Posts Tagged ‘andrea zanin’
1. What insight about polyamory/open relationships would you share with your younger self?
To preface this, and my other answers here, I don’t think much of what I have to say is particular to polyamory. It’s about relationships, and it so happens that I’ve been doing polyamorous relationships since my very early twenties, so for nearly fifteen years now. But I’m pretty sure most of this would still apply if I were monogamous.
I’d tell my younger self that it’s okay to break up—that breaking up does not mean failure, and that there’s no bean-counter in the sky judging me if I haven’t tried absolutely every single possible thing to save a relationship. Deep joy is crucial. If a relationship drains you for a little while as you work through something difficult, fine. But if your experience is one of constant drain, pain or sadness, and there’s no realistic way that’ll change substantially in the foreseeable future, then it actually doesn’t matter how much you love someone, or how much they love you, or whose fault any of the bad stuff is. It’s okay to leave just because you’re unhappy. You have permission.
I’d also share a term I came up with just a few months ago: “terminal issue.” All relationships encounter challenges, right? Sometimes we don’t even register them as such because we deal with them so easily and quickly. Sometimes they take up space for quite some time, or are especially big and painful, but then we resolve them and they don’t come back. But sometimes they last, and last, and last; or they get worse over time; or they arrive in one fell swoop, but are so gigantic they stop us in our tracks. Eventually, those big or long-lasting issues, if they’re serious enough, are the ones that can lead to a split. Those are what I call terminal issues.
In my experience, the terminal issues are rarely about circumstance or outside events, though outside events can reveal or exacerbate them. They’re the ones that relate to deep-level incompatibility—the structural components of two people’s personalities, psyches and life philosophies that simply aren’t going to budge enough to accommodate one another and result in mutual joy. To wit, if I look back at my past relationship splits, the terminal issues are ones that would still be present today if I tried to get back together with the person, even many years later. Neither of us magically changed after a split. No amount of work would have made us fit better. I think that the more clearly I learn to discern workable issues from terminal issues, the more I understand how compatibility is crucial, and the less important it becomes to figure out who’s at fault when that compatibility is absent in a given area.
2. What has been the hardest thing about navigating multiple relationships, and how have you overcome that?
It’s been challenging to understand the difference between poly as a value system and poly as a concrete practice. For me, they go so closely together that I make no separation, but I’ve learned that for many people this is not the case, and it’s been a painful lesson. For some people, poly is a value that may or may not translate into practice for any number of circumstantial reasons (health, time, emotional readiness, etc.). For some, it’s a practice that may not relate to a value system; it’s simply helping them meet a need (sex, closeness, whatever) at the moment. Neither one is inherently better, but they do lead to two very different ranges of assumptions, some of which may clash. I am definitely better off being involved with other people who, like me, hold polyamory as a core value or a key element of their identity. I was devastated once, for instance, by a lover who took for granted that if she got seriously involved with someone, we’d split up (I didn’t know this). So when she announced she’d found a partner, for her that was a breakup conversation, but I was just happy for her and still looking forward to our next play date. To her it was obvious: a real relationship meant no more playing around with me. To me it wasn’t obvious at all—after all, we were playing around even though I was in two serious relationships myself! Clearing that one up was pretty ouchy. Definitely it taught me to ask more questions about value systems from the get-go.
3. What has been the best thing about being open/poly?
It’s allowed me to live by my ethics rather than accept the ones that were fed to me as a child. Full honesty, not just honesty about the stuff you’re supposed to think and feel and want, and denial about the rest. Real, vibrant, living desire, not duty. Deep, gentle commitment to everyday relationship quality, with longevity as a by-product, rather than a gritty commitment to stay together til death do us part while ignoring the daily cultivation of intimacy. Poly has also allowed me to co-create the kind of family I deeply value, with long-term partners, metamours and friends who are, frankly, amazing people.
4. Anything else you’d like to add?
I learned the word “idiolect” the other day, and I think it’s a really handy one. It’s a linguistics term that essentially means each person’s totally unique, individual way of speaking a given language. I think the concept can apply to emotions, too.
Think about the experience of physical pain. It can be very real and intense for the person experiencing it, but anybody looking on can only ever understand it from the way it manifests. If different people are experiencing identical pain, one might scream and cry, the second might grit their teeth and be stoic, the third might giggle and make light of it, the fourth might faint, the fifth might get angry and kick the wall. They’re all legit pain responses, but an onlooker might have a very different read on what’s actually going on in each situation.
The same is true for most inner experiences. The way each person expresses, for instance, respect, care, desire or anger is all just their individual manifestation of what’s going on inside. Figuring this out means it’s become easier for me to ask questions about the inner experience instead of interpreting it all from the outward manifestation and reacting only to that. Questions like, “What does X mean to you?” “What is your reasoning behind Y?” “What is your intent when you say or do Z?” “When you act in this way, what’s going on inside you?” When I start to understand how their emotional idiolect works, I have an easier time immediately “hearing” what they’re “saying.”
So, for instance…
Manifestation: Partner is unfocused and keeps changing the subject.
Interpretation: If I were doing this, it would be a sign I probably wasn’t too interested in the conversation, or had a big issue on my mind.
Question: You seem distracted. What’s going on with you right now?
Inner experience: This means they have low blood sugar, not that they don’t care what I’m saying.
Solution: Feed them now, talk later.
I find that if I remove the focus on the outward expression and look to the inner experience instead, it’s relatively easy to empathize with my partners or explain what’s going on with me. From there, if someone’s outward manifestation is a problem, it’s much easier to tweak, since it’s not loaded with the added emotional weight of misinterpretation.
You are invited to … A night of DIRTY QUEER SEX!
Featuring readers from the SAY PLEASE: LESBIAN BDSM EROTICA, and many special guests! Performers include Titus Androgynous, S. Bear Bergman, Drew Deveaux, Dorianne, Carrie Gray, and Andrea Zanin. Hosted by Sinclair Sexsmith, writer of the Sugarbutch Chronicles and editor of Say Please & Best Lesbian Erotica 2012.
In SAY PLEASE, Sinclair Sexsmith presents a cornucopia of queer kink—tantalizing tales rich in variety and saucy details of girls put in their place—and held there firmly. Whether readers dream of surrendering to a lover or of taking control, Say Please offers plenty of erotic inspiration and gives readers exactly what they want! Come hear authors from the book read their stories and celebrate the release of this kinky queer collection.
ABOUT THE EDITOR/HOST
Sinclair Sexsmith has been writing online since 1996 about identity, queer culture, feminism, and self-awareness, and teaches workshops on BDSM, gender, and getting the sex life you want. They produce the award-winning website Sugarbutch Chronicles: The Sex, Gender, and Relationship Adventures of a Kinky Queer Butch Top at sugarbutch.net. Contributing to more than fifteen anthologies, including five Best Lesbian Erotica editions, Persistence: Still Butch and Femme, and Take Me There: Trans and Genderqueer Erotica, Mr. Sexsmith is also on the board of the upcoming 2013 BUTCH Voices conference, and serves the Body Electric School as a coordinator. They are the guest editor of Best Lesbian Erotica 2012 and editor of Say Please: Lesbian BDSM Erotica, both from Cleis Press. More information about their events, workshops, and projects at mrsexsmith.com.
ABOUT THE READERS
Titus Androgynous is a performer, writer and, when time permits, boxer. A contributor to the queer fashion blog, DapperQ, she began writing as a way to explore her emerging dapper-butch aesthetic. She is fresh from an acclaimed gender-bent production of Henry V, and can’t wait to tease you all with some salacious prose.
S. Bear Bergman (www.sbearbergman.com) is an author, a theater artist, an instigator, a gender-jammer, and a good example of what happens when you overeducate a contrarian. He is also the author or editor of three books for grown-ups, two books for kids, four award-winning solo performances, assorted contributions to anthologies on all manner of topics from the sacred to the extremely profane. A longtime activist, Bear continues to work at the points of intersection between and among gender, sexuality, and culture, and spends a lot of time trying to discourage people from installing traffic signals there.
Drew Deveaux, the mischievous activist, has been pushing the boundaries of queer activism from her perch in Toronto since 2005. As an educator, Drew coined the term ‘anti-cissexism’ training to re-conceptualize the way we do trans education and see it through an anti-oppresion lens. Drew has often remarked that “bedroom is the last frontier of social justice”. Seeking to showcase the sweet reality that trans women can be just as sexy and sublime as their cis counterparts, Drew entered the world of porn in 2009 and has since been a part of over 12 features as well as appearing on many websites. The accolades for her work started to quickly gush in, and they include being a Fleshbot Top 10 Crush Object of 2011 as well as winning the Hearthrob of the Year award at the 2011 Feminist Porn Awards.
Dorianne is a queer kinky sex enthusiast who writes in many genres including erotic short fiction. Her dirty work has been featured in The Mammoth Book Of Threesomes and Moresomes (Running Press), Best Women’s Erotica 2012 (Cleis Pres), issue #2 of Up & Coming Magazine, and on www.metanotherfrog.com. She is a regular reader at the Erotica Readers & Writers Meetup in Toronto. Visit her online at www.dorianneemmerton.com
Carrie Gray is a Toronto based BDSM educator, photographer, manufacturer and designer of strap on harnesses, bondage equipment and owner of ASLAN Leather Inc. Carrie has presented at The Floating World 2010, Dark Odyssey Summer Camp, Dark Odyssey WinterFire 2011, and has been teaching his classes through Good For Her in Toronto for over 10 years. Carrie identifies as a Gender Queer, Transgendered Butch and is a passionate advocate of BDSM as a self-empowering form of sexual, psychological and physical play. A lifestyle Daddy and Master, Carrie enjoys the discoveries that come from pushing the psychological and physical boundaries of top and bottom space through role play, the intimate power of spanking, flogging and the beautiful submission and control of bondage. Carrie’s scene experience and sadistic pleasures cover a variety of activities including knives, canes, needle play, single tails and age play. He believes that playing is an ongoing growth process and is always ready to learn new skills to share with others. With over 10 years experience as a BDSM educator Carrie shares his expertise and lessons in an engaging, open and entertaining format that encourages participants to learn through communication, play and participation.
When she’s not working on her PhD in women’s studies, Andrea Zanin travels the world to teach about sex and sadomasochism. Back at home, she co-organizes the annual Canadian leatherdyke weekend An Unholy Harvest and runs a pervy book club called The Leather Bindings Society. Andrea blogs at sexgeek.wordpress.com, writes the “Ask the Sex Geek” column for In Toronto magazine, and pens pervy porn, most recently for Tristan Taormino’s Lambda Award-winning “Take Me There: Trans and Genderqueer Erotica,” the Leather issue of Salacious magazine, and the forthcoming D. L. King collection “Under Her Thumb: Erotic Stories of Female Dominance.”