There was a time when I didn’t think much about who I dated; it was largely a question of she likes me I like her let’s go go go! And that amorphous process led to me dating pretty much any smoochable body on the chance that it might lead to something cool.
It often did not lead to cool things at all.
If all I got was just the occasional bad date, then I’d have laughed it off. But these “Why not?” experiences led to me taking chance on people who were prooooobably not that great for me, but how could I tell for sure until I popped that seal?
What happened was that “Let’s see how it turns out” led me to date lots of folks who could be shaped into a good partner for me with six months of constant and careful effort. I dated people who didn’t quite get my sense of humor, people who got offended when I got insecure, people who couldn’t express their needs clearly enough to get through to me consistently.
Sometimes they worked out, but more often they just burned energy. I’d be spending time clarifying expectations with them – time I could have spent with my wife.
And as my dance card filled up, the cost of a bad relationship swelled – I’d go away to spend a precious weekend with someone who I recognized, on some level, I could never make happy. And when I had two other sweeties and a beautiful wife to spend time with, why was I wasting time here?
That dating paradigm of “Sure, why not?” applied when I had nothing to lose except time. But with each additional lover I dated, that time became infinitely more valuable.
This weekend, I realized what I was doing wrong. As a busy polyamorous man, I should not be dating people.
I should be assembling my Justice League of perfect lovers.
That sounds super-egotistic – but that’s the love and admiration I have for existing partners. I mean God, I’m blessed to have them in my life. My wife is my Wonder Woman, the strongest warrior in all the stars. My girlfriend of seven years is my Batman, as she’s inevitably right about polyamorous strategies and packs a mean right hook.
(My other partners, well, I’ve got one who’s asked to be Green Lantern, but I’m pretty sure the metaphor breaks down from there.)
Point is, you can’t just take a shot on putting heroes into the Justice League. You just don’t throw any old hero into an adventure with Batman and Wonder Woman and hope they keep up! It’ll be Angel Summoner and BMX Bandit all over again. The Justice League isn’t where you train heroes to be the best – it’s where the best congregate.
As someone raised on comics, that metaphor is potent to me. I might shrug at my own talents – and do – but if I look at myself as a member of an amazing team, then I’m much more discerning. That allows me to recognize I’m doing a disservice to my existing lovers whenever I date someone who I’m like, “Eh, who knows? Maybe it could work…”
That’s not the superhero spirit I need in my life. I need people who get the spirit of what we’re trying to accomplish off the bat, because there are too many exciting adventures to be had to spend whole issues mired in explaining backstory and motivation.
So when I’m dating these days – and I’m doing increasingly less of that – I’m thinking, “I’ve got some fantastic fucking people in my life already. Is this person another world-class superhero? Or are they someone I’m just kind of following around to see what’ll happen?”
Because the truth is, the people I’m dating right now are all JLA all-stars. And if I keep adding new members, eventually I’ll have to put an Aquaman on the roster.
Nobody fucking wants to date Aquaman.
Last week, I put up a static page on my site called How To Get A Signed Copy Of My Book, but I don’t think I put up a blog entry to mention it – which means if you’re on LiveJournal or just missed the new link at the side of my site, you missed it.
So, uh, here’s how you get a signed copy of my book. I’ll happily sign but the process takes a couple of weeks – so if you’d like to get a signed copy of either Flex or The Flux for Christmas, I’d start ASAP. (As it is, I went down to Loganberry to sign my pile and there were three people who hadn’t paid yet. They wouldn’t let me sign ’em.)
Also, The Flux – being a sequel – is getting a lot less PR-love than Flex, which is a shame because I think it’s a better novel. But the industry focuses in on newness, and getting the word out for Book #2 is exactly as hard as I’d heard.
So as a reminder, if you liked The Flux and want to help it out, then you can do the thing that helps literally every author with their book:
Leave a review.
Reviews on Amazon and Goodreads seem to work best, but B&N also helps. Doesn’t have to be a huge review; two sentences and a star rating help every book you adored. And they even help the books you hated! (In this age of computerized recommendations, keeping a loathed book out of the hands of People Like You is indeed a valuable service!)
(And if you wanted to take a moment to leave two or three reviews for other authors you liked, that would be good karma all around. Which reminds me, I have to finish up my review for Michelle Belanger’s A Conspiracy of Angels, but in the meantime you should probably check it out.)
Anyway, so that’s enough author-tweedling. I’m prepping to go to the Geeky Kink Event this weekend, so if you’re there, you’ll see the awesome Flex-themed cookies I’ve got planned! If not, then hey, I’ll catch you around.
I started reading at the age of two and a half when my parents lied to me about peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.
Now, what you don’t understand is that I invented the peanut butter and jelly sandwich. I must have, because they were all I ate as a young boy. (Smooth peanut butter, grape jelly, GTFO you heretic if you want strawberry.) Morning, noon, and night, I ate PB&Js.
One day, my parents took me to a restaurant. “PEANA BUTTER!” I yelled.
“They don’t have those here,” Mom lied, placing the napkin over her smoldering lap so as to obscure the fact that her pants were on fire.
“They do!” I pointed to the menu. “Right under the grilled cheese! Peanut butter and jelly!”
There was a full stop.
They made me read the rest of the menu.
And then, for the next year, at the age of two-and-a-half, tiny Ferrett went on a reading tour where people would hand me newspapers and I would read people stories about Richard Nixon. It was astounding.
I never thought much of it. People just learned to read at the age of two and a half. After all, I did! And I had no brothers or sisters to show me another experience, so in my mind, all children read newspapers before they were three.
At around four, I started to think my godchild was a little dim.
“Why isn’t she polishing off the copy of Goodnight Moon I bought?” I asked.
“She doesn’t read yet.”
“Nonsense,” I said officiously. “She’s at least reading words at four. That’s how children work.”
They told me children didn’t, really. Five to six was the average age.
“Yeah, whatever. Have you tried yet? My parents read bedtime stories to me every night. I know you’re reading her stories now, but maybe step it up a notch. Hold the book closer to her face. She’s behind schedule.”
Took me a startlingly long time to realize that this reading was, in fact, a real strength of mine. I went to a speed reading class with my dad, and outread several of the graduates in my initial test. My brain’s just wired for reading. It’s a quirk. I didn’t do much to deserve this, but here it is.
Yet for years, I was completely unaware of my superpower. Oh, I knew I read fast, but I assumed that anyone who put the time in could be as good as I was. And if a parent couldn’t get their kid to read by, say, three and a half, they just weren’t trying hard enough.
I was kiiiiind of a douche.
Don’t get me wrong – it’s great that I read well! The error is going, “Well, I’m good at this, so if *you’re* not good at this, it must be because you don’t want to be good.”
Aaaaand no. Some people are just better at other things than others.
I’m a depressive. I’ve worked hard to learn how to function while I’m depressed. But occasionally people tell me, “Well, if you really wanted to be cured, you’d have fixed that by now! Look at me! I’m fixed, and now I never get depressed!”
I wonder whether it’s ever occurred to them that maybe, just maybe, they cured a much lighter depression than I have, or have different strengths to cure their depression that I lack.
Maybe they’re me yelling at a two-year-old to get his shit together, baby!
Know what else I’m really good at? Patrolling my own boundaries. I don’t do things out of guilt. I’m largely immune to social pressure. As a result, I don’t have many asshole friends or relatives – if you bug me too much, I’ll stop hanging around you.
But again, I understand that this was a natural gift – I didn’t wake up one morning and go, “I’ll work on strengthening my self-confidence!” No, it just bugs me when people do that, so – shrug – fuck ’em.
Yet with all of that, I can understand that this is a strength of mine, and other people don’t necessarily have it. And I can suggest ways that they can improve their ability to self-protect without sneering, “Well, if you’re letting your layabout uncle mooch off of you, you just don’t care as much as I do about these things!”
Truth is, I don’t care. It’s sort of instinctual, like a lot of strengths. I know a lot of people who are in fabulous shape who get runners’ highs and feel good after exercising – and I never have, despite years of running 5 and 10ks. I know a lot of people who have no problems making friends, but they’ve never felt any anxiety about meeting people ever.
Lots of people have strengths they don’t even recognize because it doesn’t occur to them there’s any other way to be. I’ve always read peanut butter and jelly. Jane’s always felt better running a 5k than eating a cake. Harry’s always looked forward to parties full of strangers.
If they’re not careful, they assume it’s that way for everyone.
And then they become douches.
Fortunately, one of my other strengths is “recognizing that my strengths aren’t shared by everyone.” Which means that I don’t use my positive aspects to bludgeon other people into feeling worse.
Yeah, some people put way more effort into reading than I ever will and won’t be as good at it. That doesn’t make them lazy, or not caring. It means they’re not naturally gifted in the lottery that I won, and I’d be a gigantic dick if I just said to them, “Well, have you really tried?”
Some of them haven’t, of course. There are, despite what folks tell you, lazy people out there. But I can start from the kinder attitude that maybe they are trying, because if they’re expressing frustration then it’s probably a big deal to them, and not using my superiority as an excuse to deepen their feelings of inadequacy.
That’s not a natural strength, by the way. I obviously worked for that one.
Got two folks with entirely different causes you might ponder tossing shekels towards:
Chelsea is blind, and the cane just isn’t cutting it for her. She needs a guide dog. You apparently need to take a class to have a guide dog – which makes sense, you don’t want to hurt or put the dog out of training – and those classes, sadly, are not cheap.
She’s trying to raise $1200 to get her guide dog class covered. She’s $400 of the way there. Kicking in a few bucks certainly could not hurt your karma.
For Sci-Fi Fans!
If you remember my appearance on The Functional Nerds podcast, you’ll know that it’s a super-fun time for all concerned. They interview authors with good questions, they riff, and they don’t ramble on forever (which is my #1 killer in a podcast).
For Gosh’ Sake!
For the record, if you’d like me to shill for your Kickstarter/GoFundMe/Patreon/whatever, I am literally the worst person in the world to ask, for I am disorganized. (Chelsea had a kick-ass cause, and she had to bug me four times.) I’ll occasionally do it, but I am forgetful and scattershot and never plan my blog, so it’s fine to ask but just realize I’m not the best at this. (And if I don’t know you from the Internets, it’s a very long shot, as I usually only recommend people I know well enough to vouch for.)
Still, you’ve got two good causes above, so if you’re healthy and in good economic condition, donate.
“The logical next step in this email exchange,” Gini told me, “Is to apologize for being such an asshole.”
The pause was glacial.
“You realize,” I said stiffly, “That I came to you because they hurt me.”
“I get that.” She sounded sincere, even sympathetic. “But they didn’t do anything wrong, and you bit off their head. You’re the dick here.”
My fingers twitched.
“Okay.” I breathed in deeply through my nose. “And now I’m pissed at you.”
“And that’s okay,” she said.
I spent the next several hours alternating between furious silence and walking in to calmly explain the subtle reasons why she’d pissed me off. Of all people, I told her, I thought you’d side with me on this one. Don’t you see why this is just like this other thing you agreed was awful?
She listened, never returning my anger, occasionally conceding a point where she didn’t know all the facts. But she retained her overall judgement: you’ve been a douche, and you should apologize.
Seven hours later, I realized I’d been a douche and I should apologize.
And this morning, I got a text from a good friend who called me out on a different bit of assholery in a different way, and I replied “thank you.”
Because calling your friends out isn’t easy. Gini hadn’t had a great day, either, and when she got home she found her husband embroiled in a snakepit of tangled grief and anger and flashbacks, and the last thing she needed was to spend several hours with my rage pulsing through the house, carefully maintaining herself lest those banked embers flare up into a housefire.
But she did it.
So did my other friends who’ve grudgingly carried me through my irrational times.
Looking your friend in the eye and saying “You’re wrong” isn’t something we cherish a lot in this world. We give lip service to the idea of debate, but most friends and lovers are expected to provide support, to drown us in unquestioning love, to dish out sympathy.
Yet when I came looking for a heaping helping of sympathy, my wife looked down into her sympathy stewpot and said, “You don’t deserve this.” And that took courage and strength; courage to turn me down, strength to not make it personal. I was wrong, but she didn’t rub it in, she checked in on me, she expressed volumes of love.
She did everything except agree I was right.
And occasionally, I see someone take on my wife in a comment thread on one of my essays, saying, “You just agree with him because he’s your husband.” And I laugh.
They don’t know my friends. My friends will text me when I’ve gone too far, will look me straight in my eyes when they’re fuzzed with anger and give me that quiet “….No.”
You know what?
I trust them more for that.
When I go to my friends for sympathy, and get it, I know that’s real sympathy. Because I think of last night when I tossed down my bucket into the sympathy well and it came up dry, and realize that if she’s on my side, it’s because she really believes.
And when my friends tell me I’m wrong, that pulls me up short. I was surfing a tide of inchoate anger, and they called me back from shore.
Truth was: I was the asshole.
And I thank them for calling my attention to that fact, I really do. You save me when I’ve lost myself. You remind me of the tenets I’ve told you I should live by. You patrol my borders for me when I’ve forgotten where I set my lines, and you shove me back in when I’m bumping chests and looking for fights.
It’s not often that I have to rely on the grace of your good judgment, thank God.
But when I do, when I wake from the haze and realize what a fool I’ve been, I bless you for refusing to back down out of convenience. Because I know you stood tall out of love, and that means more to me than anything.
As you may recall, I lost ten of my teeth to gum disease. Fuck you, Doctor Cappadonna, for telling me that – and I quote – “Sometimes, gums just bleed!”
So I spent several years lacking eight front teeth, humiliated eating in public, getting multiple painful gum surgeries.
As a result, I floss.
And every three months, I go into a dentist’s office, where they deep-clean my teeth and tell me that I’m not doing a good enough job. There are still inflamed areas, deepening pockets. And that’s hard to do, because teeth are crooked and getting in everywhere with the floss is difficult, and –
– hey, why not use a high-pressure hose to clean out my teeth?
I switched to Waterpik for a three-month period, just to see whether blasting my dental crevices with water did anything. Which was an adjustment; Waterpiks are easier, but a lot messier, and unless you can swallow water at high speeds it all dribbles out into the sink like you’re some drooling maniac. Plus, blasting chill water on your gums kiiinda hurts, so you gotta use warm water.
But I got my results in:
Dead even with flossing.
Which is great! As noted, sticking a little tube into my mouth is way easier than using hooked bits of plastic to try to worm my way under my dental bridges. And it’s quicker, and more convenient to take my travel Waterpik on the road.
This may even get better; I’m comparing novice Waterpik usage with years of flossing expertise, and I’ve started putting dollops of Listerine in the Waterpik.
So if you don’t floss, and you’re worried about your gums… try a Waterpik. It’s working super-well for me.
There’s currently a huge garbage fire over on FetLife, around which people are predictably clustering close and warming up their popcorn. Of course they are. Everyone loves a good flame war.
The details are this: coupla years ago, a very good looking and charming man espoused his brand of “Consensual Non-Consent” – which is to say that he believed that such lesser needs as “safewords” and “negotiating limits” ruined the scene. (In fact, he stated that if you spent twenty minutes over cocktails with him, he a) knew everything he needed to know about your limits, and b) had now consented to his eponymous brand of sexual conquest.)
A lot of women loved this. (Didn’t hurt that he had fabulous abs.) His well-written erotica documenting his real-life adventures picked up thousands of hits, as did his videos. People created groups devoted to his style of play, debated how to mimic this man’s phenomenal performance.
This dude would find a woman and he didn’t need her to tell him what she needed – he knew. He pushed her to the right places. He was carnal, spiritual, instinctual – and his instincts were invariably correct.
And when this man was called on the potential dangers of his style of play, he repeatedly stated that the reason he was a great Dom was that he didn’t make errors.
Well, turns out he made errors.
And as the stories flood in from his home town about some of the horrors he perpetuated, we’re seeing the usual consent violation fallouts. “Well, I had a good time with him!” (I’m sure you did! Maybe even the majority of people did! But that’s not proof he didn’t go beyond someone else’s limits.) “These other people are just jealous of his popularity!” (They may be, and actually often are, but that’s just more reason to play carefully: if you know people have the knives out, check your shit.)
And above all, the eternal battle cry of the consent violator:
“He’s a good guy!”
The thing is, that “good guy” label may actually be correct. I think consent is a tricky business, especially when you’re treading into BDSM experiences where the goal is to push people into uncomfortable places in order to induce catharsis. It’s easy to negotiate poorly, or to miss a vital nonverbal communication, or even just give someone what they thought they wanted only to discover you’ve induced trauma.
Mistakes happen. Good guys can accidentally push past people’s limits.
But I think what makes a good guy actually a good guy is how they react to that pain.
Do they put a full-halt on their activities, stopping until they can analyze what went wrong? Do they do their best to make it up to this person they hurt, which may include such ego-free acts as “Withdrawing from their presence” and “Abandoning the need to be the hero in this story”? Do they use this mistake as a building point to change their own behaviors and to instruct others to ensure that things don’t go this poorly again?
Or do they do their best to gaslight and obscure the victim’s reactions? Do they add pressure by withdrawing emotional support until they acknowledge how wonderful this experience actually was? Do they dismiss the pain, making this the victim’s fault, emphasizing that their technique was flawless and it’s something wrong with her? And if it’s one of those squidgy edge cases where she agreed to something but feels terrible about it the next day, do they double down on the legalese, sneering at “buyer’s remorse” and accentuating the fact that hey, you said yes, rather than providing care and trying to make them feel better?
I think the too-popular consent model of “Anyone who violates consent is an evil demon who should be flayed alive” is incorrect. People fuck up. Sex is complicated, and anyone who says differently is selling you something.
So I don’t think a consent violation is necessarily a reason to demonize someone. But the way they handle that violation’s aftermath can be very demonization-worthy – and it’s why I think the true predators are usually outed in the reaction rather than the incident.
As for the guy on Fet, I don’t know him, nor do I know the extent of what happened. (He’s a continent away, and I don’t hang out with anyone who self-describes himself as an “alpha male.”) I believe the victims, naturally, but a lot of women clearly did have a good time with him, and it’s always hard sorting out an accused person’s intent from their public performance, particularly when they’ve spent most of their time in an online arena doing sexual marketing techniques. Maybe he genuinely didn’t know about his past harm. Maybe he’s actually remorseful.
But the difference will be this:
Does he change up his play style to account for the fact that this consent non-consent can do some ruinous harm, and maybe spend more than twenty goddamned minutes interviewing his partners before he unleashes hell upon them?
Or does he quietly start erasing the bad things he did, accentuating all the fun times his partners had, accounting “abused, traumatized women” as just part of the acceptable casualties of his enjoyment?
One way leads to – well, if not redemption, at least better outcomes.
The other way creates a monster.
Me? I hope for redemption. But I look for monsters.
(NOTE: The genderization of this piece is weighted heavily towards male/female accounts of abuse, as that’s what this example was – and, in my experience, usually is. But there are abusive dommes as well, and consent violation is not limited to any single gender.)