One of the things I love about Facebook is it has allowed a diverse group of people to stay more intimately in my life than would otherwise be possible. People who I’ve met only superficially are able to passively share their interests and passions with me and from those interests valuable conversations can form. Yesterday this article was posted by someone who I have only met once or twice (in fact, I think I met her at a party to help send her to Burning Man in 2010 but I was embarrassingly drunk and hope she doesn’t really remember that). The article was then posted today by someone who I have a much stronger internet relationship with than I ever had with her in real life.
Well, I posted that article today after reading it and for once didn’t really know what I thought. I am pleased that a conversation developed on my wall among my diverse network and with it came links and resources for those interested in what was being discussed (it truly is a wonderful time to be alive). Anyway, here are some of the thoughts from my perspective. I am not far enough removed from my ego to clearly see this from another person’s perspective but maybe some day.
As an introvert it has always been a nerve-racking experience to navigate intimate interactions. I like explicit consent in all things but much of society tells us that men need to be the aggressor and try to interpret puzzling (to me) signals that women give off. To be honest, I have no idea if eye-contact and a smile is really an invitation to say hi… or if a touch on the arm is flirting or something else… I already suck at it and the INTJ part of me fears making someone else uncomfortable way more than my own rejection. I am very comfortable alone and don’t mind going home from a bar or party by myself.
The internet has provided me with a way around that though. I can passively share my thoughts online which will attract those people who might be interested in similar things. While I don’t use my blog and FB to call out specific people, when I post polyamorous views, comfort with BDSM, and a sex-positive outlook it opens up dialogue between me and other people (though bangwithfriends is still an awesome concept in my mind). But, in some ways I kind of view this as a cop out.
I still don’t approach women often or initiate any type of relationship. I often use my online openness as an excuse to be passive in real life by telling myself “they must not be interested or else they would say something”. There are still signals to navigate and games to play, but this article provide me with some good dialogue once intimacy has started and has also started online conversations around the issue of pressure placed on women to be the gatekeepers of sex and the social norm of men pushing the boundaries.
I love the idea of very explicit consent and I am glad these things are being talked about. I think more women would be open to expressing their sexuality if they knew that they wouldn’t be harshly judged by their partner(s) or friends. In the same vein, men (or at least I) would be more likely to approach women if we didn’t feel like every expression of interest was a huge inconvenience or would be interpreted as an attempt to use and abuse. Basically, I don’t want women to interpret my attraction or interest in intimacy as pressure or something chauvinistic.
I certainly would love it if we could send clear and concise signals in all situations. It would be absolutely fantastic to have a woman who was attracted to me to send me a FB message like “hey, you’re cute and I’d like to cuddle and kiss for a bit at some point” (or a more kinky couple to come up and say “hey, you and you’re girlfriend are cute, how about you two curl up with us and see how things go”) and know that all actions would be communicated clearly. As was pointed out by my friend, people into kink (particularly BDSM and polys) do have a more established culture of explicit consent and open communication, I can only hope that the internet age will usher this in for all intimate relationships because sex and love is awesome when all parties are open and satisfied.
Man, this exists not only in dating, but honestly in male-female interactions outside of romantic/sexual relationships, too. I caught myself at a recent training session zoning out during a segment on operating some machinery. I asked myself why I was zoning out for a job so important to me, and I realized that it was because there were male coworkers in the group, and I automatically placed the responsibility on them in my head to learn this skill and, if I ever did need it done, I could ask them. Clearly, not the point of training. There’s something for me to consciously work on.