21.2.19

Let's talk about sex - The body part paradox


I realized something, and I wanted to share some thoughts about it.
In the past, I was often criticized by people I had sex with that apparently, I didn't do enough with my hands/arms. To this day, this is mainly down to the awkwardness of not knowing what to do with them.

Bear in mind that so far, my sexual history is exclusively people with a penis. I do know what do to with my hands when I have access to a dick but when I don't (e.g. during penetration), my arms become just two very useless limbs, at best holding my partner, at worst lying next to me. Caressing my partner during sex is a thing I have to focus on, and we all know how hard that can be when you are having good sex. But after receiving that criticism several times, I started thinking: Why don't I know what to do with my hands? Why is that so hard?

I have a theory.
Let's have a good hard look at how we view different bodies in sexual contexts in the media. Bodies that are read as female, according to the portrayal, have a lot of parts to offer that are very sexy - boobs, a nice ass, legs, all of those are viewed as hot and portrayed as hot. The actual genitals are usually less talked about - at most, we see a vulva in media when it is currently penetrated. The visibility of vulvas is a very new concept, and people still have to discuss a lot as soon as they include vulvas in art. Now shift that look towards people read as male. The focus for body parts that are supposed to arouse us is usually on the penis. Then maybe occasionally, you get an ass or some abs.

And here is where the problem starts - the male read bodies that are portrayed as sexy in media are usually very well-trained, there are butts made of steel, overly defined eight packs etc. I don't want to tell anyone they can't be attracted to that, you are all valid, but lets be real: Those bodies are hard to find in real life because they are hard to get, hard to maintain and if you also want to click with someone on a personal basis as well, that reduces the pool of people even more. Thus, when we are sleeping with bodies read as male when they don't have the unlikely set of muscles, we might not really know where to put our hands.

Another thing where this is very visible is the topic of nudes by the way - when a female-presenting person wants to take nudes or have them taken, the focus is mostly on the chest (especially when you are actually modeling for nude art), having photos of a vulva is rare and also viewed as the lewdest option - its more likely that your crotch is hidden in pictures. For male-presenting people who are not as jacked as the image media provides, there are hardly any ways to have photos without a penis considered to be nude art.

Its the complete opposite of how different bodies are viewed in non-sexual contexts by the way, because when it comes to fashion, for example, you can't seem to do it right as a female-presenting person, and it seems to be easier for male presenting folks to find something nice that actually fits their body shape no matter what it is.

So what do we take from this? Glorify other body parts than genitals for male-presenting people. Gush the shit out of them. Gush the shit out of bodies that are not super-muscular, not super slim, that in any way don't fit into the very narrow image of an ideal male-presenting body. Especially for your partners - make the beauty you see in them and the things you think are very sexy about them visible (with their consent only, obviously). Do the same for all the unusual/underrepresented body parts of your female-presenting partners, crushes, friends. We can only win here.

14.2.19

Going Polyam

 I have known for years that I am polyamorous.
Means, I have known for years that I can love several people simultaneously, and I while I have struggled with that for a while (because we always get taught that love has to be exclusive), it has also been years that I was very interested in actually living polyamorously as well - meaning, I liked the idea to have more than one relationship at the same time, my partners having more than one relationship as well and so on.

I can hereby happily inform you that I am now living polyamorously.
Some of you may remember me blogging about my engagement, my upcoming wedding, my fiance and how we started out our relationship - as an agreement for me to try being in a monogamous relationship with him because he was worth it to me. An experiment.
I think it is natural when planning a wedding to have some doubts and starting to question everything. After all, it is a promise to spend the rest of your lives together, even with the possibility to not do that and have a divorce if it doesn't work out, that still means you are at the very least in for the stress that comes with that. Either way, it is a huge commitment, and it should better be with the right person.

I think I started having doubts way earlier than I would want to admit to myself, and being me, I dealt with that by overcompensating. After all, I know myself well enough to know that I am very likely to sabotage pretty much everything I have going well for me. So my initial thought was clear: "This will blow over, you are just nervous". So instead of thinking about my feelings and talking to my partner about them (you know, the thing I keep telling others to do), I started working extra hard on preparing the wedding.

Fast forward to my birthday in November. I spent my birthday weekend in London meeting my discord family in real life for the first time and I had an amazing time. And then, when Sunday came and I was on my way back to Germany, I did not only realize that I did not want to leave (which, to be fair, is pretty normal for me), I noticed myself daydreaming about a life in the UK - and those daydreams did not involve my fiance.

I spent the next days having a particularly hard look at my relationship and on myself. Long story short - I was not happy anymore. And it was worse than expected: I wasn't only happy anymore because of the monogamous nature of our relationship - I just was not happy anymore in general, and I did not want to continue this relationship, even if my fiance had magically agreed to open our relationship up (which was definitely not happening).

Breaking up engagement is a lot harder than breaking up a normal relationship. Not only because you are living together and one of you has to move out, not only because you have to cancel so many things and it will potentially cost you a lot of money, but because the questions are breaking you.
I still think I have made the right decision. I am about to move out, I will start a new job in March to actually be able to survive on my own financially, and it feels like breaking free. My fiance is an amazing person who handled this break up with such strength for the both of us, so much fairness and peace and understanding, and I am very sure he will be the best person for someone else - he just isn't for me. At least not as a fiance, and eventually husband. I think we will do way better as friends (and co-owners of our beautiful dog).

At some point along that way, I fell in love with Nat. Nat is also a member of my discord family, and I knew they existed but then there was the London weekend and I got to fully know them. Technically, it hit me like a brick, and I had a massive crush on them. We started to talk a lot more regularly, got to know each other very well pretty quickly, got super close. And then there was Jay. Jay is also a member of the discord, and we have been friends for quite a while. They developed a crush on them as well and they and their partner opened their relationship. So Jay and I are both Nat's partners. I don't really know how exactly that happened but I am so so glad it did because now I get to experience polyamory, a thing I wanted to try for ages.

Obviously, being polyam is not necessarily easier than monogamous relationships. It is just difficult in a different way. A big part of what we have to figure out is how to communicate what we need with each other, what we are able and willing to give, what we are comfortable with, how we work as people and thus how to read each other - just like in every monogamous relationship. The big difference is that this time, it includes and effects more than two people, which makes it harder. On the other hand we have to unlearn a lot of what we like to call toxic monogamy - the idea that there is any kind of hierarchy between multiple partners or even other relationships like friendships or family, that there is any sort of priority and if there isn't, there's a problem, the idea that you are entitled to have your partners full attention at all times, the idea that there is any competition going on. To be honest, when I started this, I was very scared that I would turn out to be a massive fraud and would be very jealous as soon as my partner sleeping with other people would become an actual reality. I can gladly confirm: Nope, I really do not mind, as long as they are comfortable with me doing the same. I have a way bigger problem personally to unlearn monogamy, all the points mentioned above are a bit hard on me. Another thing that doesn't exactly make it easier is that every pairing in our polycule is a long distance relationship, so most of our communication works via texts and phone calls, which makes it harder to build intimacy. And yet, both Nat and Jay are doing such a great job catching me when I feel insecure or left out or anxious about anything, it's amazing! This might be the hardest relationship I have ever had, its so much effort and it is hard to be honest with myself and them about my feelings but it is so worth it because both of them are putting in just as much work and we are all willing to do the work this takes to make everyone as comfortable as possible.

A big part of why this makes me so happy is also that I feel like I am finally living my best queer life. I have identified as queer for the past 6 years, and yet so far, I have exclusively dated cis men. Now I am the only cis person in my polycule (everyone else is non-binary) and it's such a new experience. This plus the fact that we are polyamorous takes a lot of pressure off me, I feel like for the first time I don't have to walk on eggshells so much being worried to either emasculate my partner or them becoming jealous as soon as I am close with or attracted to anyone, and that is a great feeling. I feel very free.

I also feel very cared about - I have the incredible luck to have a partner and a friend who are both very sensitive for my bullshit and I they manage to reassure me, tell me they love me, appreciate me exactly when I need it, may it be when I have a thing going on in my own life or have an issue that we as a polycule have to discuss. They both manage to make me feel very good about myself, which is hard with all my self worth issues.
What can I say? I am very optimistic about this going well. I think I have found a way to do relationships that works really well for me. And I love my polycule and especially my partner very very much.

17.1.19

Excursion To Poetry #5 - Untitled

And boom, there you are.
All of a sudden,
as if you had always been there,
as if it was no big deal.
Boom, here you are.
And we click,
as if it was the most natural thing in the world,
as if we hadn‘t been doing anything else our entire lives.
All of a sudden,
you are here,
and I can say all the things that have wandered my mind for eternity,
say them out loud and even before you respond,
I know that you understand me.
We share a language all on our own,
even though I have to google every second word because we don‘t,
and yet you still always get what I am trying to say.
You are miles away and yet I feel at home just hearing your voice.
I should feel bad for all of this.
I should not feel that way for another person.
And I feel like all of this should blow over soon,
like I should get it out of my system
and then go back to normal.
I don‘t want this to end.
I want to spend the rest of my life staying up all night on the phone.
Or better, up all night on your side.
But I gave this promise to someone else already.
And I don‘t want this to end either.
So I spend my nights talking
happier than I have been in ages
hiding away my bitterness
about this having to end at some point.
Because I am not that kind of person.
I don‘t want this to end.
So I live in the moment
until it does.

8.11.18

Bohemian Rhapsody - Review


I think in my whole life, I never met anyone who didn't love Queen. Don't get me wrong, I know a shitload of people who only know "Bohemian Rhapsody" and/or "We Are The Champions" and/or "We Will Rock You" - who simply are not massive fans who know everything about the band and to be fair, I'm far from knowing every little bit of trivia or every song by heart. But regardless of that - no matter if I ask my almost 70 years old grandma or my mum who's in her forties or my friends in their twenties or my teenage siblings - everyone loves Queen and their music. Those guys are legends. And as legends deserve, as of late October, we now have a movie about this band to follow them through their career.

The movie starts out in 1970 with young Freddie Bulsara (Rami Malek), who is a college student and baggage handler at Heathrow airport, seeing a band live and meeting them after the show. The band, at this point only guitarist Brian May (Gwilym Lee) and drummer Roger Taylor (Ben Hardy) after their original lead singer and bassist just dropped out, can quickly be convinced that Freddie should be their new voice. Add bassist John Deacon (Joseph Mazello) and Queen is born. In the same night, Freddie also meets Mary Austin (Lucy Boynton) and they start dating.

They play local gigs all over the UK, sell Rogers van to get the money necessary to record an album and almost immediately land a contract with EMI records. Freddie legally changes his name to Freddie Mercury. While his mother and sister seem to be pretty supportive, his father is having none of all of this. Freddie proposes to Mary, who he lives with at this point.

On their first very successful U.S. tour, he begins to realize he is also attracted to men.
From then on we follow the band (but mostly Freddie) through the centuries, through their different songwriting processes (for Bohemian Rhapsody as much as for Another One Bites The Dust or We Will Rock You), different hairstyles, Freddies coming-out to and break up with Mary, Freddie becoming more and more extravagant, Freddie going solo, and ultimately, the reconciliation of the band for the legendary Life Aid concert in 1985, shortly after Freddie learned that he has AIDS.
I don't want to give away too many details because this is a movie that you should see yourself. That much in advance.

I want to say: I love this movie a lot. I laughed, I cried, I did both at the same time, as did my friends who went to see it with me. It was big and bold and beautiful. I think, to us poor souls who haven't spend a single second of being alive at the same time as Freddie Mercury, this is the closest thing that we can get to seeing Queen live on stage. 

There are several aspects I liked especially, first of all, the portrayal of not one musical mastermind but four who complement each other - something people who are not die-hard Queen fans might not be too aware of. Seeing the process of songs like the ones mentioned above has its very own magic.
Another thing was the portrayal of Freddie Mercury's sexuality. Opinions diverge on the question whether he was gay or bisexual, and while this was a huge point for criticism in other reviews, I personally like that this question was not answered completely throughout the movie - simply because Freddie never truly answered the question himself. Which one it truly was is a secret he took to his early grave. However, we still get a great portrayal of a queer character who can be read as gay or bi or something without a defining label, but definitely queer. That said - even with his AIDS infection, there is no pity porn in this movie. He is not defined by his queerness alone, he is not struggling because of his queerness alone, it is made just as much a deal of as necessary when you make a movie about Freddie Mercury, not too much, not too little. It felt very healthy that way.
Coming to speak of portrayal, I am a massive fan of the cast. Just look at this: 



They look so incredibly alike! This is one A-plus cast! I am in awe! Even if they didn't make an effort to play their roles properly, this is Queen! Big applause for this cast!

Last but not least, I have read a good portion of criticism regarding the portrayal of the bands (read: not only Freddies) excessive parties including a shitload of drugs and a shitload of sex. To be honest, I think the movie hinted towards that a good bit without showing too much, and I think that makes it more accessible for everyone to watch, so that's a good thing! The way I saw this movie, it wasn't at all swept under the carpet that these guys were no saints, it just wasn't shown too explicitly, and that's ok because not everyone wants to see that kind of things. 
To be honest, I think this movie might be worth some awards, and I really hope that it becomes a legend as well, just as Queen themselves.

3.10.18

Love Letter to the Discord Family or Why everyone should have a solid support group

On March 6th 2018 I joined the Discord server "ThistleFly" and I think this day may have changed my life a bit.
This server is Liam Dryden's server, the internet dad whose content I have enjoyed for ages. You might think, ok, that is a fan group, and in a sense, I guess that's true. But mostly, it is just an amazing community with a lot of very wholesome people taking care of each other.

When I joined this server I was in a not so good place mentally: I had only two weeks left in a job that I had quit because even though it paid me well and apparently I was good at it, it did not make me happy, and despite my efforts I hadn't found a new job yet that would at the same time secure me a living and make me be happier. And I use the word "happier" on purpose because "actually happy" was off the table, given that happiness for me still is to be found in a field where propper jobs are very rare. So I felt a bit shitty about myself and everything.

Now there were all these new people and I didn't really know anyone yet, which usually is a situation I don't do too well in, especially when I am having a rough time. Gladly, I didn't need to - because all of them were incredibly welcoming to begin with, as if we'd known each other for years.
Off to a great start, I quickly became comfortable enough to share my worries, and without second question, people would catch me. I can't really put it much differently, because this is exactly how I felt: Caught when falling. By people who didn't even know me. I felt secure with those people ever since.

Of course a big part of this is down to Liam: The rules he set up are all designed to have a respectful, friendly basis with each other, and the people he made mods are incredibly good at enforcing those rules. However, it is very rarely that they even have to bring the rules up or even kick someone - those people are just respectful and friendly to begin with.

Now I have this great bunch who have my back, who I can talk to about everything, may it be negging about stuff I am angry or sad about, may it be my period, literally everything. I can post my art there or my blogposts or selfies and there's always someone to tell me I am good and encourage me to continue what I do. There's people reminding me to hydrate, telling me that I should be asleep right now, telling me my feelings are valid and that it's ok to feel like I feel even if how I feel may not be good or happy at that point. They are taking care of me. And I am taking care of them. We keep holding each other up and I think this is beautiful.

Honestly, I have never felt so loved and seen ever in my life before. Of course, I have friends and my family and my fiance and I would not want to weigh them up against the people in the Discord. But the big difference is that due to timezones, there's always someone up, and due to the sheer number of people there's always someone who is up for the task in that moment. And that is something I truly wouldn't want to do without again ever.
Dear Discord Family, I love you so so much. Thank you for being there.

28.9.18

The future isn't female, but the present is male

Last week, I read an article on the German blog Im Gegenteil titled "The future isn't female - a plea for more cooperation between the genders" that was, in my eyes, pretty ill-informed and not fully thought through. I decided to write an article myself, an alternative to what the other author wrote and made feminism out to be. This article was originally published on Im Gegenteil in German as well. 

Oh, when will we finally get rid of that old fairytale that feminists want to get rid of men. When will critics of feminism finally realize what feminists already know: That feminists, of course, don't want to get rid of men, because a) it's simply impossible and b) doesn't help at all?
Why do so many people still believe this nonsense? Probably because they lack the willingness to abstract. Because the thing feminism wants to get rid of is the patriarchy, the supremacy of men - and when we say "men", we mean masculinity as a social concept, not "each and every individual man has to cease to exist". Maybe that is because we are not a children's playtime club, no fancy trend that is in right now, but individuals with a political opinion - opinions, that is, which can differ a lot and can be expressed differently as well, of course. Because that is basically the main point of feminism: We are not a homogenous group. Because women are not a homogenous group. Men aren't either, by the way.

Now some may say: "When neither men nor women are a homogenous group, why do you fight against the supremacy of men, isn' t that a contradiction?"
Let's start at the very beginning, with the idea that "man" and "woman" are merely categories that we as humans use for ourselves. The failure of those begins when we are asking for definitions: What makes someone a man or a woman? A lot of people love to answer that with genitals or chromosomes. I'm sorry to disappoint you: Even from a biological view there are not only man and woman, two categories existing strictly like this. There's way more variety than XX and XY and there's a spectrum between vagina and penis. I know, all of us learned that differently in school but just because our curriculum is simplified that doesn't mean reality is as well.

So it's natural to just assume that gender is a social construct and that also means that so-called femininity and masculinity are only learned behaviours. And now we are at the roots: We live in a society that works within these exact categories. We humans just really love our labels. In the end, the aim is that each and every person can do what he or she or they or every other pronoun should be able to do whatever they want. Every person should be able to live however they want and however it makes them happy. Of course with the usual limits: My freedom ends where it limits the freedom of someone else. That goes in every direction - doing things that don't fit your socially assigned gender role, doing exactly those things, everything in between.

And yes, sure, by law we already got pretty far, but only because it already got better that doesn't mean we are already done. When I go on vacation I don't stop half-way down the road either and say "Ok, here we are, vacation time!" when I'm still in France but originally planned to go to Portugal. Sure, by law we can live our lives quite freely already. The problem is mainly the reactions of others to how we live - sure, women can have a career, but there's still always the worry that they could get pregnant the next second and go on maternity leave. Even when they can't have children. Which is not anyone's business, really. And even if they get pregnant: Why does it harm the professional life of the person giving birth so much, but not the person who impregnated them? When we always say that it takes two people to make a child (which is correct), why is only one of them taking the responsibility for it? Why isn't it more normal for both parents to equally take care of their child? We are having a structural problem here, a vicious circle that needs to be broken. And that isn't only the case here but also when the topic is the choice of profession, the gender pay gap, and many more.

The point is: Yes, theoretically, women can be and do everything they want in Germany, but it will be so much harder as soon as they want to be or do something that is viewed as masculine. The other way around as well. Ever seen the drama when a man wants to be a nurse or a kindergarten teacher?
My favourite argument is still that it is women making other women's lives miserable. And again: yes! It was never about blaming one gender. Sometimes I wish it was that easy because that would make these problems way easier to solve. The sad truth is: women are sexist. Of course they are. All of us are sexist. Simply because we live in and are socialized by a sexist society. Vicious circle, again.

So when we agree that everyone should be able to live a life in equality and well-being regardless of gender and that neither women are the only victims of the patriarchy nor men are the only ones responsible for it: Why call it feminism and not humanism? That's basically not wrong. On the German Wikipedia page about humanism you can read the following definition: "[Humanism] drafts an ideal society where the best possible personal development of every individual person should be enabled. This is linked to criticism of current circumstances which are opposing this goal from the viewpoint of humanism." So you could say in your best conscience: Feminism is always humanistic. The reason to still call it feminism is explained just as quickly: When everything that is viewed as masculine by humanity is valued more than everything that is categorized as feminine we have to bring both to an equal level. And only then we have a chance to get rid of those categories for good.
So yes, I do agree: The future isn't female. The future is diverse and great for everyone. And yes, for that to happen all of us have to work together regardless of gender. So please: Reflect on yourself, your thoughts, your behavious, talk to your friends, family and everyone you know, raise your children to be individuals and maybe, in a few generations, we can be truly humanist. Because feminism is only necessary as long as sexism exists.

11.9.18

Where am I?

This blogpost was originally published in German as part of the Retales series on countessleto.wordpress.de

"Where am I?"
This seems to be a question that customers just love to ask themselves but only after entering a shop and asking the assistants one or two questions. Or not at all. You usually get whether or not they did based on what they ask you.

During my bookseller apprenticeship, there were two types of people. Type 1 was all the people (and yes, they were quite a lot) entering and saying something like: "Hello, I'd like a book please." Internally, I'd roll my eyes at them and make a huge gesture around the room, as if to say: "IF ONLY WE HAD BOOKS!?" Of course you can't really do that. Instead, I'd ask a simple counter-question: "Would you like to specify that question a bit?" Usually, that'd do the deal.

Not with type 2 though - type 2 enters and asks for everything except for books. Sure, we can help out with some of those things, like calendars, planners, notebooks and so on. But then... all the times people asked me for stamps. Kind of related, sure, but no, you get stamps at the post office just down the road. Usually, they said that's too far away. But people also requested completely unrelated things like CD-players. And the best thing about that is: When you start explaining that you don't have what the customer was asking for - they start discussions. "That's incredibly bad service!" I mean, sure, but that doesn't make the thing appear magically out of thin air. I'll order any available book for you overnight, it would be my pleasure, really, but I can't get my hands on a CD-player just like that. That's not my job either. I'm a bookseller after all.

Now, about a year after I finished my apprenticeship, I work at a crafts shop because the job market for booksellers is shit. Maybe that would be different if people would ask us for books for once instead of CD-players. But oh well... crafts shop it is. Don't you think that kind of conversation was done now, oh no, it just changed.

"Hello, I'd like to present my gift of money in a lovely way, do you happen to have a good idea for that?" (By the way, I love it when the word 'idea', which is the name of the shop as well, gets emphasized like that and then the customer thinks they made the greatest pun ever. Didn't hear that one before. Yes, you came up with that as the first person ever. So funny.) Yes, I have one or two ideas. Look, here, frame with cords, you can hang your money on there and put some stuff around that matches the occasion or the presentees interests. "Oh, that's too elaborate for me, that would require crafting." Thanks to some colleagues I know it's perfectly fine here to answer: "Well, you are in a crafts shop here..." Doesn't help though. Crafting ideas in a crafts shop, who would come up with that crazy kind of ideas? Then the customer lays an eye on the models in the shelf for inspiration and asks if they could buy that one instead. In some cases, they can, for example, the Schultüten (school cones, google it, that's pretty specific for Germany). When you tell them the price though, they usually lose it within seconds. They absolutely love to make a counteroffer that doesn't only disrespect the hours of work one of my colleagues put into it but also is way below the mere cost of the used materials. But buying ready for use packaging for gifts of money somewhere else is bad because you want something individual and not staple goods.

And here, as well, there are customers that go completely wild and yell and curse when you don't have what they are looking for. My favourite so far was an elderly man, I still don't know what he was actually looking for because his explanation was really inadequate before he started yelling at me, cursing on about todays youth and, anyway, no surprise retail is dying when we don't have what he wants. I could only smile about that. Because at some point you learn that those kind of moments are actually reeeeally funny when you yourself actually have nothing to do with them at all.