Tag Archives: Consent

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?

Is Polyamory Abusive?

Occasionally in both mainstream discussions and polyamorous spaces, someone will claim polyamory is abusive. Before we get into the ways abuse can happen within polyamorous relationship, I want to tackle this idea that all poly relationship are inherently abusive.

Abuse:

Actions or behaviors intended to control or gain power over another, especially within a close or intimate relationship.

(from What is Abuse?)

Polyamory:

a) The term ‘polyamory’ refers to the practice, desire, or acceptance of having more than one intimate relationship at a time with the knowledge and consent of everyone involved.

b) Among the concepts critical to the understanding of consent and of ethical behaviour within polyamory are gender equality, self-determination, free choice for all involved, mutual trust, and equal respect among partners.

(from the Canadian Polyamory Advocacy Association, as read into Canadian law)

Mainstream opponents of polyamory and ethical non-monogamy often claim polyamory is abusive. However, they rarely actually talk about polyamory. They almost always reference forms of abuse common in some polygynous (one man married to many women) cultures. Things like forced marriage in religious polygyny communities, child marriage, etc.

Looking at the definition of polyamory above, it is clear that what these mainstream opponents are objecting to is not polyamory. Forced marriage of any sort is in direct opposition to the consent, self-determination, and free choice of polyamory. The gender-based abuse common in many polygynous societies doesn’t fit polyamory’s emphasis on ethical behavior, gender equality and self determination.

These mainstream claims that polyamory is abusive don’t hold water.

Sometimes people who have tried polyamory and found themselves in an abusive relationship will claim that all polyamory is abusive or unhealthy. These people may have been pressured or coerced into non-monogamy. Or they may found themselves in another abusive form of polyamory. Maybe their local community has many abusers within it. If they are firmly monogamous and were pressured into trying polyamory, they may not believe that anyone would willingly be polyamorous.

Abuse is common to all forms of relationships. And it is unfortunately true that is some areas abuse is extremely common in polyamory. Just like in some times and areas abuse has been extremely common in monogamy. In fact, some human rights literature proposes that monogamy, especially in patriarchal societies, is highly prone to abuse. The women in those relationships are often trapped and unable to appeal to society to escape their abuser.

The truth is that neither polyamory nor monogamy are inherently abusive. Both structures can be used by abusers, but that doesn’t make the structures themselves abusive. There are many healthy polyamorous relationships, just like there are many healthy monogamous relationships. Researchers such as Eli Sheff, Sina Muscarina, Jim Fleckenstein, and others have been studying healthy polyamorous relationships for decades. If you look at the definition of polyamory and the definition of abuse, there is no overlap.

“That’s Not Really Polyamory!”

It is debatable whether someone in a relationship with an abuser can give consent. The more an abuser gains control over their victim, the less their victim is able to freely choose things for themselves. At a certain point, the victim is no longer able to give consent, because they are no longer in control of themselves or their life. This is why many polyamorous folk say that if someone is being coerced or manipulated “That’s not really polyamory!”

And it isn’t—any time someone has entered into a non-monogamous relationship because of coercion or manipulation, they have not freely consented. It doesn’t meet the definition of polyamory.

Unfortunately, abusers aren’t interested in ethics, honesty, or giving their victims accurate information. For people trying to deal with an abusive relationship, or trying to figure out if they are in an abusive relationship, saying “That isn’t really polyamory” isn’t very helpful. This blog series will address forms of abuse that include coercing or manipulating partners into agreeing to polyamory. These relationships don’t meet the definition of polyamory, but the people in them may identify as polyamorous. And even if they don’t, they need and deserve the help and support of the poly community in overcoming the abuse.

This post is part of the Abuse in Polyamory blog series. It is related to Polyamory and Mental Illness.

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