Eater of Trees

Posts Tagged ‘sexuality

Trigger warning: unpleasant sexual experiences

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I basically want to break down the way society divides up interpersonal relationships, because it seems a lot of the time the way society declares normative relationships to work has little basis in reality, and that, considering often normative relationship models are quite limiting, it seems to me that the obvious thing is to go tell them to fuck themselves.

In detail, of course, because you’re me, and that’s what you do.  Some people watch movies or play games with their friends, others write elaborate deconstructionist theory posts on their blogs… with their friends.*

Anyway, it seems like the way mononormativity works is there’s two, maybe a few more, but mostly two major classes of relationships.  First, you have the Serious Romantic Relationship, it generally consists of romantic attraction, sexual attraction, and a relatively overt degree of identification and commitment (and by commitment here I mean “you will put an effort into making this relationship work”; I know also because of mononormativity commitment and monogamy are often conflated.).

You’re also expected to only have one of it, and it’s expected to have all these parts.  Also it is Serious Business.  Though I have noticed a lot of motifs where actually having a strong friendship with the person is considered optional.  Which is probably a symptom of homosocial norms (ie men hang out with men, women hang out with women type things.)

Now, in addition to this type of relationship, you have everything else.  Other relationships are supposed to be not sexual and not romantic.  Really the definitions are a lot looser here I think, though some degree of commitment probably is involved.  They’re also less Serious Business, which is probably why society has been a lot looser at defining them. (Not that there aren’t tropes for them, like BFFs or bromance or the like, they’re definitely discussed.)

But basically the obvious extension to rejecting the idea that There Can Only Be One with regards to Serious Romantic Relationships, is that really, there’s no reason to accept the validity of the definition as a whole period.  This is especially clear to me also I am somewhat less sexual than normative, which tends to me quite honestly I don’t particularly care one way or another about sexual interactions. (There’s also a varying degree of sexuality in interactions, obviously; it’s not always clear where said boundaries are, either, and I do like certain types of physical interactions that are moderately less sexual quite a bit, and often they feel more engaging emotionally then normative sex.  But that is yet another rant.)

Basically, if I take the sexual requirement and the monogamy requirement out of the Serious Romantic Relationship, and can include sexuality in nonromantic relationships, it becomes increasingly clear that you could easily also add romantic attraction to a non-SSR, at which point the distinction rapidly becomes meaningless, and it becomes apparent that, fuck this, you might as well make your own categories, mixing and matching tropes from other types of relationships society likes to insist are the Only Way.

So anyway the obvious practical result of this theory is that me and Devyn went and created a new category because we didn’t think the ones that existed did want we wanted, and we ended up calling it “brain twins” because we seem to have weirdly-but-awesomely similar problems and histories.

And for some further areas this could be expanded on, I didn’t really touch much on family either, which I think is probably an important element of this, I haven’t had too extensive identification of people as my family so I’m not super experienced at this.  Obviously the main tropes with family seems to be you’re supposed to be commited to them (whether you like them or not, which, obviously is a prime thing for abuse) and that you’re genetically similar to them, or they are your One Serious Romantic Relationship.

Nor did I touch on heteronormativity or, for that matter, how cissexism contributes to this (Serious Romantic Relationships are always between One Man and One Woman and obviously we can always readily tell who’s a man and who’s a woman and who’s one person and nobody’s anything else) or how commitment goes from being a healthy thing (“Let’s put some effort into resolve conflicts!”) to an extremely unhealthy thing (“Care about your family! Wait what your parents are abusive? YOU STILL MUST CARE ABOUT THEM THEY REALLY LOVE YOU.”) in the hands of kyriarchy.

There’s also a point, which occured to me recently, is that a further extension of this theory is also that you could quite readily have a relationship that is called, for example, “marriage” but lacks almost if not all the characteristics of a Serious Romantic Relationship, beyond, of course, the name, and that, furthermore, this relationship would be entirely valid as marriage.  Which, obviously does mean we are threatening the sanctity of marriage.  …but more obviously, marriage shouldn’t have any sanctity in the first place, that undermines people’s ability to live their lives how they want.

*I have the BEST friends. 😛 …also I now have a Deconstruct All Things category. Ha!

(crossposted on tumblr)

So anyway, Cabbage was just applying for a job and one of the steps prior to getting an interview was like… fill out this questionaire where you say you’re extroverted and organized and have no disabilities.

I maaaay have taken down the problematic questions.  (There were about fifty questions total, problematic and un-.  About half were problematic in some way or another.)

Anyway it came out with ten questions that were blatantly discriminatory against people with autism, most of which would also be discriminatory against introverts or people with other social issues (because they related to liking being around people or knowing how to deal with people.)

Four of them were things like “I’m organized!” which would be incredibly discriminatory against people with ADHD—after all, organizing things as a job and keeping your house clean are so totally the same skillset. (sarcasm)

Five were discriminatory against people with mental health issues (“I’m calm when I’m stressed” = “I have no anxiety disorders” or “I’m cheerful all the time” = “Depression? Nope don’t have that”)

(Though I mean, you could maybe make a case that those can effect your ability to preform a job, because they certainly have for me; but there’s still like… a certain threshhold where your issues won’t be that disruptive but are still there.  Also? HOW THE FUCK ARE YOU SUPPOSED TO SURVIVE IF YOU’RE TOO ANXIOUS TO LEAVE YOUR HOUSE MOST DAYS?)

Also they asked about grades in school, which, I mean, doesn’t really seem like it would necessarily have much effect on the ability to do the job if they weren’t good, and often, you know, they can suck because disabilities with no or minimal accomidation.

SO: I am rather creeped out and certainly do not feel like this company is remotely as “equal opportunity” as they’re pretending.

And speaking of creeped out, here’s the creepiest questions: (They were “agree or disagree” type questions, for the record, so they’re in the form of second person statements)

“Any trouble you have is your own fault” = WOOO VICTIM BLAMING! Also: When we act like exploitative shits, or possibly when someone else in the company is an oppressive asshole, will you make trouble? We don’t want people to challenge the status quo here.

“People are often mean to you” = YEP BECAUSE THAT’S DEFINITELY SOMETHING YOU HAVE CONTROL OVER. (I have honestly no idea which answer they’d prefer; probably “disagree” on the grounds of they don’t want, you know, oppressed or marginalized people who’ll be angry at them :\ Regardless though it’s incredibly creepy.)

“When someone treats you badly you ignore it” = YOU MUST SUBMIT TO ALL OPPRESSION!

“You don’t care if people offend you” = DITTO! (I mean, “offend” is often used as code for “abuse and/or oppress and/or hurt” in popular culture.  Personally I don’t actually give much of a shit about offense.  But usually “offense” isn’t just that.)

And finally: “Your friends and family approve of the things you do.” = Approval from people who may have mistreated you for years or generally treat you poorly and who you don’t particularly have much say of whether they’re in your life of not? THAT IS SO IMPORTANT. (obviously this is mostly a problem for people with shitty families, but considering, you know, 40% of trans people have been disowned…*)

Also the whole thing ended with “Are you a woman?” and “Are you hispanic/Latino” which had an “I would prefer not to answer” option, but also is like… they’re going to look at Cabbage’s legal name and probably just assume both of those.  So like… not entirely confident that discrimination there would be avoidable. :\

Cabbage adds:

I really, really, really, really, hate online job applications because they are so completely discriminatory and so common. Every single online application I’ve taken has been exactly like this. You really have to basically be extroverted, normative, able, well organized, and have a perfectly normative past in order to look good on these applications. I hate having to lie because I’m really bad at it but I know if I don’t bullshit my ass off there’s no way I’m going to get an interview even though I know I’m an excellent employee. How is this equal opportunity if I can’t even get an interview because, despite my qualifications, I don’t fit the unattainable mold they expect their ‘preferred’ employees to fit in?

*EDIT: Double checking the statistics it’s ~50% experience some of of rejection; 40% for family refusing to speak with them. (according to the NTDS results)

Phobias are real things that impact the lives of many people.  Bigotry and oppressive forces are also a thing that impacts the lives of many people. But they’re not the same thing.  At all.

Specifically phobias are when something or other produces an extremely strong unpleasant emotional reaction, mostly fear or panic.  You see a bee, and you completely freeze up and can’t move because the bee is going to hurt you (even though, logically, you know that’s unlikely and if it did the pain would be annoying and not serious)

Phobias are not generally taken very seriously.  This is a recurring problem; wherein people will try to expose you to your phobia for a variety of reasons, possibly because they think you need exposure therapy and have decided to skip the informed consent stage.  Or possibly because they find it funny, or any variety of reasons.  All of which are extremely ableist; at best trying to “help” you in a way that denies your agency, at worst outright abuse.

And further, people will often treat people with phobias very condescendingly.  Insisting that you should just magically get over it or that your emotional reaction is a sign of weakness or any other variety of derogatory treatment for it.  People will completely disregard the needs of their readers, and, for example, illustrate their writing with pictures of blood or insects in ways that make it hard to avoid said pictures; assuming that their readers emotional safety is just a concern to be casually tossed aside.  (Further ignoring the fact, of course, that if you trigger your readers, they are unlikely to remain your readers.)

The thing is, the suffix “-phobia” is used for two completely different things.

One thing is phobias; which are a mental process that is rather disruptive and tends to preclude clear thinking.  The other is bigotry.  Bigotry is hate.  It’s treating people as less than human.  It’s systematically denying people basic rights and disrupting their lives.

But it’s not a phobia.

Calling it one gives reasonability to the panic defense; when someone claims that they just panicked because the victim of a hate crime was different and that made them commit said crime.  Because phobias do result in an inability to think clearly, although they don’t usually result in violence so much as hiding.  Further calling bigotry a phobia serves to make oppressors sympathetic.  After all, their bigotry is just an out of control emotional reaction.  It says that they are the ones who are suffering, not the people who they are oppressing.

Using “-phobia” to discuss bigotry shames phobias as well.  Telling people that their emotional reactions are as bad as forces that systematically dehumanize and kill people on a regular basis prevents people from being able to discuss their reactions without being read as terrible people.  It prevents people from being able to deal with their phobias in useful ways, whether by avoiding them or by attempting to find treatment for them.  It encourages people to hurt themselves by entering painful situations and ignoring the pain, because the pain is seen as a manifestation of their own personal failures.  Using “-phobia” for bigotry is an example of bigotry and is definitely oppressive.

This becomes especially a problem because occasionally oppression and phobias overlap.  If you spend your life shamed for expressing a personality trait or because of your mind, and are constantly harassed and demeaned because of something about you, and see people around you who exhibit said trait be harassed and treated as jokes or disguisting or terrible people, you can quickly develop a phobia of said trait.

But then, when you have that reaction, everyone around you uses the words to describe your reaction to describe the people who hate you.  Who’s oppression has caused this reaction in the first place.  You have panic attacks when you try to transition because you’ve been bombarded by messages that trans people are terrible and freaks.  Only then, you can’t talk about it.  You can’t say “Oh hey I have a phobia of being trans” because transphobia isn’t anxiety about stepping outside of prescribed gender roles, it’s oppression of people who do that.  Calling oppression of trans people transphobia is likely to be oppressive to trans people.

Fighting bigotry with bigotry isn’t just helping one group at the expense of another, it’s hurting the group you’re trying to help, and makes their oppressors sympathetic. This is, understandably, problematic.

Further, there are relatively reasonable replacements for many common “-phobia” terms, that often serve better to explain what the oppressive forces are.  For example, cissexism much more clearly encompasses all the manifestations of oppression and erasure of transness, not merely the overt violence.

Monosexism, cissexism, and heterosexism are all words that much more clearly discuss how erasure and normativizing one group at the expense of others is a problematic element of society.

(In addition, replacing “phobia” with “-hate” or “-bigotry” can serve to allow discussion of specifically more overt violence, or in cases where there isn’t such an obvious replacement term.)

Short version: The game is pretty good, beyond one plot point that I really hated and wasn’t very well done at all.  Also it stars a woman without much sexism, so that always helps. (Yes my review mostly focuses on the sexism there is, what, did you think I’d ignore every little fault?)

Beyond lie spoilers.  For pretty much everything.  So go play the game first, if you want to.

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I am, of course, referring to (LG/GL)BT(Q)(Q)(I)(A)(+more).  Or possibly “QUILTBAG” …I’m actually more a fan of that one because it’s amusing and turns it into an acronym, but it still has the same problem as the initialism.  And that is that it doesn’t really do what it’s supposed to do.

My main problem with it is that is frequently gets used (especially when it’s in one of the short forms) to mean LGB.  Which is to say, it gets used specifically to refer to sexuality.  And people who claim to be in favor of LBGT people may actually not be so friendly to trans people.

So the problem is, I can’t really tell when you use that term whether you actually care at all about the people after the first three letters.  Certainly it could mean you care about trans people.  But the prevalence of people concerned about sexuality using the term to refer to specifically to sexuality while the T is in there basically means “LGBT” has lost any useful meaning, at least as far as trans people are concerned.  If you want to say you support trans people, saying you support GLBT rights is not actually going to tell me of anything.

And while there certainly is a large intersection between the two, at least inasmuch as trans people are probably inevitably going to experience homophobia, the issues and concerns between the two groups aren’t exactly the same, either.  I mean, many of my experience with support groups and the like have been nominally LGBT support groups, but with a “sure you’re welcome, we won’t do anything that actually addresses any of your concerns or your life though” sort of slant.

And while we’re on the topic, the usual words for talking about sexuality are pretty cissexist.  The terms are practically meaningless when nonbinary gender comes into play, and when everyone around you sees your gender as something it isn’t it gets really difficult to talk about your sexuality.  And using bisexual as  a synonym for pansexual has got problems, too.  Obviously.  (If you’re using it to say you’re attracted to only two genders, that’s okay.  I mean, I’ve done that.  …though half the reason for that was because, at the time, saying I was gay would’ve implied to most people that I liked men, which isn’t usually true, and saying I was lesbian would raise some more questions. :P)

But really, I don’t like the term much.  It isn’t so much that it’s problematic as that the T has just been coopted to the point that it can’t clearly be used to be inclusive of trans people.  And to be honest, I tend to be just as frustrated at people who don’t use the term, because that makes it pretty clear that you really don’t care about trans people.

The short version of this is, though, just mention trans people.  Separately from the LGB.

(And while we’re at it, intersex people may feel the same way.  I’m not entirely sure how much that overlaps with trans and how much it needs to be considered something completely seperate, because I’m lacking experience there.  Certainly coercively assigning genders is a serious problem to both.)

(I’m focusing mostly on video games and fantasy here, but the general ideas definitely appear elsewhere in speculative fiction, and moreso in other media.  I’m just focusing on that combination because that’s where I’ve seen it the most lately, and also because fantasy video games seem to have not gotten passed making clones of Dungeons & Dragons, and by proxy, Tolkien.  And Tolkien had racefails all over the place, which later works sometimes uncritically copy. And Dungeons & Dragons brought a whole bunch of its own to the table, too)

(Disclaimer: I am white, and discuss racism a lot here.  It is possible I may miss things due to privilege.)

This is one of those things I’ve heard people say a lot without any actual thought into how accurate it actually is: “Oh, no, our product can’t be inclusive because it wouldn’t be realistic if it were.” …or similar statements, like “This product is great because they finally have the courage to make a realistic product unfettered by political correctness” or “This product shouldn’t be as inclusive as it is, that’s not realistic!” (I’ve heard specific examples of these comments referring to Dragon Age, The Witcher, and Echo Bazaar, coming of the top of my head.  And those aren’t the only times)

And for an amusing juxtaposition, these arguments are often found along with the reverse “We don’t have to/can’t be inclusive because our world isn’t the real and including real things would be unrealistic.”  This is also full of holes and really doesn’t actually work, either.

Obviously, these are problematic, as anyone with any awareness of privilege will quickly realize.  Ignoring or insulting large portions of potential players because their identities aren’t normative is a really cruel thing to do, made moreso by the fact that many people in positions of privilege tend to just assume that they are the only group that matters, and thus finding works when you aren’t privileged becomes nearly impossible (like, video games with informed, positive representations of transgender people? I have yet to even prove they exist.  Echo Bazaar comes close by making unspecified/nonbinary gender a fully developed option, though I haven’t seen any NPC’s who are explicitly ungendered, and besides, my gender is pretty clearly specified, so we’re not there yet.)

So people invoke these ridiculous arguments about realism when they do screw up and make bigoted fantasy.  When people say “But inclusion is unrealistic!” the problems are that completely erasing minorities usually actually isn’t, their portrayal of the culture that they are supposedly being realistic to is generally not actually, and finally, realism is actually clearly not a priority usually. On the inverse, when saying “But including real world groups would be unrealistic,” usually this is ignoring all the normative real world groups that you’ve included, and, for that matter, when the setting isn’t real there’s no reason not to have it ridiculously diverse.  And certainly no reason to make the normative race in your faux-Europe white.  After all, it’s not really Europe.

With regards to the “inclusion is unrealistic” argument, non-normative people aren’t actually a new thing.  For example, LGB and trans people have existed throughout history (there was a Roman emperor who wanted people to make them a vagina.  I mean seriously, we’re not new) . For that matter, systematically silencing them sometimes is a new thing.  Modern concepts of race are, well, modern.  In an actual medieval society things would probably have been slightly different.  And secondly, the real world is actually pretty diverse.  Even focusing on just medieval Europe, you’ve got North Africa and the Middle East right next door, for a really obvious example.  There was definitely some communication between them and Europe. (Have you heard of the crusades? They certainly weren’t friendly communication across cultures, but they were still communication.)  And of course, there’s no reason for every fantasy game ever to be set in medieval Europe.  Precolonial southeast Asia, would be pretty interesting, try setting it there (I’ve only seen this even attempted once, in Diablo 2.  Not sure it was actually done particularly well, but it’s something new, and should be inclusive if it is done well.)

Anyway, back to the medieval, since video games seem to be stuck there.  As a second point, when they are set in faux-Europe, these games are rarely even trying for realistic cultural attitudes.  I’m not particularly a medieval scholar, I will readily admit, so I can’t point out too many specific holes in it’s supposedly realistic portrayal of medieval culture, but really, there’s never really any research or effort put in to making these things accurate to the time.  I do know, for example, that those giant stone castles that are practically the hallmark of medievalness? Only really showed up towards the end.  And the armor is usually ridiculous (and that’s not even starting on the chainmail-bikini type armor.) And that the Catholic church was all over the place.  And these settings seem to have an abnormally large number of katanas or other references to Japan, usually without the non-white people to go with it (the former is by itself not particularly a problem, and I would guess the latter isn’t a problem nearly as much in games from Japan, which I’ve played rather less of unfortunately.) Which is to say, it tends to be more a popular pseudo-medievalness then anything actually accurate.

And outside of culture, the game’s world rarely is even remotely realistic.  Wounds don’t cause any lasting harm, usually, just lower a hitpoint meter that doesn’t do anything until it’s empty.  Infection and disease, which were some of the leading causes of death, are nonexistent.  Weapons tend to have completely ridiculous weights.  Frequently you can, for that matter, carry huge amounts of stuff with no effort put into modeling how you go about carrying six suits of armor without even a backpack.  Cities are really really tiny.  Farming is often nonexistent, or only there occasionally for scenery purposes, and certainly not in proportion to the food requirements of the world.  Magic tends to provide certain abilities, such as, for example, flying, or blowing things up, that would completely require rethinking how you defend a city (walls don’t work when you can fly over them).  And things tend to only happen when the player is around.

Many of these breaks from reality are completely okay, obviously.  Because it’s not the real world.  You want “medieval” fantasy, you want castles and knights.  And probably wizards and dragons.  The fact that the latter may possibly get in the way of the former if you think about it at all realistically isn’t really a problem.  And it’s a game, not a academic simulation; a protagonist centered world is not particularly a problem, because we only ever see the protagonist’s point of view.

But the point here is, you aren’t trying to be realistic.  You’re not modeling your game off of real history, you’re modeling it off of modern ideas that are related to real history but only sort of.  Thus neglecting or demeaning your audience because you claim it’s realistic is entirely out of place with what you’re actually doing.  Your not creating a bigoted fantasy because it’s “realistic”, you’re creating a bigoted fantasy because you want to (or slightly more generously, because you weren’t thinking of others beyond yourself), and realism is just a crutch you’re using to defend you’re obvious mistakes.

Now, when people claim that “We can’t put real groups of people in the game because our game isn’t the real world and that would be unrealistic!” there arguments are still really faulty. People who say this are rarely referring to games that haven’t already included large swaths of normative people.  If your game has a bunch of different “races”, and all of them have white skin, you’ve included white people.  They are also a race.  Claiming you can’t include any others because it’s unrealistic for your setting, is, well, racist.  There’s no reason for everyone to have a light skin tone in your completely fictional world.  And lets be honest, having everyone in your world be the same is really pretty boring.  On top of the racism.

And, on that topic, if your setting isn’t the real world, why not just make your faux-England population black?  It’s not like it’s actually real England, there’s no reason to copy that trait unquestionably.  (Of course, making faux-England have everyone be black wouldn’t actually solve your problems either, but it would be progress.)

The next thing I’ve seen people do, in an attempt to defend it, is to start inventing in-setting justifications for racial uniformity.  Like “Oh, but there’s black people over here across these mountains, and a faux-Asia down here in the south” …which is to say, places that the story never actually goes.  …if you’re going to start inventing these races, why not put them in the game? And if you’re going to start invoking, say, sunlight, to explain how your faux-Europe, being rather far to the north, doesn’t have dark skinned people, why don’t you put that effort into creating more diversity?  And while we’re at it, if you’re using the last one, let’s remember there’s more than one race from northern (or southern, if you’re below the equator) climates.  And they don’t all look like white people.

Really, the point is, except in very rare circumstances your game is not even trying to be realistic, and once you accept that you don’t have to follow reality, there’s no reason not to have diversity in it.  (like, Dwarf Fortress is the only game I’ve ever seen that even comes close to actually trying to be realistic.  And your dwarves can and frequently do have non-white skin tones.  Or are female.  So it’s the only game that could come close to getting away with invoking realism to defend lack of inclusiveness and it’s still inclusive. Also it frequently clearly isn’t trying to be realistic to facilitate gameplay, like, well, everything else.)

In short, if you invoke “realism” to defend bigotry in a game, it’s quite clear that you haven’t actually thought things through from the perspective of “lets make a realistic game.  Ah crap now we can’t be inclusive,” you’re coming from it from a perspective of “Hmmm how can I defend my bigotry? Oh, I know! Your point of view isn’t realistic!”

So, stop thinking like this, and actually make inclusive games.  If you promise, for example, customizable characters, but then go and eliminate large (or small) swaths of humanity, you’re basically telling said swaths “Yeah, you know what, I don’t actually care about you.”  Which is to say, you’re being an asshole to your audience.  Stop doing that, and stop trying to rationalize your bigotry, it makes you look like you’re self absorbed and don’t care about anyone beyond you.