paid the social price for that.  There's definitely some people in my circles who've put me in their "uptight no-funster" mental box since then, or who deliberately bait me about "watch out, Holly, I'm going to patriarchally oppress you!" because ahahaha she's an angry little lady isn't that cute.

I don't blame a woman who sees this go on, decides she wants friends more than she wants to start fights about some abstract problem that doesn't seem to affect her personally, and starts telling her male friends not to worry, they can be sexist around her, she's cool.  The problem isn't her.  The problem is all the people who made it so much easier and more pleasant for her to be a "cool chick" than a woman who gives a damn how people think of her gender.


GSFS 4: Drama is always worse than the thing the drama is about.
I guess the xkcd comic has a little bit of this one.  Drama's never fun, but it beats the fuck out of suppressing real issues.  In my time in geek circles, I've seen reports of sexual harassment and even outright assault silenced with "well, I don't want to make drama" or "but whatever, that's just drama."  A woman in the group is a sexual predator? Gosh, I don't spread gossip.  A man needs to be disinvited from parties because he's repeatedly threatened people at them? No, kicking him out would make a scene, it would make drama.

In geek sexual communities, the illusion of smooth functioning and of everyone being bestest friends with everyone can supersede people's needs for comfort and safety.  A lot of this has to do with the "Ostracizers are Evil" non-sex GSF, but it gets worse when you add sex to the mix, because defensiveness about our non-traditional sexuality suppresses important issues even further.  Like, if you admit that people violate boundaries in BDSM circles, then you're admitting that BDSM isn't a perfect haven of consent and negotiation, and that's just going to play right into the mainstream idea that BDSM is abusive!  So we end up defending abusers to prove BDSM isn't abusive.

"Drama" is a trivializing word.  Let's try "conflict," instead.  "I don't want to treat him any differently just because he gets a little handsy with women, that would cause conflict."  It doesn't sound so superior and level-headed now, does it?


GSFS 5: Sex should be no big deal.
This is related to GSFS 1, but even nastier.  This is the idea that since sex is just a super simple physical act--you rub some bits together, it feels good, the end--that there shouldn't be anything complicated or difficult about sex.  That casual sex should be easy for everyone, that having multiple partners should be as simple as "it's like having a sexual partner, but more than one of them," that everyone who makes sex into a big complex issue is being dramatic (GSFS 4) or no-fun (GSFS 3) or narrow-minded (GSFS 2).

Sex is complicated as fuck, and if you think understanding sex is easy, you don't understand sex.  I've written 1300 posts on sex and I've already changed my mind about roughly half of them.  It amazes me that the same people who admit that games about rolling dice can hide deep complexity and meaning will go on and claim that sex is just some squishy bits coming together.  It's not.  Sex is two (or more) people interacting in a huge diversity of ways, and while it can be great, it's never simple.



I love geek sex.  I love the way we're endlessly willing to rethink and improve and break stereotypes about sex.  But we gotta stop buying into this crap.  We're geeks; we oughta be smarter than that.

194 comments:

  1. cool article, thanks! :)

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  2. GSF5 confused me until I read the details.

    See, my first thought was, "Well, duh! Of course it shouldn't be a big deal!" because I was thinking about the following:

    If Person A and Person B are not in a romantic relationship, and aren't having sex with each other, then Person A has no right to make a big deal out of Person B's sex life (or lack thereof).

    I'd suggest re-wording the heading for GSF5, but I don't know what to replace it with that isn't likely to cause the same misunderstanding.

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    1. I think other people's sex is a big deal. It's just a big deal that I don't get to pry into or control. It's their big deal.

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  3. I wish I lived closer and was 30 years younger - great post.

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    1. Why, what difference would that make?

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    2. Could be unrelated.

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    3. I guess that's related to GSFS3 geek finds evidence of intelligent woman therefore tries to come on to her and thinks she'll find that a compliment and won't cry sexist idiot.

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  4. Some day you'll take a position I disagree with, but it wasn't today.

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  5. I love this article SO MUCH! #4 is something I've seen over and over again at kink parties, events, groups etc. I really just want to print out this post and tape it up everywhere I go within the scene, and have workshops discussing it, and and....well you get the point. THANK YOU for expressing so well what a lot of us in the scene have been worried about for awhile.

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  6. I have noticed a trend towards sexism in geek culture. It's a good point that we need to call our fellow geeks out on their silly sexual politics.

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    1. More than just a trend, unfortunately; sexism like WHOAH has infected geek culture since the start. We're behind the greater social curve on rooting it out, too. If there's a trend, it's more toward recognition of sexism than toward its existence.

      Do you know http://geekfeminism.org/ ? It's full of good stuff on The Fight.

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    2. I haven't checked that site out yet, but I most definitely will. My loosely based theory on the infection of sexism in geek culture is the fact that most geek guys are the ones who get recognized as the "geeks." Most geek guys have had the "I wanted to date the hottest girl in school, but I was an awkward geek and have pent up aggression due to this." And even when they are comfortable within their own skin there is still that projection of their formative years- i.e. wanting to sleep with women who are merely eye candy to them, and wanting to be the most popular kid in school. Geek girls get ignored. Or for the most part.

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  7. GSFS 3 - I don't worry about sexism. I crush it as a matter of abstract routine.

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  8. I've been guilty of GSFS1. Now we're dating. :)

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  9. Do you have any suggestions for how not to be the cool chick? I hate casual sexism but I also hate conflict [because of intense social anxiety].

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    1. I think that you can avoid playing into it just by not saying anything, sometimes. If it's too hard to call someone out when they tell sexist jokes, just don't laugh and don't tell your own. If someone tells you that you're not like most girls because most girls suck, just shrug. It's not your job to educate everyone, but you should avoid actively encouraging it.

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    2. Whoa. My reflex response to being told that I'm "not like most girls because most girls suck" would be something along the lines of, "Well, that's damning with faint praise, isn't it?" Seriously, that's NOT a compliment!

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    3. If most girls don't suck, the proper response is "have you asked them?"

      (In fairness, I say the same thing about guys. I'm an objectifying sumbitch, but at least I try to be even-handed with it.)

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    4. 1) Blank stare, like you don't get it.

      2) For jokes, pretend not to get it. Repeatedly, so the person has to explain the joke until they give up, or realize it's not funny, whichever comes first.

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    5. Look up "Frown power." It's a campaign initially started to fight racism. You don't have to say anything, just frown and show disapproval when someone makes those kind of jokes. It was very successful for racism.

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    6. Huh? Where's the "was" about racism and racist jokes?

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    7. I'm frowning hard at needsaname. claiming to be a bi doesn't make you immune from being a sexist.

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    8. If you ask me, there's a difference between being "the cool chick" and the chick who chooses their battles. The cool chick is never bothered by sexism, the annoying one leaps on anything that could be sexist, there's a middle ground there, and finding that middle ground is hard for geeks. You love something or you hate it, it's never just "alright."

      For me: if you are seriously bashing women, I will stop it, if you hit one of my buttons, I'll say something (the sandwich joke always gets me). However, I don't care about the "That's what she said" jokes, nor is feminist ranting always appropriate. Not every conversation about Mortal Kombat/the Mortal Kombat women has to turn into "but they're so objectified" (even though they are). More than anything, one "That's not cool" is usually better received than a long rant on it.

      It's pretty basic stuff. Don't make a mountain over a molehill: a single comment deserves a single comment, not a essay. Don't always hijack a topic because you have an issue with the source material. And lastly don't be silenced, but handle it like a grown up. We all know that fanboy who holds up his pet story/RPG/comic as the one and only thing that deserves to be talked about, and feminism can became that in a heartbeat. Don't become a one note person either way: the person who never takes offense, or the person who takes offense at everything.

      Basically people will handle it the way you do. If you make a quick comment now and then that it's not acceptable, but you're not looking for a fight, people will generally respond in kind. If you make argumentative rants all the time, expect them and resentment in return.

      Really though you need to ask yourself if it's just a little thing or a fundamental difference in belief. The first can be overcome on BOTH sides, the later you'll have trouble with it.

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    9. You choose your battles.

      I'll choose mine.

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    10. Cliff Pervocracy - Where did I say that you couldn't choose your battles differently than I do? I'm pretty sure that was a large point of mine. I just used personal example of what did and did not bother me because specific examples are a GOOD thing.

      However, I do believe that everyone should have battles they choose not to fight as well. Same thing as any other issue. We've all had those people in our lives: they never let anything just be good enough or get caught up something enough to let the nitpicks lie. If everyone's coming out of a movie happy, and generally agree it's a good movie that one person complaining about those three little things drives everyone nuts, whether a little thing was slightly out of character/hard to believe moment or a gratuitous shower scene. You can still be bothered by those things (I'm not trying to take your opinion away from you), but they can also be quickly summed up as "There were a few details I found unbelievable/out-of-character" or "There were a few aspects I found sexist." If people are interested they'll ask, otherwise it's not your duty to educate them on how wrong they are against their will.

      That's a major fallacy in and of itself (geek or general) "Geeks cannot enjoy anything unless it's perfect. If my companions enjoyed it, apparently without realizing its flaws, I must inform them of said flaws until they are educated enough to appreciate said flaws and how they detract from the experience." It's almost a derivative from GSFS 1, that people can control their emotions (not just about sex). If something bothers me, it should bother everyone and almost with the expectation that people should retroactively not enjoy something when flaws are discovered. I don't know whether you do that (I don't know at all), but I think I've been victim to it and I know others have. It's frustrating when people don't seem to acknowledge a flaw that ruined the experience for you, and in particular when you find it morally wrong. It's frustrating when you point out the gratuitous shower scene and no one else seems to care, but that doesn't mean they have to suddenly declare the movie crap and sexist just because you think so.

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    11. Like I said, you pick your battles and I'll pick mine.

      But don't tell me that there are certain battles it's inappropriate to pick, or that I have to do them in the smallest meekest way. I'll make that decision myself. I respect when you make your own.

      (You seem to be picking a battle here, which is a little hilarious considering.)

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  10. I have only one thing to say to this post- Fuck yeah.

    I also have an additional only one thing to say to this post- Geek circles infected with GSFS 4 have no right to then start complaining about how they're are so few female geeks around. I have seen this happen, and every time it fills me with such (literally) incoherent sputtering rage that I can't even begin to explain the hypocracy of such a statement.

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    1. This! You'd think it was simple: if you want more lady-type people around, don't say bad things about lady-type people!

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  11. '"Sex is just a physical activity, so adding it to our dating/friendship won't change our relationship."'

    This is not universally untrue, by the way. I've far more often seen people assume the complete opposite, that sex *always* changes *everything*.
    The issue is simply that you have to examine the actual attitudes and dispositions of the people involved, and the preexisting relationship dynamic, and work from there. Trouble starts when, as you say, people think they can just turn on/off emotions they do/don't want to feel.

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    1. True there are lots of friends with benefits relationships going on these days and I've had a few of those myself. Point is you can't assume it won't change things. Geeks make too many rigid rules and sometimes assume that because they don't want it to change things for them the friend won't want this either. With one of my friends I just had to ask if we could go back to being just friends (after once off sexual experience with him) because I could see it was going to change our relationship completely for him and I didn't want that. We were then able to remain close friends because we talked and shared our feelings and had put a boundary back.

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    2. "Simply" my left little toe. Look, you can examine all those things in depth - previous extremely similar experiences with this individual, where each of you are in your lives at this point in time, the years of friendship the two of you have under your belts. . . and still be surprised by the sudden appearance of emotions on your part and then have to spend hours talking with that person trying to figure out where to go from there (DAMHIK).

      As they say, "No battle plan survives contact with the enemy".

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  12. On the sexism thing, I'd like to quote this person here: http://occupythedisco.tumblr.com/post/16309238669/geeks

    "I think the reason I find geek culture so obnoxious at times to engage in is because the people are for the most part the same privileged dips that inhabit mainstream culture, but with the added detriment of a victim complex. They’re still largely white and center their race, they’re still largely straight and center their sexuality, they’re still largely cis men who center their gender. They challenge nothing about the status quo and what bodies get to be placed at the center of it, they offer nothing radically different to the typical narratives about which groups of people are and are not important and they can be just as hostile to groups who try to find a place in their space as the mainstream is, in some cases even worse. But for some reason they think the fact that they like Battlestar Galactica instead of Monday night football makes them radical alterna-gods who are too good for this sinful Earth."

    This might sound harsh, but it is an experience I made frequently myself, which is why I have distanced myself from the culture completely, and do not identify with the word geek anymore. I still enjoy all the same "geeky" things, but the various "geek communities" (I enjoy lots of different things) all had the same disgusting combo of smug superiority and intellectual elitism and a massive victim complex, coupled with loads and loads of racism, homophobia and most jarringly sexism.

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    1. I wouldn't say it's too harsh. I've often seen similar shit in certain geek circles--comparing Star Wars Episode III to being raped comes to mind. Thankfully, I don't run into those folks much these days... mostly since I'm not in those spaces so much.

      --Rogan

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    2. I've had pretty much the same experience, tbh. I think the only geeky culture that I really felt welcome in is fandom, which has a much higher (or at least more vocal) percentage of women, LGBTQ people, etc. It's sure as hell not perfect, but it's a lot better than most of the meatspace geeky circles I know.

      I mean, I know some lovely geeks, but I'm pretty disenchanted with the narrow-mindedness, the arrogance, and the persecution complexes that seem to crop up in some circles. I'd rather just play D&D without it being some source of tortured pride, you know?

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    3. Remove one superfluous word in the above description and change the hobby, and that quote unfortunately describes feminism to a T as well. It's a symptom of identity politics at play, and a reason why identity politics should be scourged from the earth.

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    4. Wow. That excerpt made me curious so I went through a few pages of occupythedisco.tumblr.com , and I found the writing to be truculent and exasperating. I had to call it quits after the long thread complaining about how the Disney movie "Tangled" "completely erases people of color from existence".

      I agree with this last respondent. It's identity politics. The best thing you can do is what you've already done: Distance yourself from it.

      I will say this about one of the specific accusations, though: If you think white male heterosexual geeks exhibit "loads and loads of racism", what's your basis for comparison? How do the actions of white male geeks in America compare to the ethnic cleansing recently in Libya or Kenya? Is their "loads and loads" of racism more severe than, say, what the Hutu did in Rwanda, when they slaughtered 800,000 Tutsi in only a few weeks?

      I think you're engaging in some hyperbole with that. I will cop to the intellectual elitism, and I will accept the charges of sexism and homophobia (though I think latino, biker, and mormon culture - for example - are all generally worse than "geek culture" on both of those fronts). But loads and loads of racism? Sorry. I live in West Oakland. The geeks around here are at _least_ as progressive as any other demographic, and the racial buckets we've all supposedly been heaped into have become extremely leaky around here.

      Where do your geeks live?

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    5. needsaname - I'm going to go ahead and guess that anyone saying "Identity politics should be scourged from the earth" is a white male?

      Not because I'm hating on white males, understand. Just because they've had the experience of "just act 'normal' and everyone will forget about your identity and treat you great!"

      People who have identities they cannot hide have, to put it mildly, not shared that experience.

      Garote - Something does not need to be WORSE THAN HITLER to still be racist. Something that's not as racist as THE RACISTEST THING EVER is still problematically racist.

      I think the most racist things about geek culture are:
      1. The simple erasure of non-white people from a tremendous amount of geek media.
      2. The tendency for non-white people to be portrayed as "exotic" or even "savage" when they do turn up in geek media.
      3. The segment of geek culture that rabidly fetishizes/exoticizes Japan and particularly Japanese women.

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    6. I wish men who cried about feminism being "exclusive" or "identity politics" would do everyone a favor and stop acting like they know what you they talking about. Pretending there is equality and everything is hunky dory in the world now because "Hey, I respect women" or "I have a girlfriend, she doesn't believe in feminism" or "I have a black friend who is a geek, he doesn't think there is racism" is the biggest JOKE there is.

      Have you ever been raped by someone (a "geek") who thought you saying "NO" over and over was part of "the fun"? Because he couldn't imagine someone would ever say no to HIM? Or deny he raped you because he "loves women and would never do anything like that"? Did not think so. The world NEEDS feminism to cut this crap OUT of the world. The world NEEDS people fighting against injustice and ignorance. I played WoW for 5 years and a MUD for 10. In all public channels, there was a constant litany of sexism, homophobia, and racism. Constant.

      To deny racism here because, "Oh, it's worse in other countries (always Africa for these idiots)"? Well, think again because guess who incited the race wars in Africa? Got it yet? Figure out who set the Hutu and Tutsis against each other and get back to me. Hint: it was German and Belgian colonizers. Men who say crap out of their bums like, "Identity politics should be scourged from the earth," have the same colonialist mentality as 18-19th century middle-class Englishmen. Some people never learn to think past their own privilege.

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    7. Anon - Seriously. It's not like I've only experienced sexism when I've been calling myself a feminist, and as long as I just go around being nice and cheerful and not making a thing out of my gender, everyone just forgets I'm a woman! I don't get that privilege. I look like a woman and get treated like people think they should treat a woman whether I want to or not. I don't get to turn it off just by not thinking about it.

      I also think it's funny how saying "geeks can't be racist because the real racism is in savage Africa" is itself racist.

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    8. 'I'm going to go ahead and guess that anyone saying "Identity politics should be scourged from the earth" is a white male?'

      ... and probably a straight, cis, anglophone christian white male at that? Not that people who lack one or two prominent axes of privilege can't still be stunningly oblivious to those they do possess (Dan Savage comes to mind), but there are an awful lot of ways to be disqualified for the ability to forget one's identity.

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    9. Good grief.

      Who here is saying "geeks can't be racist because"? No one. Certainly not me.

      Hyperbolic statements do your legitimate complaints a disservice, because they proclaim a blindness to your own privilege. They encourage people to _stop_ listening, not to _start_.

      For example, how do you feel about modern atheist leagues who claim to be "brutally oppressed" when a church group erects the ten commandments on a rock in a public park? You laugh at them, and rightly so in my opinion. But not because they don't have a legitimate complaint (I'm atheist myself) - because their rhetoric belies a lack of perspective.

      As does yours, Anonymous. You've just implied that "white men" are directly or indirectly responsible for all racism, worldwide. Where is your head? 1980 called; it wants its scapegoat back.

      I like Nentuaby's description of "axes of privilege"; I think it's more appropriately nuanced. However, I don't think anyone can be "disqualified for the ability to forget one's identity," even someone who lines up on all those alleged axes, because those axes shift from place to place, and privilege has more than one side to it. (See the common - and often vitriolic and foul - descriptions of "female privilege" written by men all over the internet). It's also possible for a straight white Christian American male to travel to, say, Saudi Arabia or China, and be harassed in ways he's never even conceived of before. (Perhaps the experience would knock some sense into him.)

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    10. As a white straight American male who lived for some time in China, you're totally wrong about that. White privilege and male privilege are, if anything, more present in modern China than in the modern US.

      This isn't to say that the experience of living in China didn't make me question my privilege and my racial and sexual politics: It did. But the main reason it did so was because the expression of racism and sexism was so amazingly, transparently obvious that even I -- who has a strong vested interest in the status quo -- couldn't stop from seeing it.

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    11. benlehman: I'm not sure what to make of that, since it flies in the face of what I know. Have you never been, say, overcharged for something while haggling in a Chinese market? Suspiciously denied service at a motel? Been openly stared at, as the only "white" person present for miles? Where has your business taken you in China? Back alleys, small towns in the west, or corporate boardrooms and major cities on the coast? (I'm genuinely curious; I'm trying to account for, not discount, your experience.)

      And regardless, I'm encouraged that the experience caused you to question your perceptions. What did it bring to light?

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    12. Holly P:

      "I think the most racist things about geek culture are:
      1. The simple erasure of non-white people from a tremendous amount of geek media.
      2. The tendency for non-white people to be portrayed as "exotic" or even "savage" when they do turn up in geek media."

      This is interesting to me. I'm immediately reminded of the "racefail" explosion from a while ago, and the acres of opinions it still generates. What interests me is how it broadsided authors and artists, who honestly hadn't thought to scrutinize their own work in a racial context. Many of them were building upward from a legacy of culture that was predominantly "white" when they found it, and considered themselves innovators - even progressive champions - for trying to cross-pollinate that legacy with "other" (i.e. non-"white") elements. (e.g. Tolkien's elves versus ElfQuest's elves). They weren't trying to fight, or shore up, racism, they were trying to make art that interested them. I'm compelled to take their side.

      The noise around it is astonishing, and often twisted beyond comprehension and/or relevance.

      "3. The segment of geek culture that rabidly fetishizes/exoticizes Japan and particularly Japanese women."

      Indeed. That just weirds me out. Why do you suppose it's so extreme?

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    13. Garote: I've been all over.

      I think the clincher for me was when some people offered to pay me 8000 RMB / month to sit around their office, being a white guy, so that when investors came into the office they would see that they had a white guy working for them.

      Additionally, the white expat community in China is astoundingly racist and openly misogynist, to seriously extreme degrees. We're talking about shit that would have made 19th century mobs go "you know, dude, maybe you should step that back..."

      For the record: I'm a better haggler than most of my Chinese friends; what hotels can allow foreigners to stay is mandated by law (we're not allowed to stay at bad hotels), and you can lose your hotel license for improperly allowing a foreigner to stay; and yes, I've been stared at openly a lot in China. I'm not sure that the last one constitutes racism so much as neophilia.

      In contrast to the enormous ways that being white helped me in China, I have only ever had openly racist* encounters in China twice. Both times, one of the person's friends came back and apologized profusely to me for the behavior of their friend, saying that they hoped that it would not give me a bad opinion about China or the Chinese. I have yet to see a single white person do this, ever.

      * When my race was tagged correctly. I am commonly mistaken for Uighur, and then, oh shit, things get really fucking racist really fucking fast.

      I'm curious why you don't know this shit. I mean, did you ever think to ask the hotellier what the deal was?

      ... I'm also curious why you're "compelled" to take the side of people who perpetrate racism through their art. Is it like some sort of magical curse that was put upon you by malign fairy godmother? "I give this child the gift of racist apologetics! Mwuhahahah!"

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    14. benlehman:

      LOL, no, it was no fairy godmother.

      I agree with the most articulate "racefail"-related critics when they say that the history of America and Europe has placed the "white" English-speaking world in the center of what is approximately a nexus of cultural appropriation, and has contributed to the fragmenting of culture and language in many other parts of the wold.

      I agree that this gives a distinct advantage to "white" English-speaking authors when they take a stab at writing SciFi or Fantasy, because SciFi and Fantasy are grounded very specifically in explorations of places, people, and things that are alien and exotic, and their position makes it easier to find both source material and a paying audience.

      Where I diverge from "racefail" is, I do not believe that SciFi and Fantasy authors are de-jure obligated to dismantle the nexus they were raised in. I believe they must have it brought to their attention and must be convinced to work against it, and in some unfortunate cases must even be taught how. In the meantime I do not see them as monsters, nor saints - primarily artists, hacking away at their life's work.

      Delete
    15. Protip: Never use the word "articulate" in an argument about racism. I don't think you even mean it that way, but "articulate" is traditionally used in this context to mean "talking most like a white person," or as a backhanded compliment to any non-white person who is able to put a sentence together.

      The tricky thing about racefail is: I think the "but my art just doesn't happen to include humanized representations of non-white people" is a legitimate statement from any one artist. But when the vast majority of your art community fails to include humanized representations of non-white people, there's a systemic problem.

      It's the difference between one driver running a red light (maybe they didn't see it, maybe they're a jerk, whatever) and all drivers ignoring all the red lights in your city. When all the drivers are running all the red lights, you can't say "maybe they all didn't see it, maybe they're all jerks." There's something systematically wrong with your traffic control.

      Delete
    16. "... and probably a straight, cis, anglophone christian white male at that?"

      There's something cute about cis, white, able, affluent, western, (functionally) straight women throwing all those adjectives on, and then acting like it's the word "man" that's doing all the heavy lifting.

      But of course you're not appropriating/trivializing any identities there in the supposed advancement of Women. Just like how geeks don't appropriate/trivialize anyone's identity in the advancement of Geekhood. It's not like identity politics has a history of telling anybody to STFU until "real, important" issues (I.E: the speaker's) are dealt with first.

      Delete
    17. I wouldn't bring up your straight/cis/male/etc. status if you were on the side of oppressed people. If you say "I'm a man, but I know women face challenges that I don't and that on some level I can't even understand," no one would say "shut up, you man."

      But if you say "I think we should all just be the same and not worry about these divisive identities," while coincidentally having the one identity that lets you least have to worry about your own identity--then yeah, that's totally relevant to the discussion.

      Delete
    18. Yeah, I remember that whole brouhaha when a Republican pundit - can't remember who exactly - claimed that Barack Obama was "very articulate", as if in surprise. Serious foot-in-mouth disease. Your "protip" is well taken.

      Yes, I agree, the problem in this case is systemic. But in the case of a traffic system, people who run red lights are doing something illegal, and prima-facie objectionable. They _know_ they are doing something wrong, beyond all reasonable doubt, and we know they know it.

      I don't think that metaphor can be transplanted onto the cultural nexus that white American SciFi writers are comfortably ensconced in, because I don't think white American SciFi writers can be blamed for its creation, and for operating as artists within it. Granting them that understanding, I'd rather recruit them as agents for creating a more rewardingly diverse SciFi/Fantasy scene.

      Delete
    19. Those ensconced in, and benefiting from, racist systems, have very low incentive to recognize them, let alone change them. That we could somehow magically recruit white artists who strongly benefit from the current US system of racism to be allies against it, when they won't even admit to its existence, is bizarre in the extreme.

      I'm perfectly happy to take any ally I can get. But if you plant yourself with the status quo, whether explicitly (as was generally the case during racefail) or due to a calculated ideologically-driven ignorance (as was the case with some via racefail), you are no longer a potential ally.

      Because of my circumstances, I am privileged with the ability to do serious education of other white people. And I do. But you learn very quickly to distinguish willful ignorance from actual ignorance. The people who plug their ears and go "nah nah nah I'm not listening and by the way you're the real racist/sexist" are not functionally capable of learning. There's nothing to do but point out their mistakes for the benefit of others who might be listening / reading.

      Delete
    20. 'There's something cute about cis, white, able, affluent, western, (functionally) straight women throwing all those adjectives on, and then acting like it's the word "man" that's doing all the heavy lifting.'

      I should point out, that the word "man" was doing some pretty damn heavy lifting there; not nearly all of it, but plenty enough. Any of the axes Holly and I enumerated are more than enough to, at least on occasion, make identity "politics" a matter of survival. I want to make it perfectly clear that I was amplifying Holly's point, not disagreeing with it.

      Delete
    21. @benlehman:
      Any chance you know WHY you were mistaken for Uighur? I was asked by a coworker from China whether I'm a Uighur, and I don't know what the misinterpreted context clue was.

      Delete
    22. @Mackenzie:

      I'm half Jewish, which means I carry a lot of Uighur racial markers: curly hair, heavy brow, hazel eyes, big nose, freckles, lots of body and facial hair. It's not just in the eyes of Han Chinese, either: when I was in Kashgar I was shocked to the degree that everyone looked like my brother, who is like me but with darker coloration.

      This is totally bragging, but I have also been told that my Chinese was "too good to pass as a foreigner" so if I wanted to avoid being mistook for Uighur I would tone it down.

      Delete
    23. @Holly "I'm going to go ahead and guess that anyone saying "Identity politics should be scourged from the earth" is a white male?"

      I think the first substantial rejection of identity politics were made by queer, trans, PoC (and the "third world," which is a term that I think has fallen into disarray in the last couple of year) largely women activists in the 90s who saw that identity politics were a substantial barrier to activism, change, and coalition building. And they're right, largely, trying to subsume everyone in a category like "woman," or "geek" or "lesbian" or "gay" or "queer" or "of color" means that the diversity of experience gets erased and that's bad. There's also a problem with saying "labels are bad," because it makes it difficult to share experience and have a common starting place, or develop a shared set of goals. So there's this idea of "strategic essentialism" or "tactical identity politics" which says "maybe a little bit of identity politics are necessary, but activism and organizing should be goal-based and issue focused."

      The answer to "labels are ineffective political tools" and "no labels make for bad politics," is not "more labels make for better politics." But rather something more subtle, and something that we've lost touch with in the last few years and months.

      Delete
  13. Great post.
    Nice to link to the GSF article, what about linking to the xkcd page?

    ReplyDelete
  14. So I'll just be printing this out and discreetly handing it to people when circumstances require. Okay? Okay.

    ReplyDelete
  15. This is a truly brilliant post, which I am linking to. I do think that you missed the Geek Sexual Fallacies around pregnancy, which as a **very** rough first approximation I might sum up as "pregnancy a) results from sex b) is often an accidental result of sex c) can be made to go away via Medicine. Therefore, pregnancy which was not intended, or which is unwelcome to at least one of the two parties involved, can in all respects be treated as if it were an STI, up to and including uncomprehending blame and a 'principled' refusal of further involvement if the person who has 'caught' it declines after consideration to have it treated."

    I am as pro-choice as it is possible to be and have had an abortion, but that STILL isn't actually true, no more than it is true that having an abortion, in which case there is no baby, and having urged an abortion and so insisting on a "right" to **pretend** there is no baby, are actually like each other.

    I have some complicated thought on how this plays out with fertility and adoption ethics in geekdom as well, but them I cannot even begin to put into words yet.

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    1. The thing about pregnancy is very true. And definitely ties into GSFS 1, which states that any pregnant person ought to be able to just turn off any inconvenient emotions they have about getting an abortion.

      Delete
    2. Oh yeah. Or indeed, any aftereffects, including Lack Of Libido, Fear Of It Happening Again, the Wild Hormone Ride, and Just Plain Feeling Sick For A Couple Of Weeks.

      And if you do go ahead and have the kid, you also get to hit #3, especially if at some point you said breezily that if you got pregnant of COURSE you'd abort, because the Cool Chick needs to act as if the playing field were completely and in all ways level and it was all about Personal Choice.

      Except at some point you run up against the part where it isn't, and realise that you're not going to be able to raise this kid, keep your sanity, and maintain this level of denial.

      Then everyone and their dog whacks you about the head and uterus with #4, forever, starting with your ex and their new partners, and floods him with tea and sympathy.

      Delete
    3. I had the opposite experience. My abortion was about as much of a non-event as an abortion can be, I guess. I mean, there was the stress and anxiety leading up to it and of course the awful physical pain of the actual procedure (I opted for the pills), but afterwards? No angst, no emotional void, no visceral Feelings Of Loss or anything like that. But people kept expecting me to be emotionally devastated for "Killing My Baby!!!" and I suspect I would have been tagged as a monster or emotional cripple if I'd revealed how much the experience hadn't affected me emotionally.

      Maybe this is a problem of environment. I can definitely see where your observation is coming from, but I live in the middle of the Bible Belt and even a lot of geeks out here will patronizingly explain to you why they are pro-life, in pseudo-scientific terms.

      Delete
  16. Delurking to comment on DSFS 5 -- I do this all the time, but not to people I'm sleeping with, which would be diminishing. I say it to my friends, who in my opinion, take sex waaay too f'ing seriously. I think some people should have more casual sex, and some (me) should maybe have less. *Not for society or culture, but for the experience.

    Just thought I'd pop in to say this provoked thought in me, and thanks for that!

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    Replies
    1. Yeah, I don't think you get to decide how much sex someone else should have.

      Delete
    2. No, but if I'm their friend and confidante, I can tell them to not be hung up on societal standards of purity, and just go ahead and meet someone just to fuck them. This casualness doesn't work for everyone, of course, but I know a few people who were brought up very strictly, and could loosen up a bit.

      Delete
    3. You don't know that it's just their upbringing. It could be they were brought up strictly but also aren't naturally inclined toward casual sex. Or it could be just their upbringing, but even then, their feelings are still real.

      I'm going to stand by saying you've got no business pulling a #1, #2, #5, and if they're female #3 on them here.

      Delete
    4. I've been reading your blog for a few months and don't think I've disagreed with anything you've written. I like to talk about sex with my friends IRL, and I think this post has added a couple phrases to my vocabulary and I want to thank you for that. I will continue to think about this post, and personally clarify how I feel about the points you made, and make sure I don't engage in these fallacies (at least unwittingly).

      I meant no argument, and am always working on making my thoughts clear, both in real life, and online. I appreciate your engaging with me, because that can tell me when/if I miswrote and lead me to express myself better.

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    5. You're free to give advice if it's topical. While I've never advised a friend to go out and fuck randos, I've certainly told no small number of them that a steady fuckbuddy would have advantages.

      Let's replace "go fuck someone" with "go to church", though. There's a place where it's a well-intentioned thought from a friend. It very quickly turns into annoyance, and then hounding. You want to err on the side of not annoying/pressuring your friends. Simple, no?

      Delete
    6. Your friends have a right to take sex as seriously as they want, and hassling them about that is risky.

      Not necessarily wrong, but you might consider whether they feel similarly free to moralize about your sex life, and how you'd feel about it if they did.

      Delete
    7. Casual sex... Ugh.

      I know of no upside to it, now that I've experienced the alternative.

      Delete
    8. Jalyth - I understand where you are coming from and I'm not attacking you, but just as food for thought I wanted to suggest that you don't tell someone they "just need to loosen up" or something like that about sex. The main reason being, even if you have the *best* of intentions, they have probably heard it from a billion people already. I say this because, as a person who did not date or have sex until into my twenties, nor did I drink until into my twenties, nor do I smoke pot even now, I have heard this from SO MANY PEOPLE. And it gets exhausting. I was raised *very* liberally. My mother encouraged me to do whatever I wanted. In fact, she drinks, smokes and talked to me about sex openly. SO I did what I wanted, but it wasn't always what other people thought it should be. I had no desire to do those things until *I* was ready. I was told I was being uptight, or being overly religious, or being no fun, or that I *must* be homosexual (because NOT having sex makes one homosexual somehow???) -- by friends and even members of my own family. I'm sure they had the best of intentions but it *sucked*.

      Also I now have several friends who are asexual, they run into this *all* the time. Some people just have NO desire to have sex. I personally had *no* desire to have casual sex and it didn't have to do with religion or upbringing, it was just because I know myself and sex is very emotional for me. I don't want to share it with strangers. Casual sex is never going to work for me. For some of my friends, sex is just never going to work period. It may be hard to understand, but you know what you know. Just like when you know you don't like certain foods, or whatever.

      If you want to discuss sex, I would suggest discuss it only as it pertains to myself. Instead of saying "You should, you, you shouldn't" just say "I think this". This way it gives them the opportunity to do the same and defend their own POV without feeling attacked.

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    9. I think the impulse to tell people to loosen up comes from the idea that there is one acceptable range of sex-having (or drinking, or pot smoking, etc.) that we are all fighting to control, and if your friends are being overly "prudish" it's going to influence that range and make your having lots of sex less accepted. Which is, unfortunately, true in the prevailing culture, but the whole point of sex-positivity is to embrace the idea that people want different things, that's ok, and it's not what you do that matters, it's why and how.

      Delete
    10. Oh gods, yes, I really dislike the 'loosen up' thing, too. I hang around in some circles where having LOTS of casual sex is the norm. That's completely fine - I won't judge anyone else's choice - but the number of times I've been told to lighten up, stop being a prude or even called 'sex-negative' (ugh) because I only have sex with people I'm in a loving relationship with is ridiculous.

      Delete
    11. I would like to thank Lain for bringing up asexuality here. I am lucky enough to have friends who are willing to ask me about aspects of my sexuality that confuse them, but I have a hard time with relative strangers who seem to think I am uninterested in sex for the "wrong" reasons. That and people who think I am judging them and their sexual activities just by virtue of the fact I do not participate in them... srsly, as long as it is SSC it is really none of my fucking business.

      Delete
    12. I think it's good to see how quickly Jalyth got shot down there. Friends don't tell friends to loosen up and fuck someone. Personally I wouldn't want to go there even if they brought the question up themselves, but that's just my call.

      At the very least, when you decide to dish out advice to loosen up, do you really think you've put more thought into it than they have themselves?

      Delete
    13. Lain: my upbringing was pretty much identical to yours, except it was my very liberal dad who said I could do anything I wanted to, and I ended up not losing my virginity or drinking until I was 21, or doing drugs.

      I also totally commiserate with the being told you were either a:gay b:prudish c: etc etc etc (in fact, I had to make up a boyfriend in 7th grade because I was called gay so often - and this wasn't even about me wanting to have sex or not, it was because I didn't have a boyfriend!)

      I found around 11th grade in HS that dressing sexy while wearing steel-toed work-boots kept people off-balanced long enough that they never even found out whether I was a virgin or not - they were too afraid of me. :-D

      --Ukky

      Delete
    14. Besides which, even if someone is down with the idea of a friend with benefits, those don't grow on trees. As a 27 year old virgin (due to a religiously confusing upbringing) I'm no longer morally opposed to the idea of a friend with benefits, but I wouldn't want to potentially mess up an existing friendship by bringing up the question of sex. Nor would I want to have sex with random strangers. So I guess I'll just have to wait for a real loving relationship ;)

      Delete
    15. Jalyth I stopped lurking to respond, even if this is months old. Someone may stumble across this, or ya'll might, whatever. Anyways. I imagine you probably aren't aware of this but attitudes like yours, telling people to loosen up and stuff can actually backfire and cause mental trauma. I doubt highly you are one of the people in my example, but I wanted to give you an idea of someone who was bullied with sex, what loosen up tends to conjurer up.

      In my high school it was an expectation first date through the relationship girls had sex with their boyfriends. There was -no- exceptions in the school, every boy expected it. It led to my being raped before I was ready to give it up. Because the boy that did it felt I'd be more open to it if I just had it. It was a similar mentality to guys raping Lesbians because they just don't know what it's like to be with a man. When I tried to speak up about it I was told if I'd just put out it wouldn't have happened. That it was -no big deal- and I -deserved it-. This was the response of those who typically voiced the "Loosen up" mentality in my area.

      This idea of loosen up is extremely dangerous for people to think. What's sad is most people don't realize how dangerous it can be if it's used as a normal reaction. Especially when it's the popular thought process, like with my school. I'm nearly 30, so high school was over 10 years ago. That whole sexual liberation thing was already starting to pick up which is why all boys demanded their girls have sex with them. Because the girls set that up by their actions (Not saying it was necessarily wrong but for 'sexually liberated' individuals they were sure quick to side with the men and tell a woman to just give it up instead of backing her choice), Enough of them were willing to put out the guys started -expecting- it and there was something -wrong- with me because I didn't want to. I was mocked by both girls -and- boys because I wasn't ready to have sex, and I wasn't inclined to do it to satisfy some social requirement for courtship. Every day I was told by everyone even my 'friends' that I would -never- get a boyfriend, I would never have a -relationship- with anyone and I'd die old and alone if I didn't put out. Not only that, I was told I wasn't being sexually empowered. I was wronging myself and being -sexist- against my own gender for not having sex. That I needed to loosen up and -act like a woman-. These were the ideals of those people who were of the loosen up mentality which sadly is the entirety of my town it seems like (We have memes about guys losing their turn with their girlfriends for a reason).

      The end result? I'm nearly 30 with an insane libido and a desire for a relationship, but I can't physically stomach anyone touching me, complimenting me, or asking me on a date. When I explain the reaction to people they go "You're insane, just get over it. You're being -stupid-. Just loosen up!" Except that's not how it works and they've probably never been severely bullied a day in their life (I'm Learning Disabled (Read: Mentally disabled) with a stunted emotional growth, and when I say severely bullied I mean hospitalized, and threatened with expulsion by school staff because of bringing the bullying to their attention). I was trained by that constant crush and the actions of others, that continue even today, to believe that the only reason anyone would find interest in me is for sex. It's so bad that I've taken to responding to the press with "I don't -need- an intimate relationship with anyone. I have friends if I wanna hang out and watch TV or play video games and the world has a plethora of adult toys to take care of the physical need."

      Delete
  17. "Those cards are the fuck out of my deck now."

    Amen. Not a girl, but those cards always make me super uncomfortable when I see them being played. It's totally okay for people to not be happy about stuff when it's not good stuff. (GSFS #4)

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  18. Hershele OstropolerFebruary 7, 2012 at 8:50 PM

    I have been waiting for someone talented* to do something like this, and I was not disappointed.

    And the comic doesn't really exhibit GSFS 4 because it's about the OSBP; if anything, it's a condemnation of the fallacy

    *To forestall "so why didn't you do it, Hershele?"

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    Replies
    1. Ah. I didn't know the context; I thought it was about polyamory.

      Delete
    2. Hershele OstropolerFebruary 7, 2012 at 9:50 PM

      I mean, I don't have that from Munroe personally, but given the timing, and his general attitude, it's highly, highly likely. And I'm not the only person who saw the connection.

      Delete
    3. Open Source Boob Project.

      Delete
    4. OSBP is/was the Open Source Boob Project: http://wiki.feministsf.net/index.php?title=Open_Source_Boob_Project

      Delete
    5. So why didn't you do it, Hershele?

      Delete
  19. I love the article, but you missed a golden chance to call it "The Geek Social Phallus-ies of Sex."

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  20. Oh, thank you. I desperately needed to hear this. Recently had an incident where I essentially experienced GSFS 5 (I went from being a supposed friend to "an uptight no-funster for having boundaries") because I was expected to do GSFS 1 & 5 (not have complex feelings about adding one person as a new sexual partner because I didn't seem to have complex feelings about having sex with some other people), and now I'm trying not to live in fear of being painted as a bad person to some mutual friends because I could probably be seen as having "caused drama" (hey there, GSFS 5) because I stood up for myself and tried to act the best way I could. It has been something of a nightmare, but this post is helpful and reassuring. As for the neglected GSFS 2 - well, I do see it a lot and have tried to address it when appropriate because it annoys me, especially as a generally monogamous (and therefore less enlightened) person.

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  21. ...Just posted. Said 5 when I meant 3 the first time. That's what I get for posting when I should be sleeping.

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  22. One thing worth remembering about geeks. While they're often cleverer than the average person, they're prone to using said cleverness to justify some really stupid stuff. Combined with the fact that the geek superhero is the intellectual-rational super(wo)man (see the popularity of both Batman and Heinlein in geek circles), you have the same assery in geek circles that you do in any other. It's just the paint job that's different. The assumptions are just as worth railing against no matter how they dress themselves up.

    Otherwise, does anyone see this as an after school special by another name? It's shitty when the cool kids try to peer pressure you into something you're not comfortable with. This applies every bit as strongly when the cool kids make a huge to-do about how uncool they are.

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    Replies
    1. This is something that bugs me about a lot of political atheism as well; when people make an identity out of being smart and rational, it instantly becomes five times as hard for them to admit that they might be wrong about something.

      Delete
    2. "One thing worth remembering about geeks. While they're often cleverer than the average person, they're prone to using said cleverness to justify some really stupid stuff."

      The failure state of "clever" is tends to be "asshole", unfortunately.

      Delete
    3. Dammit: should read is/tends to be

      Delete
    4. when people make an identity out of being smart and rational, it instantly becomes five times as hard for them to admit that they might be wrong about something.

      ... thank you. I've been trying to put words on that thing for YEARS.

      Delete
  23. Perhaps worth pointing out that GSFS 1 is not actually restricted to geeks. The scenario...

    Person A: "I really like you. I mean really really."
    Person B: "That is an incorrect emotion, please stop experiencing it."

    ...is pretty mainstream, no?

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    Replies
    1. Well, except GSFS 1 is specifically about emotions following or during *sex*, not simple crush-confessions. In "mainstream culture" a woman who responds to we-agree-this-was-casual sex with unexpected emotion is more likely to be dismissed as "see, that's how all chicks automatically respond to casual sex and why no woman ever actually wants it," and a man will get responses along the lines of "you're not a real man, what's wrong with you, you wuss?" Both of those responses SUCK, of course, but the GSFS lies in acknowledging that they suck because of the gender-essentialism, and then replacing them with something that lacks the gender-essentialism but is equally stupid ("both genders have an identical moral obligation to be robots.")

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    2. It's less helpful to limit #1 to "how you feel after sex", I think.

      Trying to put our emotions on a leash is common to the geek experience.* It's especially relevant to sex because sex is a great source of emotional intensity that we actually want to feel. The more general case is "I want to be elevated and maybe changed by this experience--but I also want to be safe, and safety means control of myself."


      * Raise your hand if, as a child, you heard some variation of "They're just being mean to get a reaction out of you. Don't give them what they want." Thank you.

      Delete
    3. Aye, worth pointing out, though in less-geeky less-poly circles I expect you're more likely to get the reasonable exchange of:

      Person A: "I really like you. I mean really really."
      Person B: "I'm sorry; I just don't feel the same way. We shouldn't date."

      I find it telling that geek and poly circles tend to overlap hugely, since geeks have practice at repressing huge negative feelings and are often starved for intimacy ... and any given poly "scene" tends to be cramped and incestuous with surprisingly little room for passion and grand romance. Hence the unspoken understanding that if your feelings are too big and inconvenient, you will be ostracized.

      How horribly, despicably ironic.

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    4. I don't think the form of words matters much. It still translates as "Let's just stay friends - the kind of friends who avoid each other, never speak, and badmouth each other to third parties for being *creepy*".

      I don't know much about the geek/poly interface beyond what Holly writes here. In my world, the people who have a lot of sex but can't deal with the emotional consequences are the people who point and laugh at geeks.

      Delete
    5. This is old, but. But the girl has a right to reject you. I've had crush confessions, and had to reject someone, because I didn't return the feeling, and its scary, to have someone say they love you, when you don't return it. Especially if they bring it up otherwise like you seem to be doing.

      Delete
  24. I'm exceedingly frustrated by the Oh Noes We Can't Have Drama in regards to abuse.

    According to way too many people, there's nothing to be done about it -- because if you DID dare to say something about someone...you're bad-mouthing, you were talked into thinking you were raped, some women just like to make trouble, lovely people will be witch-hunted out of the community...etc etc etc.

    So you're saying DO NOTHING, you assholes? Grrrrrrrrrawwwwwrgh.

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  25. Oh my God, I've run afoul of GSFS #1 and #2 so hard. (Re: jealousy having "no place" in a loving relationship, polyamory for polyamory's and "enlightenment"'s sake when not actually inclined toward polyamory.) And it was totally my fault too. O tempora, o mores. Thanks for being part of my continuing education, Holly. :)

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    Replies
    1. Here's something that my mother declared to me one day, after I described my own drama to her in detail:

      "Passionate relationships don't share."

      I thought it was very interesting.

      Delete
    2. Yeah, my mom's said a lot of bigoted bullshit to me too.

      Don't know how "interesting" it was, though.

      Let's please find a middle ground here between "you have to be poly to be cool" and "no real relationships are poly." We could name that middle ground "it's okay to be poly if you want to!"

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    3. I didn't think it was bigoted bullshit. It was her personal experience.

      It was interesting to me because it drew a connecting line between passion - which I generally regarded as good - and possessiveness, which I generally regarded as a sign of immaturity that I needed to stamp out of my personality for my own sake and others'.

      I realized that I already had just such a line inside myself, and that I had been trying for a decade to erase it, and then I had to ask myself ... why?

      I'm not trying to invalidate other people's relationships, poly or otherwise. But I found that statement very validating of my own, so I thought I would share it.

      Delete
    4. Yes, if your mom had said to you something like "For many people, passion and possessiveness are intimately bound up and it's not possible to disentangle them; it's OK to embrace that" that would *not* have been bigoted bullshit.

      Saying that relationships like mine do not/cannot exist, on the other hand, is bigotry. (That does not translate into "your mom is an evil person," it just means that absolutist statements like that usually are.)

      Delete
    5. I don't even see absolutist statements like that as evil -- they're just shortsighted. They remind me of small children's tendency to overgeneralize newly learned rules of grammar and say "I bee'd good" or "that was funner." (Actually I still think "funner" and "funnest" should be words, but I am glad I got over my own personal attempted monogamy!)

      flightless

      Delete
  26. I'm surprised how basic GSFS #1 is and how long it's taken me to be able to acknowledge it and begin to believe it (and not just in regards to sex). I guess as geeks (well, I identify as nerd, but close enough), we value efficiency and control and... emotions just don't work that way.

    Also, props on including the xckd comic, though really, there was no other way to start this post.

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  27. Could have used this post about ten years ago. Awesome, as always.

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  28. Things I kinda want on a t-shirt...

    "It's not like I've only experienced sexism when I've been calling myself a feminist, and as long as I just go around being nice and cheerful and not making a thing out of my gender, everyone just forgets I'm a woman! I don't get that privilege. I look like a woman and get treated like people think they should treat a woman whether I want to or not. I don't get to turn it off just by not thinking about it."

    <3
    flightless

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    Replies
    1. I raise my eyebrow at this a bit...

      As far as I can tell, no one gets that privilege. No one ever forgets I'm a man. I acknowledge that this grants me an unwarranted and unrequested advantage, as long a I "act like a man". Mea culpa. But on the other hand,

      _Random_men_are,_primarily,_until_proven_otherwise,_threats_.

      I accept that I must overcome that in every interaction, every day. Especially when dealing respectfully with women. It's true; I am free to "turn it off by not thinking about it", if I accept the consequences, which are less severe for me, as a man. Am I willing to accept those consequences? No. No I don't want a medal or a pat on the back. (The reward I earn is the chance to participate.)

      My point is this: NO ONE gets to forget what sex they are. We ALL must learn, instead, how to compensate.

      Delete
    2. What exactly are the "consequences" of being seen as a threat? (And do you understand this originates with the behavior many women have experienced from other men, whereas there's no way women could behave that would keep them from being judged as sex objects?)

      Seems like men don't get assaulted or harassed very much for being potential threats, they don't get paid less for it, they don't have a history of having almost no legal rights until the last 100 years because of it, and when's the last time you heard a man give a public speech and all anyone would talk about was whether he might be a rapist or not?

      Delete
    3. Also... does the "threat" thing really get to you every day? I mean literally. Are people sidling away from you or shifting their pepper spray to their hand every time you go out? Do other men ever do it? When you turn on the TV is every male onscreen being judged on how much of a potential threat he is? Do you hear male politicians judged on their "threateningness" to such a degree that people ignore their ideas?0

      Are men who are "too threatening" called one horrible name while men who are "not threatening enough" called another--so pervasively that there's no middle ground at all any man can find? Do you have to worry about this every time you get dressed?

      Do a lot of men get bullied, raped, stalked, or beaten just for being "threatening"?

      Delete
    4. @Holly P: I liked this article, and I like your comment thread takedowns even more. Thank you for talking sense.

      Delete
    5. You seem to be interested in scoring points by repeatedly emphasizing that women have it worse than men. Whatever; I said the same thing twice in my message: I have it easier. Mea culpa.

      I'm not sure I understand your intent, with your claim that men's treatment originates with behavior women have experienced from men, and that women's treatment ... does not? I will certainly agree that men are generally more aggressive and more physically violent ... but you are implying here that women play no role in their ongoing victimization or sexualization. Are you sure you want to do that? Pure victimhood doesn't grant a lot of options.

      Still, "there's no way women could behave that would keep them from being judged as sex objects" is something that I sadly agree with, because it's present to some degree, large or small, ALL the time. Even when men aren't around doing it, women do it to each other.

      But just as women do not constitute a united front, neither do men. I assume you're asking all these questions because you're legitimately curious about the consequences of man-to-man interaction, and not just because you're assuming trite answers that would buttress your bid for "having it worse". ... because that would be lame.

      No, the "threat" thing does not _literally_ get to me every day, because some days I stay indoors reading and do not talk to, or see, anyone, except my cat. But yes, every time I step outside, I deal with it. No, it doesn't usually result in people sidling away from me or fingering their pepper spray, because those issues are sorted out by long-learned habits of body positioning and posture. Men in proximity to each other automatically engage in a constant negotiation of placement, gestures, glances, et cetera, with feigned casualness, that conveys small concessions of respect, and acts as a threat assessment. This negotiation has additional layers, used for more intimate interactions, to determine things like whose turn it is to speak, who can interrupt whom, whose ideas have currency, whose judgement should or should not be most aggressively challenged, who will back up whom in a disagreement or a fight, et cetera. Physical prowess grants men extra currency by default. Same with age and mode of dress. Men have fragile egos and do a complex dance to manage them, yet because of this constant negotiation they tend to self-organize rapidly when some task needs doing.

      "Do you hear male politicians judged on their "threateningness" to such a degree that people ignore their ideas?" Not really, but close. John Kerry, George W Bush, and John McCain were all considered viable presidential candidates because of their military careers. Frankly I think that's crap. Do you hear female politicians judged on their "sexiness" to such a degree that people ignore their ideas? Again, pretty close. Sarah *cough* Palin.

      Men who are "too threatening" are called "assholes", and are usually marginalized by other men to the corners of the power structure and have to earn their keep by taking on jobs that are foul and/or dangerous. Men who are "not threatening enough" are, depending on your crowd, called "fags" and harassed mercilessly until they become appropriately threatening (or leave, or die), or are not called much of anything and are walked all over by other men, deprived of resources, and generally ignored by women.

      The trick is to find that middle ground between "too threatening" and "not threatening enough" such that you secure both allies and respect. Men do their best to aim for this middle ground.

      Delete
    6. What are these horrible names you speak of, that women are called, between which no woman has ever found any middle ground at all?

      "Seems like men don't get assaulted or harassed very much for being potential threats," ...
      "Do a lot of men get bullied, raped, stalked, or beaten just for being "threatening"?"

      Well I don't know what "a lot" is, in your opinion. But I can of course speak in relative terms, by looking at the U.S. National Crime Victimization Survey ( http://bjs.ojp.usdoj.gov/content/glance/tables/vsxtab.cfm ) ...

      Are men just as likely to be victims of violent crime as women, defining violent crime as rape, robbery, and both simple and aggravated assault, totaled together? Yes, a little more than just as likely ... But it's down from twice as likely over the last 30 years, which is good news for me.

      If you're just talking harassment, the figures for 2009 have men and women equal. If you're talking about stalking, the split is 37% adult male and 41% adult female.

      If you're talking about murder, the split for 2008 was 77% men and 23% women. (15,000 people were murdered in the United Stated in 2010.)

      If you're just talking about sexual assault, the split is 90% women and 10% men. (Sexual assault is, by the way, about 8% of all serious violent crime, totaled above.) There were about 125,000 instances of rape/sexual assault in 2009 in the US.

      Let me state again that I agree, men are generally more aggressive and more physically violent. This is common knowledge. But you have overstepped your bounds with "seems like men don't get assaulted or harassed very much for being potential threats." That's just fucking cruel. I don't want to go back to the 2/3 ratio of the 1970's. Don't imply that I should.

      I feel my point is unchanged: NO ONE gets to forget what sex they are. We ALL must learn, instead, how to compensate.

      Delete
    7. Garote - The names are "slut" and "prude." I mean, there are lots of variations. "Whore" and "bitch." "Loose" and "cunt." "Dressed like that" and "doesn't take care of herself." Women are either too sexy or not sexy enough--and shit, most of the time we're not only unable to find a middle ground, we're both. I've been called out for having a sex life and for not being hot enough to sexually entertain men in the same day. Most discussion of women in public roles seems to be all about determining whether they're too sexy (and therefore too dumb/distracting to listen to) or not sexy enough (and therefore no fun to listen to).

      This is not the only dichotomy we're caught in, of course. "Bad mother" and "bad employee" is another perennial.

      And so is "unfriendly to a guy who's just sayin' hi, don't treat him like he's a threat, you sexist" and "she was asking for it." Which is a big reason your comments are getting my hackles up.

      Delete
    8. Well, again, my major premise is that the onus is clearly on guys to demonstrate that they are not a threat. It's practically one of their jobs, and women are not required to give men the benefit of any doubt.

      Delete
    9. Holy shit. You heard it here first: women who preemptively assume all men are threats face no negative repercussions from society, whereas men must constantly prove their virtue just to get by. Why must men face this constant disadvantage simply because of their gender? WHY?!

      I wonder what planet Garote lives on. Also, I wonder if the voice in his head is whispering "misandry" over and over again but he doesn't say it because he knows it would look bad.

      Delete
    10. The voice in his head?

      That's how you counter his inconvenient statistics? By saying he's MENTALLY FUCKING ILL?

      How very progressive.

      Delete
    11. Beady Sea:

      I understand it too well to call it "misandry". It's more a natural consequence of the statistical differences between the sexes. And of course it varies. There are some people who demand less proof than others - men and women.

      Sadly, there are plenty of frustrated men who DO see it is "misandry", because they were raised without very good role models, and/or raised in a highly sexually segregated society, and lord knows it ain't easy to budge that idea once it's taken root. That's another thing that makes it a crapshoot for women: These men usually pretzel themselves and then hide their feelings of frustration until they're in a relationship, and then lay on a guilt trip about how they have to "bend over backwards" whenever their behavior is called into question.

      It's sad because it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy for them: The lonelier they get, the more frustrated they get, the harder they bottle up, the bigger the rejection when they let it out, rinse repeat. I've seen men whine about this very thing and then refuse to blame themselves for it - instead blaming ALL women, worldwide, for being too fickle. It's ridiculous.

      Also, I did not say that women do not face negative repercussions if they assume that all men are threats. They do, and working away from those repercussions is actually one of our goals in our social lives. We're all figuring out who we can trust, on a daily basis, forever. If you don't participate, you lose.

      By the way. Don't dismiss someone you - apparently? - disagree with by accusing them of a persecution complex. That doesn't go anywhere good.

      Delete
    12. Anon, all people have internal monologues and tapes. Saying "the voice in his head" is saying something is not inherently an intimation of mental illness.

      Delete
    13. Holly P:

      I'm definitely familiar with the slut/prude virgin/whore dichotomy, but I don't agree with you that women are completely unable to find any middle ground, unless you're assuming that you must find a mode of dress and behavior that always strikes a balance for everyone you'll ever meet, which is totally impossible. Not in a world where women (ostensibly) choose to wear burkas at one beach, and other women wear bikinis - or nothing - at another beach.

      That said, yes, it's enormously frustrating to have to worry about, and then be judged for, such choices. I only catch the barest fraction of that, since jeans and a t-shirt are an acceptable neutral outfit for me in almost every venue, and any deviation I'd make would be for fun or respect.

      "Most discussion of women in public roles seems to be all about determining whether they're too sexy (and therefore too dumb/distracting to listen to) or not sexy enough (and therefore no fun to listen to)."

      I think that depends on who is doing the "discussing". If you're talking teenage boys and girls, I might believe you. If you're talking a bunch of sexually pent-up geek men in a hotel room at a con, I'd totally believe you. A group of metropolitan ladies gossiping at a bar? Probably.

      The average person on the street, talking to friends or strangers, about a woman they know, or a woman in public office, a woman employee, a woman cop, a teacher, a writer? I don't think so.

      Are women subconsciously judged for their attractiveness, as a factor in whether they should be paid attention to? Freakin' all the time, by just about everyone, male or female, everywhere. It can be grossly unfair and distracting.

      Delete
    14. here's the thing. slut/prude are things that are nobody else's business. threatening/nonthreatening are things that *are* other people's business, because they have to judge whether you'll hurt them.

      Delete
    15. I'm just going to dive in on the threat thing here.
      I'm not on a side, but this is something I've thought about a lot.

      Random men ARE perceived as threats until proven otherwise by -everyone-. It's not that women have created some idea of men as threatening creatures when they're just nice guys. Men don't trust each other!

      And yes, there are words for men who are too threatening thug, hood, criminal, redneck, creep, and so forth.. (they're mostly bound up in class)..and men who aren't threatening enough (see: faggot).

      Random men being perceived as threats isn't about sexism, it's a basic social reality. When people see men, in situations where they don't feel secure, they asked themselves--knowing that men are territorial--'Does this man think I'm his property?' the outcomes to a yes answer are often different for male and female questioners, but not always.

      Delete
    16. It's a basic social reality which IS sexist.

      Just because men also hold the preconception "random man = potential threat" doesn't mean it's not a gendered idea. And it doesn't mean that civilised, respectful gentlemen *Shouldn't Get Upset* about being tarred with the Dangerous Rapist brush, or about being unable to express their own natures without being railroaded into "must be gay/ace">"WTF? You tricked me!">"NiceGuyTM! Never speak again".

      After all, isn't the virgin/whore dichotomy also policed by women, not just men?

      Women don't trust each other either. Random women are judged as sex objects by -everyone-. That too is a basic social reality, which doesn't go away just because we decide to call it sexist.

      I'd argue that the problem in both cases is that the tightrope each sex has to walk is so damn narrow, and we should be trying to expand the middle ground of what's socially acceptable - rather than what happens at present, where it's the act of assessing an individual's RELATIVE threatiness/sexiness that's condemned because all too often it becomes a binary categorisation with no room for nuance.

      tl;dr - Expecting a woman not to be wary of a strange man is as futile as expecting a man not to check out a strange woman. Condemning either takes us right back to GSFS 1.

      Delete
    17. What the other Anonymous said: "voice in his head" was not a reference to mental illness, but to the things he is thinking but not saying.

      Delete
    18. When I take the train (work every day +-40min) I see a lot of people and a lot of people see me. I'm pretty non-threatening as I don't have any of the characteristics traditionally attributed to threatening males in my country (youngish, thinnish, not built, not tall/short, white Caucasian male with a neatly trimmed beard/stash and shortish hair) So when I look away from the window, see a pretty girl and try and give my best toned down/casual quick smile and see her trying to hide a look of disgust/fear it sucks so I don't even bother anymore. I just sleep/look out the window now. Having this happen every day will negatively impact me and that will negatively impact the people around me in turn and I don't want that.

      With this I'm NOT saying that women don't have a problem with perception problems from men/women and I don't see any evidence that Garote is saying that its irrelevant or less important either. Just because I'm focusing on this one thing doesn't mean I am dismissing everything else. On the same hand just because women have arguably a worse problem with perception and name calling doesn't mean that the problem men have can be dismissed/shrugged off because we don't normally talk about it. (And I'm lucky I am a 'non-threating' example in my demographic/country/*pc term here*; large/built/bearded/black/creepy looking/etc. have a much worse time and its hard to ignore and causes bottled up aggression)

      Anology: Just like I wont go walking in the middle of the night, alone in a dangerous part of the city and expect not to get mugged/assaulted a girl shouldn't dress like a slut and expect not to get called on it. Just to make clear (getting assaulted is worse than being called a slut in my book at least but the risk is indicative of the chance taken). Now Me walking in that same place in broad daylight with lots of people around I can expect NOT to get mugged, but I still DID. A women dressing more conservatively (a nice dress, jeans, normal length shorts etc. not like turtleneck if its middle of summer stupidness) the she can expect to NOT get called a slut, but some people WILL anyways.

      This analogy isn't perfect, they rarely are, so see the idea behind it: You cannot control other peoples actions but you can control what you do. It's still wrong what they do no one is denying that and its good to know that we DO do that so we can look at it and stop doing it. That is why the problem men face with being perceived as threating was brought up, same reason as girls being objectified was brought up: it's a problem and people need to be made aware so that we can actually be more enlightened and not just act like we are.

      Good blog post tho, a lot of good points that people can take from it even if I have strong feelings on being monogamous.

      Delete
    19. I just wanna throw this experience out there for those that want to run amok with the sexism, and how much worse women have it. I took a women's diversity class in college. There was one dude in the class. A pretty awesome dude if not a little wimpy and apologetic when he shouldn't have been. I was impressed that his reason for taking the class was he wanted to understand what women go through. To be more aware of their plights. After every chapter this dude kissed butt apologetic for his gender impressively. By the end of week 1 I became his favorite wonderful glorious person in the class. Why? Because I stepped up and got between him and the bloodthirsty balverines that wanted to rip out his intestines just for being a man and how -dare- he enter their sacred woman space and try to -understand them- (and yeah that was the other 20 students all women). I was public enemy number 1 for that class they called me every name under the sun they could come up with. They attempted to destroy every post I made with lame trollish tactics. Why were they so bitter towards me? Because I actually found the textbook -insulting- and -degrading- to women. It made us out to be overly emotional whiners who think they should have -everything- handed to them on a silver platter cuz we're women. The balverines said it was -telling the truth-! To me the book -lessened- the amazing women it talked about. It blamed the men for these intelligent women having to work so hard. What it didn't do was empower them by pointing out the society of the time and just how -amazing- the feats were of these women who got PhDs in a time where women were rarely -ever- accepted into colleges. It was giving women an -excuse- to act like victims, and bash men openly for being sexist pigs just for existing. It was a giant pity party in text form. It was because of the class over all. The sexist fools, the book o' Victimization, and the teacher (a woman) who encouraged the students to be vindictive harpies and attack the male student that I wrote a paper on why women -shouldn't- be allowed on Submarines yet, as my final for the class. Because in this country what they opened my eyes to, is as much as we want to be the 'enlightened' ones collectively. To rebel against sexism and the evil inequality of the country. We aren't there yet not as a whole. There's some of us who are enlightened, but the majority want it to stick around because they can use it to their advantage. As long as men are being sexist, their sexism will go unnoticed. When comparing who has it worse, I think honestly neither side does, not anymore. It's horrible in different ways to be either gender these days. I keep hearing at an alarming rate, fathers out with their daughters having police called on them because they're obviously pedophiles. Guys can't live together as roommates anymore without being called gay (Where women are still roommates not automatically labeled lesbians.) The world's changed. neither side has it as bad as the other from where I'm standing in the middle. I even agree to an extent with articles that say men don't have any idea what's expected of them anymore and that's actually a form of sexism perpetrated by -us- towards them. We expect them to act like men, but then slap them down when they do. Confusing place to be I'd think. When women are called out on their sexism they -freak out- and slap the 'I'm a woman victim' card down. Just like when men express feeling like they're the victims of sexism, women throw down the 'liar' card and their 'they don't know what sexism is' card. In today's society it actually feels like sexism is going the -other way- when it comes to the most common victims. I hear too often women invalidating men just because their men, acting like they're sexual objects, and treating them like property. That's a great step towards equality, and all while still using their victim cards to get away with it.

      Delete
  29. Funny thing that some people who love or even like something, often think that they own the very thing they like.

    If you like sex you have, it does not mean that you have any authority to tell other people how they should have their own sex. If you think that you are a geek it does not give you any power to speak for all geeks. Please wait till someone dies and makes you the sex improver.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Speak for them? No. Speak of them? Quite possibly.

      Delete
    2. Then it might more suitable to say not "We, geeks" but rather "You, geeks."

      Delete
    3. Please wait til someone dies and makes you the blog improver.

      Delete
    4. I don't think I want to improve your blog, it is yours, feel free to have it the way it is.
      See, this attitude is easy. Try it and then there will be not necessary to change your mind about any advice. Especially advice to people who have been geeks before it was cool and were having sex before you were even born.

      Delete
    5. If you're not willing to listen, Mr Anonymous, you're not the target audience, and are free to say and contribute nothing. See you later.

      Delete
    6. Telling people that they have a lot of common attitudes and behaviors that are really immature, unrealistic, and counterproductive is not 'someone died and made me the sex improver', it's called 'having opinions.'

      You don't want to improve the blog, you just want to make sure everybody knows your opinion on it. That's productive.

      Delete
  30. I'd like to add another fallacy that I see amongst sexually openminded geeks (usually kinksters) the idea that because they have sex, because they're kinky and open-minded, that makes them "cool" and "outrageous" and they should show this off. It's obnoxious. I've been to quite a few geek gatherings (unfortunately, some of them in public) where geeks were loudly talking about sex, or worse, demonstrating (spanking each other at a group gathering held in a restaurant, for example). I mean, I get it - they're excited that they don't fit the stereotype of the lonely loser virginal geek. It's a stereotype that geeks have bad social skills, but one that's somewhat grounded in reality, and what can be sometimes worse than the shy introverted geek is the loud extroverted geek.

    We get it, you have sex. You're kinky. You're polyamorous. Please stop. You're embarrassing yourself and your fellow kinky poly geeks.

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    1. Not to mention that they assume you're BORING and CLOSE MINDED if you dare to not be impressed and entertained by their antics.

      Delete
    2. This is my first time here. In my lifetime I've seen it go from, person just wants to do their thing, to person wants to do their thing without anyone looking at them funny, to person just wants to flaunt their thing, to person just wants to flaunt their thing and insult anyone who isn't doing the thing too, to person just wants a law passed so everyone has to do the thing.

      Delete
    3. @tlklish

      Who's passing laws forcing others to have kinky sex??

      Delete
  31. Reading through the comments it's struck me how many more people identify as "geek" today than when I was young, and a nerd. We didn't really start using "geek" until, I don't know, mid-eighties?

    That growth also means fragmentation and some subgroups will have different issues than other subgroups. Geek issues are human issues, one and the same.

    ReplyDelete
  32. *trigger warning for mention of rape.*

    Yes! This! All this!

    Brilliant article as usual, Holly. Thank you for this.

    I've experienced all of the things you list in some form or another. As I wrote to someone else, above, the idea that feeling that sex actually IS a big deal makes someone a prude is far too rife in many spaces I frequent. Similarly the weird sex = more enlightened is something I find massively annoying.

    Number four, though, is the one I find particularly problematic - the 'never cause drama' regardless of what the 'drama' might be about. Essentially, this means I cannot tell my community that my ex raped me, because that would cause DRAMA...!

    I've been writing/debating about this one in relation to polyamorous communities on my blog: http://loveisinfinite.wordpress.com/2012/02/04/non-monogamy-as-a-survivor-part-2-community/

    ReplyDelete
  33. #2 could work for anything geek-related.

    Thanks for #3. It had to be said.

    ReplyDelete
  34. "God knows it's the only sexuality I've ever known. "

    You've only been with geeks? Because women can't be geeks.

    ReplyDelete
  35. Hm. I personally don't find Garote's comments to be offensive in the slightest. Acknowledging those points of his that have validity does not automatically devalue the points about women's status or rights... it's simply looking very closely at the multifaceted aspects of the very complicated lives we lead. He's zooming in on one aspect, while others primarily focus on another... your perspective and ability to remove yourself from your own viewpoint really affect your ability to really engage in this argument without "getting your hackles up."

    Personally, I've been discriminated against far more for my intelligence than for the fact that I have boobs. Just sayin'.

    --Eydawn

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    Replies
    1. Yah, basically it boils down to "patriarchy hurts dudes too."

      Delete
  36. "if you think understanding sex is easy, you don't understand sex"

    This, this, a million times this.

    Also, I try to always keep my sex casual. You know, jeans allowed.

    ReplyDelete
  37. My god, #3. SO much #3. I fight this battle regularly with everyone around me. I've reached this point where I stopped *not fighting back*. And I feel your pain.

    This entry is amazing and good. And my limited and small experience into poly groups has shown me exactly the snobbery you've mentioned here. I hope that if I encounter other groups, or other people, this isn't what I run into. I love my geeks, but I don't like condescension.

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  38. The nit I'd pick with GSFS4 is that I do not see Drama as Conflict, but as the result of conflict that was not addressed directly, and in a timely manner. As a Geezer Geek who is not in the sexual mainstream, I've survived a lot of drama, some very serious, but mostly all second hand. Every time i was a party to it, the one thing I saw was that the drama occurred because something was not addressed as soon as it was obviously an issue, but was ignored because people were not willing to take risks. Yes, there were several times that someone was me.

    Part of the problem here is that as an oppressed group, geeks have tended to develop an overly accepting and accommodating attitude towards our fellow geeks. Many of us are loath to be seen as exclusionary or judgmental. We've been oppressed by the cool kids and the jocks for so long, that the last thing we want to have happen is to be compared to them. So we look the other way, or try to smooth things over, when someone goes out of line, instead of telling them to knock that shit off the first time he does it. Not addressing issues, especially when it is someone acting in a way that bothers us, only tells them that they are OK, which is often seen as a green light to push the limits further.

    As for being enlightened, the only way in which being kinky or poly is more enlightened is in the personal sense. If you are kinky and/or poly, you are more enlightened in having accepted these things about yourself than people who suppress that part of themselves. On the other hand, people who have looked at kink and poly, and recognized that they are not for them, are a hell of a lot more advanced than people who keep trying to make those things work, even when it is not what they are really about. Enlightenment is about being genuine to yourself, whether that is being a libertine or a celibate.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. "Many of us are loath to be seen as exclusionary or judgmental. We've been oppressed by the cool kids and the jocks for so long, that the last thing we want to have happen is to be compared to them."

      I don't know, I think the all too common reaction is to copy what you know when you get the chance. You've never been excluded from something so hard as by a geek in a dominate position in a group. I think everyone has an internal narrative that makes them the hero but the external behaviour is extremely similar regardless of if a quarterback does it or your DM does.

      Delete
    2. I'm really uncomfortable with suggesting geeks are an "oppressed" group.

      Delete
  39. "Sex is complicated as fuck"

    Isn't that... kinda tautologous? :)

    ReplyDelete
  40. Hate the #2, where depending on how people see me, I'm either uber-exotic or uber-boring. Either way, it's annoying as fuck. (Also, if I never have to hear, "How do you have SEX?" ever again, it will still be long overdue.)

    As for sexism in geek culture... the first time I ever played D&D, both with cis guys, they pitched a hissy that I wouldn't play a female character. When I refused to back down, they simply introduced a ridiculously overpowered magical item in the game to genital-swap my character, so they could hit on my character just like they were hitting on me.

    GUESS HOW MANY TIMES I'VE PLAYED D&D SINCE GUYS.

    --Rogan

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  41. I played D&D with those guys too (once...) But I have also had great experiences as a woman in the roleplaying, wargames, Diplomacy, and chess communities. The big variables in my experience are (1) are there enough women that individual women aren't isolated? and (2) are there male allies? With men as well as women saying "Hey, that's a valued player, don't diss her" you can shut this stuff down.

    If there are too few women it *might* still be a decent environment for the few, but that generally works via the "honorary guy" pathway. I've been an honorary guy in a lot of groups, but I don't think it's that great--it may solve the individual woman's problems but it doesn't make the group better for women in general. Also you can sometimes hear the most awful stuff when other participants forget there's a woman present or assume that "this one's different" so they can let rip with the rape jokes or whatever.

    I remember having that kind of shock myself. I was the only woman in my town's chess club for a long time as a teenager. The guys treated me well and it was not a problem. Then one day someone came to me and said, you can't answer the club phone anymore. I was very puzzled and asked why. They said, our wives don't like hearing you on the phone! And I was shocked, because *I* thought of myself as one of the guys, and it had never occurred to me that someone else wouldn't.

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  42. These are great, but I'd call out another, which is "Don't apologize for your boundaries." I have boundaries because I've found that's what works best for me. My boundaries don't mean I'm judging you, or I'm disapproving of you, or anything else. They're not about you at all; they're about me. It's not funny or cool to try to breach them even in a funny or joking way. I hate being made to feel like I'm uptight or not open-minded about something because I've set a boundary for myself.

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  43. Ugh...Regarding the "We're poly so we're so much more mature and enlightened than you are" stuff, could I just please ask any poly folks reading this to STOP ALREADY? It's crappy, and it's doubly crappy when you say it because we've indicated that no, we're not interested in sleeping with you, and that we're monogamous.

    Also, yes, maybe my partner is very attractive to you, but that doesn't make me a selfish, immature jerk for not wanting to let you fuck my partner!

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    Replies
    1. Hi, as a poly reading this, I just wanted to point out that I, too, find the often-occurring idea of polyamory as somehow more mature etc. mostly annoying. And the fact that people don't respect other people's relationships, whether poly or not, well, that's doubly annoying.

      I think people that are newly poly - that have just found out it works for them - might be worse at this than poly folks in general. If you've just found out something new that works terrificly for you, you might be more than tempted to think that that's the way the world should work, as a rule. Or that you've just figured out something essential about how relationships in general work, when you've actually only figured out something essential about yourself and how you work in relationships.

      Delete
    2. I know the feeling all too well. I keep hoping I'll run into Poly folk that won't make me want to rip their still beating hearts from their chests and stomp on them while they watch. I sometimes feel like the insanity level of the poly circle when mixed with Transgender is abnormally high...then I remind myself I just attract crazy people. It seems like it always ends in. We don't wanna be friends anymore, we have no interest in sleeping with you (Despite my showing -no- interest in them that way), And you just aren't supportive of us! And we're soooo supportive of you! (Says the crazy lady who tells me to just think happy thoughts and my depression will -magically- go away...) All because I say yeah that's just not for me, but it's awesome that it works for you!

      Delete
  44. I do think the Kinky Olympics can get a little silly. My partner and I are both bi and poly, but only mildly kinky. We like a bit of BDSM every now and then, but mostly we just love to be naked and to have sex in public.

    One day we enjoyed a lovely afternoon having sex, alongside but not with, a couple we knew that was very into BDSM but just exploring poly. Afterwards, one of them commented on how vanilla we were. Uh, what?

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  45. I think many of these GSFS arise from assumptions. It feels like at every one of them is an assumption by geeks which leads to incorrect conclusions. I think the comment about computer optimization is a great analogy and should be one thing everybody can take away from this article.

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  46. As an asexual, I'm extremely guilty of #1 and #5. I remember having a conversation, when I was about 16 or 17, with a friend about sexually transmitted diseases. I kept on saying, in various forms, "Well goddammit, if people don't want STD's then maybe they should just stop having so much sex!" My friend kept replying, also in various forms, "It isn't that simple!" I had no clue what she was talking about. Of course it was that simple! People could just not have sex, right? Why couldn't they just masturbate like I did if they wanted to get their rocks off? It really didn't seem like an issue. I discovered asexuality a few months later, and boy did I feel like an asshole then. I'd always thought that everyone in my social circle that complained about relationship/sexual problems was just being a drama queen, because I honestly didn't believe that drama was something that existed. I assumed (as Wally says above me) that everybody else was like me, except they felt the need to make a giant snit out of everything. I didn't realize that they actually had giant snits going on in their lives.
    I suppose, in a way, I'm still guilty of #1 and #5 sometimes, but at least I know that I should keep it to myself now. And of course I'm not saying that all asexuals thought the way I did. That was just my personal experience.

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    1. I'm gray-a, and I admittedly still get confused about a lot of couples stuff. Not so much drama, (Internet is drama everywhere!) but I couldn't understand the sexual folk I knew who seemed so miserable at not being partnered... or being partnered, but not with a primary. I couldn't get it, still don't. You have friends! Friends are awesome! What do romantic partners do that friends can't?

      (Sex, obviously, but I couldn't understand being miserable for lack of partner sex either.)

      --Rogan

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    2. Sex is the BIG one (and yes, I'm more irritable and unhappy if I don't have it), but also: having someone you know is going to put your needs first, being the unquestioned first priority in someone's life. Friends are great, but tend to vanish into the woodwork of their own families and partners around holiday times. And even the best friend in the world, if he has to choose on a given evening between being there for his girlfriend or being there for his platonic friend, will perforce pick the relationship that is primary.

      Delete
    3. LBT: I'm with you! I never could get my head around my friends' need to be partnered. I can't say as I do now, but I'm much less snarky about it than I used to be :)

      Erica: I've always thought that the whole significant other vs. platonic relationship thing was weird. I've seen a whole lot of friends go by, mostly women, not all, that do put their significant other's needs first, even above their own. I can't imagine how anybody would want to modify their entire schedule, move away, change their lives, basically, to please someone else. If they enjoy it, great, but they never seemed to. They always seemed to be doing it just because that was what they thought good girlfriends (and occasionally boyfriends) did. And for what? Some tax breaks and some sex? I've been told there's more to it than that, but I have a hard time seeing what that might be.
      This isn't to say that there isn't a hierarchy within my social circle, it just isn't based on sex. It's based on who has the greatest needs for a friend at any given time. I don't see any reason why vague promises of sex should take precedence over someone who needs somebody, not physically, but emotionally. There must be a reason, otherwise so many people wouldn't do it.

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    4. Re: Erica

      I can at least sorta intellectually understand the sex thing (though emotionally, I still feel a bit like it's someone having a need to eat ice cream specifically with other people--a bit odd, but okay).

      As for the first priority thing... I guess I come from a different upbringing, but I'm accustomed as seeing that first priority thing as with family--specifically, children. If my husband needs me, I rush to him, but if it comes down to him or the kid, I'd choose the kid. My husband can usually hang on for a while in an emotional crisis, but the kid not so much. (This isn't to say I don't have trouble balancing them sometimes, especially if they both want to spend time with me alone RIGHT NOW.) And I have had some platonic friends who have pulled some pretty impressive stunts for me--flying across the country on a few days' notice to help me recover from major surgery, for example.

      RE: clannkelly

      Since I'm demi, I'm actually married. We're in a different situation (multi in-system marriage means the concept of 'individual needs' get overhauled) but as far as modifying everything... when it's done just because you feel you SHOULD, then yeah, it goes to hell in a handbasket. But sometimes, you really, truly do feel okay doing such a thing. (Note, however, that this isn't true for my husband so much as my entire system. I'm trans, but what body alterations I choose to have MUST be balanced with the needs of my system, or we're all fucked.)

      For instance, my husband has come home from work because I was in a very bad place mentally and emotionally. He chose to rearrange his schedule on my behalf, not because it was what "good husbands did," but because he made the decision that a day's wages at work wasn't as important as making sure I was all right. Sure, I might bang my husband, but that's not why we're such high priorities in other people's lives. We're just extremely close, and that happened to turn out in a romantic sexual way. Completely different cause/effect.

      --Rogan

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    5. Ah, I see. In that case, I think we are not so far apart - I would consider marriage/family the ultimate partnership, whether or not sex is involved. When you hear your single friends lamenting their unpartnered state or lack of a primary relationship, I imagine it's that "extremely close" bond they're yearning for, more than the sex per se. (See: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CbmbdWK6338) It's just that for sexual people, the person you have the most sex with and the person who's chosen to commit to you first and foremost (until the children come along at least :) are usually the same person, so we conflate them. But it's not that you're making compromises and choices motivated by "vague promises of sex," you're making them motivated by the commitment, which happens to also involve sex.

      It's uncommon for people past their early 20s to have committed platonic friendships that they can count on to take first priority over other obligations. "Sex and the City" was so popular not because of the fashion or the silly sexual stereotypes, but because it presented a dream for most women: four close friends who would be each others' first priorities and not disappear into the Couple Twilight Zone, never to be heard from again and no longer available for socializing, as soon as they found a husband or wife. I would guess that if your single friends had platonic relationships as close and unshakeable as that, they'd be a lot less distressed about the lack of a primary sex partner.

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  47. I apologize in advance – This may be a catch all rant.
    As far as I am concerned the Sci-Fi community has no good reason for excluding non-whites in their portraits. Franchises that that have done alright by this are: Dr. Who (at least in recent times) and the Star Treks (really a leader in this area). Horror genres have been leaders in this area at time (check Night of the Living Dead and Dawn of the Dead.) This is not to say that there are no racist sexist homophobic egotistical people in the sci-fi geek communities or even in a lot of Sci-fi out there in general… I only know what I know… you know?
    For many writers you probably have an effect like what Amy Tan described when she was asked if she might write a book that would “feature principle characters who are not Chinese.” Her response was “Why would I…” and “You have to write what you know.” Perhaps the best thing would be to get geeks head out of the sand racially and start reading the work of writers other than just the white ones.
    Additionally I see how some fantasy writers might get bogged down in exactly how they should go about including representations multiple races in their stories (assuming they think about it)… just coming from a logistic stand point. One has to image that in order for racial differences to occur, populations have to be separated for a long time. So, representing multiple races as anything other than exotic or being separated for social reason could be tricky. ‘Races’ like elves or dwarves because these are not human races and putting human races on the same conceptual line would not work, though they are often separate and often have heavy racial tensions which can serve as metaphorical analogies present and past social ills in Real Life. Most people are represented as ‘primitive’ in fantasy as a general trope of the genre… Again, this is not to say that things could not be better. Hell, I am all ears if anybody wants to bounce ideas around. Maybe someone will write them down in a good story.
    A lot of people (as this very comment may be a shining example of) get there hackles up just by suggesting that there is something wrong with the sub culture they identify with. GSFS 4 mentions (as does many a clever commenter) reasons why this may be. “Not in my group, not my people.” Welcome to In-group Out-group association. But admittedly I felt myself asking “Who are these prick that some of you are hanging out with?” I have met racist, sexist, homophobic pricks, and I make a point of not being around them. (Admittedly I do not keep a very large social circle.)
    When men (particularly men who are not sexist) hear about how sexist men are, they may have a tendency to react defensively for the same reasons. Likewise with women. Telling them they are in no position to make any statement about this will properly not do them (or anyone) any good.
    I think this may be a bit of a problem in the skeptic/atheist community as well.
    Finally, an off the cuff comment to one of the above Anonymous’s who said
    “Regarding the "We're poly so we're so much more mature and enlightened than you are" stuff, could I just please ask any poly folks reading this to STOP ALREADY? It's crappy, and it's doubly crappy when you say it because we've indicated that no, we're not interested in sleeping with you, and that we're monogamous.”
    Sure. That stuff is stupid.
    Then (Anonymous) followed with:
    “Also, yes, maybe my partner is very attractive to you, but that doesn't make me a selfish, immature jerk for not wanting to let you fuck my partner!”… that’s “not wanting to let you fuck my partner!”… “let”?
    Discussing things with your partner and coming up with rules that work for both of you is good, letting your partner know what you will “let” them do, bad. You are not the master of anyone but yourself, and you sure as hell don’t own anyone, nor their actions. You can really only say what you would do “if”.

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    1. No offense, but I think the phrase "not wanting to let YOU fuck my partner" is referring to not letting the *stranger* do the fucking.

      Nothing was said about not letting the *partner* fuck the *stranger*.

      It was phrased in such a way as to suggest that s/he doesn't want it to happen, but isn't absolutely sure about how her/his partner feels. Not something to get uptight about. If s/he doesn't want it, that's her/his feeling and prerogative. Nobody said anything about *forcing* the partner to do anything.

      And I hope we're not going to argue about the right she has to control this other person's actions. When those actions impinge upon someone's own personal space (ie: partner, life, etc) Anon has a right to assert some control over his/her own life. If it were otherwise, then issues such as sexual harassment, assault, molestation and rape would be non-issues because nobody would have any personal rights at all.

      Just a third party observation.

      --Ukky

      Delete
  48. [comment on deleted comments]

    MRAL, I just found out these were from you. You are officially banned from my blog. Get the hell out.

    If you don't know why, that's really not my problem, although it does suggest a stunning lack of insight.

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  49. MRAL, STOP COMMENTING. If I didn't let the fifteenth comment through I'm not going to let the sixteenth comment through. YOU ARE BANNED.

    I don't care if you know why.

    (But I'll give you a hint: it has something to do with a months-long history of verbally abusing women! Sometimes that has consequences. Like not being welcome somewhere even when you aren't being verbally abusive at that exact moment. Even when you've said sorry! Some consequences don't go away the exact instant you say sorry. I'm really sorry about that!)

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    1. Holy Machuka, MRAL's shown up here? BAHAHAHA. I'm sorry I missed it!

      He doesn't seem to understand the concepts of behavior having consequences and situational context, does he?

      --Rogan

      Delete
    2. Mens' Rights Activist Loser? (Seriously, I can't figure out what the "L" is for.)

      Holly, awesome post and awesome blog.

      Delete
    3. MRAL = "Men's Rights Activist Lieutenant." He's a particularly nasty troll I picked up from Manboobz and he tried to post here about twenty times before finally taking the damn hint.

      Delete
  50. Pretty much sums up a lot of heated debates I have had with myself over the years. Non-geeks should read this too.

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  51. I know this is going to sound so like deranged evopsych-y, buy holy shit, the part about avoiding drama/conflict. It couldn't have reminded me more of conflict avoiding in chimpanzee communities.

    When a young chimp with aspirations begins to strut around and to display against low-ranking fellows, everything is fun and entertaining. The high command (which by the way has females too in many cases) watches the youngster, amused by their daring attitude. Kid spends a lot of time grooming high ranking folks, sometimes the big boss himself. A year passes, and now our hopeful presidential candidate is bothering some in the high command. And this is why this post reminded me of it: the ones with power try so damn hard to ignore the displays, the provocations. They pack around each other a whole lot more closely than usual, grooming each other with such concentration and intensity it's not even funny. They almost sink their faces into each other's backs as they do the grooming. When the provocation becomes physically intolerable, the boss finally responds by bringing the youngster back in line. Not a real aggression most times; more like intimidating. The statu quo will not be disturbed, not on his watch.

    Most times the boss suceeds and the young candidate doesn't escalate further in the chain of command. He's comfortable now, a part of the statu quo. He has given up on his own will in exchange for acceptance and a place in the world by the ones in charge.

    Point of this long story: drama and conflict are excuses made by the powerful to ensure everything keeps being exactly the way they are when they can no longer simply ignore the issue. True beyond geek culture, hell, even beyond humanity.

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  52. GSFS 3: I don't think cool women "ignore" sexism... but I don't think there are any cool people I know, male or female, who hear me tell my friend mason "Get me a goddamn beer woman!" and go "oh my god you are so sexist."

    I mean, duuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh that's a sexist thing to say.

    I guess what I'm trying to say is, there's things that are sexist as in "in a vacuum, this is sexist" and then there are things that are sexist as in "in this situation, you are being a sexist." It's kind of hard to say I'm being a sexist when I'm telling my (male) friend Mason to get me a beer and calling him a woman. I'm certainly saying a sexist thing. But I'm not honestly expecting that women should get me beer because that's what women do blaaaaaaargh... I'm *intentionally* being an asshole.

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    1. Actually, that kind of is incredibly assholish. Because there's two sexist jokes there:
      1. That women should serve men. (Whether that's what you "honestly expect" or not, that's what you're saying to any women who hear this.)
      2. That calling a man a woman is a way to humorously degrade him.

      I know it's uncool and unfun of me, but I'm really coming around to the opinion that "intentional asshole" is still pretty much "asshole."

      Delete
    2. Here here. I'd rather be around an unintentional asshole who can be quietly shown why what he's doing isn't cool than someone who actually knows better and does it anyway *just-to-get-a-reaction-whatsamattercantchatakeajoke*.

      But I live where I live.

      Delete
  53. 4 makes me nuts. Everyone JUST STOP DOING THAT! I have been in various bi/poly/kink/geek communities for 25 years and I have never once backed down from creating conflict(I will use that instead of drama now) to back someone up if they are handling skeezy guys at a party or have been raped or had a safe word ignored or anything like that. Kicking a person out of a party when sie is being dangerous isn't rude and reporting someone dangerous isn't gossip. We won't *have* real, safe communities if we put up with this crap. Grow a pair already(ovaries totally count),person up. But we need to stop treating these as just women's issues so actually, man up.

    Great post! I used to fall into 2 badly when I was younger.

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  54. GSFS 1: People can voluntarily control their emotions about sex.

    Well it is possible but not easy. It may require practice, training and mental conditioning aka. brainwashing.

    Like humans can be taught to kill other humans people can learn to be A-sexual on will.

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    1. "people can learn to be A-sexual on will"
      Yeah, how is that working out for priests or people trying to avoid having gay thoughts?

      Delete
    2. Well how much mental conditioning did they undergo? I'm not an expert in the field just an subject.

      Its not like I recommend it. Just pointing out that it is an possibility.

      Delete
    3. Not to mention that the church that is often against stuff not in their book would hardly even consider this option.
      A-sexual on will would be sort of perfection in the sense of controlling your sexuality.
      Just cleaning your mind temporarily out of any feelings and unnecessary thoughts is much easier.
      You could consider it an kind of meditation.
      Its useful also when you are interacting with an human you find to be sexually attractive but you don't want to have any sexual feelings/thoughts at the moment or towards said person.

      Delete
    4. Shit, this is what happens when I don't get all my comments in the mail.

      Anon, this is completely ridiculous and impossible. People can choose how to act sexually but they can't just decide to be asexual, and furthermore they shouldn't because sexuality is an okay thing to have.

      Delete
    5. The A-sexual part was sort of an exaggeration.
      Reducing sexual desires would be more correct at the current level of knowledge.
      Changing an humans psyche is still an relatively new area in science, like we don't really know yet how to remove PTSD.
      However it has been proven that undesired primitive instincts can be reduced to have no effect in an desired situation.

      And you can learn to temporarily clear your head of emotions.

      Having sexual emotions is not always an good thing if it could affect your performance in an negative way.
      Its not like we need to have an sexuality all the time in all places.

      Though this is not very relevant with actual sex so this is sort of an off topic.
      Feel free to delete.

      Delete
    6. Being an asexual doesn't necessarily mean you lack sexuality. It just doesn't involve anyone else. Of course there are many different shades of asexual, so I'm just speaking from my personal experience. I have what I consider to be a sexuality but I don't feel anyone else should be involved in it. It's like going to the bathroom. It's something I feel much more comfortable taking care of myself.

      Delete
  55. Yesterday............love was such an easy game to play!

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  56. I concur about GSFS 2 (The weirder your sex, the more enlightened you are), especially about people who are all "polyamory is the future of relationships!" It's not for everyone, and I understand that, especially when I'm explaining to my friends that I have an open relationship.
    I wish that people were more open-minded about merely discussing it. Most people I've talked to have been very dismissive or weirded-out of the idea of an open relationship. Because being socially liberal about everything from pot to gay marriage to immigration, that's all cool, but whoa, somebody wants to have more than one partner, that's just TOO FAR all of the sudden. People need to understand that polyamory isn't for everyone ... but people also need to accept that it does work for some people.

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  57. The really phenomenal thing about sex is that you get to turn your mind *OFF* for a few seconds. Enlightenment begins with being animal. 1300 blog posts aren't required: just be.

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    1. ...Did you just tell me that you're so fucking enlightened that you figured out why my whole blog was unnecessary? Cause if so, that's some pretty goddamn condescending enlightenment.

      And unless you black out during sex, your mind isn't off. It's in a different state, but it's still there, still having experiences and making decisions. And your mind is definitely on--or should be!--when you're deciding when and how and who to have sex with.

      Delete
  58. Thank you for writing this and for keeping the comment thread up. It's given me an incredible amount of cool stuff to think about.

    ReplyDelete