A Post About Reason

Harmful Comment or Compliment: You Decide

After nearly a decade of living, researching, and blogging about non-monogamy, I decided it was high time to share a little bit of what I have learnt with the masses.  And thus, I am creating a series on Medium.com whereby I am writing a how to “non-monogamy” guide.  It is an exciting endeavour and so far, the responses have been overwhelmingly positive.  And, if you’re thinking that I am going to rant about a negative review, have I got a surprise for you!  No, this post is about something that surfaced when I queried a local Facebook group for input on future articles. (Which if you would like to add some suggestions I would love to read them!)  And after I go off on my side of things, I am going to show a completely different perspective of the same events, and then I am going ask you to decide where you sit on the issue. No, it’s not a test, and you don’t have to publicly share your answer.  Instead, I want you think about how your intentions are coming across on social media, especially in light of the #metoo movement, because for better or worse, it has changed the tone of how we relate to each other, and more importantly our ability to reason. 

So without further ado, I present harmful comment, or compliment: You Decide!

Yesterday, I was asking a group of lifestyle people on Facebook for their suggestions on future articles in my non-monogamous how to series.  A female member of the group requested that I write a piece for a male audience, and when I asked further what she meant, it turns out that she has troubles opening or even saying hi to a person in the lifestyle.  In short, she explained that she was looking for more of a how to guide with starting conversations with other people in non-monogamy, and agreed this would be beneficial for both sexes.  I graciously thanked her, as this was exactly the sort of thing that should be included in a series like this.  Now, here is the point of contention, a male commented with the following using our thread:

I think all you would need to do is say “hi”. Pretty sure it would get your point across if he’s from a LS group.

My Side

While I kept my reply fairly mundane, in my head I was reeling, and I rushed to type out all of my thoughts. Firstly, a female asked me for help.  It was specific to my article, and yes, although it was a public forum and everyone is welcome to add their input, we were in the middle of a question and answer thread.  In short, a guy butted into a place that added zero value.

Second, she specifically said she was having troubles just saying hi.  So random guy ignores that, and just suggests that she say hi anyways?  What point does saying “hi” ubiquitously get across, even on a lifestyle site?  Hi, is not consent, negotiation, or really anything other than a pleasantry.  And listen, if a “hi” on a LS club is like some secret handshake, then honestly, there needs to be a very bright neon warning sign for all of us who were unaware of this fact.

Third, this woman was a very good looking brunette, and my Spidey senses went off in a flash of an objectifying nature. She asked for help, and the guy turned around saying, no, you don’t need to do anything but show up and all is good.

This in general, is why, I reasoned that women have difficulty asking for help publicly where men are, and why so many of us have private groups for sharing our thoughts and expressing ourselves.  I hate writing pieces with such a strong gender bias, but in the social media realm world this exists all the time and the word mansplaining had to be coined. 

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Flip Side

But now, let’s flip perspective. Let’s remove my biases, and just try and put ourselves into the male writers, or readers shoes.

Firstly, the guy was just trying to give a compliment.  He saw a woman asking for help, thought to himself, nah, she doesn’t need that, look at her! She is already amazing, and he wants to tell her so.  Completely benign, harmless, and ripe with good intent.

Second, he honestly thought offering her words of encouragement would make her feel better, and boost her ego.  Ergo, he was being helpful, and thoughtful.  At the end of the day, he is a really great guy, and wanted to tell her that in a way that has worked for decades, the negging method. 

Third, he is being completely honest in that he imagined receiving a message from her, and was expressing that truthfully, no further work was needed beyond the initial interaction.  He would take it from there. A woman just saying hi, is hot, confident, and should be encouraged.  That’s just what he was trying to do.  No ill intent meant, and he would be happy to take the lead, after her initial interest.

In summary, he is doing what he has always done on social media.  He has typed a comment based on his gut reaction and impulse.  Perhaps he cares little for how it is interpreted because he is just being himself.  That freedom to do, say, or type whatever you want is what makes online interaction so fun and easy.  He doesn’t see her body language, reaction, or any idicators to show whether it worked or didn’t and this he is going to continue acting in the same manor until he is told otherwise. And if she does respond, but not in the way he wants, no sweat, she doesn’t get him and will move right onto the next person.

Takeaway

I hope you have made it to the end of this post.  Because what I am about to say gets to the real heart of this two perspective issue.  Times have changed.  Our online social interaction is, impacted by the #metoo movement.  We have all felt it, in one way or another.  We have seen even the most innocuous comment get blown way out of proportion, as some of you may think I have done.  We have also seen the flip side, of people using humour, or negging, or just saying absolutely anything to get noticed in an interweb where it often feels like you have no voice and have to shout incredibly loudly to be heard or stand out.  Any attention is good attention right?  Type as fast as you can, and do not spend even a moment to think about how your words will come across because we only have a 3 second attention span, and you need to be noticed above all, good, bad, ugly, it doesn’t matter.  Trolls seem to have more followers and interaction than anyone right?

Wherever you initially were sitting on this little choose your own perspective piece, the main thing I hope you takeaway is, right now, everything you put online is being interpreted from different biases.  We are not in a place where we are just getting along, and existing in bliss amongst a multitude of diversity and opinions. Instead we are clashing, clamoring, and crying out foul whenever our biases are superseded by that which makes humans so unique, our ability to reason. We keep asking How Should We Behave, but we are not actually doing anything to listen to the answers.

So, pause, and think about how your words are going to be viewed and interpreted online.  Decide what your intent is when you type those words on a page, and if they are not received the way you intended, tweak them next time.  Change your tone.  Find a new way to stand out in this new world of social interaction.  Don’t waste the ability to reason and think.  There is more to life than just being right.

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A Rant: Respecting the Word No

No means no!

I’m feeling raw and vulnerable, because it happened again.  It always seems to happen.  Here I am, trying to be open, fun, and authentic and then boom, some jackass takes it too far.  They stop respecting when I say no.  And they try… wait… they do push my boundaries, simply because they believe something inherently false, that women do not know what they want.  That I, do not know what I want.  Why?  Because they have their best intentions at heart and I can trust them.  I have heard this argument so many times in my life, that it really has done a mind fuck on me.  And yes, there is a time and a place when this may be true.  I.e. when you are in a committed relationship and your partner knows you better than you know yourself.  Or when there is an established, vocalized, and consent based trust that they will not ever push you into a place that would harm either of you.  Then, of course, there is an exception, and perhaps the good intentions hold true.  But even then, if I or anyone else says no, the demand is that it be heard.

Good Intentions VS Perceptions

But that’s not where I find myself right now.  I have numerous people in my life with whom I have to keep re-iterating my boundaries.  How many times can I say, “no, I don’t want a hug” or “no, I don’t want to have sexualized conversations with you, because we don’t have that type of relationship”.  It becomes exhausting steering the conversation away from sex or relationship topics or even something as simple as talking about my personal life.  That nice guy adage of talking about your feelings will make you feel better is bullshit.  I’m not playing those games or letting you into my mind!  It makes you feel better to see someone hurt or vulnerable, not me!  How many times do certain men need to be shot down before I have to up the ante, and get really mad or worse, cut them out of my life completely?

There is a huge difference between being playful, flirty, and fun, versus just pulling out all the stops and ignoring the word no.  If I say, no, I demand that to be respected.  I know myself.  I know my body, and I know my comfort levels.  On and on this note, body language plays a huge role in this too.  If you reach out to touch someone, and they do not reciprocate the touching, it’s time you took a pause and ask them if they are OK with it.  I think we all know what that uncomfortable hug from someone you don’t want touching you feels like, and when you’re in an emotionally vulnerable place it is so much worse.  You begin to dread having to ever see them again.  You need to get consent before you touch someone, and crush that part of you that thinks your touch someone is more important than their answer.  And no, it not OK to look crushed and hurt or make them feel guilty for whatever their answer is.

Why Do I Feel Raw?

Now you may ask why I opened with feeling raw and vulnerable because I seem to have a very clear picture of what I want.  But the truth is I am getting very tired of feeling that this is my fault.  That writing this blog, sharing sexy pictures on Patreon, or posing for Instagram with my beer and boobs, somehow means I deserve to be ignored.  Or that I must be open with everyone.  Or that I identify as a sex positive individual and therefore, I want to talk sex all the time, and be touched by everyone.  Or worse, that you think you are special because you read my work, understand me, and now feel that you somehow are a part of my intimate life.  Let me be very clear, I share what I want to share, and I want to be free to continue doing so.  I do not owe you anything, and I do not have to expand on topics for your own delight.  And again, if I say I don’t want to talk about it, respect that.  Do not give me your puppy dog eyes, and put your hand on my thigh, telling me that you’re always here if I need you.

A Little Math to Help Clarify

Let’s put some math into this to help me explain.  Let’s say you have read 10 of my blog posts, and we have had 1 conversation in person that lasted about 10 minutes.  Do you think that in that short amount of time what you know of me, versus what I know of you is now equal?  Do you honestly think that somehow, magically, you have put enough work into building trust and a relationship that we are on equal footing and you can ignore when I say no?  Or to ignore when I blatantly brush you off, and do not reciprocate to a single one of your advancements?  If you’re wondering, each one of my posts takes at minimum of an hour of my time (keeping the math simple here as some take days).  So, from a simple algebraic formula can you get this to balance?  Remember, I have already put in 10 hours of my life, to your 10 minutes.  Are you seeing the inequality here?   

And let me tell you, I am sick and tired of men taking advantage of that and thinking they don’t have to put in any effort with me.  More to the fact, I am exhausted from working so hard to let me guard down, and then boom, feeling like I am faced with blatant sexual harassment that some how I feel is my fault.  Because I was open, sex positive, and shared my vulnerabilities publicly. 

In Short, Respect the No!

The world is changing.  The #metoo movement is real.  It is no longer acceptable for men to just keep pushing until they get slapped or the woman changes her mind, mind you that was never a great tactic but if you lived through the 80’s and 90’s you’ll remember that being pretty common.  Remember those days are over.  Wake up!  If you have ever had a woman claim that you crossed the line, you are the problem.  You need to change your tactics and never do that again.  Respect the no.  Do not push it.  And here’s the thing, even if a woman has been uncomfortable even one time, I have to re-iterate that you have done something wrong.  Woman should never feel uncomfortable.  It means you have not put in the time required to build trust, you are ignoring clearly established boundaries, and/or you are not respecting the person you are interacting with.  I don’t care how “good” your intentions may be in your head, your actions are clearly in violation of your intentions, you are not the nice guy that you think you are, and you need to stop that behaviour immediately!

End rant!

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The Friendzone is Bullshit!

Body language matters and the friendzone is bullshit!

I have toyed with a post explaining why I believe the word friendzone is bullshit for over 5 years.  I have outlines, ideas, and just random thoughts peppering my work in progress document and nothing I wrote ever could quite get past the whole “I don’t like the label and it’s implications”.  Until recently, I felt writing this post would be irresponsible and give people the wrong impression about me (by that I mean, I didn’t want men who felt they were in the friendzone to start pushing boundaries). But I write this now because there is something bubbling beneath the surface of the word that I think needs to be addressed here.  With a few beers in me, I wrote this in reply to a comment on my Predators blog post: I have tried numerous times to write a post on the friendzone, however I stop myself in light of this very context. Until there is a clear understanding of consent, and boundaries, there are certain men that should just stay believing in the friendzone for the sake of the women they are in essence pushing boundaries with…. OK, maybe this should turn into a post.

Any guesses where I am going with this yet?  The friendzone is a word, that I have always felt, was a copout.  We use it to place a person who we may or make not actually like, but definitely do not want anything physical to happen with (at that particular moment).  And as we are still trying to figure out what role they play in our lives, we relegate them into this so called “friendzone”.  The implications of that zone, are that the person will take the hint, and therefor understand that they are to stop being flirty, or expect that the person who placed them there will ever sleep with them.  Basically, it’s code for “just give up already”. 

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So, there are two parts that I will touch on here to explain why I think the friendzone is bullshit

The first, is why do we allow, or even encourage people to place labels like this on other human beings.  It’s often cruel.  If a person likes you, man up, and have the conversation that says you are tired of them doing such and such behaviour, and would like it to stop for the friendship to continue.  Then set a clear expectation, for example, this is what will happen if you don’t.  Off the top of my head you could threaten that the friendship will be over if they continue to push your boundaries.  Of you could simply state where you are at in the moment and call out the persons bad behaviour as it happens.

Perhaps you would like an example from my colourful past?  Ok, here is a little story time…Once upon a time when I was in a long term monogamous relationship, I had a friend who would constantly try to buy me drinks, text me cute pet names, and when he got drunk he would meow at me.  I really appreciated all the free stuff I was getting, and when we texted it was playful, it was fun, and quite flattering being on someone’s mind like that.  However, when he got drunk, he repeatedly tried to cross the line, would hold his hugs just a little too long, and the weird meowing turned into this creepy cat-like howl. To be clear I had zero attraction for him, and was in a completely monogamous relationship that he was fully aware of.  He was a teddy bear in the day time with whom I always hugged when I saw him, was a great listener, and overall I loved the boost he gave my ego.  So, I, without realizing it, was letting him ride in that weird friendzone territory, while I sorted out my feelings and tried to rationalize where he was in my life. 

But then, I grew up.  Ok, the truth was, I got sick and tired of his drunken behaviour and watched it start to spill into our sober text messages.  So, I gave him a choice.  Either stop crossing the line with me when you’re drunk and allow me to trust you 100% of the time, or you will not be in my life.  And guess what?  After two strikes, he was no longer in my life.  I won’t lie, I missed the attention, but ultimately, the ego boost just wasn’t worth having someone like that in my life.

Ok, so now let’s talk about the other side of it.  Why people find themselves in the friendzone.  I’m not going to mince words here, if you have ever found yourself in the friendzone it is because you do not have the social skills to handle the situation that you are in and you are the problem.  See what I did there?  I told you what was wrong in a direct manor.  Let me explain, if you’re sitting there, shell shocked, or feeling like you want to start defending yourself, take pause and hear me out.  If you are attracted to someone, and the feelings are not returned in the same manor that you are wishing they would, there are a few things going on.  First, you have picked a target way out of your league and you are either too shy, under confident, or socially awkward to overcome that hurdle so you tell yourself, just being close to this person is enough.  Guess what? It’s not, it’s weird, and you need to start learning how to build your confidence. 

Second, you have this person in your life who keeps telling you no, but you have decided, that they are wrong, and you are going to keep trying.  Guess what?  That makes you an asshole and you have violated the whole consent thing.  Maybe this person is just being too nice, doesn’t want to hurt your feelings, or is just genuinely trying to figure things out.  That shouldn’t matter to you though. If you hear the word no, it’s time to back off immediately.  Perhaps they will miss you, and come around.  Or more likely, they will realize their gut was right, and they just were one of those genuinely amazing souls who are nice to everyone, and are so relieved that they don’t have to feel awkward around you anymore.  Either way, respect the word no, and back off!

The friendzone is not healthy, for anyone.  The friendzone is a bullshit place to be, and equally to put someone in while you figure things out.  I propose that we remove this silly label from our vocabulary and start actually communicating with people.  You don’t have to use black and white labels.  We are blessed with a whole range of words, body language, and clear methods of expressing ourselves.  So, start building those skills.  And did you know that you can always change your mind about a person too?  If you tell a person you aren’t into them, and then realize you were wrong you can go and talk to them and share your feelings?  Crazy, I know!  But it’s far better than playing this whole in the friendzone, out of the friendzone charade.  So take these new and improved communication skills you have learned here, and go have meaningful conversations with people you like.  And always remember, if they say no, for the love of everything, respect that, and do NOT keep trying!

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Being Triggered is No Reason to Censor

I honestly strive to be level headed, compassionate and understanding, especially to all those around me who are going through difficult times.  I earnestly try to keep my overly critical comments to myself, and try to understand why I feel the need to be so harsh, rather than, whatever the opposite of an opinionated, judgemental so-and-so.  In this post, I am breaking that silence, and saying to hell with it.  I have a strong opinion on those who feel triggered by things in our society and then take great strides to try and ban or censor those things for other people.  And basically, I think these people to need to grow up, and not project really shitty things that have happened to them onto others.  I believe censorship teaches us nothing, and banning things directly violates our freedoms, and yes, I think less of you for wanting to impose your skewed belief onto me.

A few weeks ago, I had a friend tell me that she supported the banning of “Baby It’s Cold Outside” because every time she heard the lyrics, “what’s in this drink?” she felt triggered.  It was a painful reminder of the situation that lead up to her first rape and she was in complete shock that I wrote about not wanting to ban it here.  Now I know she shared this very painful moment with me to illicit sympathy and understanding as to what she went through every time she heard the song.  The pain, is for her, still as fresh today as it was many years ago.  And while I wanted to pause, and give her a shoulder to cry on, the realist in me took over and basically told her that regardless of her specific situation, banning a song would accomplish nothing.  You cannot shelter yourself from that specific phrase for all time, and you have zero right to impose your pain on the rest of us.  That is plain wrong.  To take away something from me, that I love, because it causes you pain is the epitome of selfish.

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Here is what I equate this thinking to, in all it’s ridiculous form.  Imagine, as I know many of us can, myself included, that the word rape makes you uncomfortable.  Now imagine, for example that any form of that word would trigger in you some form of emotional response, as again, it does for so many of us.  Now, let us imagine that you are shopping for peanut butter, and decide to quickly peruse the ingredient list to ensure that it is appropriate for your specific dietary needs, and BAM!  Without warning, you see the word “rapeseed” listed innocently amongst the listed inclusions.  And you, understandably, do a double take.   Now, here’s where we see rational get overtaken by the emotional, because in that moment, you vow that you will never look at the word rapeseed again.  You vow further to ensure that you a) never read an ingredient list again, or b) start petitioning food manufacturers to take this obscene word off of the list (screw anyone whose allergic to it) or c) you work in earnest to get this seed renamed for the sake of “all the children” who will be exposed to such a vile word (again not taking into the fact that this could have serious consequences for those who are unaware of the change and ingest it accidentally).

Yes, this example is ridiculous and way out in left field, but I do feel it makes a pretty clear point.  When you are triggered, you do not think rationally, and that is completely understandable.  I am not trying to shame your gut reaction.  What I am hoping to accomplish here, is that you take a step back, perhaps remember this crazy illustration and maybe, take pause, to remember that censorship will not in fact heal you.  It will not make you feel better in the long term, and it is selfish to try and impose your will on other people, especially when you have become overcome with emotion.  Hiding behind the word triggered is just that, hiding.  If you need to hide for a while for your own mental well being, then please, do what you need to.  But know, imposing your pain on others does not make you a do-gooder… it makes you selfish.  There, I said it.  Sorry, not sorry!

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The Question on Everyone’s Mind “How Should Men Behave?”

This time last year I wrote about An Unbalanced Gender Culture, and how things were rapidly coming to a head (which I encourage you to read before continuing), with regards to uncertainty within our standard gender roles and how we relate to each other.  I have been blogging and tweeting about Baby It’s Cold Outside and the #MeToo movement with concern about what effect this is having on our perceptions.  And the problem being that we are ignoring the underlying issue about the roles changing between men and women, and more importantly how we are perceiving these changes.  And this is bringing up a multitude of questions, including, “where is the new line?”

Just yesterday, I was bartending, and one of my regulars told me with sincerity, that he no longer knows how to talk to women because of the #MeToo movement.  The last thing he wants to do is offend anyone, but the reality is, he is a newly divorced 50 year old man, and he wants to get out dating and flirting again, but the old ways don’t seem acceptable anymore.  He is completely open to changing his ways, but he also feels too old to walk on eggshells and not be authentic or truthful.  I think his challenges are completely relatable to almost everyone.  The world is changing, and what’s super scary is that we are trying to go back in time and retroactively punish people, media, etc with our currently unclear new world view.

Now let me be clear here, that this statement is not meant to scold the brave women for standing up against Weinstein or any rapist or abuser.  That, I need to be clear going forward, has always been wrong, and will continue to be wrong.  That isn’t hindsight.  That is bravery on the part of these women for finding the courage to say something, even years later.  There is a very clear difference between knowing something is wrong, or that gut wrenching action that made you feel horrible at the time, and what I am discussing here with regards to using todays new cloudy lens then seeking out situations from our past that, probably would not be acceptable by todays standards.  This is the key problem we are currently facing, we are focusing on digging up past situations instead of finding solutions for the current world view or thinking about what we want our future to look like.

So, with that in mind, let’s ask the question, how should men today, flirt and interact with women that they are interested in?  Where is the new line between coy, flirty and fun, versus rude, crude and inappropriate?  The answer, and I am really, really sorry about this, but… there isn’t one.  This is a grey area.  We do not have a solution yet.  So far, we can all agree that we have to start listening to the word no, and further we have to start using the word no in a more responsible and in a firm manor.  It cannot be said with a playful or coy intonation, and whenever used in that context it has to be taken at face value (precisely the reason why Baby It’s Cold Outside cannot be viewed with today’s new standards, no was used in a playful manor).  But aside from that, I struggle to find any other all encompassing rule that can help guide us in a sex positive behavioural direction.  Or in a less wordy way, to help us all get our flirt on and feel good about ourselves later.  Things remain really fuzzy and this is why I suggest we start with the simplest question first, where is your line?

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I know where my lines and limits are, and just to give you a little insight or help point you in the right direction I will share or overshare as is often the case; I don’t enjoy flirting with strangers.  I like getting to know someone, and them in turn getting to know me.  Even just a coffee or two in a completely platonic way helps bring my guard down.  After that, flirting becomes fun and an enjoyable action, and I feel free to make dirty jokes, touch, and even drive things towards a much more physical setting.  So for this reason, online dating has never been an effective way to date.  Instead, it’s a way to find someone for a first meeting and then go from there.  I just don’t get off flirting or sexting with strangers.  And this is only an example of what works for me.  This insight will not work for every person out there, not even close.  As there are many women who won’t waste their time meeting someone if they haven’t been told they are attractive or have caught the eye of a stranger.  Expressing desire goes a long way for many, hell it even goes a long way for me, but again, never in an opening message or before an in person conversation (again just my opinion and will not work for everyone which is why I am asking you where your own line is).

My earnest hope in you reading or listening to this post is that you take a little comfort in knowing you are not alone.  And that you don’t give up, or go to the other extreme, which I hope I don’t need to spell out here.  We will find a solution, and we will get out of this grey area together.  Flirting will be fun again!  Mistakes will once again be allowed to be made without witch hunts, and we will again find the humanity in our sexuality, and even our sensuality.  It will just take time, education, asking tough questions and of course accepting a few more stumbles and growing pains.

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