Monday, July 16, 2012

Green flags.

There's a lot of articles out there about "red flags" to watch out for when you're dating someone.  My favorite is the discussion of "Darth Vaders" in the comments to this post by Captain Awkward. The concept can certainly be used for victim-blaming--saying "why didn't you spot all the red flags?" is a great way to kick someone when they're down--but it's a good tool for someone facing the dating world.

A couple years back, I went on a date with a guy, jokingly disagreed with him about some silly thing I don't even remember, and he hit me.  Straight-up slapped me on the arm, hard enough to hurt, not hard enough to bruise.  He wasn't my boyfriend or anything; this was our second date.  I yelled "Hey!" and he started laughing and told me it was a joke and it's not like he really hit hit me, and I was probably taking everything so seriously because I was an uptight feminist, but he was willing to forgive me for that so long as I went ahead and laughed with him at this wonderful joke he'd made.

He called me for a third date and I did not call back.  I was closer than I'd like to admit to being sucked into the "it was a joke! horseplay! are you really going to hold that against him?" thing, but then I thought in terms of red flags.  Physically striking someone on a date is one of the reddest flags there is.  Even though I couldn't quite convince myself that the hitting itself was wrong, I could understand that it was a sign of wrong things coming.  I think that understanding saved me a lot of pain.

But the mere absence of red flags doesn't really say anything good about a person, does it?  "I went on a date with the most wonderful guy!  I don't think he'll emotionally or physically abuse me!  What a catch!"

So let's talk about green flags.  (Um.  White flags?  ...Cyan flags?)  Signs that someone is mature enough for a relationship, that they have a healthy attitude toward relationships, and that they have the potential to be a caring and responsible partner.  This isn't about compatibility--maybe they're a lovely person but you like Kirk and they like Picard--but signs that they'll be a good partner to someone.

 Here are a few.  I bet there'll be better ones in the comments.
  • They communicate, early and often, about what they're thinking and feeling, and they give you chances to do the same.
  • They introduce you to their friends and want to meet your friends.
  • They have a rich life outside of you. It can be many different things--job, hobby, friends, family--but they have something that makes them engaged and energized and has nothing to do with you.
  • They're excited by the things that make you different, not just the things that make you conventionally attractive.
  • They ask you for your opinion and advice as often as they offer theirs. 
  • They're willing to do un-fun, un-sexy stuff with you; when you need someone to hold your hand in the ER or take you to the airport at rush hour, they're there for you.
  • When talking about previous relationships that didn't work out, they admit fault and regret.
  • They always ask you before making a decision that affects you, whether it's trivial like "where to sit in the theater" or major like "whether to have sex tonight."
  • They respect your decisions and emotions even when you can't "logically" explain them.
  • You feel safe disagreeing with them, calling them out when they screw up, or telling them you don't want to do something with them.
  • They set boundaries with you sometimes, and they do it in a matter-of-fact, respectful way.
Your mileage may vary, some bad people will have a few green flags, some good people will be missing a few, all opinions given are only opinions, et cetera.  But when you're considering making a new person a major part of your life, I think it's important to think not just about "are there no bad signs?" but about "are there any good signs?"

P.S. While I was in the middle of writing this post, Captain Awkward put up a post on the exact same subject!  Curse you, synchronicity!  But if you don't mind reinforcing my terrible case of Blog Envy, I highly recommend you check her post out too.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Cosmocking Special Edition: Fifty Shades of Cosmocking!

Light pink cover!  Light pink invisi-pants! ...Hang on here.  "Wow Your Man With These Moves Inspired by Fifty Shades of Grey"?  Oh boy.  I'm going straight there.

...Oh boy.  This is gonna be a whole post.
Thanks to Fifty Shades of Grey, everyone and their mother is buzzing about BDSM (short for this laundry list of naughty turn-ons: bondage, discipline, dominance, submission, sadism, and masochism).
Hey!  They actually got our goofy acronym right!  Maybe this article will be well-researched and created with input from actual kinksters!  Maybe it will discuss how BDSM exists as a community, how it encompasses a broad range of activities and motivations, and above all else, how crucial enthusiastic consent and explicit communication are in BDSM!
Suprise-attack him with a few of these tonight... and that's an order.
...Maybe not.
Use the back of a brush to swat his thighs when he steps out of the shower--wet skin is more sensitive.
That's not a sexy surprise, Cosmo.  That's battery.

God damn it. Consent is not some advanced detail that you can skip over because you're writing for a casual audience.  Consent is fundamental.  Whether you hit someone wet or dry--that's a fucking detail.

The ridiculous part is that it might turn out your boyfriend was secretly kinky all along. It might turn out that he is a bottom and does like hitting and does like being taken by surprise--but he hates being hit on the thighs.  Hitting him on the thighs gives him the bad pain and makes him shut down sexually.  He wanted to be hit on the butt.

Having sex without negotiating isn't a great idea, but you might be able to guess what your partner likes if you stick to the cultural standards.  When you do BDSM, you can't guess.  Kinks are too complicated for that and the stakes are way too high.
Make him watch a porno--from the pizza being delivered to the pizza boy getting his "tip"--without touching you or himself. If he tries, slap his hand away.
Careful.  There's a fine line between "oh, release me from this torturous sexual deprivation, Mistress" and "hm, I wonder if they're shooting this on a XL-2?"
Press a fork (firmly, but don't break the skin or anything) into different parts of his body--his butt cheeks, his pecs, his thighs.
My roommate and I tried this--for Science! Result: jabbing a fork at me at random just feels silly and uncomfortable.  It only got interesting because he knew how to use the fork on pressure points.

...oh yeah, and because I'm a god damn masochist.  That's kind of an important part of the equation here.
Get him to wrap your wrist and ankles in toilet paper for a lighter restraint. While you are bound, he should tease you to the point where you're so turned on, you have to rip free of your shackles.
Toilet paper bondage. Oh my god.  TOILET PAPER BONDAGE.

I love Cosmo so much.

TOILET PAPER BONDAGE. much frenzied thrashing does it take to rip toilet paper, anyway?
In your meanest schoolteacher voice, tell him to go stand in a corner facing the wall and not to move. After a few minutes, demand that he get in bed and ravage you.
It's like someone told Cosmo what roleplaying is, but didn't give any examples, so they had to kinda wing it.  "And next, maybe you could play cop and naughty party boy, and you could, um, write him a citation and then tell him to have sex with you."

It's also exponentially funnier when you remember you're supposed to be doing all this stuff as a surprise.
Let him write "Property of [his name]" on your underwear before you leave for work. It's an all-day-long reminder that he is your "master," which is awesomely kinky.
That's just going to make for confusing laundry.

It also raises questions like "What does 'master' mean for us? Does it connote real authority in our relationship?  In what ways will the 'master' exert control and in what ways can the 'slave' express her needs and problems to him?  A master/slave relationship is a very serious commitment--is this what we really want?  Or is this simply a short-term roleplay for us, and we happen to find the concept of 'master' hot?  Even then, does the roleplay extend to any activities or dynamics beyond underwear-labeling?"

Then it throws all those questions out the window, because who needs clarity when you've got a Sharpie?

As you're riding him, clamp down on his earlobes with your fingers, and pull on them to rock yourself forward and backward.
Oh Cosmo.


(Dear million billion people who've written in about it--no, I haven't read Fifty Shades of Grey. Yes, I'm going to. Yes, I'll blog about it.)

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Just one ally.

When I worked on an ambulance (this is my personal "one time in band camp"), we were at a nursing home, dropping a patient off after a routine transport, when we saw something disturbing.  A nurse was giving liquid medication to another patient who was clearly choking on it.  The patient was gagging horribly, the nurse was holding his head in place and forcing the oral syringe down his throat even as he was thrashing and making drowning noises, and after she finished she walked away even though he was coughing up medication all over his pillow.

My work partner and I saw this, and, with that creeped out feeling of "did I just see what I think I saw?" and "something's not right," we... left and took another call and went off to the hospital.  Then we grabbed some lunch.  Then one of us--I don't even remember which one--blurted it out.

"That thing at the nursing home... you saw that too, right?  That was kind of fucked up, right?"

Those two sentences started the chain of events that lead to us filing a formal elder abuse report.

When we see something going on that's Not Right, often we face ourselves with a false dichotomy--either do The Right Thing, confront them or call the cops or blow a whistle... or do nothing because you blew it.  And doing The Right Thing can be hard if you're not sure that what you saw was wrong, or real, or any of your business.

It's easy to judge people for seeing something horrible and not responding, but I think most of us have been there.  We've been in that nail-biting state of being horribly distressed by what we saw, but unable to act in the moment--more afraid of making a fuss over nothing than about letting someone get away with something horrible.  Sounds stupid when you spell it out.  But it's a real state that humans are really subject to, and saying "well, don't do that" doesn't fix it.  I wrote about one of my experiences here.

Here's another one: I went to a Jewish summer camp one year when I was a preteen.  On the bus ride back, I heard the administrators telling all the boys from the eight-year-olds' cabin not to tell anyone about Counselor X.  Especially don't tell anyone about how he touched your butts.  Otherwise we won't be able to have camp next year and it'll be all your fault!  You'll ruin it for everyone!  You don't want that!

I was young, but I was not so young that I didn't know exactly what they were talking about.  But I didn't tell anyone.  Mostly because I had this sense of "it couldn't be."  I thought it couldn't really be molestation because molestation is a big serious deal and this was just some confused boys and a counselor who looked like an ordinary guy and everything seemed really quiet and normal except for those few sentences I overheard.  I managed to convince myself that the counselor had done some things that might sound like molestation, but obviously weren't, but if the boys told anyone then the camp might be shut down because of a misunderstanding.

I know how fucking stupid that sounds.

But calling it stupid doesn't help.  Giving me speeches about "enabling" and "all evil needs is for good people to stand by" and so forth doesn't help.  What would've helped?  Just one ally.  Just one person who turned to me and said "they're trying to get us to cover up for a molester, right?" would've made all the difference.  Just one person who let me know my concerns weren't all in my head.  Just one person to check myself against, and I might have been able to say "we're telling about this."

So I don't wish that I'd called the cops, or told my parents, or CPS or anything.  Not directly. I wish that I'd turned to one of the kids sitting next to me on the bus and gone "did they just say what I think they said?"

Next time you see something that seems wrong, but "oh my gosh maybe not really maybe I shouldn't say anything I don't know," you don't have to go right to the cops or the boss or run into the situation with your fists up.  What you do have to do--this is a goddamn order--is tell someone about it.  Someone as confused and powerless as you are.  Just check in.  "This seemed off to me, does it seem off to you?"

Sometimes it isn't even about how the other person reacts.  Sometimes it's just about putting it into words.  You hear yourself describe the situation and you realize what you're describing.

Sometimes it's just about taking a step, even if it isn't the perfectly right step, that makes you realize you are allowed to act on this; now that you've done something you can do more.

And sometimes they look back at you and say "yeah, that was fucked up. I was thinking the same thing but didn't want to say anything.  You think we should go tell someone about it?"

And that, two people realizing they're not the only one in the universe who has a problem with what's happening, much more often than any spectacular act of lone-hero courage, is how evil gets dragged into the light.

[Wow, I've been writing a lot of dark shit lately. Which is partly a reflection of things that have been going on in my life--working in an ER and dealing with ugly scene politics doesn't always prime you to see the good in everyone--but nonetheless, it's not all I want the blog to be.  I'll try to write something positive about sex next.]