“Most likely a sociopath”

As many folks who read me probably know by now (and goodness, I’m doing my job wrong if you don’t!), I’m polyamorous. I’ve been polyamorous my entire life, I’ve been writing a Web site about polyamory since the 1990s, and I recently co-wrote a book on the subject.

A lot of folks ask me if I get negative responses from being so open about poly. And the answer is, no, I usually don’t. In fact, it’s extremely rare that I hear anything negative about polyamory, all things considered. I generally encourage folks who are poly (or in other non-traditional relationships) to be as open as they feel safe in being, both because stigma is reduced when many people are open about non-traditional relationships and because, almost always, the pushback is nowhere near as great as people are likely to think it will be.

But that’s not to say I never hear anything negative. Like this, for example, left as an anonymous comment to a post I made about dating and relationships on a social media site recently:

“This is what a woman had to say about you “Let me put this franklin, frank is a user/manipulator. I am sure he tells the women he is with that by being in a relationship with him and 4 other women that he is “empowering” them. You have to realize that there is a new “modern” type of feminism, these women misconstrue the term femism. The original feminist wanted to feel equal to men, they wanted more opportunities that we (women) are now given due to thier efforts. Nowadays women are empowered in a completely different way, women are mislead (in my opinion by manipulative men such as franklin) to believe that being overtly sexual is empowering, so that is why you see these women bending over backwards for men. I dont know exactly who is misleading women of our generation to believe polyamory is empowering or being overly sexual is but its someone, perhaps the feminists in the media but the question who is behind the media in the first place? I just feel bad for young feminists because they have no true understanding of what it means to be empowered and they are very confused. Franklin is smart and manipulating each girlfriend he has and he most likely a sociopath.””

Formatting, quote marks, and spelling as in the original.

So now you know, the media feminists are pushing women into the arms of sociopaths like me. Curses, my secret is out.

On Feminism and Getting Laid

A little while ago, I wrote a blog post called Some Thoughts on Rape Culture.

Every time I write a blog post like this, as sure as night follows day, the same thing happens. Invariably, I will get at least one, and sometimes several, private emails in my inbox. The content of these emails is always the same, and they’re rarely stated in the blog comments. Every time, they’re some variant on the same theme:

That must be working pretty good for you, huh? Pretending to be a feminist must really get you laid.

This has happened for years, and this last blog post was no exception.

I’m not quite sure what to make of the assumption that a man who espouses feminist values must be using it as a ploy to get sex. The first time I encountered this, it was quite a head-scratcher, I must confess. Really? I thought. That’s your take-away? I am pretending to support values and ideals about women’s agency because I’m trying to score sex from feminists? Seriously?

Now, in all fairness, if you look at all my partners, it’s very unlikely I would be involved with them if I weren’t a “feminist man,” or, as I like to call it, “a man who thinks women are people.” I have simple tastes; I prefer strong, smart, confident women, and those tend–surprise!–to be women who like being treated as people.

But here’s the thing.

The fact that these women would only be likely to get involved with a man who respects the ideals of feminism doesn’t mean that they’d get involved with every guy who respects those ideals. Treating women as people is necessary but not sufficient; if you treat women as people, that doesn’t guarantee you’ll be involved with them, but if you don’t, you won’t. Yes, in order to have sex with my partners, you have to be a dude who’s a feminist. You also have to be a dude who they think is worth having sex with, and you can’t fake your way into that.

So as a strategy for getting laid, adopting feminist ideals is, by itself, kinda rubbish.

And pretending to adopt feminist ideals is even more rubbish.

I don’t quite get what’s going on in the head of some guy who thinks pretending to be feminist is a ploy to get laid, but I have to assume that a guy who thinks that, probably doesn’t think women are very smart. If someone pretends to think women are people, but doesn’t actually think women are people, I suspect the ploy would be revealed rather quickly. Probably some time between appetizers and the main course, and certainly well before any clothes come off. I really don’t think it’s possible to pretend to be feminist, at least not for any length of time longer than a dinner conversation.

I don’t say that rape culture is a thing because I’m hoping to get laid by women who say that rape culture is a thing. I don’t think women deserve agency and personal autonomy as a tactic to try to get them to use their agency and personal autonomy to fuck me. I mean, seriously, what the fuck? How is it that someone might seriously think that being nice to feminists is a strategy for getting laid? Is it because he thinks feminists are so well-known for…um, having sex with any guy who’s nice to them?

If I were to advocate some kind of duplicitous scheme to get more sex, I would definitely recommend “learn to swing dance” over “pretend to be a feminist.” It certainly seems far more likely to succeed. Pretending to be a feminist when you really don’t think of women as real people, just to try to get in the pants of women who want to be treated like real people, is just…it…I just…what is this I don’t even.

The Birth of a Meme, or, Why I love the Internet

As the American electorate went through the motions of choosing a candidate of someone else’s choosing this week, the Internetverse was alive with political commentary, flames, racial epithets, and all the other things that normally accompany an American campaign season.

At the height of the election, Twitter was receiving 15,107 tweets per second…an eyewatering amount of data to handle, especially if you’re a company with little viable revenue stream other than “get venture capital, spend it, get more venture capital.”

Some of those tweets were tagged with the #romneydeathrally hashtag, and for a few days, how the Internet did shine.

If you do a search on Twitter for #romneydeathrally, you’ll find some of the finest group fiction ever written. The Tweets tell a strange, disjointed account of a political rally straight out of Lovecraft, with bizarre rites taking place on stage and eldritch horrors being summoned to feed on the crowd.

The hash tag went on for days, the Internet hive-mind creating an elaborate communal vision of a dark supernatural rally filled with horrors.

I even got in on the action myself:

Eventually, it caught the attention of the media. The Australian Hearld Sun ran an article about the hash tag that painted an interesting narrative of the meme:

In further evidence that Democrats are winning the social media war, hundreds of people have taken to Twitter to “report” on a fictional event where Republican Presidential hopeful Mitt Romney has called upon satanic powers in a last ditch effort to swing the election in his favour.

DigitalSpy has their own take on the meme, also saying Twitter users are talking about Mitt Romney calling upon Satanic powers.

When H. P. Lovecraft references get labeled as “Satanic powers,” I weep for the lost literacy of a generation…but I digress.

By far the most bizarre response to the meme was posted by Twitter user @nessdoctor over on Hashtags.org with the title “Twitter Users Threaten Mitt #RomneyDeathRally”. According to Ms. Doctor,

The hasthag #RomneyDeathRally trended after tweets spread placing Presidential candidate Mitt Romney (@MittRomney) of the Republican party under the light of resorting dark satanic techniques to win the upcoming US national elections on November 6, 2012.

This is, of course, a nasty hashtag and while its purveyors insist it’s for humor (and sometimes it is), it is done in bad taste. […]

There were also posts that threatened to kill Romney, with some even threatening to join domestic terrorism and attack the White House and the people in it if Romney sits as president.

The article has been rewritten a number of times; at first, it stated that the hashtag was all about threats to kill Romney and his family, then it made the strange claim that the hash tag came about after rumors had spread that the Romney campaign was trying to use Satanism to win the election. For a while, the article had screen captures of threats against Romney with a caption claiming the threats were part of the #romneydeathrally hash tag; that claim has since been dropped. I have no idea what the article will say if you, Gentle Readers, should visit it.

But where did it come from? (I’ll give you a hint: it didn’t start because of rumors of Satanism.)

Like most Internet memes, the #romneydeathrally hashtag craze started small. On November 4, Mitt Romney held a campaign rally in Pennsylvania. For whatever reason, the rally was late getting started, it was cold, and some people who were there complained on Twitter that Romney campaign staffers were refusing to permit them to leave the rally, citing unspecified “security” concerns.

Some of these tweets were picked up by reporters covering the event.

It didn’t take long to turn into a public relations disaster. Some folks started talking about the “death rally” that you could never leave on Twitter, and the #romneydeathrally hashtag was born.

Naturally, the Internet being what it is, it really didn’t take long for some folks to decide they’d ride that train to the last station:

And, inevitably, Lovecraft got involved. Because if there’s one thing you can count on about the Internet, it’s por–okay, if there are two things you can count on about the Internet, one of them is that the Internet will always insert references to Lovecraft and Cthulhu wherever it possibly can.

And thus the meme was born.

It had nothing to do with threats on Romney, nor with rumors that the Romney campaign was dabbling in Satanism. Instead, it was the Internet doing what the Internet does: seizing on something that happened and taking it to an absurd conclusion.

The Romney Death Rally was a PR own-goal for the Romney campaign, sparked by staffers doing something really stupid at a rally.

There are two lessons here. The first is that if you’re a prominent politician and you’re hosting a rally, it’s probably a bad idea to refuse to allow people to leave. People have cell phones, and Twitter, and some of them will complain, and their complaints might be heard.

The second, though, is less about politics than it is about news reporting. For the love of God, if you have a journalism degree, you should be able to recognize a reference to the Cthulhu mythology when you see it.

Oh, Windows, how I love to hate thee…

Windows 7 is the best version of Windows I’ve ever used, and I’ve used literally every version of Windows since Windows 3.0.

But it’s still built on a foundation of crap, with its ugly kludges and hacks like the fact that the Recycle Bin is basically a single-file database that deleted files get copied into, because back in the day they couldn’t think of a more graceful way to handle what would happen if you threw away two files with the exact same name.

And every so often, it shows.

And when that happens, you sigh, roll your eyes, and just keep on going.

How the Skeptics Community Fails at Decency

Edit: 12:04 PM Pacific time Apparently, the problem has been resolved. Non-LiveJournal users can now see the blog post and its comments.

Last night, I posted a rather lengthy essay about misogyny and bias in the skeptics and freethought community. This morning, I woke to discover that at some point during the night, LiveJournal had for some reason evaporated that post for anyone who isn’t logged in (or isn’t a LiveJournal user). It can still be accessed by its URL directly, but it doesn’t appear to anyone who isn’t logged in and goes to the top level of my blog.

The post is here, for people who are having trouble seeing it. Unfortunately, it also appears that non LJ users (or users who aren’t logged in) can’t see or leave comments. I have an LJ support ticket open on the issue.

If liveJournal is not able to resolve the issue, I plan to delete and re-post the essay. This may lose those comments which have already been posted, sadly. Or I may re-post the essay as a new blog post with a pointer to the old comments, if I can figure out a graceful way to do so.

I don’t understand people

So, as many of you readers of this blog already know, one of the many things I do is write erotica. The most popular thing I’ve ever written by far is a BDSM/non-con story, the Training of Eileen series, which concerns a woman who’s trained as a sex slave by her partner.

Now, of course, it gets a lot of emails. So many, in fact, that I detailed analysis of hundreds of emails I’ve received about the story, much of which were quite positive and some of which were, as could reasonably be expected with erotica in general and consent-play BDSM erotica in particular, negative.

None of that is terribly new.

However, what IS new is the email that landed in my inbox today.

The person who emailed me, who identified himself as male, wrote at great length about how the Training story shocked and terrified him. He relates, in the email, how the descriptions of the sex were so terrifying to him–more terrifying, he said, than anything else that he has ever experienced in his life–that the story now “haunts” him and has changed his life.

He seems, according to his email, to be so horrified by the story, and by the way the main character’s experiences are described, that he feels traumatized, and he seems to feel I bear some responsibility for what the story has done to him.

Okay, so different folks have different expectations and desires about sex, and what some people find titillating might be disturbing to other folks. I get that. In fact, many’s the time I’ve been quite shocked and horrified by graphic descriptions of unsatisfying, unfulfilling sex in the dark with the lights out between folks who are so ashamed of their sexual desires that they can’t muster the courage to ask for anything else, even though they don’t like the sex they’re having. But, hey, as long as we’re all adults, well, it takes all kinds, right?

But here’s the bit that baffles me.

The email demonstrates a knowledge of the entire story, or at least near enough to it so as it makes no difference. The story, taken as a whole, weighs in well north of 200,000 words, if I recall correctly.

So this suggests that a person has found a story that terrifies, horrifies, and traumatizes him, one which in his words sounds plausible enough that it has changed his perception of sex (for the worse, presumably, though he doesn’t quiiiiite say so directly)…and, once he realized what he was getting into, kept reading.

And reading. And then, read some more.

So: what am I missing? If this person really found the story to be that traumatizing, surely he could…stop reading it?

Is this why there are many folks who want to pass laws banning the things they see that offend them–because once their attention has been caught by something they don’t like, they can’t look away? I feel like I’m missing something here.

Things that make you go “hmm:” Drink French

Last time zaiah and I went downtown to visit her girlfriend, we came upon this billboard, which I had to take a picture of.

I’m not entirely sure what the marketing angle of this advertising campaign is. It seems like they’re comparing the decadence of their French champagne to the decadence of French women, maybe who have (at least here in the States) a reputation for casual hedonism. So if you drink their champagne you’ll, I don’t know, experience casual hedonism too, or shop how uninhibited you are, or something. I’m not quite sure.

But, see, here’s the problem: In the US at least, the combination of alcohol and passive-looking women creates an unfortunate, date-rapey subtext. I don’t think that subtext is intentional in this billboard–at least I hope it’s not–but it’s a bit hard to believe that whoever designed it was quite so tone-deaf.

Am I missing something here?