Archive for March, 2013

Getting political

Well, actually, I don’t like to get very political — not here, not on Facebook or anywhere else. It is unfortunately either an exercise in futility, or a simple matter of preaching to the choir in the echo chamber. Still, with the cases about California’s Prop 8 and DOMA before the Supreme Court today, I decided why not. Also, it seemed to overlap with other areas that were on my mind. (Apologies for any fuzziness; I have a cold that’s getting worse as the day goes on.)

First, let’s talk Catholicism. I was born and raised Catholic, baptized, and have received all the sacraments I am eligible for at this time. That is: baptism, reconciliation, communion, and confirmation. Although I had a Catholic ceremony when I married, it was not the sacrament because my husband is, well, a heathen — he is not part of any organized religion, and has not been baptized into anything. But he’s my heathen, and I love him very much.

And the truth is, I suppose I’ve become something of a heathen myself, or we can say “lapsed Catholic.” Like a lot of people, I’m sure, I started having doubts in high school (thank you to the French teacher who tried to teach us Existentialism) and they only went on in college. How could all of these other people be wrong? What about people who were never exposed to the teachings and ideas of Christ? Are they doomed because of circumstances beyond their control? That’s crazy.

What I really found as I got older and met more people and had more experiences was that what the Church was telling me simply didn’t gel with my personal experiences. Shall we name a few?

* Being counseled on marriage by a man — good man though he might be — had sworn off both marriage and sex. I think it’s one thing to say, get counseling from someone who doesn’t have the exact experience — after all, not everyone gets married, or has been abused, or whatever — but it’s another to get it from someone who has sworn never to do it.

* Being told during a pre-Cana retreat that birth control methods like the Pill and a vasectomy contribute to poor communication and hence poor marriages. Right, tell that to my parents who have been married for 46 years (yow!) and did both.

* In fact, realizing that the retreat was so focused on birth control as to be almost useless. I remember two other things: one, advice that whoever kept the checkbook should receive the receipts from the one who does not. Two — and I’m sure this was not intentional — that a child that a woman had out of wedlock was somehow “second class” compared to the child she had with the man she later married.

* Realizing that the Church considered the religious marriage ceremony of my straight friends was more moral than that of the commitment ceremony my gay friends had in the Episcopal Church. This, after my straight friends obtained a minister because the location of the wedding required it. This, after my gay friends had studied, converted to the Episcopalian faith, joined various committees and wrote their own ceremony.

* The Church considers children an important part of marriage; you are in fact asked if you are open to having children when you begin the pre-Cana process.  Yet again, my straight friends have decided not to have kids (which I think was the right decision for them), and my gay friends adopted two children from a home where “troubled” is only the beginning of the story.

* As we found out in the 90s and 00s, how utterly hypocritical it is to be lectured to by an institution who took steps to protect predators, but not the children they molested and raped. I was on the naughty list because I lived with my husband before we got married; but priests with serious issues who endangered and attacked children should be forgiven, not reported to the authorities, and shuffled off to quieter pastures.

* One thing that got me, and I think it was during the late 90s, was when I read about a letter from a Church official or priest that recommended active discrimination against gays. I can’t remember the details (sorry) but it had to do with not letting them teach, things like that. All I could think was, what a horribly un-Christian thing to do to a group of people.

The Church, and the Christian right, seems awfully focused on what you should not do, and should not do the way they say. Hey, you’re entitled to your beliefs — but you don’t get to force them on me. I don’t see how my everyday actions, presuming I am not attempting to harm or rob you, affect you all that much.

I love the argument that gay marriage is a threat to hetero marriage. Really? Prove it. I have been married almost thirteen years, as have the friends I’ve mentioned above, and another couple who married when their locality allowed it. They must be close to ten years now. Just how does their marriage affect me any more than, say, Ralph Reed’s does?

Answer: it doesn’t.

Study after study is showing that kids raised by gay couples show no more or less problems than those who are raised by straight couples. So that argument’s gone. Those friends who adopted? They received three children at once the first time, and the 2yo boy was non-verbal. Not speaking. Now he’s in school and doing well. They should have left him in the system until someone else came along? Let’s face it, most people are reluctant to take problem kids, and with reason — they take more time and energy than healthy kids, who require a ton on their own. I think people, gay or straight, who take that on deserve applause.

Marriage does not need defending from gay people. It needs defending from people who see it as the only way to do things; who think that people should stay in bad or dangerous marriages because, well, they promised, never mind that someone’s breaking the promise.

And isn’t funny with the kids? These same people who are shouting about pro-life, making abortion (which is a health care issue) more and more difficult to get — what are they doing for the children who are born, and the mothers (and fathers) who have them? It’s like once the kids are here, the job is done. That’s bullshit — that’s when the job starts.

So what do I hope? I hope Prop 8 is struck down, even if narrowly, and I hope DOMA is struck down as well. We are in the middle of a big period of change, I think, and change never goes down well. But it has to start somewhere, and here’s hoping SCOTUS gets us moving.

I probably wanted to say more but I’m beat. Also, I’m sorry for the lack of links, but you won’t have trouble finding any.




Kinky stuff

I was thinking I’d blog about the oddness of internet friendships, but I’ll get to that another time. Earlier this week, William Saletan at published this article about BDSM and why it will never be mainstream. It’s an interesting article, although be warned if you click on any links. Not that they’re NSFW (although I think that’s true in at least one case), but just know what you’re getting into. Some (I haven’t checked most of the links in Saletan’s article) may link to explicit material that could bother you. If you don’t want a lot of BDSM detail, then you may be better off just ignoring the links.

Is there anything “wrong” with BDSM? Tough question. Generally, my answer is no. I think that anything two (or more) consenting and informed or knowledgeable adults want to do is fine. If you want someone to spank you, fine, but I’m not into that. I won’t stop you, won’t judge, won’t tell you not to or even speculate on any childhood reason you might like it. If you want to be tied up — or do the tying up — again, fine. If you want to be hurt, or do the hurting, that gets a little fuzzier and squicks me out.

In those cases I think information, knowledge, and trust are absolutely essential. If you have all of those, if everyone involved a) knows what they are getting into; b) knows the preparations and possible consequences; and c) can rely on their partner(s) to use and respect safe words, then okay. Again, I don’t want it, but that’s okay.

What Saletan’s article tries to get at, and this NYT piece (which Saletan links to) explores, is how “normal” this all is or isn’t.

I’m not sure “normal” matters. There are a ton of people out there with a ton of different sexual preferences, so the “normal” range is likely going to either be pretty wide to encompass a lot of stuff, or it’s going to be pretty narrow, leaving a lot of things on the outside. So maybe normal or accepted aren’t even terms to use, although we have to use something.

So, in my opinion, I’d have to say that probably most people enjoy dabbling in various aspects BDSM and my guess — only a guess — is that light bondage and spanking are probably the most common activities. Does that make them normal or mainstream? Maybe. Does it matter? I don’t think so, particularly.

When you get into inflicting pain, be it physical or emotional, I think you get farther away from the normal range. Most of us, I think it’s safe to say, do not want to be hurt. We take over-the-counter medicines for various things, because we don’t want to hurt, and that kind of hurt is much less than what one might experience with some parts of BDSM. Nor do we want to be hurt emotionally — we don’t want to be called names or insulted.

Yet some people, in limited or controlled circumstances, get turned on by these things. And I think you have to be very careful when violence or pain are involved in an activity that is ultimately designed to bring someone pleasure. I get, at least on an intellectual level, the idea that giving up control to someone can be exciting.

It’s a little taboo, really, isn’t it? For what, close to one hundred years or more, going back to Susan B. Anthony agitating for women’s suffrage, we have been told that women can and should be strong and independent. And there is nothing wrong with that. I think it’s an important message. It’s led to other things, if only indirectly. We don’t see spousal rape as acceptable because it occurs within marriage; we don’t believe that husbands have the right to beat their wives; we believe woman can choose their own marriage, or not, and to have kids, or not.

So no wonder, I think, that women — and men — who wish to be involved in an activity that involves giving up control to someone, mental and/or physical, fear what others might say. Especially when it comes to sex. Society has changed a lot on how sex and sexuality is viewed, but BDSM still isn’t quite out there in then open.

I tend to think it never will be mainstream, especially because when you get to the discipline, submission, sadism and masochistic aspects of BDSM, you are looking at violence. Violence may be common, but it’s not exactly “mainstream.” And asking to be treated violently is a sensitive and I think dangerous thing. I can only hope that those who want such things pair up with an understanding and reliable partner who will honor limits and safe words.

I’ve never written anything with BDSM. Well, okay, Island Encounter had some slight elements of feminine domination. So that’ll teach me to never say never. However, I won’t write it — and I don’t edit it for other writers — because I’m not familiar with the scene and don’t want to be. I don’t edit BDSM stories because although I could help with punctuation, I wouldn’t know enough about the content to say if it’s right or not. If I had an idea that called for it, I’d probably look into it, but I’m not sure I’d ever have that kind of idea.

Because I, personally, prefer things more “even” in my stories. I do not find violence or insults arousing, and it’d be hard for me to write that. I’m not sure I could relate to a character who liked such things, and it would no doubt come across in a story. Does that make me “vanilla?” Probably, but that’s okay.

I don’t think there’s anything “wrong” with someone who wants to be spanked or paddled, or to do it to someone else. But I also think that you can’t demand such behavior be accepted as “normal.” As Saletan argues, that kind of sexual preference is a choice, unlike a person’s orientation. We all have preferences on various things, some of which are “normal” and some are not, and we can’t demand that everyone like them.

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