Passion versus Affectation

Following on from the subject of yesterday’s post on the status of men and its attraction to women, it is common knowledge that many decisions a man makes in life are to increase his status such that he can attract a suitable partner. In short, a man will study so he can get a good job which will bring in a decent salary meaning he can buy a nice house and car, and women will find him attractive. For middle-class westerners, this is pretty much how it works. For other parts of the world, and among other classes or ethnicities, the incentives are very different and hence you get different outcomes. I noticed in Russia that the ease with which young men can get a very pretty girlfriend removes the incentive for a lot of them to behave well. Why make any effort when you’re getting laid anyway?

So while it’s well known that men naturally seek to increase their status and hence their attractiveness to women, what is often missed is that this does not apply beyond certain basics, e.g. getting an education, holding down a job, and not getting too fat. There is a whole industry out there giving lifestyle advice to men who wish to raise their status: wear these clothes, buy this car, start using that product, learn to do this or that. Much of this might work for young men who haven’t quite found their way in life, but as you get older (and you start having proper conversations with women) you realise how superficial much of this is.

For example, I had someone tell me recently that every man should know how to mix at least one cocktail, so he can impress girls when they come over for dinner. Now that’s probably not bad advice – knowing how to mix a cocktail is a handy skill – but it’s going to make absolutely no difference to what a woman thinks of a man (and if it does, she’s probably bad news). Another chap I know took up salsa dancing because he reckoned women like men who can dance. Others learn a song or two on the guitar because they want to serenade women they bring home from clubs.

Have you seen the problem yet? Women are not impressed by a man’s ability to mix a cocktail, or to dance, or to play an instrument (or to cook, or to speak a language) per se, they are attracted to the passion that drove the man to develop those skills to begin with. They look at a dancer and see the passion he has for it, the drive and determination in his body language, and realise how much effort he must have put in to develop such a skill, and they’re attracted to that. Someone who has no passion for dancing but took lessons and learned a few moves in order to attract women is going to look a lot different from a guy who’s doing it for real, and this will be abundantly clear to all those looking on. Similarly, if a fellow has developed an interest in cocktail mixing of his own accord and uses his skills to entertain women, they’ll be more impressed than if he’s learned one or two recipes just to make himself look cool.

Perhaps learning a few superficial tricks is useful for a man in his twenties, especially considering he’s hanging around women without much experience, but men over 30 taking such advice is a bit sad. Does anyone seriously think women will be impressed by a guy going to opera not out of love for the genre, but because he thinks it makes him look sophisticated? Or someone who’s learned to play poker just so he can tell women he plays poker? Because you can be sure she’ll be able to tell the difference. I’ve noticed that if you show a woman a particular skill or interest, the first thing she does is start asking questions, i.e. why, where, how and with whom did you learn it. She asks this because she wants to see the passion behind the skill – the actual skill isn’t particularly relevant at that stage – and if there’s no passion she’ll see straight through you. Genuine passion is extremely hard to fake, particularly for obscure interests such as bluegrass music. And nobody learns the banjo or songs with titles such as “Oh, Dem Golden Slippers” to impress women anyway.

So whenever you read advice along the lines of “real men do X” or “every man should know how to Y” you can safely dismiss it as a shallow affectation aimed at men who think they’ve grown up but haven’t. Real men follow whatever weird passion they have naturally, and women will love them for it.


Relative Status

Fellow blogger Adam Piggott writes the following on the subject of whether middle-aged men can pick up much younger women:

However, as I have already stated this all depends on whether or not you have made a man of yourself. What does this entail?

– You have kept yourself in excellent shape with a regular strength training regime.

– You are financially successful.

– You have philosophical depth.

The last point means that you are well rounded and knowledgeable. You have interests, hobbies, and worldly pursuits. You dress and carry yourself well. You can hold your drink as well as hold a conversation.

This is true in a superficial sense and undoubtedly applies to much of the world normal people inhabit, but I don’t think it paints the whole picture. What women are seeking in a man is status, and while financial success and the ability to hold a proper conversation are status markers in some (or even most) circles, they are wholly unnecessary in others.

As regular readers will know, I unwittingly got myself tangled up with an artsy-type in the front-end of last year who had moved from Moscow to America when she was 21, and by 23 was married to a man in his forties (primarily to get a residency visa, but she was attracted to him to some degree). I charitably assumed this chap was some alpha-male banker who prowled the swanky bars of Manhattan in a custom-made suit generously buying women drinks from his six or seven figure salary. Turns out he was a polyamorous hippy who drank too much, couldn’t keep a job for any length of time, and didn’t have two cents to rub together. When I saw his photo I saw a man a head shorter than her and  looking like a taxi driver who works nights.

So what explained her choice? This took me a while to figure out, but I got there in the end. Now this woman had obvious self-esteem and daddy issues she was trying to address, and shortly after arriving in New York she fell into the artsy, Burning Man, hippy scene and adopted it wholesale. This involved a lot of drinking, drugs, and partying with all manner of weirdos and losers, and within this particular group her future husband would have enjoyed a certain status. If nothing else, as a long-term resident of New York with his own place he’d have been able to score drugs more easily than her. The guy who hung around the school gates flogging weed did well with the hot girls too, for the same reasons. The fact that the guy my friend married was by most measures a complete loser didn’t matter because he had a status among his immediate peers and within the group she found herself in. Status is relative, not absolute, and it is this which young women seek in a man.

Of course, this means certain men will deliberately insert themselves in such groups often for the purpose of seeking out those younger women (we’re talking age and availability, not quality here). I have written about this before in response to a Laurie Penny piece:

Why do I get the impression that this individual is not half as normal and decent as Penny is letting us believe. At a guess, I would say he is a slimy fucker of the first water who hangs around lefty circles hoping to get into the knickers of women, usually much younger and with low self-esteem and few morals, throwing out leftist and feminist platitudes to get himself accepted with no further scrutiny. Penny, at nineteen years of age, ought to have stayed well away from him even if she didn’t think he was a rapist.

As Laurie herself says:

He was in his early thirties, a well-liked and well-respected member of a social circle of which I am no longer a part,  a fun-loving, left-leaning chap who was friends with a number of strong, feminist women I admired.  I was nineteen. I admired him too.

Like I said, status is relative. Adam’s criteria are probably accurate if you’re a normal chap seeking a level-headed, sensible woman but there are plenty of other types out there – on both sides.


We need to talk about Laurie Penny

I don’t wish to necessarily single out Laurie Penny for criticism in this post, but she’s such a typical example of the phenomenon I want to write about that I don’t have much choice. If a Nickelodeon was asked to come up with a cartoon of a hard-left third-wave feminist, they’d simply ask an artist to follow Laurie around all day.

In June last year, the estimable David Thompson linked to this piece of hers in the New Statesman:

I had been struggling to find language for my growing anxiety over the fact that, at almost 30, I still have no desire to settle down and form a traditional family. I’ve been waiting, as open-mindedly as possible, for a sudden neo-Darwinian impulse to pair up and reproduce. And yet here I am, and it hasn’t happened. Despite no small amount of social pressure, I am happy as I am.

Study after study has shown that it is men, not women, who benefit most from marriage and long-term partnership. Men who marry are, on the whole, healthier and happier than single men. Married women, by contrast, were no better off than their single counterparts.

If women reject marriage and partnership en masse, the economic and social functioning of modern society will be shaken to its core.

I happen to believe in dismantling the social and economic institutions of marriage and family.

So Laurie is happy and doesn’t want to get married, and thinks marriage is bad for women and she wants to see the institution, and that of the family, destroyed. She then goes on to tell us that:

When partnership ceases to be mandatory, it only becomes more special. Next week, one of my partners is getting married, and this week I went to his stag night as part of the groom’s party. I’m happy for him, and for his fiancee, whose permission I got before mentioning her in this piece.

As regular readers know, Laurie is – or at least was – polyamorous. Well, good for her.

Now here’s what The Times says about Laurie, and they meant it as a compliment:

A writer and polemicist, a bad-ass, contrary, angry, bisexual troublemaker who is never happier than when she’s upsetting someone, or preferably everyone …

Here’s what she had to say about, erm, herself on ABC recently:

I don’t think, as political people, as activists, and as people who care about a livable future for the human race, we should be moderating our language at this point.

The opposite. I think this is when we go harder. Because, ultimately, you can’t do feminism, you can’t do anti-racism, you can’t do any kind of progressive politics if your first objective is to make the other side feel comfortable.

Well, I’m sure some people DO feel uncomfortable with the pace of social change, but I would suggest they get used to it, really. I don’t think it’s my job to make people who are sexist feel more comfortable. I’m not a politician, I’m a writer, and my job is to push the discussion forward.

Here’s what she said about herself (again) in march last year, in another New Statesman article:

I’m happy because I live in my own bubble and give zero fucks – a bit like a teenager.

Here’s Laurie praising her sister:

Here’s how she’s described her love life since her early twenties:

Over the past ten years, I have been a “single poly” with no main partner; I have been in three-person relationships; I have had open relationships and have dated people in open marriages.

Finally, the title of her latest book is called Bitch Doctrine.

Laurie has set out to portray herself, with quite some success, as a badass woman who gives zero-fucks, takes shit from nobody, does whatever the hell she wants (a bit like a teenager), and bucks every societal convention there is. Liberal use of profanity, piercings, dyed hair, and an unconventional sex life all complete the picture of someone who doesn’t care what anyone thinks.

Like I said, Penny is somewhat of a cartoon, but she’s far from alone. I follow a handful of radical feminists and polyamorists online and they try so hard to be different they end up looking and sounding exactly the same. Unfortunately they also have something else in common which I haven’t listed. Consider the following tweet, from last June:

For someone who has built a career by demanding men she doesn’t know treat women with greater respect, it is odd she appears to have neglected to ask the same of her partner. Then yesterday, this:

This was about as surprising as Christmas. A feature of the people I mention above is their habit of posting semi-coherent outbursts of raw emotion followed by wallowing self-pity; their moods are up and down like a roller-coaster, one minute saying how happy they are the next moaning how shit life is. I’m not going to link to any examples because these people are, in the main, private individuals who are daft enough to post their mental torments on the internet.

But Laurie Penny is a public figure, writing for major publications and appearing on national television. She uses these platforms to advocate for social changes and encourage others to reject societal norms which, in the opinion of anyone with half a brain, would result in increased unhappiness and the further fracturing of society. In other words, she’s fair game for criticism.

Now I don’t want to make light of her depression, but she has probably brought this on herself. She boasts of being anti-social and nasty, and brags about rejecting conventional intercourse such as engaging in monogamous relationships, and takes delight in making people with whom she disagrees uncomfortable. In short, she sounds pretty damned unpleasant. And now we find the last nine months have been mean to her, she’s been dumped by her partner, and she’s depressed.

Well, there’s a surprise, eh?

Whether she’s realised it is open to question, but Laurie is probably finding that having thousands of sycophantic followers on Twitter and media types praising her “bravery” and calling her a “badass” is no substitute for having one or two genuine close friends and a partner who loves her. The problem is, you can only get those by being occasionally pleasant, which will be difficult for someone who’s made a career out of being the exact opposite.

The fascinating question is did the unpleasantness cause the loneliness, or vice versa? Or is it a vicious circle where a slight rejection when young induces unpleasant behaviour, resulting in loneliness and further unpleasant behaviour?

Alas, I’m just a blogger so I don’t know. But there is an awful lot of this stuff about, particularly in women in their late twenties and thirties. Laurie Penny is just the best example of a widespread problem.


Puffing Up Polyamory

A mate who may be vying for a coveted Research Assistant’s position on this blog forwards me this article from Men’s Health:

More Americans are showing interest in polyamory, or relationships where you have more than one romantic or sexual partner, according to a new study published in The Journal of Sex Research.

For the study, Amy Moors, Ph.D., director of social science research and evaluation for the College of Engineering at Purdue University, looked at data gathered from Google Trends between January 2006 and December 2015.

Moors analyzed the search volume for the terms “polyamory,” “open relationships,” and “swingers,” comparing them to control keywords like “Facebook” and “quotes.” She discovered that searches for “polyamory” and “open relationships” increased over time, while searches for “swingers”—a more old-fashioned term—decreased over time.

Personally I don’t think this means much, but it’s definitely a term that’s entering the general lexicon. This should be good for my book sales.

Moors says that while it’s not possible to know why exactly people are searching for these terms, it’s clear that an increasing number of people are thinking about non-monogamy and looking for information about it.

My guess is people are finding the term cropping up in online dating profiles, or meeting mentally ill people from Brooklyn who’ve never known anything else.

Unsurprisingly, part of the reason for an increased interest in open relationships is due to their appearance on TV. “Several of the large spikes in internet searches related to polyamory and open relationships are tied to popular TV shows and press,” she says.

Well, yes. TV shows exist in part to push an agenda set by the sort of liberal arts graduates who go into media, and polyamory is but the latest fad being promoted. Just as Sex and the City convinced a generation of women they could slut it up around New York until their mid-30s before settling down with a multi-millionaire playboy, no doubt these new shows will convince some that having meaningless sex with a succession of low-grade partners is a viable lifestyle choice.

Though, she says, it’s hard to say whether people are Googling this info because they’re just curious about what they’re seeing on the small screen or they’re actually interested in trying it themselves, the topic is definitely on the public’s mind.

It’s on the public’s mind because TV shows, magazines, and newspapers won’t stop promoting it.

Moors adds that non-monogamous relationships are widely misunderstood and stigmatized.

So will Moors add some clarity or muddy the waters? What do you think?

“There isn’t scientific evidence to suggest that humans are unable to love and/or engage in sex with more than one person,” she says.

That’s a handy strawman, isn’t it? Nobody is saying humans can’t love or have sex with multiple partners, but a quick survey of several billion people and a couple thousand years of human development would suggest that if you’re interested in a stable, functioning, relationship which benefits both the individuals, society, and any children then monogamy is probably the way to go. Sure, some people might be able to watch their partner go off with someone else and have sex and not bat an eyelid, but let’s not pretend this is common. She might as well say there is no scientific evidence for jealousy and insecurity.

“In fact, some of my recent work compared relationship quality based on trust, satisfaction, passionate love among people engaged in consensually non-monogamous, and monogamous relationships and found no differences.”

And how did you measure “relationship quality”? Did you look at longevity? Did you look at how many people, when ending a polyamorous relationship, quit the practice altogether and return to monogamy versus those going in the other direction?

“I anticipate that consensually non-monogamous relationships will become more mainstream,” Moors says.

I don’t know about that, but I am quite confident the propaganda won’t ease up.

Even polyamorists aren’t convinced by the practice. Consider this article I stumbled across this morning:

I just realized that I’ve had 5 different relationships which ended because the other person wanted to monogamous.

This implies they were already in a polyamorous relationship, but one of them wanted monogamy.

Two of them, (or more?), I also know they wanted to have kids. It makes me wonder if there’s a link between monogamy and plans for children.

This kid is nothing if not sharp!

I wonder if people that plan to procreate are more interested in monogamy because they’re looking for a partner that will be looking inwards towards their family. Their only priorities will be their children and partner, and not be distracted by other love affairs.

Who knew, eh?

Reading between the lines, this second article sounds as though it’s written by a man who likes shagging around with women who are dabbling in polyamory (probably due to low self-esteem, daddy issues, or personality disorders) but really want to settle down with a loving partner and have kids. The first article, like so many others, is fundamentally dishonest in refusing to address the obvious difficulties polyamorous relationships create, especially for those who want to have children.


More on Polyamory and Children

I felt a little guilty going off on holiday and not keeping you up to date on the important topic of polyamory and kids, but today I make it up to you.

Article the first:

Growing up, I know who my parents friends were. I even knew they had different kinds of friends. There were the friends who were my friend’s parents. My parents got together and hung out with them once a month, but the connection didn’t last when I moved to a different school. There were my father’s friends from work, the people he enjoyed spending time with but also had to stay professional with, so we kids were largely “out of sight, out of mind” when they came over. There were mom’s special friends from way back. We kids actually knew them by their first names. They would come over and drink tea and we had to play with their kids whether we liked them or not.

Were any of these friends shagging either or both of your parents? I ask mainly to understand how you’ve turned out.

So let’s pretend you make a new friend at work, you invite your friend over to hang out and watch a movie sometime. What do you say to your kids? Probably something like, “Hey kids my new friend So-and-so is coming over tonight. Be polite, make sure the place isn’t an utter disaster and try not to interrupt too often, okay?”

Your kids are aware of this friend, but probably don’t pay much attention.

Mark my words, they’d pay attention if he was spending the night in your bedroom while daddy mysteriously cleared off for the night.

There is no reason for your kids to know the details of your relationship—anymore than I knew just what my mother talked about with her friends when they came to visit.

Kids are incredibly perceptive, and will immediately pick up on something that is out of the ordinary, and if mummy has two lovers they will probably be extremely confused. The idea that kids won’t notice, or will not be affected by this, is rather fanciful.

As a ittle kid, I didn’t want to know anyway. It was grown up stuff, and probably boring. *yuck face* As a teenager, I had my own stuff that I cared about a lot more than making nice with my parents friends.

That may be because your parents had friends, not fuck-buddies.

Like any other friend, it slowly becomes normal for your poly partner to be around a bit more, participating in your family’s public life. Maybe you meet up to watch a parade and your partner offers to buy flags or something for the kids. Small things, small steps.

Because that’s not creepy.

First rule of kids: if you don’t treat it like a big deal, they’ll assume it isn’t a big deal.

Divorces, abandonment, neglect, domestic violence: if you downplay these, so will the kids. Why didn’t anyone else think of this?

Second rule of kids: if it’s not going to have a direct impact on their life, they probably won’t care.

There’s an awful lot riding on that “if”.

So introduce your partner early, as just another friend.

Only it is going to become painfully obvious to the kids that this man is not just another friend. Probably around the time they see him emerging from your bedroom, tackle out, looking for the bathroom.

Parents having relationships with other adults is a normal part of life for most kids. Do your kids really care that your relationship with your cousin is different from your relationship with your friend is different from your relationship with your poly partner?

Very much so. Kids can spot the various levels of intimacy and affection between their parents and their friends a mile off.

Not unless and until those relationships start to impact them.

Which they inevitably will.

For children it’s “grown up stuff, yuck!” and for teenagers it’s “Old folks are so out off touch.” In either case, it’s no big deal.

It’s no big deal because they understand, even subconsciously, that sexual relations in a monogamous relationship are normal. Once you start adding additional partners they’ll know immediately something unusual is going on and they’ll be confused as hell. You only need to look at the impact a parent having an affair has on the family and children.

Article the second:

Children who are born into a polyamorous relationship do not need anyone to explain their parents’ relationships, any more than children born into a monogamous relationship. Because they grow up with it, they understand it. It’s normal to them.

Right up until they encounter the real world outside the front door, and then they’ll be utterly confused.

Children whose parent(s) become polyamorous after the children are born may have difficulty understanding change in their parents’ relationships.

But we’ll do it anyway. Fuck the kids.

If you choose to be open about your lifestyle choices, it’s important to present them in a way that leaves your children secure in knowing that their family will not be hurt by the changes you are making.

Give them false assurances, in other words.

For some children, and some relationships, you won’t need to discuss anything. Just say at dinner ‘Mommy’s going out on a date, so I’m putting you to bed tonight.’

Because this won’t induce confusion and abandonment issues.

This goes equally for single parents with several polyam relationships and families with a parent and step parent. ‘Boyfriend will be baby-sitting while Mommy goes on a date with Girlfriend’ works just as well as ‘Daddy/Mommy/Step-Parent is putting you kids to bed tonight’.

Leaving a kid in the hands of a boyfriend while mommy goes on a date with a girlfriend. What could possibly go wrong?

If the kids ask questions, answer them without long explanations. Best advice I ever got about explaining things to little kids – answer the exact question they ask in the simplest terms possible, and then shut up.

Mom’s a slut? Mom cares only about herself?

If they want more information, they’ll keep asking.

Why, it’s almost as if the kids have serious trouble getting their heads around your sleeping arrangements, isn’t it?

Older children and teenagers will definitely be fully aware of the social norms against polyamory.


Depending on the child the reaction can range from ‘You’re talking about polyamory? That’s cool,’ to ‘ok, whatever,’ to ‘OMG HOW CAN YOU DO THIS TO ME!!!!’ (Yes, at this age it is all about them.)

Seriously? From what I’ve read so far, it seems to be all about you.

Expect it and accept it. I honestly don’t see much difference between this and the way many adults act, but people seem to think it’s a big deal that teenagers do this. Meh.)

My teenage daughter’s life has just been turned upside down by the news I’m shagging other men in an open relationship. Meh.

Answer any questions, be clear that it is your lives and your choice, but that you respect them enough to tell them yourselves about this decision.

Did I really just read that?

The most important thing about discussing it this way is it lets them know the floor is open. Whatever their reaction, they know that you are okay with them knowing about your relationships, and are willing to discuss it with them.

In general, as long as they see that their lives and their relationships with you aren’t changing in a massive way, older children and teenagers will move on to something else to be worked up and angry about eventually, no matter how badly they react.

But what if it is affecting them and your relationship with them is changing (e.g. by some weirdo who buys them flags putting them to bed instead of you)? What if they beg you to stop, and tell you your sexual preferences have utterly destroyed the structure of their lives? What then?

At no point in this entire damned article does this woman consider quitting the practice and putting her kids first, even if they are suffering terribly.

As self-centered as they are, kids are very attuned to anything that threatens their lives and families.

You think?!

You having other relationships will be seen as a threat, simply because they have been taught that this is a betrayal of their other parent, and may lead to divorce.

Toddlers have been taught this, have they? They’re aware of what divorce is, and its consequences? Or perhaps several thousand years of human development has left kids with an innate ability to know a fucked-up situation when they see one?

Next time you read an article trying to convince you that polyamorists are perfectly normal people unfairly judged by the rest of society, remember this post, won’t you?


Polyamory and Children

If ever I were to defend polyamory it would be on the grounds that consenting adults should be allowed to sleep with whomever they please. Throw kids into the mix, however:

In theory, I should be writing another post on pregnancy. If I tried in this exhausted state, what would come out is my own emotions and reactions to my experiences of pregnancy in polyamorous relationships, not all of which were good. I guess if I were to sum up the badness it would be: it was difficult and hurtful for a woman who was supposed to be part of a quad with me, to want me to have nothing to do with her pregnancy, and then want to be heavily involved in my own pregnancy later that same year. Of course, that whole relationship was a disaster. None of us handled the situation well, and a lot of people were very hurt before it ended.

Imagine my surprise.

Probably the one who was hurt the most was my husband, who left the relationship, left behind me, his brother, and the two children of his heart who he now never sees, living half way across the country. Thankfully, and due to a series of very messed up circumstances, involving extended family, Division of Youth and Family Services, and a messed up legal system, the children had been living with my parents and had barely seen him for a year, as well as being young enough that now, three years later, they barely remember him, so they weren’t nearly as hurt as they could have been by his leaving. Though, sometimes, a few times a year maybe, my daughter asks for him.

This did not come out of a clear blue sky: it is a direct consquence of involving children in a polyamorous lifestyle. How do you think these kids are going to turn out?

And I suppose if this post has a point, that should be it. There are no legal ties to the children of our poly partners. And if things end, it can be so easy to walk away, so much less hurtful to leave them behind rather then see them constantly and be reminded of what we lost.

Well, yes. If the descriptions of polyamorous relationships are anything to go by, being able to just walk out the door with no responsibility is one of the primary attractions of the lifestyle. What you are describing is a feature, not a bug.

But if we chose to bring children into a polyam relationship, whether we are the biological parents or not, we have a responsibility to them.

If that were true you’d be keeping children well out of it. Instead, you choose to satisfy your own lifestyle desires first and try to shoehorn the kids in around them.

I hear it said so often in polyam forums that a relationship that ends is not a failure if it simply ran its course and everyone moved on . . . but, when you bring children in, whether they are born into the relationship, or brought in from previous relationships, we owe it to them not to let the end of a relationship with our partners, take us away from the children who also have a relationship with us.

So what’s the priority here? Your sex life or the wellbeing of the children? If the latter, why bring them into the lifestyle at all?

There is a little girl who called me her parent, and whose face lights up whenever she sees me, who is not allowed to spend time with me.


There are two children sleeping upstairs who have a father they will probably never see again.

/bangs head on desk

This is wrong, and I cannot change it. But I can hope and pray that those of you who read this, will do everything in your power to make sure these things never happen to the children in your life.

Because our children deserve better than this.

Yes, they do. So quit the polyamory, find a proper partner, and build a normal, stable environment to raise them in.

The more I read about polyamorous relationships the more I realise they are underpinned by a staggering degree of selfishness on the part of everyone involved. Except the kids, of course; they have no choice in it.


Polyamory and Mental Illness

Via Twitter, I found this advice on talking about mental problems when in a polyamorous relationship:

If your partner is constantly battling suicidal thoughts and you want to talk about how they never do their share of the dishes, stop. Is it fair that you are doing most of the dishes? No. But they are literally fighting for their life and asking them to take energy away from that battle to hash out a schedule for the dishes isn’t fair to them either.

Being in a relationship with someone who is severally mentally ill (or physically ill, or sometimes just dealing with life shitting on them) means prioritizing. Yes, it is annoying as fuck that you are doing all the dishes. But who does the dishes is not as important as keeping everyone alive and healthy. Before you can fix the dishes problem, your partner needs to heal. That, as I have said elsewhere, takes time.

As is so often the case with stories related to polyamory, the example could easily apply to a monogamous relationship. This is probably deliberate, because it deflects attention from the serious issues that are unique to polyamory. Were the example to be specific to polyamory, it might read:

If your partner is constantly battling suicidal thoughts and you want to talk about how you want to sleep with your other lovers more often, stop. Is it fair that you can’t sleep with your other partners? No. But they are literally fighting for their life and asking them to take energy away from that battle to hash out a schedule for sex isn’t fair to them either.

Being in a relationship with someone who is severally mentally ill (or physically ill, or sometimes just dealing with life shitting on them) means prioritizing. Yes, it is annoying as fuck that you can’t be with your other lovers as often as you like. But having sex is not as important as keeping everyone alive and healthy. Before you can fix the sex problem, your partner needs to heal.

Putting it like that raises the obvious question: should someone who is mentally ill be in a polyamorous relationship in the first place, given the additional stresses and burdens such an arrangement inevitably brings?

Or is being mentally ill a requirement?

This post is part of the Polyamory and Mental Illness blog series.

One would almost think the two to go hand-in-hand.


Cowardly Communication

Last night a story broke about a Google employee circulating an email to his colleagues regarding the company’s diversity policies. From skimming it, the email seemed reasonable, i.e. it wasn’t deliberately offensive or insulting. However, some people are appalled that someone working in Google holds such opinions, let alone shares them, and are calling for him to be sacked. Others are urging people not to read the email, as if it were a gorgon’s head.

This is wholly unsurprising. The immediate response from many people when faced with opinions they don’t like is to try, using fair means or foul, to silence that person. This has been going on for years, and the latest weapon in the censors’ arsenal is to try to get the person sacked, and to deprive them of their livelihood.

This situation is likely a natural progression from what these people got used to on a personal basis. Some years ago, everybody moved their online presence from forums, blogs, and message boards to Facebook, and then Twitter. It’s taken me a while to realise this, but the shift was quite fundamental. When you read a blog or join a forum, you have no way of filtering out content you might not like. Similarly, there’s no way of restricting the audience of what gets published, aside from a requirement to register. Everything you write can be accessed by anyone, and there is no restriction on what you might read.

Facebook is quite different, and you can select what you see and who gets to read your posts. This is understandable because it initially started out as a social networking site, but quickly became a platform for (supposedly) public content: Facebook has been used for campaigning, promoting events and businesses, and politicking almost since the beginning. Then came Twitter, which was never about keeping friends and family updated on your life, it was always supposed to be a platform for sharing your views with the big wide world and connecting with like-minded people. Only they included an option to block people. Now I can perhaps see the value of being able to block people you don’t like from contacting you, but from seeing what you are writing? What’s the point of that, especially on Twitter? It’s like an author publishing a book and placing restrictions on who can buy it, or standing on a rooftop and yelling but asking half the people on the ground to cover their ears.

This makes no sense to me whatsoever. I’ve been blocked from reading Louise Mensch’s Twitter feed. If she doesn’t want people reading it, why the hell is she writing it? The answer is obvious: she only wants certain people to read what she’s writing. We used to call this “private correspondence”, but nowadays people try doing it on the most public, open forum the world has ever seen. In other words, they want the prestige and attention that comes with being a public voice, only keeping the benefits of private correspondence. For me, this is a cop out, and one of the reasons I don’t like the blocking functions on Twitter. When I write this blog I assume everyone who knows me, including friends, family, and employers, might read it. This sharpens the mind somewhat, and keeps me from writing bollocks I can’t defend. If your public thoughts need to be hidden from certain people, perhaps your thoughts are the problem, not them.

Hence we have the Twitter generation who, at the click of a button, can stop people communicating with them and stop them seeing their public pronouncements. Little wonder they think the entire world can be made to run like this as well, hence the calls for the Google employee to be sacked and Charles Murray to be denied a platform to speak at American universities.

And you see this spilling over into people’s personal lives. Like a public blog forces you to think about what you write, so interacting with people in the real world forces you to think about how you behave. Before online dating, you’d have to find a partner among your friends or social peers. Even if you met in a bar or club, chances are you’d be mixing in the same circles and not living too far apart. Whatever the case, you had to approach them (men), or wait for them to approach you (women). The way of filtering out the riff-raff was to mix in the sort of circles you’d want to find a partner in, i.e. if you’re a student you’d normally hang out with fellow students and go to student bars, not down in some biker bar the wrong side of the railway tracks. To stay in that social circle, you’d have to adopt acceptable behaviours. Those behaviours might seem pretty ugly, especially where students are concerned, but nevertheless you had to conform to some sort of socially acceptable behaviour when interacting with others. If you didn’t, you’d face a negative response, be it criticism, nasty remarks, ridicule, or rejection from those around you. In short, in the absence of a method to block all negative responses, you had to think a little about your behaviour.

Young men are often cads and young women are often loose, but one of the main things which modify such behaviours is the social opprobrium that follows. I know guys who went out of their way to dump a girl gently because they didn’t want a huge negative reaction from her and her friends which would leave him feeling like a heel. Ending a relationship is never nice or easy, but it’s part of life and – like so many other things – it’s something one must learn to do as an adult.

The mobile phone probably changed that, initially. If you had to finish with a partner, you’d normally have to do it face-to-face, therefore she would have the opportunity to respond. If you did it by rotary phone, she could call you back. If you did it by letter, she could write a response. Then mobile phones came along and you could block her number and any response, and with texting the whole process became much simpler and cleaner: “Were dun luv, lol xxx” followed by a block and that’s that. In the age of internet and fragmented communities, you’d probably not even see them again: gone are the days of dating a girl in the village.

I’ve had girls hurl abuse at me or cry down the phone or via text message or email when I’ve split up from them, and I’ve probably done the same thing in return. Unless things start getting really psychotic, and they never have, I feel obliged to listen and soak it up. An emotional response is by definition irrational, and if one’s aim is to end up down the road with both parties reasonably happy and free of hated and humiliation and having kept face, then the emotional period must be dealt with properly.

A few years back I had a good friend come out of an appalling relationship, which she ended leaving the man (rather justifiably on some measures) absolutely livid. She had her reasons, but he had reason to feel rather aggrieved. He didn’t take it well, and she complained to me that he had sent her a flurry of nasty text messages when he was drunk a couple of weeks later. My response was something like this:

“Yes, he’s upset, understandably so. It’s not an excuse, but it’s a reason. What he’s said to you is awful, but there are reasons for it: he’s not saying it in isolation. My advice is to ignore it, because it’s angry correspondence. Respond to him when he’s nice, ignore him when he’s not, and be willing to communicate provided you remain firm that you’re not getting back together and he understands that. He needs to save face, and he needs time. If he’s still doing this in six months or a year, that’s a different matter. But right now…well, it’s to be expected.”

My friend took my advice and things became more civil. Eventually the guy moved on and she stopped hearing from him, both with their heads held (reasonably) high. Had she ignored him completely or responded in kind, things could have escalated. At best, he would have felt permanently aggrieved, and this is never a good thing. Of course, the modern advice is ignore, ignore, ignore – as if the whole thing happened in isolation. I suppose it depends on who you are, but I’m the sort of guy who thinks a woman who you’ve been in a relationship with deserves a period after the breakup of being pissed off, and she has a right to communicate with you. Guys who say “it’s best just to cut them off completely” are usually saying so for their own benefit (although they’ll say it’s for the girl’s) and it calls into question how serious the relationship was anyway. They’re hurting, and most of the time they want to save face, not get back together. If you won’t help them do that, then yes, the relationship should have ended – at her hand.

The Twitter generation are having none of it, though. These days I hear guys laughingly saying how they blocked some girl they recently dumped, because she kept texting him. What did they expect? I have seen women go running to the police complaining of harassment because some guy who they utterly humiliated had the temerity to let her know via email exactly what he thought of her. Unsurprisingly, Plod leaped into action and started issuing blanket threats of arrest and prosecution without even getting the guy’s name right, as is their wont. Modern men and women want to enter into something as complicated as a relationship but expect to be able to exit at the push of a button as if it never happened. I’ve seen women declaring love and talking earnestly with a man about long-term plans and then a few days later end the relationship by phone and block all communication saying “it’s best we both move on”, like some toad of a politician who’s been caught breaking the law. Men do the same thing, and it puts a serious question mark over anything which happened prior to that: if you’re prepared to pull the plug and run away like that, it was probably never serious in the first place – and he or she is certainly not ready for the give-and-take of a proper relationship. I’ve always seen a refusal to talk as simple cowardice.

Last year I wrote this:

Communication is everything in a relationship. When things are going well, communication tends to go well. But when things go wrong it often suffers, and you can quickly see who is in it for the partnership and who is in it for themselves.

Whatever the issue is, no matter how bad, keep the lines of communication open. Sure, take a ten minute break, or take a couple of hours to reply to a message. But tell the other person you’re doing that, and let them know when you’ll reply. The moment one party or the other decides they’re going to fall silent for a period of more than a few hours, or (worse) a few days, or (even worse) an indefinite period; or they’re going to completely ignore a message or an email; the relationship is over. Dead. It won’t recover.

Sure, I get people say nasty things, and if a situation breaks down into a slanging match of hate-filled invective and insults then it is wise to take a step back and have some time off. But the lines of communication must stay open: clearly say you’re having a break, and that you’ll be ready to talk again the next day at the latest. Get back to talking as soon as possible. Stomping off into indefinite silence and dragging it out over days will result in only one thing: a failed relationship. If one party doesn’t want to talk then better to just end the whole thing right there and then, because the outcome is inevitable.

The same is true at the end of a relationship:

Your partner might not be your greatest ever love, but if they’re your friend they’ll not fuck you over and will keep talking to you no matter what. If he or she stops communicating, they’re not your friend, they don’t have your interests at heart, and they’re in it for themselves: walk away.

The irony is that, in the age of unprecedented means of communication, many people have forgotten how to do it. It’s far easier to block, filter, ban, and silence than to talk, read, and listen as the latter requires effort on your part.

I don’t actually think it is iPhones and Twitter that have caused this: I think they’re merely responses to what people want. I have my opinions on why people have become like this, and I’ll write about them shortly. Doing so is likely to make me quite unpopular with some people, so I will have to tread carefully. No block function, see?


Men might want older women, but not for these reasons

Via a polyamorous community on Twitter I found this article on why younger men love older women. Now before I begin, there’s nothing wrong with a guy dating a woman a few years older than him and the older he gets, the less odd this becomes, i.e. a 40 year old dating a 43 year old is a bit different from a 16 year old dating a 19 year old. And while I really don’t care if Macron marries someone his mother’s age, let’s not pretend it’s very common. Here goes:

Confidence: The most appealing trait in anyone is self-confidence. Many older women have developed their own sense of style, and after years of growth both mentally and physically they’re comfortable in their own skin.

Firstly, this isn’t true. There are plenty of middle-aged women out there who are emotional wrecks, endlessly seeking validation in one form or another. Secondly, of those that are confident, many express it by being a complete ball-breaking bitch. Hardly what men are looking for, is it?

Frequently she’s financially independent and streetwise.

Women who date much younger men are streetwise, eh? And often they’re financially independent because they’ve cleaned out some poor sod in a divorce.

Younger men want to be with her because of the positive energy she emits.

Unlike twenty-two year old women who are just down on everything, I suppose.

Her self-assurance will have a reciprocal effect on the man too. He’ll gain maturity by being in the relationship. This will help build his character and make him feel good about himself.

It sounds as though sonny-boy is missing his mother.

Knowledge about sex and life. Older women have years of sexual experience with men of all ages. She’s had a lot of practice whether it was with multiple partners or one man. Being with a woman who can teach the younger guy a few new tricks is extremely alluring, especially to those who haven’t had many partners or experiences.

Sorry, is he after a girlfriend or a whore for the night? It is a myth that men are impressed by women who are filthy in bed in the early stages of a relationship. Contrary to the opinions of the buffoon writing this piece, having had “practice with multiple partners” is generally not considered an attractive quality in a woman. What men want is a woman who has some experience, but wants to learn more – with him. If a man can find a woman who is fairly innocent and train her up to be a rampaging slut in the bedroom but only with him – that’s marriage material.

The older woman knows her own body and what turns her on. She has the owner’s manual and shares it willingly with her partners. She’s self-aware and knows what she wants in and out of the bedroom.

Because mutual sexual explorations are so boring, aren’t they? Better to find a woman who knows exactly what she wants – and doesn’t want to do.

No game playing. Older women are done playing games. They are straight shooters and will be honest about what they want in the relationship and what they won’t accept.

Which is why they’re still single and trawling the internet for younger men.

 They will demand respect from the younger man because they respect themselves.

Nothing says a woman respects herself more than demanding respect from a lover half her age.

Typically the younger guy won’t need to worry about pregnancy prevention since the older woman will be equally concerned having already had her own children.

Leaving aside that she’s also probably incapable now anyway, I find that she has children of her own amusing. I wonder what they think of ma’s new boyfriend?

Communication. A younger less experienced woman may worry that if she shares her desires, she may lose the man. She may be embarrassed to tell a guy what turns her on sexually.

Most guys have a lot of fun finding this out rather than waiting to be told.

The older woman won’t shy away from offering advice on personal hygiene. She’ll encourage him to dress like a man – not a boy. This will spill over into other areas of his life, as he gets encouragement from people about his “new look.”

Handy for those men who are used to their mothers dressing them, I suppose.

The younger man can be free to be himself with an older woman. He won’t need to impress her with a fake bravado the way he might think a younger woman would expect. He’s with the older woman for companionship and sex without worrying that she wants something more – like marriage.

Oh yeah? What’s the woman’s view on this?

He feels nurtured and cared for by her, and doesn’t feel the demands of taking care of the younger more “needy” girl.

Some Oedipus stuff going on here, isn’t there?

He can be with her when he wants and their aren’t any obligations other than to have fun. Once the relationship is over, the resulting friendship may continue to last throughout their lifetimes.

Oh, I bet Mrs Robinson just loves that! “Sorry love, I’m here just to have fun (and for you to do my laundry), but we can be friends when it’s over!” A minute ago we were told she respects herself.

The younger guy may receive a great ego boost knowing that a hot older woman finds him desirable.

As a substitute for hot young women finding him desirable? Erm, no.

The older woman will come to expect a certain amount of emotional maturity, which if achieved, will have a great effect on the younger man’s confidence with all women.

I doubt it: he’s spent the whole time being spoon-fed in the bedroom and told how to dress.

His friends may originally question the relationship but ultimately envy him.

This may be true, but is dependent on his sharing the sex stories and the arrangement being very short-lived. Meaning a month, tops.

Some guys may end up finding their life partner in the older woman, whereas others may move on to be with women their own age or younger.

Leaving the older woman to die alone with her cats. Funny that these financially secure, confident, worldly-wise older women won’t be able to see a flaky younger man coming, isn’t it?

Naturally, this was written by an older woman, one who clearly hasn’t got a clue about men. In her defence she is a widow, so didn’t choose to be in this situation.


Polyamory and Children

Apparently – and this comes as a complete surprise to me – polyamorists have difficulty convincing other people their arrangement brings about an environment suitable for children. One Gracie X laments thusly:

Six years ago when my husband and new boyfriend all decided to cohabitate under the same roof– I felt pretty smug. I had created a situation where I got to have my husband of 20 years and a new lover as well. We converted our single-family home into a duplex. My husband and his new girlfriend moved into one side of the house, while I lived on the other side with my new man, Oz.

Sounds idyllic. Who’s in charge of the laundry?

But not everyone was thrilled for us. When Oz, told his ex-wife he was giving up his apartment permanently to move in with me, she slapped him with a custody suit. She was determined that their two children would never live in my home. She accused us of all kinds of perversities and insisted the household was unsafe for their children. During the hearings, we were basically investigated for being polyamorous. Thus began my painful education into the fears and bigotry surrounding my alternative chosen family.

Well, yes. Whereas this lady might have been okay with her kids spending time with their father and his new girlfriend, putting them under the same roof as another two adults about which she knows nothing and have no connection to the children whatsoever is a different question altogether. I have a friend who is a single mother, and she would never leave her kid alone with one of her boyfriends, and when the father moved another woman in with him, my friend insisted on meeting her just to get a feel for the sort of woman her daughter would be spending time with. All was fine, but she checked anyway. Sensible woman, my friend.

But even after Oz’s children moved in, we all felt vulnerable. Until there are laws that protect polyamorous people, swingers and those with any openness in their marriage—we are unprotected from people who would use our sexuality to attack us.

They probably couldn’t care less what you do sans enfants, but when kids are involved it becomes another matter entirely. That’s not to say that no polyamorous people should be allowed to have kids, but they ought to expect additional scrutiny of their child-raising environment. That this came as a surprise to Gracie X speaks volumes.

Your sexuality does not determine your effectiveness and goodness as a parent. One mistake we made was trying to justify and explain our lifestyle to the courts. In hindsight this further put our sexuality on display. Better to do just the opposite. Focus on your excellent parenting skills.

Shift the focus off the sexuality, she says. Okay, but:

Utilize local LGBT organizations for legal strategy. Gay rights activist groups have already dealt with the kind of situations and bigotry that you may be confronted with in court.

In other words, make your sexuality an issue. And that’s the problem: polyamory is about sex, despite what its practitioners say. I think these days most people would concede that being gay or lesbian is not a choice, much less a lifestyle choice, but polyamory – which is basically a term to describe how people’s sex lives are organised – can’t possibly be described as a natural condition over which the participants have no control. I hesitate to call it a lifestyle choice because, from what I’ve seen and what others have told me, it is more of a coping mechanism. The reason why people concentrate so much on the sex part of polyamory is because that pretty much defines it: leave the sex out and you have the guts of what most functioning adults enjoy anyway.

Get letters of recommendation from teachers’, friends, co-workers, anyone who has witnessed your parenting and can accurately describe your parental strengths.

I wonder what percentage of polyamorists could get these?

When I look back at this time it was one of the most stressful of my life. I was on edge for the entire two years that we were embroiled with the courts and their appointed evaluator. Reach out to your support network, find ways to calm yourself down and deal with your stress. It’s extremely challenging to deal with the courts and even more so with the potential of losing your children– my heart goes out to anyone going through it.

Makes you wonder if the kids were considered at all, doesn’t it? All of this stress could have been avoided by not getting into a cohabiting polyamorous arrangement. I’d love to see how they turn out.