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Subversively Sex Positive

Posted by Sarah Sloane on May 25, 2011 in Articles, introspection, Polyamory, Queer, relationships

Photo courtesy of Bixentro from Flickr

I love doing what I like to refer to as “subversive sex positivity”. It’s the integrating of sex, gender, and orientation-positive concepts into our daily language and actions. It’s the act of informing people about alternative gender and sexuality without preaching (or often even explicitly telling them). It’s the process of normalizing things that most of our culture does not see as normal, simply by treating them as such. And it’s a great way to carry the message of healthy sexual expression out into the world in ways that don’t target us. I’ve made a list of some of the ways that I’ve seen others do this…

1. Ask people what pronoun they prefer, what they refer to their partner as, and how they label (or choose not to label) their relationship. Even if the answers are exactly what you expect that they’ll be, by asking them you show them that you respect them and wish to use words and phrases that are appropriate and welcoming – and you may even end up with them asking you WHY you said that, which gives you a chance to talk about non-normative sexuality & relationships.

2.Separate gender and sex. “He” does not necessarily have a penis, and “She” may not have a vagina. Using terms like “girl parts”, especially around people who may be transgender or non-gender normative can leave them feeling left out and disrespected. And before you say you don’t know anyone who is trans…how do you know you don’t?

3. Use correct terms. It’s a vagina, a vulva, a penis, a clitoris, a prostate, a scrotum. There is plenty of room to use slang terms, but when we’re trying to be clear in our communication, using accurate terms helps.

4. If you’re corrected about something sex or gender related, apologize and move on. If you say “he” and are told that the person with whom you’re speaking prefers “she”, then just say “thank you for telling me” and use the pronoun or name that you’re asked to use. Most people are happy if you do your best to use their preferred names or pronouns (especially if you knew them when they were going by another name), and an apology and a renewed effort to be consistent is the most respectful thing you can do.

5. Make no assumptions. Just because someone has a penis doesn’t mean they like to use it to have sex, or even like it touched. Just because someone has a vagina doesn’t mean they want to be penetrated. Not every gay man likes to receive anal sex. Not every woman has problems with orgasms. Not every man is able to have them in the way that our culture says they should. Allow people the space and room to define their own desires, and the support they would like (if any) in speaking out about it…as well as their right to privacy, should they not feel the need to tell you.

6. Even if you don’t “get it”, don’t shame it. Many people who are happily monogamous don’t understand on a personal level why or how someone can have multiple relationships. Some people don’t understand how anyone could be attracted to someone of the same gender. And some people don’t understand how anyone could be happy having missionary position sex. You don’t have to understand it – but ideally, you will choose to respect their choice and support them in it.

 
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Bullying Vs. Building Bridges: My speech at the Poly Pride X Rally

Posted by Sarah Sloane on Oct 13, 2010 in Articles, communication, Polyamory, Queer, relationships

As promised in various places, the following is the text of my speech from last weekend’s Poly Pride Rally, sponsored by Poly NYC.

It is my honor & privilege to be here today to speak to an amazing group of people who stand at the intersection of two communities that nourish & sustain me: the queer community, and the polyamorous community.

2010 is an amazing time to be queer in America. On the surface, our social and legal standing looks a bit bleak; the headlines reflect the bigotry of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, the hatred and bullying aimed towards our LGBTQ youth, and the lack of legal marriage & partnership rights in almost every state in this nation. But underneath – we are making progress towards our goal of taking our place at the table of equal rights. Legal decisions are starting to move our way; public opinion is changing, slowly but surely, and more and more allies are standing with queer and trans people as we move forward in claiming those rights.

The queer community did not get here by telling heteronormative people that they’re wrong; in fact, we got here by doing the exact opposite – by building bridges. We got here by coming out as queer, by living our lives with our families in our communities, by letting our neighbors, coworkers, and acquaintances learn about our similarities, rather than focusing on our differences.

The polyamorous community can learn these lessons, too. I read poly blogs and websites, and listen to podcasts that often proudly exclaim how much more “normal” and better polyamory is than monogamy; this is not only inaccurate, but it’s incredibly counterproductive. Polyamory is a relationship style that requires different skill sets, different types of exploration, and a different intent; it’s neither better nor worse than monogamy, it’s simply different. Some people are cut out for one, others are suited for the other, and still more can adapt to either, based on circumstances and partners.

Yet when people who choose monogamy, as well as those who are beginning to explore their relationship orientation, hear these “better than” statements, it separates them from us, and deafens them to our message; we are criticizing the way that they choose to have relationships, and we become the same kinds of bullies that we decry. We gather no champions outside of our community, and even more, we push away our partners and friends who consciously choose monogamy because of their own needs and wants.

Instead, let’s learn from the experiences of the queer rights activists. Let’s engage in conversations about polyamory from a perspective of conscious consideration and talk about how our relationship structures are important based on our own needs. Let’s talk about open relationships as part of the spectrum of consensual healthy relationships, not the ONLY sane choice. And let’s reinforce that healthy relationships are our birthright, even if our relationships don’t look like those of our parents, our neighbors, or our legal structures. Let’s show the rest of the world smart, healthy examples of open relationships, and let’s celebrate our love as one of the unalienable rights that we are entitled to: life, liberty, and the pursuit of OUR happiness.

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