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Does love have to be forever?: “Love” priveleged; love myths

Love is a concept shrouded in myths. We don’t see love as on a continuum, at one end of a spectrum that starts with friendship or NSA sex. We don’t usually see love as flawed, fallible or even temporary in the same way that we see friendship and other sexual relationships. Somehow, love is supposed to be perfect and endure forever and ever. Love is supposed to mean the same thing to everyone and to be experienced in the same way by everyone. And the word “love” in English is used synonymously with the word “commitment”.

Love is a priveleged concept; it is always seen as sacred, pure, in no need of explanation or defence. While other feelings and relationships may be publically scrutinised, debated or denounced, love is not subject to any challenge. Even in the equal marriage debate, love is used as the justification for equal marriage, precisely because it is so difficult or unthinkable to argue against love.  The anti-equal marriage brigade resort to arguing that homosexual love is not-love; they do not challenge the pro-equal marriage supporters by arguing that love should not be priveleged or that love and marriage are irrelevant to each other. It is implicitly assumed by both sides that love should be rewarded by or lead to marriage and that love should be priveleged.

The Catholic Church and other random right-wing moralists, whether politicians, NGOs or think-tanks, criticise every other sexual emotion on the spectrum except for love. Love is immune. In fact, love is often favoured and other sexual emotions are compared to it unfavourably. Love is the ideal.

Women a little older than me may remember dreaming of – or being socialised into dreaming of – experiencing true love like Princess Diana. For those around my age, it was Cinderella, Princess Jasmine, Belle and Ariel. For those who are younger, Bella Swan is their role model. Previous generations had Shakespeare’s Juliet and Hans Christian Andersen’s fairytales, unDisneyfied. Obviously, this is part of the reason why we put love on a pedestal. But the really interesting thing is that all of us expect to experience love in the same way as our fictional or celebrity heroines. We don’t entertain the idea that love might feel different to different people, or feel different with different partners or at different ages.

Love is inextricably linked to marriage and the family the two-parent heterosexual monogamous fertile family. Female children and teenage girls take it for granted that they’ll fall madly in love with their very own Prince Charming and get married. The reality for a lot of people, though, is marrying someone you like a lot and who you get on with; the scorching fires of I-can’t-live-without-you passion and wild romance seldom lead to stable relationships, as the magic fizzles out after a while. Yet, we continue to delude ourselves that we’ll ‘find our soulmate’ and ‘know it’s true love’ and ‘live happily ever after’. This is because we see love as a shining, separate entity, instead of an emotion resting on the far side of the casual sex-friendship-like-like a lot-love spectrum.

This is quite harmful, because the separation of love from all other close, bonding, sexual, romantic, passionate and friendship feelings leads to seeing love as copletely cut off from all other feelings. We tell ourselves that it’s either love or it’s not love. So, if we like a girl or guy, we might think we are “in love”. After all, we can’t stop thinking about them and love being around them, so it’s got to be love. Thinking you care more deeply about someone than you do is probably inevitable, but separating love from all other emotions only exacerbates the problem. Another effect is that we think in terms of lust and love, as if they were polar opposites. We think that if it’s casual, short-term or has no clear direction, it’s just lust, when in reality there could be friendship feelings or other feelings there, too. Everything is lust if it’s not love. And love is ranked as superior to lust; women are meant to love, not lust, and to prefer to get love instead of getting lust.

It would be better if our language allowed a more nuanced discussion of the spectrum instead of using love-words (love, romance, commitment, faithful) and lust-words (casual, passion, hot, sexy) as if they were mutually exlusive. For cohabitees, polyamorous people, swingers and those in open marriages, our language and discourse are unhelpful and redundant.

And we think love cannot be flawed; if a man beats or sexually assaults his wife or a woman hits her child, these individuals didn’t love their victims. But there is no reason why someone can’t be in love and still abuse or assault their loved ones; it’s not normal, natural or acceptable, and could be referred to as ‘pathological love’ but it could happen*.

Love is seen as an end in itself, a goal to be achieved, a meaningful pursuit even for a successful career woman. None of the other feelings on the love-lust spectrum are seen in this way. Lust is not seen as a meaningful goal for women to pursue, or an end in itself for anyone. In fact, women who enjoy recieving lust or openly have too much of the emotion themselves are often slut-shamed.

Love, in the West, is usually equated with commitment. But should it be? In our modern society we sometimes forget that love wasn’t always thought of as permanent or as requiring faithfulness; even Shakespeare’s Romeo fell in and out of love with Rosemarie quickly, and in love with Juliet almost instantaneously, similarly to the way King David fell in love with Bathsheba as he saw her nude. The Hindu god Krishna is continually unfaithful to his consort Radha whom he loves dearly. And I have heard – I think most people have – of one-night stands or even holiday sex turning into cohabiting and then marriage. While I can’t take seriously the claim of “I felt love for everyone I slept with”, it may be possible to be truly in love with someone for a short time. After all, that’s why marriages fail – people fall out of love. So why couldn’t people be truly in love, but not have any plans to commit? Does being in love mean you have to want to be with that person until you’re 80? Or is it possible to be in love but know you can’t be with them forever, and, when you do leave them, you wuld always remember and think about them?

In regards to the glamorising and glorifying of this emotion called love: Love is nothing special. It’s just the end-point on the spectrum when the feelings of friendship and sexual attraction intensify.

 

 

 

 

*I’m not saying all or even most people who assault/abuse their family members love them. I’m just saying it could happen. And I’m certainly not saying that their love somehow “lessens” their crimes – it doesn’t. Arguably it makes their crimes worse.

 

 
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Posted by on October 5, 2012 in Feminism

 

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BEST post ever on anti-sex work radfems’ tactics in silencing sex workers.

Feminist Ire

The feminist movement really is in a pickle these days. It used to be a given that things like prostitution, pornography and stripping were bad, but nowadays there’s some resistance to these time-honoured notions. Women are increasingly coming out as sex workers and demanding rights. As feminists seek to shut down strip bars and criminalise clients, those women are complaining not just that they’ll lose their livelihood, but that they’ll be at increased risk of abuse and violence if their industries go underground! You can’t let such trivial concerns get in the way of your crusade, so below are some handy tips for discrediting these pesky meddlers. Remember: being an actual sex worker doesn’t entitle her to speak about sex work!

I don’t believe you; you don’t realise the harm you’re doing to yourself

This is generally your starting point. There you are, explaining that no woman…

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Posted by on September 25, 2012 in Feminism, Sex work

 

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Marriage: priveleged in public discourse on rape, emotional health and childrearing

This is another post I’ve been wanting to write for a while.

Marriage. Sure, we accept it can cause problems, especially that the definition of marriage is problematic. We accept that domestic violence and rape occurs in marriage more than it does in relationships where the partners aren’t living together. But marriage is priveleged.

I’m going to start off with the example of rape, then move on to emotional and mental health, and finally childrearing. For this post, I’m only going to be talking about heterosexual women because it seems like most of the discourse and marriage-privelege is centered around this group. This post will assume some knowledge/sympathetic views (will not have references, statistics or attempt to prove points).

Rape/sexual assault

When a woman experiences sexual assault outside her marriage – especially if she is a young single woman – she may be blamed for it. She was out late, she was walking alone, her clothes were a certain length, cut, or showed a certain amount of skin, she wasn’t sober, she shouldn’t have trusted that man, she shouldn’t have hung around with those guys, she was flirting, she should have realised she was in danger earlier, she shouldn’t have led him on…

So, the social norms of socialising, drinking, flirting, dating, and even shopping (a shop sold her the clothes, why not criticise the designer or the retailer if you think the outfit is too short/tight?) are out of bounds for raped women. It’s okay to go out for a drink with your friends, but if you get attacked coming out of the bar, you shouldn’t have been out so late. If you don’t go on dates you’re a loser, snob, frigid or ugly, but if you go on a date and things go wrong in the car or at his place, you have only yourself to blame for being stupidly naive or a flirt who led him on. It’s always okay to do those things – until you get attacked. Then it’s your fault for being a normal person with a social life, errands to run, a life outside your kitchen, and clothes that aren’t hand-me-downs from Granny.

So, a woman’s lifestyle or even career (in the case of sex workers) is blamed for ‘causing’ the rape. You got raped because you were flirting/drinking/socialising/outside your home after dark, or because you are a sex worker. Your behaviour or your job is the culprit.

Yet, when a woman experiences sexual assault in her marriage, the institution of marriage is never blamed. (Note: I’m not saying victims of domestic violence are not blamed; sometimes, people and courts might not take them seriously compared to a woman who is assaulted by a knife-wielding stranger, because domestic abuse sometimes doesn’t seem ‘rape-y’ enough.) What I am saying is: women aren’t usually* blamed for marrying. People don’t say ‘it was her fault she was raped, she was living in the same house as the guy so it was really easy to rape her’ or ‘She should’ve realised he was a rapist before she married him’ or ‘What was she wearing?’ or even ‘She was alone with him in the bedroom at night, what did she think was going to happen?’.

Even though the fact that you’re living with a man makes it very easy for you to be sexually assaulted – close proximity, less chance you’ll call the police, etc.

But marriage is never seen as the culprit. Nobody ever says, ‘You were raped because you are a wife’ or ‘See, marriage causes rape,’ ‘Marriage is dangerous and degrading to wives’. But it’s not that uncommon to hear or see victims blamed: ‘She was raped because she is a sex worker’ or ‘See, sex work causes rape’, ‘Sex work is dangerous and degrading to sex workers’. Nobody tells wives to “Stop dressing like sluts” in front of their husbands (the comment that inadvertently launched the SlutWalks) or that they must restrict their freedom of movement and be on their guard against rape.

Some of this is because of practicality – it’s hard to be on your guard in your own home. But being on your guard in your own home is no more ridiculous than being told to be on your guard in your own neighbourhood,. And there’s no reason why bigots couldn’t tell wives to watch how they dress.

 

Emotional/mental health

Marriage is still thought of as a stress reliever, especially in the case of parenting. We all know marriage can be stressful, but if a woman has emotional problems, it tends not to be attributed to her marriage unless she tells us so. We tend to think of work or family issues as the culprit. Whereas a single woman having a breakdown is often asked about boyfriends or sex partners, and we more readily assume that her sex life is causing the distress, before we think about her family or career as possible causes.

Sometimes it is still assumed that a single woman is looking for that special someone to eventually marry, and only then will she find true happiness. Some people still assume that a string of casual boyfriends is not true happiness, or is just the prelude to a long-awaited union with Mr Right. Marriage is still, in some circles, seen as the key to a woman’s happiness. Womens’ dating and sex lives are reduced to a lengthy search for Mr Right.

 

Childrearing

 

When kids misbehave, get into trouble with the police or don’t do well at school, parents and not teachers are usually blamed. That’s a subject outwith the scope of this blog, which only deals with issues surrounding my Diary (a young single polyamorous woman selling virginity to a rich open-married polyamorous guy for fun and thrills). What is within the scope of this blog is the fact that, although all parents of criticised children and adolescents are blamed, marriage is never seen as the cause of the child’s failures. Divorce, single motherhood, polyamory, parental dating and problem marriages where the parents argue continually are all blamed. But a marriage where the parents don’t argue is never seen as a cause for the child’s problems. Why not, if single motherhood is sometimes blamed – especially in the media – for juvenile delinquency? If a one-parent or separated/nonmarried/divorced background can be a cause, why not a two-parent/married background? Studies show that single parents’ children do as well as coupled parents’ children (when poverty and educational status are controlled for, which wasn’t done in earlier studies – see my post ‘Lone mothers: the Government, the media and the law hate you. Get married!’ for references and statistics.)

 

*Usually, in media representations and other forms of public discourse. I’m not saying family members don’t do it, ‘Oh you should never have married him, I told you he had shifty eyes! Isn’t that right, Doreen? [nudge] Eh?’

 

 
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Posted by on September 23, 2012 in Feminism

 

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Reclaiming “morality”

It’s time.Reclaiming words like “slut” is important, but reclaiming words like “morals”, “morality” “immorality” and “family values” is equally important.

Why? So people can’t hijack these words to gloss over their hate speech or anti-democratic agendas. Which people am I talking about? To name a few: Rick Santorum, Rick Perry, anti equal marriage campaigners in Britain, certain American legislators, Ann Widdecombe, Rush Limbaugh, certain UK bishops and cardinals…the list goes on, and the problem is global; I have chosen to name Western people because they are more known to me.

Why should we reclaim these words?

“moral” means the right thing to do; a good thing. Denying innocent people birth control, the right to marry, equality, the right to have a family, respect, the right not to carry a rapist’s baby to term when their life is endangered by the preganancy, denying validation of one’s sexuality, gender choice or partner, dividing communities by sexuality or marital status, dividing parents and children by the same divisions, et cetera, is not moral. It is not the right, good, or ethical thing to do.

Ditto for “morality”.

“immoral” is the opposite of moral (see above).

“Family values” means valuing and validating the family, putting the family (as opposed to the individual, community or society) as a priority. Does ridiculing and criticising polyamorous, same-sex, trans, or umarried peoples’ families help these families and value them? Does valuing the family mean preventing parents from ever starting a family by adoption, or encouraging young parents to give up their children for adoption, or denying welfare to female parents who have a second child while unmarried? Ummm…no.

So, as you can see, these words are not being used correctly at all – their meaning has been completely twisted to mean the opposite. But we can change them back! If we use the word “moral” as synonymous with “ethical”, “right”, “good”, and “honorable”, and “morality” as synonymous with “human rights”,  then we will take their confusing language away from them. We can take the moral high ground and speak out for equal marriage, polyamorous marriage, an end to slut-shaming, rape culture and stigma of sex workers, lone mothers and “sluts” in the name of morality. We can condemn the sexual double standard and homophobia as immoral. We can advocate for family values to take precedence and legalise equal marriage in its name. Imagine the possibilities!

Come on, guys and girls! Let’s make “morality” OUR word, and our goal.

 
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Posted by on July 27, 2012 in Feminism, Sex work

 

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Abstinence clarifications

I have just discovered that the ‘virginity as gift’ discourse is not the only anti-sexual freedom discourse; the movement is more varied than I had suspected. I apologise for this ommission. I really want my blog to be accurate and properly referenced – watch this space for referenced, peer-reviewed articles on lone motherhood and sexual repression in the next few days – and I don’t want to misrepresent anything. I want you all to be able to check out my sources and challenge my assertions on a factual basis, should you wish to do so; and this blog is going to get more political.

Anyway, I have found a blogger here who presents a religious motive for abstinence (ie admittedly religious, not subtly religious like the gift discourse). He actually disagrees with the gift discourse, as his motivation is legal or law-based. Thus, three types of abstinence discourse can be indentified: Pragmatic (to protect from STDs/pregnancy); to give a gift; and to obey God’s law.

Of course, all three types are religious/control motivated, but they range in how openly religious they are – for example, the pragmatic approach is marketed as nonreligious and as such the movement gained much power under the Bush regime when the Government began to control sexuality by making teens abstinent (abstinence education) and later adults with marriage programs which contained abstinence. This type of abstinence education was attempted by Dorries in January and revived in May in America. It also forms part of “comprehensive” sex ed programs in America, unlike the UK where there is no mention of abstinence in sex ed programs in state schools (so nobody has heard of the word “abstinence”.). It appears to be the most dangerous and politically viable type of abstinence movement and discourse in the West. By contrast, the religio-legal ‘God’s law’ basis is the least politically viable, for obvious reasons, and therefore the least dangerous. So don’t worry about it! I will post more on abstinence very soon, but I just wanted to clarify the incompleteness of what I said before. I’ve been researching abstinence for 2 years so I’m sorry for the ommission. The guy’s blog (in which he explains why he disagrees with Lolo Jones’ gift discourse stance in favour of a God’s Law discourse stance) is here, although it is quite offensive; however, I like it and I did get wet reading it. It is also well-written if a bit long-winded: http://revealchristmission.wordpress.com/2012/06/04/open-letter-to-miss-lolo-miss-lori-regarding-a-few-choice-words-i-hope-proves-helpful-to-a-woman-as-so-stated-by-you-in-last-months-news-more-or-less/

I enjoyed reading the above post, although I realise it would be disturbing to most people.

Although Orthodox Jews and Muslims are also abstinent, personally I do not believe their abstinence movements (if any even exist) to be dangerous; they seem to promote abstinence only within their religious communities and have not made attempts at controlling the freedom of non-Muslims/non-Jews. (I do not refer to terrorists as “Muslims” since Muslims do not feel that terrorists are Muslims, because terrorism is a violation of the principles and values of the Qur’an). This is why I’ll be talking about Christian-based abstinence; it is the most prevalent and politically powerful and the abstinence activists, leaders and their followers do not identify as Jew or Muslim.

 
 

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