Author Archives: Michon Neal

How To Empower Next Generation Media

Previously published on Postmodern Woman.

People don’t often learn best through classes, nonfiction, or lectures. And in a world in which education is becoming increasingly geared towards expanding entertainment, how do we ensure that our messages are getting through?

Plenty of marketers and advertisers will tell you to head for the heart. Many people don’t behave or think as rationally as they’d like to imagine they do. And regardless of my own proclivities, not many people enjoy researching and undergoing metanoia for fun. And while the goal of most media coming up now is to reap massive rewards by going commercial, I’ve never much been one for that path.

See, even though I regularly analyze all sorts of media my own medium right now is writing. While others imagine fame and fortune there will always be those few who instead concentrate on uplifting and expanding. Our entertainment can either give us the familiar dressed up in fancy packages or it can become a catalyst for allowing the sparks of life to shine bright. My stories are only the first medium that I plan to use to engage and awaken. They started off as writing but my goal is to bring them into reality. I have the way; it’s only a matter of time.

There are several ways to educate and entertain people, and they don’t always have to be separate. One of the most powerful ways that people have learned about better or different ways is through our artistic endeavors: our media. How many imaginations sparked, how many new possibilities realized, how many lives saved through art? We learn best by experience and by example. Yet our examples in media and entertainment are severely lacking.

I watched thousands of movies, read thousands of books, and listened to thousands of songs. Yet the things that would have most helped me, the things that would have most delighted me, the things that would have saved my life so much sooner were spread across different realms. I’d find a glimmer here, a peak there, a flash in the distance. And then I realized I wouldn’t find it all somewhere out there. No, like everything humanity requires most for its health, it is within that we find and process it.

So I sat down at age 12 and invented a new genre. One filled with absurdism and satire about all of the ideas that people took for granted like normality, amatonormativity, religion, mental states, physical capabilities, etc. Nothing is sacred in the cuilverse; I tore apart everything I came across, daring my imaginary future readers (likely simply variations of me) to question everything people believed was absolute.

Cuil fiction involves discussions of consent by those who span the scale of emotional intelligence. It involves non-monogamous configurations even the community has yet to acknowledge. It runs the gamut of the sexes, preferences, orientations, health, and races in intersectional ways that I’ve never seen anywhere else. It is cuil because, ironically, it depicts the variation and reality among humans that they deny or are ignorant of in real life.

There are no flat characters in the cuilverse; there are only dynamic people. The focus is on their relationships to themselves, others, and the world around them and not simply on how beautiful that plant in the corner is. They actually react to, change, and interact with the universe they inhabit. And while they do tend to break the fourth wall, you’ll find the science, philosophy, anatomy, and diversity is more real than people realize.

Our epic tales use to involve heroes who were extraordinary, who were unique, who were truly dynamic. But you can tell how much we’ve been swindled by the invention of the “everyman”. The myth of normal was invented and our media has been mostly mass-produced ever since. Even the artists who manage to create something unusual never follow it completely to its logical conclusion.

What I mean is that even when the world is completely different, that context rarely ever carries over to the characters who live in it. For the most part, the main character is a straight man, with rare exceptions for female or gay characters.

And even when supposedly diverse characters are used it is often a matter of tokenization or a tale of completely focused on that difference, rather than the inherent humanity or, you know, an adventure not based on their race, sex, gender, health status, etc.

And to date, there isn’t really any genre for non-monogamous people. Or rather, most poly books are nonfiction. There is some fiction that features polyamory and there are erotic pseudo-poly books. But none of these-the fiction or nonfiction-actually covers the full spectrum of humanity or non-monogamy. We’re left with promises of possibilities and only given the same examples over and over again, and with no in-depth awareness of the myriad intersections and experiences that exist. And they never get to the next step. As much as they talk about happily ever after everyone ends the story before it happens.

Sound familiar?

People keep decrying entertainment in general as being empty and geared towards consumption instead of integration and growth, the only options we’re given simply include more of the same. But complaining about it yet still paying for it just means you’re being a hypocrite.

We need to put the life back into art. And we need more diverse and realistic non-monogamous reflections in our media as well. As a member of the LGBT+ community, I can find a plethora of fiction and non-fiction books, movies, and music about people like me in that regard.

But as a non-monogamous person, as a person who values friendship and sensuality over romance, as someone who wants to see emotional intelligence, sapiosexuality, anatomically correct sex that doesn’t shy away from eroticsim and female agency and isn’t cheap and masturbatory either; as someone who wants things like rape, trauma, and vulnerability to be what they are instead of mere contrived fodder; as that person who craves a world that sees human before any other label; I see a gaping hole.

Each perspective I write is unique to whoever is currently having their experienceI know what it’s like to never be seen, to be constantly underestimated, misunderstood, marginalized, fetishized, and tokenized. I imbued my characters (alien and human alike) with more agency, honesty, freedom, and variation than many people ever grant themselves or others in real life.

That lack in real life needs to be changed if we are ever to move towards a fully consensual society. You see, consent requires knowledge, and when it comes to love, romance, sex, mental health, emotional intelligence, non-monogamy, and sexuality the majority of people are Jon fucking Snow (yes, even those who claim their non-monogamy is ethical still have a ways to go).The world needs media that isn’t just entertainment. We need transformative, immersive, integrated content. The world can be changed through art just as much as science. Art has been sorely lacking behind. Isn’t it about time we do something about it? Demand better, create better, acknowledge more, and embrace the unique.

For empowered content we need artists that are as focused on who their characters are as what they do. We need them to craft each person as carefully as they craft the rules of their universe. We need creators to show us heavens along with hells. No one at all is helped by saying, “At least we’re better than them. Thank goodness we don’t have their rotten luck!” We need maturity and self-worth in our icons more than we need pettiness and ignorance.

I mean, everyone keeps saying they want to make the world a better place. We want it be full of consent and diversity and healing. Isn’t it time our art actually showed us what that’s like?

Marginalized Polya People

Updated version of an article first published on Postmodern Woman.

What does polyamory look like when you’re poor or disabled? How do you maintain autonomy and independence when you require specific care or assistance? How do you have safe, kinky, enjoyable sex when you’re allergic to latex or have a condition that leaves your body racked in pain?

Other than being in the minority categories for my aromanticism, relationship anarchy, kinkiness, genderqueerness, pansexuality, noetisexuality, and being Black, there are other specific ways in which my polyamory does not fit into the norm. There are other considerations to make and reinterpretations of many actions and freedoms that many polya people take for granted.

The average polya person in the limelight (with the exception of Kevin Patterson’s Poly Role Models) is well-off, white or white-adjacent, and normally healthy. Solo polyamorists constantly talk about autonomy, lack of enmeshment, and independence and other polyamorists set up visits with ease. Yet there are huge and gaping holes in the polya and non-monogamous relationship conversation. Very few people know what life is like for those that fall through the cracks. There aren’t many stories of the poor, the marginalized, and the mentally or physically ill and how they navigate healthy, fulfilling multiple relationships. I’ve seen a lot of polya people say that they wouldn’t date someone with a mental disorder.

There are many people that I know who are polya and have less than perfect health. A friend of mine was recently diagnosed as autistic and has been experiencing close-mindedness and ignorance in the poly and kink communities. A blogger I follow has borderline personality disorder and writes deeply moving posts about his experiences in relationships from his unique perspective. I’ve been writing stories (and “living the life”) for nearly 20 years about the people you never hear about in the media, the situations that rarely get discussed elsewhere, and the ways that these unique people handle their circumstances.
Being poor or disabled can present their own obstacles for expressing one’s polyamorous leanings. There aren’t as many resources for people like me. But as the more visible polyamorous communities create new resources and expand the social narrative, so it is my hope that more people of color, people allergic to weird things, and those who aren’t the epitome of health can share and create resources to generate understanding, education, and community as well.
Nearly every relationship you have when you’re poor is like a long-distance relationship, or at least that’s been my experience. Unless you live in the same neighborhood regular travel and conferences and outings can become prohibitively expensive. Technology helps if you can afford it or have access to it.

You learn to treasure the moments you can be together all the more. You learn to be okay with being alone most of the time. You definitely learn to appreciate the little things. And you know with absolute certainty that you may not have all of your needs met. It takes a special kind of patience and maturity to deal with the cancelled dates, limits on time, and isolation that come so much more often when you’re poor and/or spoonie. I liken being poor to being in emergency mode more often than not.

Where the executive with a harried day has the opportunity and money to relax and unwind, the poor and disabled person has no access to the typical means with which to relieve their stress. When you don’t have the money or the means you have to get creative. When you’re not healthy you have to accept that there are times when you have to put down your superman cape and allow someone to help you and accept some entwinement, even if others label it enmeshment or dependency. Poor health and the higher possibility of an emergency can make the poor, Black, and unwell seem like high risk partners for other polya people.
Try to imagine the looks you’d get when you say you can’t use the condom your partner has brought because you’re allergic to latex. You either rush around in an effort to find the much less effective (and harder to find) non-latex condoms, call it off, or go through with it without a condom and hope that the STI test results are still accurate. I also have Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder and endometriosis and polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), which leave me subfertile — and less worried about accidental pregnancy — yet simultaneously leave me in pain more often than not.

There are times when, even if I want rougher sex, my partners have to be gentle. There’s nothing wrong with pain when you want it but the pain caused by those conditions is not the fun kind – and I’m not that kind of masochist. My PCOS and PMDD cause anxiety, which can lead to more stress, which can lead to a worsening of my conditions. These kinds of illnesses have no cure and anyone with a long-term illness knows that we have to find alternative and healthy ways to deal with them and lessen their impact on our lives. Unfortunately, the majority of people know nothing about it and when they can’t physically see what’s wrong with you it can breed resentment, disbelief, and dismissal.

It’s not all doom and gloom, though. You find out fairly quickly who is dependable and who is not, who is simply there for fun and who’d like to be around for a while, who is actively dedicated to anti-racism, who can healthily deal with stress and who cracks under the slightest pressure. You find support you never expected from the strangest places, you learn not to take anything for given or granted, and it makes effective communication all the more important.
Some people will see these things as obstacles or reasons not to be polya. They don’t exactly fit the “perfect polya” narrative (unless you realize that aros tend to have jealousy and compersion down pat!). But no matter who you are, life is usually only as difficult as you make it.

What About That Lovely Compersion? It’s Not Just for Polya People

Note: This is an updated version of the article first appearing on Postmodern Woman.

Whenever we hear about compersion it’s in a romantic polya context. It’s a feeling of joy that one partner gets when one of their partners is happy, usually because they’ve met someone new. To romantic polya folks compersion is held up as the opposite of jealousy. It’s something to strive for. It’s proof that you’ve beaten the green-eyed monster (even if you still feel it from time to time).

But what about those of us who have no jealousy with which to compare the feeling? Or, hell, what about instances where we feel joy over someone else’s success, even in nonromantic contexts? What about when we cheer for our favorite sports teams and celebrate them winning?

I think we naturally feel compersion in a variety of situations. But people are only applauded for it and only notice it when they feel it in a romantic or polyamorous context.

But what if American Ninja Warrior was the standard for how we treated one another?

If you’re not familiar with American Ninja Warrior, it’s the only competition I’ve seen where literally everyone-competitors, announces, and audience-support every single person going out there and doing their best. That is true competition right there. It’s never about the other players; it’s all about you doing your ultimate.

We naturally want our children, our teams, our companies, and our friends to do well. We’re supportive of them, we cheer them on, and we celebrate with them when they get what they want, when they meet their goals, or when they win. We even do this with fictional characters.

Yet when it comes to romantic relationships and transitional polyamory from the dominant culture, for some reason all of that goes flying out the window. Romantic people are even encouraged to be jealous of one another. It becomes a competition in the destructive sense of the word and everyone is set apart from day one.

People view their partners with suspicion and newcomers with envy. They’ve learned in many ways to view their partners (or their time or love) as their property to some extent. And naturally when that’s taken away they despise it. They want to do all they can to prevent it. Jealousy tells them they’re losing something that’s rightfully theirs.

So polya people work at it. Over and over. Some people give up and return to a monogamous life. Some polya people learn to work around it. Jealousy becomes this ugly never-healing sore that just kind of weeps in the background sometimes. Polya people work on stripping it of its power. When they think they’ve succeeded, when they can feel somewhat joyful about a new love or something, they get excited about feeling compersion.

But it seems like it’s mostly a case of them unlearning the typical cultural messages surrounding how our relationships should look. Why is it easier for friends and parents to feel compersion rather than romantic lovers?

A huge part of it is simply amatonormativity – the pressure and belief that long-term romantic pair-bonding with accompanying trips up that relationship escalator are the norm and are appropriate and desirable for everyone. Not even non-monogamy gets much of a pass from the effects of amatonormativity; often ideas from the underlying culture spill over.

That’s why those who seem to overcome this programming get so excited about compersion.

Even still, the feeling isn’t exclusive to polyamory and for aromantic people or long-term multilinkers it’s not some elusive goal. It comes more easily or organically in nonfamilial intimate linkings because it’s an extension of what we already feel in our other relationships. For some multilinkers or people who value friendships over romance it might be easier for us to tap into our sense of compersion and extend it to all areas 0f our lives.

Compersion isn’t something exceptional. It’s not the sole invention or experience of polyamorous people. Instead I think it’s that those romantic polya people from the dominant culture might find it more difficult to express it in polyamorous relationships. All of us have certain contexts we develop for our relationships. Built into that context are a host of expectations and norms.

It’s considered normal to feel great when your husband gets a raise but not when he gets a new girlfriend.

Maybe the key to compersion isn’t so much defeating or conquering jealousy. I don’t even believe it is the opposite of jealousy. Maybe it’s simply a matter of learning to be more friendly. Of looking at your partner with those lenses you’re able to extend to everyone else. Maybe it’s simply a matter of unlearning those divisive competitive lessons. Why is it easier for you to be happy for your friend or your child but not your lover? Is the root something you simply acquired from culture that triggers your jealousy instead of your compersion?

Either way, however you arrive at it just remember: you’ve felt compersion before!

It’s more familiar than you think it is. It simply hasn’t gone by that name outside of a romantic polya context because people tend to take it for granted.

I recommend you take it from American Ninja Warrior. It is possible and it’s not as hard as people might make it seem. They’re definitely on to something.

Remember, I’m cheering you on!

The Triangular Theory of Love Isn’t Consummate

Updated version of article originally appearing here.

Aromantic and asexual-spectrum people often get left of out of the popular theories and convenient graphs about love, lust, and romance. The Triangular Theory of Love is no exception. Theories evolve over time as new information is uncovered. It would be nice one day to have more widespread knowledge out there about all of the possibilities and not merely those open to the chosen few. Aromantics and asexuals tend to get swept under the rug. Experiences that fall outside the romantic norm aren’t well understood and I doubt they’re well-documented. And the largest problem starts with the conflation of passion with limerance/infatuation, or what people most often refer to as New Relationship Energy.

The idea that someone can love someone intensely without feeling romantic or sexual, that someone can remain unbelievably excited about someone for longer than a few months, or that the passion can even grow over time is pretty much unheard of. So many people, whether mono or poly, talk about passion as something that’s like an addiction, that wears off with time, and that can only be felt at the beginning of a relationship. What does passionate nonromantic love look like? How is it different from both romantic passion and companionship? What would you even call it? And is it actually possible?

There has been a steady reintroduction of and recognition that there are more types of attraction than previously thought. Many people are familiar with romantic, emotional, and sexual attraction but may not be familiar with sensual attraction, aesthetic attraction (as opposed to mere aesthetic appreciation), and “intellectual” attraction. The Thinking Asexual has a lovely long list of terms and definitions for all sorts of experiences and identities if you need any explanations. Though they cover many types of attraction and relationship forms, there isn’t much out there to accurately describe enduring connections throughout the relationship, at least without using terms normally related to the most common understandings of commitment, intimacy, and passion.

I’ve mentioned before that I’m both demisexual and aromantic. I’m also noetisexual, which adds its own unique dimension to the ways I experience attraction, love, and passion. I don’t experience NRE and never have. Perhaps some of my long-lasting sexual and and sensual attraction is bound up with my extremely high sex drive and my highly sensual nature. I can only be affectionate, sensual, and sexual with people that I trust, with people that I have emotional intimacy with. There is also this absolutely wonderful comment by Joreth Innkeeper applicable to my experiences of attraction vs action; a summation of the fact that one doesn’t follow the other:

Just as action doesn’t follow from attraction, neither does one sort of love, emotion, or attraction automatically follow from any other. There are as many ways to connect and feel desire as there are people on the planet.

But today, I simply want to go over three types of love aromantic or asexual people (and some romantic and sexual people) may experience but that they may never have had a name for. The point is to expand our understanding about love, attraction, boundaries, and desire so that truly informed consent becomes the norm and not the assumption.

Many asexuals tend to avoid relationships with sexual people and many aromantics avoid hanging around romantic people because of these overly simplified explanations of love, lust, and the built-in assumptions of an end goal along the touch and relationship escalators. Until our experiences are made visible, romantic and sexual people will have problems creating consensual relationships (of any form) with aromantic and asexual people. I also hope that many aromantics and asexuals feel empowered and informed enough to make conscious decisions about how they want their relationships (of any form) to look and what they involve.

As I’ve written before, there are no defaults!

While these new terms are intended to be living terms, and others’ experiences may be different, I’d like to share the sorts of passion I experience and what that’s like.

  • The first is what I’d like to call ecstatic love. It’s like the opposite of existential terror. It’s like a deep, permeating existential joy that this person(s) exists. It’s deeper than friendship yet it’s not romantic and not sexual. It feels like being tickled by the notion of this person being alive right then and there. It may or may not fade with time. Often, there’s no accompanying outward sign. It’s just a feeling that underlies all of your interactions with others. It’s like the fierce love you feel for your child but it can be felt for those who aren’t (and without the protective or instinctive elements accompanying it).

 

  • The second I’d refer to as rapturous love. It’s like a slow-building wave. Where infatuation is often accompanied by extreme highs and lows and dissipates after a while, rapturous love grows and grows and grows. The more time passes, the more overwhelmed you feel. It’s a joy that keeps building on itself with time, a fullness and excitement that only increases as time passes. For me it makes me want to touch and/or fuck the person more and more, not less and less. The more time we spend together and the more I know you, the more I want you and enjoy you physically and emotionally.

 

  • That overlaps a bit with resonant love. This one is extremely intimate. It goes down to the core. It is the full recognition of another person as they truly are, with no assumptions, judgments, or deceptions. It is the Holy Moment: it can last for a glance or a lifetime. You are both deeply aware of one another; it’s as if your souls are naked and revealed, when two or more points of the same universal soul meet. I know that might sound a bit religious or spiritual but that’s not what I’m talking about. It can also simply be a meeting of minds: that special rhythm you get into when you both or all understand an idea or each other completely and entirely. If this were Doctor Who, it would be one of the fixed points in time, an absolute. The term brain orgasms also work for shorter holy moments, though it can last much longer.

Many people might only feel it for a moment here or there but it can actually be felt and experienced quite often, if not all of the time. But as the two men in that conversation say, it is not considered polite to have Holy Moments, and especially not with people who aren’t our romantic or sexual partners. We tend to shy away from them because they’re too raw, too honest, too revealing.

There is so much more to love, life, and connection than we’ve been led to believe. There are so many wonderful experiences without name or without recognition that haven’t been discussed. If we are to build our own lives and our own loves, if we are to choose freely what works best for us and our capabilities then we must make sure to actively engage with the evolving landscape. Passion doesn’t have to be limited to infatuation. It doesn’t have to fade with time. It doesn’t have to be romantic to be fulfilling. We are not all the same so why should our love be? We won’t gain a greater understanding unless we release our ideas from the concretes society would have us accept.


 

Polya Relationship Expectations: Nothing for Granted

Updated version of a previously published article on Postmodern Woman.

Up front and honest. Heard and understood. Let’s both (all) be right. No either-or thinking. Surface vs. Substance. No expectations. Humanity (individuality) first. No defaults.
In all things, my values came (and still come) first. I didn’t grow up with stability or honesty or respect. More often than not I was the wall at which everyone decided to throw their shit. I grew up seeing humanity’s worst. Yet, instead of giving into it, instead of becoming a statistic, I chose another path. I’m addicted to discovering new things. If I don’t consider at least five different perspectives on something before settling on the most rational one then I haven’t done my job. As the world fell apart into nonsense around me I sought knowledge about anything and everything. I incorporated that knowledge into my writing, into my books. I’m especially partial to philosophy and the way that brains and minds work.
Being on the outside of the world’s typical human experiences allowed me to come to certain conclusions more quickly. I was (and am) living proof of an extreme intersection of categories that shouldn’t even seem possible to most. Much of the world can’t conceive of a person like me existing, rendering me effectively invisible by default. People tend to search for the familiar. This phenomenon does serve to leave me alone more often than not. I learned to love my own company very early on.
These experiences made it easier for me to put my values into practice; they made it easier to clearly define what was truly important to me. They allowed me to see through the layers of bullshit societies build up around things like family, romance, sex, education, and so much more. I literally cannot take anything for granted. There are no defaults in my life save change (and perhaps pain, if my physical ailments are any indication). My bedrock has always been a shifting, amorphous blob. So I learned to dance. Buddhists meditate for years to learn how to remain unattached from outcomes, people, and things. People try for years to be comfortable being alone (being single). People hurt one another so much before they realize that you must treat people as people.
Many polya people (or people in general) have disastrous relationships because they are embedded into common cultural narratives that separate human beings into categories. Most of us grow up learning to see people by their attributes first. Using those categorical lenses serves to help us miss one another on a most basic level. I couldn’t understand why labels were so important to others, why people built tribes along arbitrary lines, why they couldn’t conceive of a person being both or neither instead of always either-or, why they only extended logic bit by bit to each facet of their life instead of universally.
It’s because I’m such a weirdo. Most people don’t experience the world like I do. I have several forms of synesthesia, I’m left-handed, an atheist, Aspie, and noetisexual. I’m many other very queer things that are normally listed on the fringes of every scale. I cannot afford to take anything for granted. I can’t rely on heuristics to run my life. I don’t have defaults to fall back on to build the illusion of safety around me.
Going back to that list at the beginning, those are my only “rules” for dealing with reality. How much heartache would be avoided if people dealt with humans first and foremost instead of labels? Most people don’t have that sort of focus, that self-awareness, that desire for autonomy and that willingness to see reality as it is. We learn to view ourselves as empty halves needing to be filled. We expect others to fix us. We open ourselves up to abuse because we don’t even see ourselves as human first. There’s a reason people learn to dehumanize the enemy. You can do anything to a non-human. The more human someone becomes, the less likely you are to want to hurt them.
I find a lot of people tend to run aw`ay from me. I’m much too honest, and perhaps too serious, from the start. I value my time and others’. Because there are so many things about me that I know many might have issues with I’ve taken the up front and honest route. I’d rather have people in my life that truly want to be there than to take their time and have them feel I’d tricked them later. I have no expectations for how things need to shape up. Knowing what others expect allows us to discover what actually works, even if that means saying goodbye. I don’t dump everything on a person at the first meeting, obviously, unless it naturally comes up. But I do make certain to state my intentions and to inform them I’m not anything close to normal as soon as possible. Informed decision-making all around!
The purpose of heard and understood is to communicate diametrically-opposed ideas without devolving into an argument. My longest-term partner (and my deceased partner) and I have never yelled at one another. I can count on my fingers the number of times that I’ve yelled at him (and I can be a very, very, angry person). We keep in mind that the goal of communication is to understand one another. And even if we don’t agree, we search for a “let’s both be right” solution. That goes right along with the “no either-or thinking”. It’s not us against each other; it’s us both searching for the truth. Meaning, if we come to an impasse about something we go out and do our research before making our own decisions. Heard and understood also works well for sharing thoughts that may be difficult to hear, fears that could eat us alive, and experiences we’d rather forget. We’ve learned things about each other people don’t even write down in their diaries. It may be that most people are fine knowing much less about their significant others but my partner(s) and I do tend to be a bit nosy. And our trust was (and is) built gradually and actively.
Having no expectations requires you to be active and vigilant when dealing with other people (or ideas and other things). For instance, the ideas of romance and marriage were always suspect to me. I see people as individuals; couples (or other configurations) don’t matter to me. I’m a person first and foremost; my relationship configurations aren’t relevant to how I define myself or how I feel about myself. Knowing the history of marriage, I never saw a reason to tie the knot. I thought it was odd that two people being in love was such a big deal that it needed to be flaunted in public and then shared with friends and family with a ceremony.
I knew it was mathematically impossible for “the one” to exist. I knew that “safety and security” were illusions. I knew that love didn’t mean availability, longevity, stability, or compatibility. I knew that most people are hurt by their own expectations rather than by others’ actions. I knew that most people will naturally leave your life; that everyone is walking along their own unique paths and, though your lives might entwine for a while, inevitably you are the only one following your path to completion.
I know that every second, every breath, every step is a moment full of awe and worship of life. I know that substance (reality) trumps surface (illusion). I know that endless possibilities echo in every moment. I know that life is short. I know I’ll spend mine in appreciation, wonder, and awareness. I take nothing for granted. I never get comfortable (which he always playfully complains about). I never default. There’s so much to learn and see, after all.

How To Be An Effective Game Changer

Note: This is an edited version of a previously published article on Postmodern Woman.

People tend to look to non-monogamy for freedom. Freedom that the monogamous world rarely offers. Yet there is such struggle for so many in the beginning. It was difficult for me to understand why this was, at first. I’d had no rocky transition into non-monogamy. I never struggled with jealousy. Hell, I’ve been writing about non-monogamy in all forms for nearly 20 years in variations the polya, solo polya, and RA communities are only now realizing are even possible!
But there still exists this darkness. This oppressive and smothering air that the polya (and related) communities have yet to shake. The deeper I’ve looked into the polyamorous communities at large, the more disappointed I’ve become. These are supposed to be the vanguards of a more ethical way to conduct relationships and yet they’ve barely shaken off the assumptions our abuse culture has left us with. They’ll only go so far and then they’ll seek to normalize their experience rather than truly examining the precepts of their concepts.

Why is it more normal to want to be normal and fit in rather than wanting to the freedom to be yourself?

For those of us who tend to be the game changers (as Veaux dubbed those of us who actually speak up about oppression and other power imbalances) by the nature of our thoughts and very existence – what makes us that way? Why are so many polya people still struggling with issues that we’ve never had? Why are so many people still making it so much harder than it needs to be? To the point of requiring decades of exploiting unpaid emotional and intellectual labor from femmes and women?
My mounting disbelief and disgust weren’t for the polya community, alone, I finally realized. The rampant abuse, racism, and ignorance aren’t inherent to polyamory.
(Read my series on on abuse culture if you need more background on why I’ve been writing about romance, abuse, and non-monogamists’ unsatisfactory attempts to explain it away or actually deal with it.)

Those difficult first days of disastrous relationships and struggles with jealousy have nothing to do with polyamory. The whole idea of romo-centered compersion speaks to how backwards our ideas of love have become.

The community has to spend so much time teaching people how to love in non-damaging, nonabusive ways. We who are game changers can often see the destructive ideas that hold others captive. Myself and many others have had to consider leaving the polya label behind because so much of the community is still barely one step out of monogamy. They still treat their lovers and friends like shit. And they think they’ve actually learned something when they’re finally comfortable with their partner’s other partner.
These are merely symptoms of a deeper cultural issue. What most of these poly people are practicing is not ethical non-monogamy at all. It’s not intersectional, it doesn’t challenge societal norms, and it doesn’t extend past their polycule.
So what am I saying?
I’m saying that after the move to more patriarchal-inclined cultures, the notion of ownership seeped into every facet of our lives. I’m saying that even though many countries have outlawed slavery, owning your loved ones is still the norm. The concept of ownership is still so dreadfully common. It is the only instance in which it is considered okay, and even laudable, to exert control over another person’s actions, behaviors, and feelings.
Think about it. People are more likely to try to control their child’s behavior than to teach them a better way in the long-term. Parents are more likely to instill obedience as a virtue rather than integrity. And the biggest reason romance is such a turn-off for me is because it is the epitome of owning your partner. You’re supposed to bind together, merge together, for life. It’s “normal” to sneak into your partner’s phone to check up on them. It’s considered normal to forbid them from having sex with other people, or certain other people. It’s considered normal to feel jealousy over them spending more time with their friends than with you. The whole tradition of taking your spouse’s name is because you now belong to them.
This is why couple privilege is even a thing. Because people think of themselves in units instead of as individuals. They no longer think of themselves or others as humans first and foremost. Their partners are their property. Their children are their property. They force their loved ones to go to plays they hate, they encourage them to lie if they look fat in a dress, they tamp down on watching porn because their partner hates it. They control the other’s finances, travel, and social interactions. One partner belittles and guilt trips the other and the other partner withdraws and becomes passive aggressive.
They end up having ridiculous fights because they live on top of each other constantly, codependent rather than entwined. By trying to merge they only end up brushing against the harsh edges of one another’s realities. And when they finally tire of each other they either divorce, have a child, or open up their marriage. Really toxic situations can end in death, infidelity, or other abusive and destructive outcomes.
This is how we all learn how to live. People ignore the effects of owning your partner and wonder where they went wrong. And then they try polyamory and wonder why they’re having such a difficult time. They’ve never learned to to be free. They’ve learned to treat themselves and others as emotional slaves.
I’ll say it again; ownership is the norm.
Is it any wonder that abuse is still so widespread? 1 in 3 isn’t an anomaly; it’s a disgrace. These abusive ideals are embedded into our cultures and thrust upon us all from such young ages. And many people never shake them off.
No, not even polyamory will save you.
So how do you confront this? How do you shake off the notions of ownership, amatonormativity, heterosexism, ablism, and racism once and for all? How can your non-monogamy truly be transgressive of the norm?
Well, what’s the speed of ignorance and how do we combat it? How do we move beyond this addiction to facts to shine light on the darkness beyond? How do you become a game changer?

https://youtu.be/JTvcpdfGUtQ

What does this have to do with polyamory and ownership? Well, those of us who are game changers live on that liminal horizon between the known and unknown. We are the ones who edge that light further into the shadows, expanding the realm of the known for everyone else. We’re not smarter, per se. It’s not so much a matter of intelligence. It’s about knowing that the darkness is always just out of reach, and that the more we learn, the more we know, the greater the darkness gets.
What we don’t know will always surpass our knowledge. That is the very nature of the universe we live in. I was born existing on that horizon and I live there. It is my home. I cannot help but to challenge what the light shows. It’s why I’m too heavy for most people. And it’s why I cannot let these poisons continue to eat away at polyamory and non-monogamy.
Instead of paying lip service to ethics, metanoia, and growth let’s actually push the boundaries of this limiting envelope.
We will forever be chasing the darkness. If you think you’re okay, if you think you’ve discovered your one, if you think you’ve found the answers simply remember that the circumference of your light will always be less than the darkness around you.

From the edge you have a better vantage point of the knowledge and patterns within as well as a front-row seat of the newly-discovered shapes being uncovered from the darkness. You can the destructive waves coming before anyone else even feels them.
If you wish to navigate that darkness then come along. After all, there’s always more room here at the outer limits than inside the crowd.

​Clarify Your Silence In the Name of Love by Michon Neal

Updated version. Previously appeared on Postmodern Woman.
Are you one of those people who hates awkward silences? Do you feel like you have to fill in the quiet with something, anything? Have you ever dated or talked with someone who went silent and assumed they were bored, angry, or shutting you out?

My longest term partner felt like that a lot. He still isn’t very comfortable with silence. And he couldn’t stand it whenever I would go quiet, or when I wouldn’t respond, or when I’d simply sit on my own without making conversation.
There has been a lot of talk going around about how silence is a form of violence. And this makes a lot of sense. After all, we all grow up with the messages that to be shunned (usually depicted by people literally turning their back on a character) is awful and that the silent treatment is a go-to move (especially for women). And we’ve all had that person drop out of our lives without even a parting word.

Silence has become the enemy.

But this is missing the ‘words’ for the trees.

    There are two types of relational silence — one that serves the connection, one that damages it. In the first, silence comes with the qualifier “I need some quiet time to reflect”, which is healthy and respectful to the connection. In the second, silence comes with no qualifier and others are left to wonder what is actually happening. In this case, silence is actually violence — a passive aggressive attempt to cause suffering, or, at the least, a negligent self-absorption that makes things worse. Given that so many of us grew up with the silent treatment, it is essential that we let others know what is happening when we go quiet. It is respectful and it keeps the love alive. Even something like “Time out!” can be enough to keep silence from turning into violence. (~an excerpt from ‘Love it Forward’)

For those of us who are introverted, who value our independence and individuality, who are autistic, who are empaths, who have been abused, who are creative (especially writers), who meditate or think a lot, or who are simply naturally quiet it is our default state.

For us, silence means many things:

  • It may mean we’ve been hurt.
  • It may mean we’ve been ignored.
  • It may mean we recharge with silence.
  • It may be that we’re just one of those who revel in it.

When people constantly talk over you, when you’ve been belittled or abused, when you think before you speak, when you recharge by focusing inward, when you need to focus it is by being silent if you are a person who is quiet.

Yet for those who don’t understand this sort of silence things can go terribly wrong. People have their feelings hurt. They don’t understand what went wrong. Like the quote above says: there are two kinds of silence. How are you to tell the difference? How can these types of people come to a healthy understanding?

Well, each one has a job to do.

The onus lies on the quiet person to speak up about their need for silence. Tell your partners what duration works best for you. Tell them if they’ve triggered you. If you’ve shut down then tell them why at the soonest possible moment or warn them that it’s coming. Tell them you need time to think about your reply. Tell them you enjoy having them near because being in the same space is a way to share yourself.

For the not-quiet person here are things to try: listen (quietly) while they speak. If you’re the type to interrupt or if you’re thinking about what to say next then work on that. You need to give them the space to open up in their own time. Instead of assuming they’ve shut down or shut you out, ask if they’re thinking or need time. If you find it hard to sit without talking then play some music.
Because for the empath, autistic, or the introvert it’s easy to be overwhelmed. Think about it as a smell. At first the scent is light and pleasant. But as the day wears on, the scent grows stronger and stronger, until you can barely concentrate on anything else. Even if you love the smell (say it’s your favorite perfume) you definitely feel uncomfortable when it’s caked on too much.

So the next time you find yourself panicking when your partner takes a breath that lasts three seconds (even if it seems like an eternity) or if you panic because only three seconds have passed before you’re being asked another question (they’re not trying to bombard you) please keep in mind that everyone is different. Remember that you must speak up so that they know your experience. Remember that you must listen so that you don’t miss anything. Remember that there are as many kinds of silence as there are people.

It is not something to fear. It is something to embrace. Because even if the silence is intentionally meant to hurt you, I can guarantee it still has nothing to do with you. And either way, you have to learn to deal with it. Let it go. Let it be.