PW 321: Avoiding meetup drama

PW Playmate asks: how to you run a growing poly meetup without conflict and drama in the community?

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Introduction

Under-18 warning and redirection to Scarleteen

1:00 News and host chat

7:00 Interview: Avoiding meetup drama with Allena Gabosch

A PW Playmate (woo hoo!) writes in to ask:

I’ve been pretty involved in my local poly community for a couple of years. It’s about doubled in size since we started doing more outreach, and with that has come much more drama and conflict within the community. We’re not quite sure how to handle it without alienating people.

Allena Gabosch, Director of the Center for Sex Positive Culture, gives advice:

  • Be open to everyone
  • Leaders, remember to come from service and put your ego aside
  • Give naysayers responsibilities for improving the group
  • Acknowledge and address naysayer issues publicly

If you’re in or near Seattle, come to SEAF, June 16-24, 2012!

33:00 Movie Review

Joreth gives a review of the 1993 film Café au lait.

38:00 Wrapup

Questions? Comments? Feedback? Email polyweekly@gmail.com or call the listener comment line at 206-202-POLY. And hey, why not attach an audio comment to that email? :-) Check out PolyWeekly at Blubrry.com. Share this with a friend or write an iTunes review!

What healthcare professionals need to know about poly and kink

As a health care practitioner, how do you identify polyamorous and kinky clients?

This week, I had the pleasure of participating in an event at the Bastyr Center for Natural Health. (Thanks to Allena Gabosch for recommending me for the event when she was booked!) The event was called the “human library,” and about a dozen of us activists acted as “books” to the participants, who were all in the program. Since health care professional deal with people of all orientations, genders and abilities, we were there to act as open books into our respective communities and to lend advice to future naturopathic practitioners.

I wasn’t sure what to expect going in, and I had no idea of the questions I might be asked. Most of the students I met with were unsure what to ask and wanted a basic primer on polyamory and kink. “What do I need to know about polyamory/kink?” was the most common question. For this, I recommended two books, a paper and a local resource:

However, some did have specific concerns, including:

  • When I take a history, what would I ask to discover if a person is polyamorous?
  • When I take a history, what would I ask to discover if a person is kinky?
  • What does “polyamorous” actually mean, and what do I need to know about these people?

Creating a safe space

The first question was fairly easy to answer. Just as we poly folks create a safe space for emotional and relationship discussions, health care practitioners should do everything possible to set their patients at ease. The best way to do this is not to make assumptions: don’t assume the person is straight, of one particular gender, monogamous or vanilla. Even if it’s too personal to ask, it’s best not to be heteronormative. Or relationship-normative.

Also, do your best to create a safe, judgment-free zone to encourage your patients to be comfortable enough to reveal their orientations. My favorite personal experience with this was a fantastic gynecologist who, when I was in the stirrups, asked, “Do you sleep with men, women, or both?” I’d never heard “or both” before, and I was delighted she’d asked! I answered, “both,” to which she replied with a cheery, “Good for you!” And just like that, she established trust. I knew I could tell her about my partners, probably even my kinky proclivities, and she wouldn’t flinch, blink or judge.

Compare this to my previous gynecologist, who, when I told her I was now in a polyamorous relationship, left an awkward pause, sat back with considerable discomfort and mumbled, “it’s best if you try to limit the number of partners.” Ugh! At the time, I had TWO long-term, committed partners. She just assumed that “polyamorous” meant I’d installed a revolving door to my bedroom. I knew I couldn’t trust her to be considerate and informed, so I switched to someone I could.

So how does a practitioner establish a safe space to discuss orientations and lifestyles? “Male, female or both?” is a good start. A good follow-up question is, “What is your relationship structure?” Monogamous folks will probably reply “single,” “married” or the like, but this question opens up the opportunity for non-monogamous folks to share both their orientation and partner information if they are comfortable doing so.

What about kink?

Asking about BDSM proclivities and activities is far, far more difficult, and I’ve personally never found a good, non-offensive lead-in to asking if someone is kinky unless he or she had already dropped a significant hint. Most kinksters I know frankly will not share this information with a health care practitioner because they believe it to be private and irrelevant. One could argue against the “irrelevant” factor, depending upon the type of visit and health care practitioner, but it is definitely private and personal information. There is no good way to broach this topic in a casual way. The best you can do is to create a safe space in which your patient will be willing to share relevant details with you and ask you health-related questions as needed.

How do we tell the difference between kink and abuse?

There is of course a big difference between kink and abuse: consent. And health care practitioners are mandatory reporters, so they must by law report abuse. This is why many kinksters don’t come out to their doctors: they could mistakenly be reported as abuse victims and inadvertently make their partner suspect of being an abuser. Health care practitioners are trained to question bruises with a conversational, “Hey, how did that come about?” or “Wow, big bruise. What happened there?”

Here, I’ll give a little advice to the kinksters: be honest. When you try to hide the information, it only makes you look more like an abuse victim! A few suggestions:

  • [big smile] Oh, that? That was FUN!
  • [big smile + eyebrow raise] Do you really want to know?
  • [big smile + happy sigh] That was the cause of my last orgasm.
  • Or, if you must lie: [big smile] Carpet burn.

For the practitioners, do you notice the common theme? While most of the time kinksters will simply lie to avoid sharing private details, you can often discern them from abuse victims by a sincere but fleeting smile when you ask about bruises or marks. It’s similar to the reaction when you ask someone about a hickey: it’s not a litmus test by any means, but it might give a clue that the situation was consensual.

Back to safe

After all that, the creation of a safe space is really what’s most important for health care practitioners if they really want all the information. Doctors know that patients lie all the time: about whether they took their medication or not, about how many drinks they have, about how often they exercise. The best health care folks can do is to let their patients know that they won’t be judged and that the conversation will be easy to have. And the best the patients can do is to be honest about their lifestyle choices and be informed enough to ask your doctor or therapist all your questions, even if some of them are a little embarrassing.

PW 320: I hate my metamour!

Listener M writes in with a dilemma: what do you do when you love your girlfriend but hate your metamour?

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Introduction

Under-18 warning and redirection to Scarleteen

1:00 News and host chat

  • Welcome to our cohost, LustyGuy. Can you tell which Scotch he is sipping?

1:50 Topic: I hate my metamour!

M writes in to say that he finds his girlfriend’s new partner so repulsive that he hates the guy, which is not helped by the fact that the girlfriend revealed that the partner is trapped in a sexless marriage and believes that M and girlfriend are moving too quickly.

  • A drama queen? Much of the negative information on the partner (“Scary Clown”) came to M secondhand from the girlfriend. Always question why your girlfriend chooses to reveal unflattering information about a metamour secondhand. Is there a need for drama on her part? Relationship management skills are needed here.
  • Open lines of communication there is no line of communication open between Scary Clown and M. Of course he feels uncomfortable.
  • Responsibilities of the point The person at the point of the vee (here, the girlfriend) has additional responsibilities in terms of nurturing healthy relationships and conveying only the most relevant and supportive information to partners. However, this person should NEVER agree to act as mediator between the other two parties.
  • Setting boundaries the people at the edges of the vee need to set boundaries and be careful to express what they need rather than a simple “I don’t like so-and-so.” For that matter, the person at the point of the vee also needs to set boundaries such as “No saying that M and I aren’t good as a couple. That’s not supportive, and I won’t tolerate it.”

19:45 Feedback

Wayne writes in about an NPR piece on breasts. Audio and transcripts are here.

24:00 Wrapup

Questions? Comments? Feedback? Email polyweekly@gmail.com or call the listener comment line at 206-202-POLY. And hey, why not attach an audio comment to that email? :-) Check out PolyWeekly at Blubrry.com. Share this with a friend or write an iTunes review!

Facebook and poly privacy

Is it OK to list my relationship status as “open” on Facebook if my girlfriend isn’t out publicly?

This question came up in the Poly Weekly inbox this week. It’s one we’ve touched on on the podcast several times, but it’s worth a quick evaluation here on the blog as well. Social networking sites such as Facebook have really changed the definition of being “out.” Facebook currently has over 800 million users, Twitter has 250 million and even budding visual social site Pinterest crossed the 10 million user mark faster than any other site in history.

And since Facebook is notorious for having complicated privacy settings that are difficult to navigate and not entirely guaranteed to ensure privacy levels, online privacy on social sites is a growing concern.

Polyamory’s legal status

Now, in general, I’m not a fan of being too much in the closet. Unlike sexual orientation, however, polyamory isn’t a legally protected orientation. Practitioners can be fired or not hired due to their lifestyle and have no legal recourse. So keep in mind that apart from your family and friends discovering orientation through Facebook, your employment status may be at risk as well. After all, Facebook is the second most trafficked site in the world, and many recruiters use Facebook as a recruiting tool; it would be irresponsible of them not to take all the information available into consideration for future employment. (And users benefit from using Facebook for job hunting, too–that same infographic shows that 48% of job seekers have performed at least one job hunting activity on Facebook in the last year and that 16% received a job referral from a Facebook friend.)

Outside of Facebook, it’s also true that any responsible employer will Google new prospects and have access to any of your personal information that is publicly available, including anything you might have posted about your religion, sexual orientation, political views, and medical status. It’s not legal for an employer to ask for this information, but it is legal to Google a prospective employee and peruse publicly available information.

How open is OK?

So this is a case where your boyfriend’s openness could in fact affect not only your private family life but your ability to remain employed as well. Personally, I solved this issue by keeping two Facebook accounts–one vanilla one in which I’m listed as “single” and so can talk about dating, and my Minx account, which lists my open status and LustyGuy as my boyfriend (who links to his wife). However, I wouldn’t recommend that for most people. It’s cumbersome to manage two Facebook accounts and frankly wouldn’t be worth the effort for most users.

But the truth is that the internet and social sites such as Facebook have indeed changed things. Your boyfriend’s public open status does affect you in many ways, not the least of which is that now anyone with mutual Facebook friends can discover you are poly. For most people, this might be a public embarrassment or cause some eyebrow raises at the office or at Thanksgiving, nothing more. If that’s the case, no worries. But keep in mind that in addition to your your mom and grandma being able to discover your open status, that bitter ex-husband might also see that Facebook status. And unfortunately, that documentation has been used in child custody cases to argue against a person being a fit parent.

I don’t mean to be too gloom and doom here. The point is that since data lives forever online and Facebook has shameful privacy policies, it is perfectly acceptable–nay, it’s your responsibility–to discuss public online disclosures of your relationship status in order to protect your own privacy.

Rule of thumb

A good rule of thumb is the “grandmother rule”: assume that every piece of information you are putting online will be read by the one person you don’t want to see it (i.e., your grandma). Also, ask permission before posting any public information about a partner. It is a good idea to ask before you post:

  • Location information
  • Relationship status
  • Photos
  • Information about dates, parties or events

I’m curious about how others handle privacy and posting to social networks and other Googleable information. What is your policy?

PW 319: Marriage as a choice

Thoughts on marriage as a conscious relationship and lifestyle choice rather than the default or the result of peer pressure

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Introduction

Under-18 warning and redirection to Scarleteen

1:20 News and host chat

3:10 Topic: Marriage as a conscious choice

A recent Huffington Post personal essay questioning marriage as peer pressure in the 20-30 age range as well as:

  • The possibility that even with a lot of love and communication, it might not be enough and the marriage might need to end
  • The groupthink that marriage is hard but always worth it
  • The lack of alternative relationship choices
  • Marriage as the default rather than a custom option

20:20 Feedback on episode 316 Queer as a verb

  • Alyssa writes in to say “Sometimes the radical, panties-in-a-bunch, queers need to chill the fuck out, and what better way to chill out than to realize that something you revolve your life around isn’t a big deal to EVERYONE!”
  • Vir writes in to say that I’ve queered my relationship and my sex life (through kink/fetishes)

24:10 Thanks

Thanks to Meg for the donation this week!

Wrapup

Questions? Comments? Feedback? Email polyweekly@gmail.com or call the listener comment line at 206-202-POLY. And hey, why not attach an audio comment to that email? :-) Check out PolyWeekly at Blubrry.com. Share this with a friend or write an iTunes review!

PW 318: The New Monogamy

Dr. Tammy Nelson shares how the world of online dating, social media and texting has changed marriage and monogamy

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Introduction

Under-18 warning and redirection to Scarleteen

2:00 The New Monogamy with Dr. Tammy Nelson

Dr. Tammy Nelson, therapist and author of a soon-to-be-released book on The New Monogamy, answers questions on the new state of monogamy:

  • Has marriage gone out of fashion?
  • How has online dating affected marriage?
  • Do those who identify as monogamous need to expect infidelity?
  • Are Facebook and texting to blame for affairs?
  • Are affairs actually good for a marriage?
  • What is the new monogamy?

31:40 Feedback

Jess writes in to thank PW for helping her poly family through the introduction of HPV and the tools to help the group be level-headed and talk openly and honestly.

Wrapup

Questions? Comments? Feedback? Email polyweekly@gmail.com or call the listener comment line at 206-202-POLY. And hey, why not attach an audio comment to that email? :-) Check out PolyWeekly at Blubrry.com. Share this with a friend or write an iTunes review!

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