Posts filed under ‘relationships




Poly-gone

Monday sexual health seminars have been interesting to say the least, but not really enjoyable on my part:

Another medic [in the context of finding out if patients are having sex in parts of the world where HIV is highly prevalent]: “So are we meant to ask if couples go on Safari and swing with the African tour guides? Har har!” God, you’re so funny and profoundly insightful, let me go and rip my sides off, they’re splitting already.

Towards the end of the session, the tutors had a list of ‘alternative lifestyles’ listed up on the board as an example of how we as doctors should be aware of and non-judgemental about. I was surprised to see Polygamy on the list, which the registrar addressed: “And some people choose to have more than one relationship, sexual or otherwise at a time.” I wanted to ask whether they meant polyamory rather than polygamy, as the latter is more familiar and controversial among people and tends to be associated with marriage than relationships as a whole.

Instead, I kept schtum. Mainly apathy and tiredness. And partly because I don’t want certain assumptions made about me by the likes of Safari Boy. Then again it might make classes more interesting if he did.

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2 comments February 19, 2009

“Freedom is deciding whose slave you want to be”

I am still having issues with the fact that I qualify as a doctor next year. For so long the prospect of qualification was a blip on the horizon and life as a student drowned away any potential musings on the subject. Except now, it’s real and I’m constantly thinking about deaneries, paying off debt and if it’s what I really want to do.

I have danced with the idea of going to law school, essentially a year of rote learning – could I even deal with that after medical finals? I have thought about doing courses in journalism, or teaching scuba diving somewhere in the pretty pacific. All these ideas have given me some degree of comfort about the uncertainty of what I want to do. Except something happened. Obs/gynae happened, and as I predicted; I am absolutely loving it. This is despite the looks of horror I am getting from staff members as if I’m suggesting I like to self-flagellate before breakfast each morning. If I had hated obs & gynae, it would have secured my decision to eventually leave medicine, but on the contrary, it has made me think – horror of horrors – that I would enjoy being a doctor, and a hospital doctor at that.

I had assumed that once I got to the stage of qualifying, I would feel less constricted by my career choice, but as it seems now, the handcuffs are getting tighter. B often tells me to close my eyes and think of what I’d enjoy doing the most, but my subconscious distracts me with food and fond memories of previous sexual encounters.

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To curb my anxieties, I have been collecting discounted cookbooks from a bookshop in Lambeth North. As the flatmate says, “You can never have too many cookbooks.” I am determined to eat more seasonal fruit and veg and I am trying to make the most of the autumn/winter harvest. The tiny greengrocers on the high road is in abundance of Jerusalem artichokes, blood oranges and salsify. I made a rather delicious soup with some Jerusalem artichokes and white truffle oil, which I sat down and consumed while watching some dismal cooking on Masterchef ensue.

Hat tip to a certain cheese sandwich; B got me the Decadent Cookbook for our anniversary. As well as recipes there are some very interesting stories and information on cooking techniques e.g. how to prepare a dog for slaughter – not sure how the RSPCA would feel about that one. (For the interested, a dog should be tied up for 24 hours, and beaten with small sticks to get the adipose tissue moving.)

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Another hat-tip, but I am immensely enjoying “Family,” a web series sit-com about a MFM triad based in Seattle. The clips are short and I’m finding them highly entertaining.

1 comment January 28, 2009

Back from the dead again

I have been negligent in my blogging  for what feels like forever. Studies, exams and such and such. A friend of mine convinced me that Year 4 would be, “far more chilled out,” and in many respects it is, but not at all on the examination front. I passed after all the drama, and had a couple of days to both reflect and cringe on my OSCE performance.

One of the OSCE stations was to speak to a woman who had recently had a baby and was ‘feeling very low’. I did my suicide assessment and wanted to check that she wasn’t having a post-natal psychosis. Thinking back to the green Psychiatry Finals book I had been using, one of the questions suggested was to ask if the woman thinks her baby is evil. It started off well, “Do you think that…” and then I stopped mid-sentence worrying I was about to be pink-slipped for asking such an inappropriate question, so in my panic, I tried to fluffy up my answer a bit, and in the mist of panic, my question ended up as, “…your baby is trying to tell you that… you are incompetent… as a mother?” The actress looked at me in a rather quizzical way and then gave me a look similar to the scowl of Jeremy Kyle, “My baby is 4 months old, how could she possibly do that?!” Ooops. My superego is manically screaming, “YOU IDIOT!”

One of the things I really don’t like about OSCEs is the close proximity to you and other medics. It’s impossible to not hear what’s going on around you, so as some of the other examiners walked around, they looked at me strangely, because at my rest stations, I was sat with my hands clasped to my ears. This particular site did not give us any sweets or chocolates at the rest stations either. Top London medical school, yeah, I’m feeling that.

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My fitness regimehas been put on a brief hiatus, but it hasn’t been as long as the last time I was having exams, which was pleasing. A friend of mine recommended I come and do some Yoga with her, so I thought I’d give it a go as it couldn’t possibly hurt to improve my flexibility (I seem to have very little).

So far, I’m enjoying the classes and it is much easier to switch off. My flexibility is getting better, be it very slowly. I’m hoping that the breathing techniques will cross over to when I lift weights, as I sometimes forget to breathe (bit foolish when you’re shifting something heavier than yourself) and I feel more comfortable on my feet in terms of my sense of balance.

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B and I have been together for almost 3 years. We mark our anniversary from when we met as opposed to any ‘official date’ (I can’t remember), but I’m unclear as to whether we met on Dec 31st or Jan 1st. I believe it was the latter. Because medical school eats up my life and we don’t get much time together by ourselves, we go abroad for the new year. This year we’re off to Barcelona. I can’t wait for several reasons: the food, getting to speak Spanish, food again and copious amounts of hotel sex.

I use the excuse of working very hard for my exams to blow a load (is there a pun in there somewhere) at both Coco De Mer  and Agent Provocateur (wot recession?) While I can’t justify spending almost a grand on a stainless steel vibrator, I thought a tenner for a feather tickler was reasonable. I wanted to buy several books on the subject of spanking, but I thought I’d leave that for my 25th birthday next year.

We shall also be eating here om nom nom. Flatmate who is busting his guts as a junior sous wasn’t impressed that a chef with no previous professional kitchen experience can land a Michelin star a few years down the line. I didn’t realise the restaurant had a Michelin star, I just saw pictures of the food and started salivating.

Add comment December 19, 2008

Last night’s TV

“I’m Dawn Porter, and for the past 4 years, I have been single.” Besides saying her name, I wasn’t quite sure how relevant this statement actually was, especially as the tone sounded akin to a patient saying, “I’m Mrs Jones and for the past 4 years, I have had Chron’s disease.”

Apparently to research free love (or polyamory), you have to fly across the Atlantic and then all the way back into Europe – but avoid the UK at all costs! All partakers in polyamory must have embraced any New Age paradigm, and be aging. I looked at B across from our contemporary living room, no burning sage in sight, what a disappointing couple we make.

So, the programme itself was exactly how I’d expect someone from a monogamy and couple-centric culture to react to a different lifestyle. One of the really frustrating things for me was how blatantly poor Dawn’s communication skills were; there was actually no interest in the people, what they were doing and the reasons for doing this. Her agenda was totally focused on picking out the downsides of a polyamorous lifestyle, and she paid little attention to what was actually being said by those involved.

Perhaps it could just be Dawn’s intellectual capacity, but two excellent points that struck me, which were glossed over:

1) You are the one responsible for getting your needs met. She had been speaking to a very sad German woman who had just split up with someone in the commune she had visited. The woman said something along the lines of how it’s up to the individual to take responsibility for what they want – this is so important in any relationship, polyamorous or otherwise, and could have been a great way to say, “Ok, perhaps we’re not all *that* different,” but that wasn’t what the programme makers wanted, so it was lost in a long sea of dialogue. It’s a lot easier to paint the ‘dumper’ as a horrible sex-crazed penis monster, rather than thinking about how we have probably all screwed up in relationships at some point, stamping feet, pouting lips and shouting, “But you haven’t x, y or z! How could you make me feel like this! You should JUST KNOW!!!”

2) Society tells us that somewhere out there, there is one person who can be absolutely everything we want and need in a person, and Mr Right will tick ALL those boxes – to think like this, you’re only going to set yourself up for failure, and possibly a long lonely life.I think the leader of the commune said this, but Dawn’s glazed look seemed to infer what was going on in her head; a scene from the Simpsons where Homer appears to be listening intently, but inside his head was a picture of two monkeys picking bugs off each other.

I have no idea what the purpose of the oil scene was, besides titillation and a chance to giggle at a ritual of a group of people who have turned away from mainstream society. It’s easier to do this than to suggest that polyamorists are potentially normal people who gasp, walk among us! Dawn appeared very concerned when another member of the group was saying how uncomfortable he felt about the film crew being there. I actually thought this was a good opportunity to see how the group as a whole resolves conflict, but luckily for Dawn, she wasn’t going to get her wrists slapped back at Channel 4, and the oil ritual was back on. Note no stomping off or slamming doors.

The conclusion was that every style of relationship comes with its drawbacks. The silent message of course was that there was something inherently wrong in polyamory (you could see the pathologising going on when the sad woman was talking about her relationship with her parents – AHA! So that’s the reason!) and that rest assured viewers, despite the credit crunch, we’re still the ‘moral’ ones, these people are obviously Very Odd Indeed. I expected no less, to be honest. One thing I had hoped was communicated that was monogamy was a choice and it isn’t something innately ingrained in us – it’s a choice where it’s ok to say no.

Before the oil ceremony, Dawn sat on a bed exasperating, asking why she was doing this and why she couldn’t get a proper job. My thoughts exactly.

3 comments October 1, 2008

“Sheee’s an easy lover!”

I’m not sure if I’m going to enjoy Dawn Porter’s Free Lover programme which starts tonight and she will be spending time in a commune in Germany. I don’t normally get much out of programmes where it’s like anthropology all over again, “Oooh look at all the strange stuff these foreign people are doing!” I can’t remember the name of it now (useful) but there was an interesting programme where members of an indigenous population armed with cameras came to the UK to comment on our population, society and culture. Both interesting and touching.

Back to Dawn, and my early morning breakfast of scrambled eggs and garlic mushrooms. B was on the computer so I switched the TV on and she was talking with Lorraine Kelly. My brain doesn’t always engage due to the subject content (‘New ways to decorate your pubic hair’ – joke) and time of the morning, but a couple of things struck me with what Dawn said, and mass eyeball rolling ensued.

I can’t give exact quotes, but the first thing insinuated was that if you are really really truly, madly, deeply, utterly butterly, head over heels in love with your partner – then dun dun duuun, you wouldn’t need anyone else in the relationship – in whatever context. Cue Lorraine nodding so ferociously I thought her head would come loose. It’s not the first time I’ve heard that, and it’s from a very monogamy-centric viewpoint, but can we hear something a little more original please? It’s not something that you can easily convince people otherwise of either, because of course, it’s easy for them to say you’re either in denial, or are deluded. I’m the first to admit that I can’t be my boyfriend’s ‘everything’ to him, and he can’t to me. When it first happened, I thought the world would crumble beneath my feet – but it didn’t, and oddly enough, I felt very relieved, and we started to enjoy each other for who we are, rather than some socially constructed idea in our minds of what we should be. That does not in any way mean that there is less love or that I would be happier upon meeting someone else who could tick more/less boxes. I think the mere idea that someone can be your everything is very misleading, sets people up for disappointment and puts pressure on all individuals involved. Sex and the City would have probably ended in the first season if the characters put their anxieties aside and started enjoying the men for who they were and what they were doing, end of.

The other thing said was that she couldn’t possibly engage with a lifestyle like polyamory, because of the ‘jealousy thing’. A contradiction of sorts, because last time I looked, monogamous couples get jealous too! It seems that all lifestyles seem to attest that by adhering to the principles, they won’t suffer from jealousy, infidelity etc. Of course, this is futile, because monogamy won’t protect you from the green-eyed monster, nor will polyamory guarantee that your partner won’t cheat on you, and so on.

When all that is taken into account, the differences should come down to the fact that’s it’s personal preference and what works for the individuals involved, and that the people themselves are only people and not some three-legged monsters that require a ‘mortal’ to go into their world and dissect them like a worm in biology class or go hunting for deep-rooted pathologies that have caused them to turn away from the status quo.

Of course, “We like fucking other people in our relationship because we just do,” isn’t going to cover an hour long programme schedule.

3 comments September 30, 2008

Antics

I am attending a jealousy workshop this Sunday. The timing has worked out well considering the dynamic between B and I is changing and we’re entering new waters, and also because the workshop will be taken by Dossie Easton, co-writer of the Ethical Slut, which I am halfway through (I think I’m actually on the section on jealousy). I’m not quite sure what to expect, but it’s part of the Polyday weekend, so I’m sure whatever happens, it’ll be interesting.

I’m enjoying Turbulence Training a lot. During the workout I don’t feel like I’m really pushing myself, but an hour later and it really hits me.

Add comment September 8, 2008

In brief

I have 192 friends on f*cebook (how that happened, I don’t know). In reality, I count the number of friends I have on one hand. I have a lot of people I count as close aquaintances, and I like them very much. But I wouldn’t tell them my innermost thoughts and desires. I couldn’t call them at 3am, asking if I could come and stay at their place because I was having an anxiety attack (happened to me once, although I was the recipient of the call). I couldn’t tell them that I love them very much because I don’t, and I love my friends.

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My boyfriend wants to try freezing the strawberry coconut puddings we make. This could be interesting.

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I start Turbulence Training this week! I’m so excited about starting up a new programme. I’ve heard so many good things about it and I’m itching to get back to the gym.

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My body has been craving salt and dried fruit recently. My boyfriend has been craving salt too, which is odd, maybe there’s something up with the water.

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I spent most of the afternoon naked. For the first time in my life, I actually like my breasts so I’m overcompensating for the years of self-loathing and numerous consults with plastic surgeons*

*thank fuck for paternalistic style medicine in this instance. Back then, I would have walked the world backwards in high heels through sand if there was a chance to get my breasts reduced.

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Everything falling into place, I will be a doctor in 2 years. This scares me in so many ways, I can’t even begin to put it into words. I try to think back on events where I was scared and got over it, like setting up equiptment for deadlifting the first time, but I guess it’s the feeling of responsibility more than anything else. The first time I set up a cannula for a patient I felt a little blown away afterwards.

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I could really do with some raspberries right now.

Add comment May 25, 2008

A submissive and a feminist walked into a bar…

So recently there was a piece written on the F word on the subject of pornography and abuse. Subjects such as pornography, BDSM and sex work are massively polarised among feminist groups. I do watch pornography, and I think pornography would benefit from a greater spectrum of direction than the heterosexual man’s perspective. That’s for another debate though.  

So a few comments down, the subject matter comes onto BDSM. I respect the right for any individual to have their opinion (unless you don’t put your weights back) but the following snippets left me with an overwhelming feeling of Le Sigh.

“Choice” and “consent” are besides the point: the point is that BDSM is based on the idea that one person is gratified by “punishing” and spitting down upon another person so explicitly, and that the recipient of this abuse should enjoy the degradation. When you see this dynamic, how is it any different than rape?

[…]

Has it ever occurred to you that women are brainwashed into enjoying pain or hurt? I am not judging individual women for getting into BDSM. I am criticizing the whole mentality and power system that created it and perpetuates it.

Holy missing the point and a few generalisations in there Batman! There is more, but I’ll leave it to you.

I like to think that my readers have the intellectual capacity to deduce the fact that issues of choice and consent are not besides the point – they are the whole point. And my choices are no less valid because I choose to occasionally engage in something seen less desirable in terms of feminist critique – if it is, then kudos to you for alienating me. As for being brainwashed, I started having fantasies of being in situations where I want to submit long before I had any internet access or was even aware of what S&M stood for. This is the stage where I’d imagine, a lot of the (for want of a better word) the deconstruction starts. Is there an underlying event, pathology or reason why I should turn to something like this?

Therein partly lies the problem, especially among some feminists. It can be useful to look to the past in explaining present behaviours, but I don’t know how useful it is to pick away at the carcass of something that maybe doesn’t require that much explanation? For me, it’s merely a tautology. I like being submissive because it turns me on. It turns me on because I like being submissive. I am a feminist in my day to day life; I am a feminist when I am submissive. I haven’t been brainwashed by the patriarchal forces, if I wanted to enter a different position of power, such as a dominant in the bedroom, that wouldn’t be a huge problem. I have the capacity to consent; I have the choice and power to make it stop with one word.

That aside, I don’t think we should pathologise and extrapolate different power dynamics in the bedroom to everyday life; it can be healthy and fun. I don’t think unequal power dynamics in the bedroom are necessarily a bad thing when both parties are into it, it doesn’t make it unhealthy or abusive. Does it change the way we [boy and I] interact and treat each other outside of this context? If it has, I haven’t noticed.

If anything, exploring my submissive side has benefitted me in my everyday life, including my identity as a feminist. I found a quote on the pro-sm feminist blog and it echoes how I feel on the subject:

Bizarrely, perhaps, the more I delve into submission, the more I make sense of my taste for psychological masochism and degradation, the less shit I take in situations where I would usually be subordinate.

This rings true for me, especially in medicine. Submissive does not = passive. I’ve had registrars give me lip and expect me to merely stay nice and quiet – I don’t put up with it, and give as good as I get. When we are taught not to question certain things because ‘that’s how they are’ and we’re only medical students so we should sit there and take it, I don’t stand for it. When you’re trying to push my arms off the seat rests on the Tube because you want to read the Telegraph, you’ll find out how strong my arms are. You may want me to submit, but I’m aware of my own parameters to know when it’s time to break through the fence. So no banana for you!

If anything, with a little mutual respect and understanding, I think a lot of feminists could learn a lot from the people who engage in BDSM (probably those who engage in it more often than I do!) As the final comment on the F word said, this is something that challenges the heteronormative view on sex and sexuality – and anything that does that can’t be a bad thing in my book.

6 comments April 19, 2008

Monogamy? Tick ‘yes’ or ‘no’

For me it’s more of a, ‘no thanks’

I am not in a monogamous relationship. I’m not quite sure how exactly we would define it in terms of slapping a label on, and I’m not quite sure when we came to that conclusion, however, drawing on both of those points, it’s apparent that it’s something we eased into, on quite an easygoing basis. My life is bound up in other strict rules and regulations, especially in medicine, so it’s reassuring and comforting to know I have something where I can slip into rather like the white flimsy cotton nightdress I have (I think I was having a Jane Austin moment when I ordered it).

This arrangement works for us for several reasons:

1) While we have our own set of rules and regulations, it allows us to pursue certain relationships with others that monogamy would not allow, simply because, “It’s wrong.” Human beings and sexuality don’t bode well in terms of labels, pathologies and boxes; we’re far more fluid, complicated and constantly evolving than that. It would seem unfair to apply restraints on each other when we have so much to learn from the relationships we can form with other people; not only as individuals but as a couple whether they are crushes, friendships or sexual encounters. This also fits in well for me as a feminist because we do not view each other as each other’s property (unless we’re playing kinky sex games). He may be ‘my boyfriend’ but he’s not ‘mine’ in the sense that I’ll try to glass you if you dare to look at him for more than a microsecond. Please feel free to take a look; he has a gorgeous bum that I can only dream of getting after 10,000 lunges (with heavy weights obviously).

2) I met my boyfriend during a time where I started to be very attracted to other women. I had never explored this side of myself before and I continue to do so. I’m not saying I would have called things off between us had he not been cool with it, but knowing that he was supportive in me trying out this new found identity only made me love him more.

3) I have a level of communication I have never had in previous relationships. Again, I’m not saying this can’t be achieved with monogamy, but I’ve discovered I have a voice that I can use where I previously would have not done so, for fear of upsetting the other person, and/or causing them to be jealous. Obviously, we do have to say things to each other occasionally the other person won’t like, but we’re not afraid to say those things. Having had a lot of therapy, I am able to take apart negative feelings I’ve had and see why, rather than just running through something that’s making me feel horrible. This also works well in the context of our relationship.

4) There’s an uncertain fluidity to where our relationship will go, which is actually quite a nice thing. We may decide to play with others for a number of years, we may decide to give it a rest for a while then pick up where we left off down the line. The fact is, the potential is there and we can adjust and adapt for what we see fit, or the new environments we come to be in. There’s nothing to suppress or feel guilty about, it’s there out in the open and brought a new level of security for me that I again did not get in previous relationships, although perhaps they were just paving the way for where I was to end up? Perhaps this in itself is a new, funky coloured paving stone.

That’s the tall and short of it. There are other issues I probably have not covered, but will leave for another time while I ponder.

Add comment April 11, 2008

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