Follow-up, Response, and a Call for Restorative Justice

[Content Warnings: Direct contact with Involved Party, references to manipulation, gaslighting, trauma, shared trauma, misdirection, victim-blaming.  Take care of yourselves, friends]

Preamble
As many of you know, I recently took a huge risk and publicly named my experiences with my former polycule, naming them explicitly, and staking my legal name and reputation on my claims.  I appreciate everyone signal boosting, sending support, and being respectful and careful about how they share my narrative.  It’s everything.

Below, you will see two communications from Wes to me received on 23 February 2015, with his permission to post them in their entirety (see addendum in Part Two, below).  My responses to Wes are engrossed within the body of his communication.  I am choosing to respond to him in the full light of public discourse in part to protect myself.  However, after speaking to the other involved parties (the ones known to me, anyway — there are 5 others whose identities are unknown to me, at their choosing), I believe that publishing this serves not only me, but also the two parties redacted below, and our community at large for two reasons.

First, I think it’s important for us to consider our model of restorative justice.  Establishing common vocabulary and practices as we respond to wrong-doing in our community is a strong first step in responding to survivors and also to providing a support network for the people who have harmed them, which, I cannot stress enough, is a fundamental pre-requisite to healing both parties, and encouraging a culture where accountability can flourish and thrive.  I won’t speak to Wes’ intentions in his communication with me, because I cannot know them — a theme that will be repeated below.  However, I think it’s important to acknowledge that apology is neither desired nor helpful when it takes place under the circumstances under which he and I find ourselves.  I plan to write more about restorative justice once I have had time (and some recuperation from a pretty harrowing week) to reflect, and look forward to others in the community joining me in that reflection.

Second, I am currently one of only two (now) persons speaking against Wes’ actions publicly.  The other individuals who have reported him have done so anonymously, and to speak up on their own behalves would reveal their identities before they feel ready and properly supported to do so.  Since two of those individuals are known to me and have given their approval for my limited defense of their positions below, I feel that amplifying their voices insofar as I can is necessary.

I hope that anyone reading this will approach it constructively, and that I can find the energy and resources to continue in this dialogue in full view of the public with the transparency and honesty the conversation warrants.  My words appear in italics below, and engrossed comments are indented to aid in clarity.


PART THE FIRST

Subject: I’m Sorry
Header:

Note to [Hilary’s Partner]: it’s my understanding that these emails go to you. I’ve sent this to the 3 email addresses I have for Hilary. I’m not sure which one she uses now, if any. Please use your best judgment about whether to show her.

Hilary: if you’re reading this and it somehow didn’t get caught in your filter, please forward it to [Hilary’s Partner] for his review and delete it. I’ve left some space below so that you will hopefully not see any writing that you don’t want to see.

[line breaks]

Hilary,

I read your blog post today, and you identified a few things that I would like to apologize for. Most significantly, I am sorry for slapping your backside without your consent. I don’t recall the details of the situation or what caused me to believe that it was appropriate at the time, but in any case that is not something that’s ok to do without explicit consent. I will not be trusting any intuitions I have regarding that sort of thing in the future. If you can think of a way that I can make amends, I welcome your suggestions.

Thank you for acknowledging that you struck me without my permission.  While this does not undo this assault on my person, I am glad you are willing to be honest that you engaged in this behavior.

More broadly, I’m sorry that I was so bad at interpreting our communications. Throughout our friendship, I was confident that, while we sometimes had disagreements, we were also comfortable with showing vulnerability, expressing our emotions to each other, and letting each other know when something was bothersome or unwelcome. I shouldn’t have been confident about that because, based on what you are saying, it appears that I was totally incorrect and we did not have the relationship I thought. I’m not sure how to guard against that in the future, but I will think about it and I welcome any suggestions that you have.

My thoughts and suggestions for this will appear engrossed near the end of your second email, regarding the importance of cultivating a culture that encourages uncoerced consent practices around you, rather than simply consent-positive language.  I hope you will take those suggestions seriously, and in the spirit of generosity and charity in which I offer them.  It was not an easy thing for me to draft.

 

My plan now is just to ask people if I’m correct about what I think in that regard, but I am worried that will not be enough. Likewise, if you can think of anything beyond an apology that will help make amends, I am open to suggestions.

I am sorry that I did these things, and you ended up hurt because of it. I am not interested in having any kind of relationship with you (nor, I’m sure, are you with me), but I feel that an apology is called for regardless, as you identified some things that I did wrong. I hope that in time, you can forgive, but it is not something I expect.

I think, perhaps, that forgiveness is not the most relevant consideration in circumstances like these.  I have a great deal to say on that score.  I am going to be dedicating some time over the next few weeks to do some research and reading before I pen my thoughts.  If you would like my reading list, it contains the following titles:

 

The Psychology of Emotion in Restorative Practice 

The Little Book of Restorative Justice

Restorative Justice Dialogue: An Essential Guide for Research and Practice

 

My financial resources are (as anyone who reads this blog knows) pretty thin, but I am hoping to acquire copies of those three volumes and spend some of my lengthy commutes dedicated to developing some guidelines and suggestions for how the poly community can move forward, invest themselves in a culture that promotes primary prevention, and to augment my own thoughts and feelings as I recover from the events of 2014.  

-Hilary

Wes


PART THE SECOND 


Subject: Request for An Apology

Header [Identical to above header]

My responses are engrossed below. – hn

Hilary,

I am writing this separately from my apology to you for two reasons. One, because my apology stands by itself and is not contingent upon any sort of apology from you. Two, so [Hilary’s Partner] has the option of showing you one of them, but not the other. As you probably know, I wrote a post on how to ask for apologies today, and in that spirit, I am attempting to do this in the most constructive way possible.

As you likely know from my previous email, I read your blog today, and I feel that you have wronged me. In your blog, you said that I raped two of your friends. I assume you’re talking about Ginny [who has given me, Hilary, permission to reveal her identity in this post] and [REDACTED].

This is interesting, as you are publicly claiming you don’t know the source or content of the reports against you, and have openly accused me of dishonesty.  An accusation which casts your above apology to me in somewhat confusing light.  That you have, above and elsewhere stated I am being purposefully dishonest in my account is also a disservice to the seven other people who have come forward anonymously to the Poly Leadership Network and Relationship Equality Foundation to name you for a variety of behaviors that constitute misconduct and violation of autonomy.  

You know that the situation with Ginny was merely an accident,

There are elements of responding to this I must, out of respect for Ginny, not say.  She will be posting her account under a nom de plume later today, and that account will be linked here so that her voice can be the voice that tells her story, rather than mine.  However, I can say the following: As you know, I don’t believe any act of sexual violation occurs accidentally.  It happens as a result of negligence at its absolute lowest degree.  As I’m sure you know, intention is not required in the legal definition of rape.  You don’t need to intend to rape someone to have raped them.  This was an incident of rape.  Moreover, the perpetrator of a rape is absolutely never the person who gets to decide or define what happened to their victim. Your swiftness to do so tips the hand of your entitlement to name, redescribe, and co-opt the experiences of others.  This behavior merely reinforces the likelihood that you have done this with others, and will likely continue in this behavior.  This is not what accountability looks like.  Until you take accountability for your actions, your portion of the journey to apologies, forgiveness, or restorative justice is incomplete. For the survivors reading this, I cannot stress this emphatically enough: The person or people who hurt you are not the people who decide the content of your experience, or your right to name it.  You decide those things. 

and that the situation with [REDACTED] was a misunderstanding.

I have read the email exchange between you and [partner of REDACTED], and at times Gina.  There is no part of this that reads to me as a misunderstanding. I am not at liberty to disclose specifics of that text, or of the things that [REDACTED] has related to me about the event in question.  I have promised her my confidence, and I will not break that confidence merely to argue with you. It is again, not up to you to name [REDACTED]’s experiences.  You violated her egregiously.  I will note here, that you assert in your “apology” to [REDACTED] that she was the aggressor, which was firstly false, and secondly a highly questionable tactic in anything one might call an apology, given what we know about victim-blaming behavior. I will also add that [REDACTED] in no way believes that her experience was a misunderstanding, and has explicitly requested I echo her sentiments here, verbatim.  I am proud of her.

Particularly, your treatment of the situation with [REDACTED] leaves me feeling gaslit and invalidated. As you know from reading my response to [partner of REDACTED] when he first told me how [REDACTED] felt, that was a situation wherein both parties (yes, including me) consented to sexual activity that we didn’t actually want to be having.

[REDACTED]’s silence was not a yes.  I don’t feel that both parties consented, because they didn’t.  It is possible neither party consented, but that does not remove your accountability for your actions.  If you feel traumatized by the experience you had with [REDACTED], I will extend the same resources I would extend to any person in that position.  The crisis hotline can be reached at 1800273TALK and the therapist finder at psychologytoday.com is an excellent resource.  Under other circumstances I would offer you guidance in that search, but we are not under other circumstances.  I am sure that the other supports in your life (or frankly, [NAME OF THERAPIST], she’s an excellent resource and would almost certainly agree to see you) can aid you in that search should you require it.  I hope if you are hurting because of that experience, you seek the help and support anyone with trauma requires.

Your description of the event says that really, I wanted it, and invalidates my internal experience, about which you couldn’t possibly know.

 I have never stated anything about what you wanted.  I said you raped two of my friends, which you did.  That your internal state was conflicted at the time is something I can neither know nor falsify.  I cannot speak for your experience.  But I do know that regretting your actions or letting things get out of hand does not absolve you of, or alter the content your actions.

You talk all the time about how it’s important to believe people when they say they didn’t want the sex they had, yet when it’s me, you call me a liar and a rapist.

You have raped, intentionally or not, as I’ve established.  You are also now denying it, and state misleading details, and omit pertinent information.  While perhaps “lying” is too close to a statement of your intentions, your words are not what I would call Truthful. Nowhere, in the account on my blog, does the word “lie” or “Liar” occur.  The only use of the word “dishonest” is a charge you leveled against me, not me against you.  I do note moments of deliberate micromanagement, but that it was deliberate was made clear when I compared what actually happened to what was reported to me by you and Gina what was happening.  Moreover, that deliberate micromanagement occurred at Gina’s hands, not yours.  Even in this email, I have not said you are lying.  But your words, based on the information I have, are not truthful.  It is entirely possible that your perceptions are simply subject to groupthink and confirmation bias. 

That is wrong. You could have acknowledged that the experience was different for [REDACTED] without invalidating my experience.

I never spoke about your experience.  I spoke of your actions. I have been truthful and as impartial as possible regarding your actions, and have also chosen carefully what I shared and what I omitted out of the remaining respect I am capable of harboring for you as a fellow human being, and also out of respect for the experiences of the people you have hurt. 

I wish you would have referenced the situation as something [REDACTED] experienced as an assault, and not referenced the situation as a rape, which has a particular state-of-mind associated with it that I did not possess.

The definition of rape vs. sexual assault is not a distinction that relies on intent.  You had unlawful sexual contact.  Intention and state-of-mind are immaterial. Moreover, your response, upon being called to accountability for both instances has been not the response I would expect of someone who valued consent or an atmosphere conducive to people feeling free to tell you no.

The same applies to the situation with Ginny, although invalidating my experience there is significantly less harmful, as it was merely a clumsy mistake on my part, and not a situation in which I felt I had no meaningful choice but to consent to sex that I didn’t want to have.

It is not my job, nor my inclination to validate your experiences.  

I also feel wronged by the way you used my vulnerability against me. Throughout our friendship, I opened up to you completely, because I felt that you welcomed it. I talked to you about my insecurities and fears in ways that I have not been able to do to other people. In your blog, you used my communications regarding my vulnerabilities about sex and weight to suggest that I was intentionally pressuring you or propositioning you, or to suggest that I was using my legitimate concerns to try to talk you into bed. I do not dispute that you may have felt pressured, but any time I was aware of you feeling pressured, I made efforts to keep any pressure as low as possible while still being honest.

So, you were aware you were pressuring me, and instead of removing that pressure, you privileged your own desire to disclose over my repeatedly expressed desires to be free from sexual pressure from you.  That is not emotional intimacy; that is emotional exploitation.  You want me to apologize for sharing my report against you, which you have publicly asked the PLN and your victims to do, as have your partners, because I related things you actually said and did that eroded my boundaries and my belief in my own worth in your efforts to either have sexual contact with me, or simply to express your desire to have sexual contact with me.  I might counter with the following, why did you, Wes, use /my/ vulnerabilities against me in an effort to touch me sexually, ask for my account, and then request an apology that I complied with that request?  

I exposed those vulnerabilities to you because I thought it was safe to do so. I thought you were one of the only people who wouldn’t judge me for them, and who wouldn’t use them against me. I thought you welcomed the emotional intimacy I showed you, and that (I thought) you showed me back.

I believe it is important to emphasize the difference between emotional intimacy and emotional exploitation.  You have admitted, just now, to emotionally exploiting me, above.  You placed your own desires for emotional validation (and seem to continue to have the expectation I will provide that validation) in priority over my explicit requests that you leave the ball in my court and let me come to you if my feelings for you changed, which they did not.  Moreover, your other behaviors toward me, specifically the occasion on which you struck me, and your ongoing prying into the progression of intimacy with Gina, indicated a willingness to place me in sexual situations you knew at the time I did not desire with you, and an overall disrespect for my sexual boundaries and autonomy.  I do welcome emotional intimacy.  I do not welcome emotional exploitation, which is what was happening here. My willingness to voice that is not something for which I will apologize.  

I trusted you, and you have abused and weaponized that trust in a hyperbolic effort to damage me.

Just as I can’t know your intentions, you cannot know mine.  Though I do state them, explicitly in my blog.  I will repeat them, here. “It appears that the small steps take recently to alert the community that abusive dynamics were taking place in their midst, and facilitate the kind of support that people who abuse others require to change their behavior have backfired, and I am now being obliquely targeted on social media as a result.”  I am doing nothing here with you that you have not actively encouraged others to do in our community.  Please do not tell me how I am feeling, or what my goals are.  I have extended that courtesy to you, and fully expect it in return.  If you do this again, dialogue between us will close. 

I wish that you had found a way to make the point you wanted without misrepresenting my feelings or intentions.

Again I will note that I am completely mute on the topic of your feelings or intentions.  I say not one word about what I believe you intended or felt.  It was hard to write what I wrote, in part because I had to focus solely on actions and facts, on what people actually said, wrote, and did, rather than my speculations about their feelings and actions.  I don’t even relate that the things you or your family have done or put me through (in my blog) were intentional.  They could easily, easily be the product of very unwell, unhealthy relationship expectations and dynamics.  I don’t comment on that, because I can’t know that, and I’m not qualified to comment on it.  All I did in my blog was name my experiences, and state a small collection Your (plural) actions and words.  I am not misrepresenting anything, nor did I weaponize your trust.  I related my experience, and here, you try to co-opt, redescribe, and leverage those experiences in your favor once again.  

You could easily have made the point that I did things that resulted in you being pressured without saying that it was on purpose or some kind of deliberate attempt at manipulation.

 I am not sure you are aware of this, so I will state it clearly: The price of conflict with you, in my wide experience, is too high.  It is too high because you do not consistently hear a report of someone’s feelings and reactions at face value and say, “I respect that.”  You in fact, create an atmosphere in which every disagreement from the very small to the very substantial, requires preamble, a full defense of one’s feelings and experiences, and a level of emotional bandwidth and time availability I don’ t think many human beings can sustain.  Your behavior when someone relates that you have hurt them actively discourages them from relating that you have hurt them in the future, because the cost of that hurt is /lower/ than the cost of the conflict. 

 

This is why it is difficult when you frame relationships in terms of what people “want” because often, calculated into those wants is “can I withstand the way this person engages in conflict” and often, the answer is “very little is worth the price of that conflict.”  You saw me tag out of conflict with you on numerous occasions stating exhaustion, depletion of emotional resources, frustration, and disappointment.  Why, based on this pattern, would you place the expectation on others to come to you first?  The atmosphere you create discourages open discourse, and raises the stakes of any communication wherein a boundary is placed far above the price of that boundary being violated.  You create circumstances where people tell you Yes, because they just can’t argue anymore.  This means that you cannot trust the Yes in your life, because people are too exhausted to tell you No.  This is not the fault of the people not saying No.  The burden of that failure rests on your shoulders for creating an environment in which No costs too much.  This is why you are suddenly flooded with reports for consent infractions.  You simply don’t accept “No” as a response to the things you want, and a lot of the time, you don’t even ask first.  You do things, like pull girls on to your lap or initiate physical contact without asking, perhaps unaware that people feel that your company is hostile to them saying “No.”  So while you often rely on people’s honest and contemporaneous statement of No, you are (perhaps unknowingly) discouraging them from saying that No.

 

One need not intend to be manipulative to manipulate others.  It is very often the case that manipulative dynamics are not purposeful, but are rather the byproduct of maladaptive communication models. I am open to that possibility, here.  However that it may or may not have been purposeful does not change the fact that manipulation occurred.  Whether it was an unintentional mistake to get covert needs met or a calculated campaign to erode my boundaries is immaterial, and really would only speak to the severity of the transgression, not its facticity.

I would like an apology from you. In the spirit of my blog post, I am open to dialogue on any of these points, and I am not certain that my interpretations of your actions are correct. I am open to correction or further explanation on any of these points.

I have tried to be as kind, concise, and open as I possibly can be with someone who has violated me and others so terribly.  While I remain open to respectful dialogue, I will not tolerate further sloughing of responsibility for your choices.  If that behavior continues, dialogue between us will close.  I will not consider return communication that is respectful and accountable as a violation of APW’s requests, as I have given my permission for you to contact me only in reference to these items.  If you feel you cannot comply with these conditions, I urge you to consider the APW’s requests from you, and perhaps workshop your feelings with someone qualified.  
H.

 

Addendum 1:

I did not include this bit in my apology email:

There were times, when Gina and I made steps toward intimacy that it was clear he was on the other side of the door, occasionally cracking jokes.  I reiterated to him consistently how I felt about this disruptive behavior, and he would often play it off like I was being too serious.

I don’t recall this. If you are willing to provide more details, it may help my recollection. In any case, if it happened the way you recall, I am sorry, as that behavior, the way you describe it, sounds inappropriate.

I will not embarrass myself (or Gina) by relating these circumstances at the request of the person who left me feeling sexually violated.  To have asked this at all is wildly inappropriate, and I will not have the details of any sexual experience of mine related to you upon your request privately or publicly, ever.  If an investigative third party would like those details, I will provide them.  It is not appropriate for someone reported for sexual violation to take on an investigative role with the person who feels victimized.  

Addendum 2:

I consent to you publishing any of my written communications that you wish, with the only caveat that the full exchange be published, not just cherry-picked lines. If you wish to publish something in one of our several-hundred-line text exchanges, just please include a reasonable amount of messages on both sides of the referenced one to give context.

Duly noted.  – HN

Wes

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Follow-up, Response, and a Call for Restorative Justice

Abuse, Exploitation, and Narrative Control in Polyamory

[Content Warning: Manipulation, abuse, victim grooming, sexual assault, physical assault, mild reference to BDSM themes, toxic relationships, general squick]

[Author’s note: this account, while full, is not exhaustive or replete.  It can’t be.  There are hundreds of moments I could include in this narrative that illustrate and illuminate the dynamics of the relationships I’ve survived, and despite which, have chosen to thrive and flourish.  Comments will remain open, but as always, moderated strictly by me, prior to posting publicly. ]


Being in an abusive or exploitative plural relationship is a lot like falling asleep in the bathtub with the lights out and no map.  Wait.  Let me explain.


Okay, so let me back up.  Have you ever fallen asleep in a hot bath?  I do it with some regularity.  It’s a rather odd experience and feels as close as I can get to describing what it’s like to find yourself immersed in abusive and exploitative relationship dynamics.  You find yourself in a nice, hot bath.  Imagine that the bathtub is deep — deep enough to cover your knees and shoulders comfortably in a half-reclined position.  The water turns on when you lie down in the tub, and turns off automatically when the tub is full.  The water is two shades shy of hot.  At first, it pools at the bottom of the vessel, underneath your body.  It feels a bit strange at first.  It might even sting a little.  But as the water level rises, you adjust to the sensation.  You stop noticing it.  You feel your body becoming buoyant as the water rises, and softly sink to sleep.  Time becomes strange.  You slip in and out of a half-waking state, aware of the rising warmth around you.  Then, suddenly, you fully wake.  Time has passed.  The water is no longer running.  You’re disoriented.  You move, displacing the water close to your skin that your body has kept warm, and realize: your bath has cooled.  You are freezing.  It has been an hour or more, and you’re shaking with cold.

This is what abuse and exploitation can feel like, especially in situations where power differentials are operative, but not acknowledged.  The slow rising of nearly imperceptible change, boundary erosion, vocabulary shift.  I remember the moment that I felt sleep overtake me, the moment that I realized and accepted that nothing made sense and that was just fine.  I also remember the moment I woke up in an ice bath, wondering what the f*ck just happened.

My name is Hilary Nunes.  I come from a background where abuse was operant.  I joined a polycule that consisted of my former girlfriend, Gina Martinelli, her husband, Wesley “Wes” Fenza, and Wes’ other wife, Jessica Orsini.  I left that polycule under extreme duress in June of 2014.  Since that time, Wes has continued to present himself as an authority on predation, abuse, relationship anarchy, and consent in the polyamory community.  He raped two of my friends.  My relationship with Gina can only be described in terms that reflect unacknowledged exploitation.  Jessie has recently publicly admitted that for months after my egress, she failed to comply with requests to remove my image and contact information from public sites relevant to their theater troupe, expressly violating my consent, and also recently named me against my will in a vitriolic post trying to co-opt and malign my experiences.  Wes’ partners have both explicitly and publicly asked me to publish my account of my relationship with their family.  I suspect their motives are not pure.  Their response to other efforts to call their household to accountability for toxic dynamics, bullying, narrative control, and exploitation have been met with the sorts of responses you’d expect from people engaged in toxic dynamics, bullying, narrative control, and exploitation.  I am sharing my story because it has become clear that Wes, Gina, and Jessie are relying on my silence to amplify the message that the reports against them have been fabricated out of bitterness and resentment.

They shame survivors everywhere with these tactics, and I will not, as a survivor myself, a crisis counselor, a former rape crisis advocate, peer educator on sexual and intimate partner violence and control, and primary prevention advocate, countenance this affront to a community that purports to value ethics, consent, and love.

I am about to share a lot of uncomfortable truth and experience.


A great deal of this feels extremely personal and potentially damaging to share in such a public forum.  However, it has come to my attention that my silence is being relied upon to amplify the narrative of people I identify as dangerous.  I write today to tell an abbreviated but far fuller version of the events of 2014.  My hope in doing so is that by speaking my own truth, others with similar experiences will come forward in ways that make sense for them, corroborating the danger and galvanized by my story.  I also hope that organizations will begin to look more closely at who they permit into their ranks, and to act as spokespeople for the poly community. It appears that the small steps taken recently to alert the community that abusive dynamics were taking place in their midst, and facilitate the kind of support that people who abuse others require to change their behavior have backfired, and I am now being obliquely targeted on social media as a result.  It is clear to me that my continued silence only serves the individuals in question, and that they are banking on that silence continuing because of their beliefs about my agency and courage.   I have no desire to remain in conflict with my former polycule.  My policy from the beginning has been that I would only share the details and identities behind the troubling events if asked directly, and even then, have done so as quietly and gently as I could.

As it turns out, I was recently asked directly because of a potential vector of grooming and abuse by several nexuses of leadership, event organization, and conference curators, and could not in good conscience remain silent.  I shared only what I was asked to share, and that narrative did not leave out the points of my own culpability, mistake, and accountability in what transpired.  Most of that narrative appears here, verbatim. Additions have now been made, since a “full account” is required by Wes, Gina, and Jessie, in order for them to consider accountability or amends to their community, let alone to me or the other victims. I have made a heavily edited version of this particular draft available to anyone who asked for my account of what has transpired, and what is now transpiring, in an effort to provide transparency to the loved ones who have questions, the networks to which I belong and am accountable, and in solidarity with the other people who have been touched by this situation.

I will say, briefly, that yes, I was deeply hurt by the way and circumstances under which my relationship with Gina ended.  However, anyone who knows me knows that I have always been fair about relationships ending.  I have never poisoned the well, gone on a public or invasive tirade, or otherwise spoken out of turn about anyone I have dated, even if there was a great deal of hurt.  I do not have a reputation for things like vendettas or smear campaigns. I don’t slash tires, spread rumors… in fact, the opposite is often true.  There were times when it may have been wiser and more kind to myself to speak my own truths sooner, but didn’t out of a desire to protect what was once valuable to me about a relationship.  It is also quite rare for me to sever ties permanently with anyone I once loved.  In fact, it has happened only on two other occasions in my life — both of which were abusive situations, one of which terminated in criminal charges and a conviction.  I’m aware of the rhetoric being used on the other side of this narrative, and I trust in the strength of my reputation and the testament of my character to act as the rock upon which I stand to speak my truth.  For those who find that insufficient, I suggest you mosey; I gat nathin far ya, as my Nan was wont to say.  Harsh ye naught my shine.

The things I am about to share are frightening, both in terms of their rawness, and their ability to expose me to risk, judgment, and frankly, disappointment and further harm.  I took steps this fall to limit Jessica Orsini, Gina Martinelli and Wes Fenza’s ability to contact me directly — my phone number has changed, I’ve moved and kept my new address hidden from public view, and emails from them filter directly to my partner rather than coming to me, with copies saved to an archive folder in my inbox without notifying me.  I have an extensive archive of messages and communications that show a pattern of harassment, exploitation, gaslighting, and manipulation.  I am also not the only one with a copy of those communications, and the people who hold copies have explicit instructions about what to do if anything happens to me. The last time Wes and I had contact, I was threatening legal action to issue a cease and desist to him and his theater company, of which I was once an instrumental member, to have my images and contact information removed from their promotional materials.  That battle was three harrowing months long, and when I threatened to contact a lawyer and the police, he did back down.  I remain pretty confident that he is aware that contact with me is likely to result in harassment charges.  One of his partners was placed in the role of primary contact on that matter, but he remained the website administrator, and there was quite a bit of back and forth on when my image would actually be removed once I threatened legal action.

However, his bullying had a much longer, and I feel a bit darker, history. Honestly, so did Gina’s.  Jessie was a late addition to the party, but her choices to violate my consent after I exited these relationships cemented in my mind that the toxicity of the culture that surrounds the Fenzorsellis encompasses all members, and that my egress should have occurred far sooner.  But I had fallen asleep in the bath tub, in the dark, with no map.  I’ll get to that part, shortly.


While I was dating Wes’ wife Gina, he showed an interest in our journey toward intimacy in a way that felt unhealthy and invasive.  At that time, I valued Wes as a dear friend and ally.  When I mentioned to him that Gina and I both had a lot to unpack before we could both feel good about being sexual with one another and that his pressure and questioning and impatience felt like an added barrier for me, he became manipulative.  He started to label me his Queer Platonic Primary Partner, and stressed to me that anything apart from complete openness and transparency was an affront to the importance and gravity of his relationship with me.  There were times, when Gina and I made steps toward intimacy that it was clear he was on the other side of the door, occasionally cracking jokes.  I reiterated to him consistently how I felt about this disruptive behavior, and he would often play it off like I was being too serious.  I also feel strongly that even without my insistence, that behavior alone shows a pathological approach to the autonomous sexuality of other humans.

Wes regularly solicited me for sex, especially during a period when my own partner was struggling with a breakup and felt less than sexual in general.  I had expressed to Wes that he was not a person with whom I desired sexual intimacy every time he brought it up, and it sometimes resulted in conversations that he would say did not feel fraught for him, but for me felt as though I was being undervalued, pressured, and judged for being the highly selective sapiosexual I am.  I could not understand why he would not simply leave the ball in my court, and give me the space to approach him if I ever changed my mind about that — especially since that was what I asked him to do.  Looking back on these communications, the deliberate cultivation of cognitive dissonance is painfully apparent; I wish I had possessed the clarity at the time to identify it.  Wes was aware of my status as a survivor of sexual assault and would still do things like blame my male partner (calling him, as he is famous for doing, a “highlander”) for my lack of sexual interest in Wes, claiming that it was Tom’s desire that I only select female sexual partners out of jealousy.
In point of fact I iterated every time that I was just not sexually attracted to Wes. He undermined my agency in my ability and willingness to select sexual partners that made sense for me, attributing it in, I now see, a very telling way, to the important man in my life. He got coercive on a few occasions, saying that it was because of his weight (I’ve dated people all over the weight spectrum, and he knew my feelings about body acceptance for both myself and those partners) in an effort to shame me into sexual activity with him. He also insisted and pressured me for concrete reasons; despite the fact that “No, Thank you,” is a complete sentence and requires no explanation. He claimed that failure to provide reasons was “dishonest” and an affront to friendship.   Each time this came up, I reiterated how important it was to me to only have sex with people to whom I had a pretty deep and primal chemical as well as intellectual connection, how rare that was for me, and that I valued him as a friend but the answer was no.  All the while, I read his blogs and heard his speech about consent, its importance, and how deeply he valued it.

This is when someone turned out the lights on my bath.  I thought I was losing my mind.  The signal to noise ratio was deafening.  The volume of speech, of writing, of pontificating, on the importance and value of consent.  Wes spoke publicly about consent and polyamory.  All the time!  His partners!  They were feminists.  Feminists who claimed to love and value me!  This is what value looks like.  Boundaries were overstepped constantly.  My journey towards intimacy with Gina was a joke.  A joke she didn’t protest.  It was not lost on me that all of Gina’s other partners also chose to be sexual with Wes.  I was deficient, because I was not attracted to her husband.  I deserved to be treated differently, worse, because I was denying my family the things they wanted, deserved from me.  I was selfish.  I was prudish.  I was broken.  I no longer saw myself.  Wes often expressed that sex was “just one activity to do with friends, among others.” I recalled my toxic use of my own sexuality when I was recovering from a violent assault that took place in my twenties — the sex that I had on purpose, not wanting to, hoping, praying someone would see me, stop me, rescue me.  My eyes glazed.
On one occasion, during a rehearsal, without warning, negotiation, or permission, he struck me on the backside hard enough to frighten his two partners.  Jessie actually yelled at him, not because of the inappropriateness of his choice, but because the sound of him striking me hurt her ears.  I was startled, and it stung (physically).  He left a decent bruise.  I identify as a submissive who enjoys (pre-negotiated, consent-positive) impact play on occasion, typically within a maintenance and therapy setting with my partner who is my loving dominant other half. Wes knew this, and struck me anyway, placing me deliberately in a context that is sexual without my permission.  

It was at that moment, I fell asleep in the bath tub.  I realized at that moment that my body was a thing.  My desires were a thing.  I was a thing.  The warm, sleepiness of acceptance slipped over me like a blanket I’ve known my whole life — just accept it.  Arguing would only cause more strife.  I’d have to explain every feeling, every objection.  He’d make me cry, question myself.  The girls would side with him.  Just let it take over.  Accept that the people who love you think this is what you deserve.  They’re probably right.  I have been known to be playful with people and to accept an occasional pinch or swat (usually invited by me, or at the hands of friends with whom we have a history of loving physical contact) and I was so shocked, I played it off.  It always struck me as strange, though, given how highly he speaks of enthusiastic and robust consent culture.  I felt like there must have been something wrong with me, since he felt so many people deserved that, but I didn’t.  I never brought it up.  I let it happen again.  This was what I deserved.  I was worth no more than this.  This is what love, what polyamory looks like.  I began to withdraw.  I placed boundaries less frequently.  I stopped believing that my desires mattered.  I dreaded seeing the people I loved.  This felt normal.  


Gina chose to end the romantic aspect of our relationship over a number of conflicting priorities and needs, and did so rather suddenly, immediately following me placing a hard limit on one aspect of our interactions: I would no longer participate in discussions about her former partner Shaun.  I had suggested, asked, and pleaded that we spend less of our time together engaged in dialogue about her (completely legitimate, well articulated, and deserving of care and concern — but also completely personally exhausting, devaluing, and increasingly toxic) feelings regarding her former partner. I had expressed that I felt over-used as a resource, unimportant outside of my context as emotional support, unloved, unwanted, undesirable.  I stated these things several times over the course of our relationship.  I placed the explicit boundary with the belief that it would jeopardize our relationship.  I was right.  She accused me of withholding information I now see from our email history, I had been telling her all along.  And yet, I believed her over my own experience.  Because that is what she and her family had trained me to do.  That boundary, and another.  During a fragile and hard time in my primary relationship, I was ambushed with a performance with my former metamour’s partner. While I am now on excellent terms with both individuals, performing burlesque with them present was hard for both my partner and for me. I had expressed this on numerous occasions, and was told after four glasses of wine, that we would be sharing a stage in 2 days. When I stated that if that were the case, I’d prefer to cancel my performance, conflict erupted. My primary relationship was attacked, as was my capacity as a poly person, and a loving family member. It was Jessie’s birthday show, and I was putting my own “insecurities” (or, you know, previously expressed boundaries regarding burlesque performance) ahead of her happiness and prior, totally unannounced plans.   When I expressed anger, betrayal, and disappointment at my polycule’s disregard for my prior boundaries, the tables were spun. Why was I so angry at former metamour and her partner? I wasn’t. I was angry at my polycule for putting me in an untenable position; but they would not hear me.


This is when I woke up in the freezing cold bathwater.  I was hurt when Gina ended our relationship, opening her email to me by attacking my primary partner.  I expressed to her that this was inappropriate, and that the behavior she attributed to my partner was actually behavior in which she was engaging, and I had explicitly asked her to discontinue or curtail.  I understood that she still desired my friendship; but that I would require a fairly significant amount of time to reorient and heal.  I felt that my trust had been broken by the way she approached that conversation, and made some suggestions for what we could do to heal that trust and make a friendship between us feel happy, healthy, and safe for me down the road. I did this, because it was what she and Wes talked about all the time:  trust being broken doesn’t mean a relationship ends — it means, I thought it meant, they said it meant, that you adjust your expectations, make them explicit, and generate ways to secure new data upon which the future expectations you have are reality and data-based.  I was doing what they said to do in cases of broken trust.  I did the thing!  She rejected the validity of those suggestions, and the boundaries they were meant to support, stating that my new limitations and expectations demonstrated that I no longer desired closeness with her.

As is their wont, my conversation was shared with Wes who again grew very manipulative.  I wanted to speak with Gina and he insisted that Gina could not handle or internalize my feelings or words, and that I should go through him instead.  As we talked, he undermined my concerns, misdirected my points of contention, and engaged in a lot of blaming behavior.  He insisted that he and I meet up, as I felt that he also violated my trust during this period, and when I made the decision to simply cut ties with everyone for a few months, lick my wounds, and learn to love myself as I was again, he exploded with rage.  I canceled my meeting with him, requested a cease and desist of all contact, and his last text message to me was, “I overestimated my importance to you, and I regret that.  The next time you try to speak with me, it had better start with an apology.”  The fact that he identified his own importance as the problem, here, was not lost on me even at the time.

Gina engaged in some further bullying and manipulation of her own before I cut contact permanently with the entire household and most of their close associates, and in the months following, I fought to have my pictures removed from their websites and facebook for our burlesque troupe.  That conversation looked like this:

7/2/14: Email to WesI’ve removed my posts from Living within Reason.  Kindly remove me from the authorized poster’s list.  Thank you.

7/2/14: Email to Wes: Please also remove my photo from the Busts & Trunks brown paper ticket site.

Thank you.

7/3/14: Email to Wes, Gina, Jessie: I am copying everyone at this point, because I’m not sure who runs which accounts, and do not desire to put the wrong responsibilities on the wrong shoulders.

Please remove my image from the brown paper tickets site.  And, apparently, the website, the facebook profile, and any other media I am not naming here of which I might be unaware.
I hereby explicitly revoke my consent for my image, name, or body to be used in connection or for promotional purposes for Busts & Trunks, Ocelot on a Leash, Fringe, or any future ventures.  
Also, I am getting phone calls to my mobile phone about the show and fringe, because my contact information is still listed as the primary on the brown paper tickets site.  I have thus far answered the questions I have been asked, but will not do so after this email has been sent.
No response necessary or desired, apart from compliance with my request to no longer have my body used against my will to promote an endeavor of which I am no longer a willing participant.  I understand that this was likely not purposeful; however I do require that it cease as immediately as possible.
Thank you.

8/13/14: Email to Jessie and WesAs a heads up, I’ve just received 3 phone calls in the last hour or so about the show this evening.   I’m not sure if there’s some sort of confusion on your end or not, but people seem to be under the impression that the show is sold out or cancelled.  

Perhaps a facebook status update or a brown paper tickets announcement would be warranted, at this point.  

 8/13/14: Email responding to Jessie and Wes, who asked if I could do the leg work for themI haven’t any idea where my number could be.  Given that it still appears for all intents and purposes that I am still associated with the show, I assume they were repeat customers who saved my number from previous calls or questions. Several of the names sounded familiar.

This is one of the reasons I had asked for my image to be removed entirely from facebook and from the ocelot website. I know you’re all on that or whatever, but so far, it’s been every second Wednesday of the month, I’m somehow still fielding busts and trunks questions, being asked about my place in the show on social media, etc., and frankly, getting angrier about it.
I’m completely uninterested in fighting about that at this point, but I will continue to ask, in writing, that my request be honored.

8/14/14: Email to Wes and JessieThis email is to notify you that I’ve reported the images on the Busts & Trunks facebook page to the administrators at Facebook.com with documentation of my previous requests, and also filed a note to Busts & Trunks documenting my requests that they be removed on 7/2, 7/21, 8/1, and now 8/14.  

This email is also an additional formal request that my image be removed from the Ocelot website.  
I will permit a week to pass, and if my very reasonable, very patient requests are not satisfied, I will consider retaining counsel. You will find the things due to be returned to the Fenzorselli Household sometime tonight, on the porch. 
This failure to act is in direct violation of my consent.  I did not desire further adversarial communication, but I feel that my hand is now being forced.  

I don’t think that this exchange requires much commentary.  I only include my portion of the conversation because I do not have my interlocutors’ permission to print their communications.  None of the messages that were to Wes exclusively were given any answer.  I took this, rightly, as purposeful microaggression and hoovering.  I also took Jessie’s obstinate refusal to prioritize my requests until legal action was threatened, rightly, as purposeful microaggression and hoovering.  Her excuses for her failure to do so, and Wes’ complete failure to respond at all have been documented elsewhere in my blog, and I stand by them.

Three entire days later, I received a deeply invasive, deeply troubling and frankly, squicky as all f*ck email from Gina.  Three days after threatening the troupe with legal action, and just barely a month since I had asked her for no contact, with space and time to heal and reorient.  I will not print her email here, because I do not have her permission.  My response to that email appears in an earlier post of mine, located here.  There is a different draft of my response that neither she nor her partners will see, because it serves only me.  It serves as a reminder that from start to finish, I was groomed to accept boundary violation, gaslighting, lovebombing, aggressive over-communciation, and narrative control, and that that expectation continued for my former polycule even after a cease contact request.  The water was freezing and there were bees in the house.  


Shortly after Gina’s violation of my no contact request, I reestablished connections with people the Fenzorsellis had forsworn and maligned.  With the toxic influences gone from both of our lives, we shared our stories, and found the space to carve out meaningful friendships.  There was a period of stress, when I was dating Gina (wherein Wes was called to task on sexual violation and consent infractions by a third party, unbeknownst to me) and it became apparent that my perceptions and access to information, and feelings in general were being deliberately micromanaged, and frankly, weaponized.  After hearing accounts from other women who had been ejected from or voluntarily fled the inner circle of the Fenzorselli household, I realized that I wasn’t alone in feeling that Wes’ behavior was invasive, problematic, bizarre, and hazardous, or that Gina was his willing and knowing accomplice.  I’m so sad about what happened to the other women to whom I’ve spoken, the communications of theirs I have read, and the underhanded and cruel way they were treated, and sometimes fret that by failing to see what was happening, I was somehow complicit in their harm.  It was recently stated that Wes apologized for this behavior, both via email and a (totally inappropriate) blog post (wrestling narrative control back into his own hands, without the permission of his victims).  It was asked, by Jessie echoing my own question, how we account for accountability?

Having read that email, can I begin with, Maybe, just maybe don’t tweet about #abuseinpoly when you’ve been reported for Abuse In Poly.  Maybe don’t say things like, “I have a right to be in your home without your permission, because I’ve chosen to label your experiences of assault and violation as ‘lies and innuendo'”.  Maybe, you know, people don’t have to explain or justify why they don’t want you around.  Maybe just say, “I respect your space, I will see your housemates outside of your home out of respect for your pain.” After all, consent is important. Maybe put your money where your feminist and consent-positive rhetoric spewing mouth is, even when it doesn’t benefit you.  Maybe don’t require your victims to eviscerate themselves publicly sharing the embarrassing experiences over which they feel great shame just so you can be sure you’ve only apologized for things you actually feel you (or your partners) are obligated (by your own estimation) to apologize.  Perhaps, have some integrity, and respect people when they report you have hurt them.

I have now been cast by Gina and Jessie as a member of a “League of Evil Exes” for coming forward to the PLN with my story and its implications.  My experiences have been trivialized and cast in dubious and insidious colors.  My well-founded, evidence based claims of manipulation, micromanagement, and harassment have been reduced to the responses of a scorned woman with a vendetta against her former family’s happiness.  If it were just about me, I’d likely remain silent.  However, I believe I have a responsibility to the other people in exploitative and controlling relationships in the poly community, and society at large to stand with courage against the claim that what was done to me was Just Fine and I should STFU about it.  It seems likely to me that if every relationship a person has ended has ended under circumstances in which one or both parties have felt abused, exploited, gaslit, transgressed upon, and violated that perhaps it is not something that should go quietly into the darkness of Impolite Conversation.  It certainly isn’t what I look for in a leader, speaker, or advocate on relationships or their structure.

So we’ve covered how abuse and exploitation in plural relationships felt like falling asleep in the bathtub in the dark.  But what’s this nonsense about a map?

Looking back on everything I just wrote — the emotional process of dissecting my experiences, naming them, recalling them, reliving them — It’s like looking at a map of your own stumbling path through a dark forest.  When you’re in the forest, all you have is the territory.  Things are dark, frightening.  You misidentify threats.  You mistake one sound for another.  You talk to yourself, and double back on labyrinthine paths you’ve already traversed.  You try to pick out landmarks, and follow the sounds of water, walk in the direction the sun travels — all the things you’ve ever heard about getting out of a sticky situation.  And then you emerge, gasping.

You let the helicopters come.  You let EMTs cradle you in blankets and choke down energy bars, drink water like your life is ending.  You let your rescuers cradle you.  You let them be proud.  You feel and internalize their pride.  And then, later.  A cold, sobering moment.  Someone traces your path on a real map.  And you see every mis-step.  Every mistake.  Every landmark you should have seen.  Every sound you should have heard.  The stream you missed, the five mile detour in the wrong direction.  A narrow escape from a jutting cliff.  A rockslide you missed by an hour.  From here, the path looks easy.  You have the topography!  There’s the clear path, why didn’t I just take it?


But the map is not the territory.  And the territory can consume you.  The terrible thing about abuse and exploitation is you often can’t see it until you’ve fully extricated yourself.  This can take months.  Years.


This is my story, and I encourage you to share it.  I’m safe.  I am happy.  I have found myself.  And I will not be silent as the people who have hurt me claim ignorance of their actions, and position themselves to groom and harm others.

Abuse, Exploitation, and Narrative Control in Polyamory

Out Come the Wolves

In other g*dsdamn news, my former polycule continues to pressure the people they have bullied, manipulated, maligned, blamed, and harmed for a written account from at least on person directly affected by their actions. With the unspoken caveat that that person needs to be a moral exemplar of relationship health, or whatever.  Looks like it’s me, y’all.

“And this time I’ll defeat Walpurgisnacht once and for all. “

So.  I’ll be modifying the drafts I have so that they fully present the toxic and entitled campaign for control and exploitation run by the Fenzorselli household members this week.  I’m super looking forward to it, in that a root canal sounds better but my body won’t let me sleep like a normal human until it’s done.  I don’t know how else to honor the people far more hurt and far more violated than I can claim to be, except by being first, by making it okay, by exposure.

I will be sharing this on my own terms, which means comments will be disabled, screenshots of the specific request for me to share my experiences in detail have been collected, and I will be calling on the army at my back to signal boost every syllable.  If my account is going to leave me exposed, vulnerable, raw, hurt all over again, and face the kind of aggression, invective, victim-blaming, and dismissal I’ve seen thus far, I am going to make sure my entire social network will see it.  I will not be redacting names, and I will not be vague. I will not be kind or understanding.

And here is why: The response to “ouch” is not “no, because…,” or “Your feelings are liars.”
The response to being called to accountability for your actions is not to continue to masquerade as an authority or spokesperson for the values you yourselves have violated.
Arguing with survivors about the validity or details of their experiences is simply abuse apologetics.  Demanding that a survivor of abuse give every detail of their story is, for starters, damaging.  Secondly, unless you are specifically their mental/emotional health professional, you’re not actually equipped to help them troubleshoot their experiences in a responsible way.  Third, It is not necessary to know the exact details of someone’s report of abuse, exploitation, or assault to respond with a modicum of compassion.  Can you tell I cannot even?  Because folks.  I cannot even.

This is going to go poorly for me.  But I would rather see it go poorly for me than watch my silent sisters continue to be dishonored by this seething entitled bullsh*t toxicity.  I will not countenance it.  I will continue to protect them and their stories, but I know that continuing to shield myself is the wrong thing to do.

I am now calling for every supportive person in my life to rally around me.  Sh*t will be getting ugly this week.  Be my armor, loved ones.

Out come the wolves.

Out Come the Wolves

That Magic Moment…

When someone who was an instrumental but woefully blind part of building a culture around you that was hostile to consent, tore you down, engaged in months of willful microaggression, bullying, misdirection, and gaslighting publicly admits, “I was the one who did that, so stop holding my knowing, willing partner and accomplice accountable for the other things they’ve done!”  It’s like someone lit a fire in my heart, y’all.  If nothing else has come out of this sh*tstorm, it’s that I am now more convinced than ever that my final egress from that household was timely as F*CK.

I always suspected that it was a group effort.  It always felt like a group effort.  I never felt safe communicating my needs to any of my former polycule.  They were always met by uninvited sharing, or attempts to salvage relationships instead of, you know, the people in them.  Me, notably.  But others, as well.

What people don’t understand about #abuseinpoly is that it’s not an event, a lot of the time.  It’s a campaign.  It’s a campaign to gradually shift meaning and vocabulary for a person subtly over time, so that they will learn to accept they can’t make their own meaning, don’t trust their own instincts, won’t protect their own interests.  They’ll put “family first”. They’ll assimilate to the One True Path to loving more.

I’ve been asked to put some thoughts together about what, in my own experience, in retrospect, could serve as an early warning sign that one has entered a manipulative relationship dynamic, and how to test that hypothesis early enough that one can escape and avoid unnecessary harm.  I think a lot of it is related my recent talk on Carnalcopia regarding #boundaries but has some new content as well.  For example:

Here are some red flags, though this list is not exhaustive — I’m more spitballing:

If someone requires (not just requests, though requesting is just impolite) reasons you don’t desire them sexually;

If it is presented that there is only one correct path to the kind of relationship you’re in;

If shaming the uninitiated or differently minded is a habitual occurrence;

If disagreement is not tolerated;

If there is a power differential that is being wielded irresponsibly (this can be income/financial, experience in kink/alternative relationship structure, social connection, or other resources), and worse yet, if it is not being acknowledged;

If you suspect covert needs are operative;

If you keep being asked to re-define your terms be they boundaries or actual relationship vocabulary;

If your values are regularly interrogated;

If you are routinely shamed for your feelings;

If contact takes place at a frequency (high or low) that you’ve expressed is stressful for you, and your boundary is rejected as an affront to closeness or intimacy;

If the signal (actions, behavior) to noise (verbal/written message) ratio does not approach or approximate 1;

If someone habitually sets verbal goals for their relationship with you but does not develop or show interest in an actual plan for action;

If expressing harm, hurt, or damage is met with argument instead of problem-solving;

If you find yourself afraid, frequently, even when your partner or partners are not around, of judgment or recrimination;

If the exchange of emotional energy and unpaid emotional labor seems to consistently rest on your shoulders;

If there is regular misdirection of control (this can take many forms, and is its own post — disordered thinking with regard to food, finances, employment, resources, motivation, emotional state, or intellectual positions — these are all indicators that your para/metamours may not have the freedom to act autonomously and they may feel monitored, judged, or contingent on their abilities to meet expectations);

If you normally hold a neutral to high estimation of your worth, yet with New Partner/s, you feel you are not able to internalize their verbal expressions of love or admiration;

If doing things, discussing things, or having conflict are not taking place on shared and mutually agreed upon terms;

I could go on for days.  I missed so many signs along the way.  One of the things that’s so scary is that it doesn’t make sense when it’s happening.  You’re trained, along the way to simply adapt to fluctuating expectations and dogma.  You become accustomed to the idea that disappointing someone else is far, far worse than voicing your needs.  You realize, gradually, that your needs are irrelevant.  You find that voicing them is met with argumentation, rhetoric, dismissal, misdirection.  You begin to believe that you’re crazy and undeserving of real love or affection, because the Noise (verbal/written expression) so completely drowns out the Signal (action/behavior).

“This person values consent and reciprocity so vocally — what have I done not to deserve these things?”
“This person requires total and extemporaneous honesty of me, and won’t give me time to consider my feelings; but regularly hides things from me.”
“This person’s partner shares my communications with my partner, even when it does not serve our relationship to do so.”
“This person waits until I have consumed alcohol to bring up difficult topics or voice complaints.”
“I drink more than I usually do when I am with this person, and I don’t like how it makes me feel.”

My wake-up call was, “I dread seeing this person I love,” and “I want to flush my phone down the toilet.”
These road signs get lost in the lovebombing.  The regular verbal message about HOW IMPORTANT AND IRREPLACEABLE YOU ARE.  The naming of relationships to give them special, but imaginary status: Queer platonic primary partner, Emotional primary, Best Friend, Sister, Family.  Especially for people who have been denied love, or made to feel contingent in the past… it’s a siren song.  It works.  You go all in, chasing the signal through the noise, ignoring evidence, drowning out counter-narrative.

I want to show people how to see it.  How to stop.

That Magic Moment…

When it rains, it pours… marshmallows and fairy dust, apparently

A friend of a friend just asked me to collaborate on a Woodhull Alliance 2016 afternoon institute on manipulation and consent in alternative sexuality communities.  So right now I feel like freaking Kaname Madoka (pictured to the right).

Awh, Yiss, MAGICAL GIRL TIME!

As it turns out, I’ve been piecing together a lot of those thoughts for a good long while, and have some idea maps and talking points already laid out.  I’ll be meeting up with a few interested parties at Catalyst in March.  So that’s pretty exciting.  New friends and good conversation, plus an opportunity to act in one of my better roles — collaborator!

My work day is almost done, and it is almost the WEEKEND y’all!  I get to see the Frisky Fairy  for snacks and drinks on Sunday, since she’s in town for the Poly Living Conference, and I can’t wait to catch up with her gorgeous caboose!  I recently miiiiiiiight have encouraged her to shave parts of her head and I want to see what my word-hands hath wrought!  Plus, she’s great.  I am excite.

Otherwise, I have a quiet weekend ahead of me.  It should be grand.  I have some projects to wrap up, and some down time to catch with my Monster.  {{waves}} ❤

When it rains, it pours… marshmallows and fairy dust, apparently

How ‘Bout Food – Chicken & Forty-ish Cloves

It is Friday, y’all.  PRAISE DAGON.

It’s cold as R’lyeh’s Balls out there, and I am in the mood for some cozy time in the kitchen.  So perhaps it’s time for some Chicken & Forty Cloves.

ba-gok!

I love this recipe in a way that is deep and wide, mostly because the Maillard Reaction and garlic are on my top five favorite things list.  This is a staple for every paleo/ancestral template kitchen for a wide variety of non-woo reasons.  Firstly, it is easy and hella cheap to keep a few chickens in the freezer.  You can get split/eighth chickens pretty easily and they stack well in the freezer.  You can also use thighs or drumsticks, if you (like we) prefer the flavor and texture of dark meat.  A container of peeled garlic cloves is about $2 for a cubic noseload of delightful garlicky bon-bons.  Secondly, the bone broth you can make with the remains of this recipe is truly aces.  I usually serve this with potatoes and something delightful and green (tonight, it’ll be sauteed broccoli with harissa), but you can easily do double greens, cauliflower rice/mash, or sauteed carrots or beets.  I think tonight I might get fancy and make the gorgeous sweet potato and shallot roast that I usually save for special occasions.

Here’s how you do it:

Yield: 4 servings.

Some 3-4 pound collection of bone-in chicken parts, of your choosing.  I find that thighs are the most economical choice.
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons of ghee (or fat of your choice)
40 large garlic cloves (I often sneak some extras in, not gonna lie)
1/2 cup dry white wine (if you do not drink or keep alcohol in the house, you can use unsweetened white grape juice)
1/2 cup bone broth (or canned/boxed stock, if you don’t have any bone broth on hand)

Tools required: A good dutch oven (Mine is a Lodge ceramic coated cast iron), a nice sturdy wooden spoon

1. An hour or so before you’re due to start working, take the chicken out of the fridge, and let it rise in temperature.  If you like, you can start to peel your garlic cloves while this happens, and set up a pretty mise en place.  Take a picture.  Blog that ish.  Make it pretty.  Have a glass of wine or a cup of tea while you do this.  Talk to a lover or friend, or listen to some music.

2.  Sprinkle salt and pepper (I also sometimes add Harissa, Garam Masala, or Berbere, if I’m bored) to generously coat the skin of the chicken parts. Put your ghee/other fat into your dutch oven and bring it to the point where it is hot, but not smoking.  A good test is to flick a bit of water at the pan — if it spits, it’s ready. Add chicken skin side down and let it sizzle without f*cking with it for about 5 minutes, then turn and repeat.  It should be a nice, even golden brown with some crispy browner bits along the edges.  You don’t want to scorch it, so make sure you’re monitoring the heat and adjusting to what the fats you’ve chosen need from you.

3. Lower heat to medium. Remove the chicken parts and place them in a bowl or on a plate.  Put your garlic cloves in the pan, and saute stirring frequently.  When the garlic is uniformly light brown in color and starting to get a little translucent (10 or 11 minutes), add the wine/juice and your bone broth/stock.  Scrape the crispy sticky bits off the bottom of the pan with a nice sturdy wooden implement to deglaze.

4. Put the chicken parts back in the dutch oven, on top of the garlic cloves.  Cover that ish, and cook for about 10-15 more minutes over medium heat.  I trust y’all know when chicken is done cooking — juices from a thick thigh or breast should run clear.

How ‘Bout Food – Chicken & Forty-ish Cloves

Points of Order Plus Beeeees.

So it appears some work that I’ve done has been undone, without my permission.

I see I have some new readers (Hello, I’m so sorry for the circumstances under which you arrived here), and it appears that while normally, I would introduce myself, that work has been done for me.

Which is a shame.  The reason I didn’t ever link my true identity with this blog was, in part, to shield the identities of my former polycule so that I could speak freely about my experiences knowing I wasn’t exposing them to judgment or stigma.  That work is undone, and for at least some of you my identity and real name are known; as are theirs.  It gives me sorrow to know that you were placed in that position socially, and I will do my best to make sure that I’m available for any questions you might have.  Just click the “comment” button, and you can reach me.  No comments are publicly posted without my approval, so you’ll always reach me first.  If you have a question that I can comment on publicly that serves the community here, great!  If our conversation would be better for a private venue, I’ll make that happen for you.  I’m a very strict comment moderator, as even several friends will attest, because it’s important to me that this is space that I control, and that my voice prevails here.  My writing will not change to accommodate your presence or their invective; this is me pulling the veil back over their identities and names.  You will not read those names here.  You may stay or go, as you please knowing you are welcome in either case.

For the rest of you who have been my readers all along: Dudes, What in the Actual. Yesterday was a day.

We got some bees, y’all.

I’ve made it my policy since June of last year to make sure that I avoid the mistakes I saw (and sometimes participated in, when I was still voluntarily involved) in my former relationships.  I think that part of building a robust culture of consent means drilling all the way down to even our most basic social interactions.  I’ve been known to start asking things like, “Hey, so what’s your bandwidth for [emotion/content] right now on a 1 to 10?”  This is partially because I personally struggle with bandwidth.  I am in the middle of a career change, I’m suddenly the sole breadwinner for a household of 2.5 (Huginn and Muninn are essentially .25 of a person each budget wise between food, insurance, litter, and occasional veterinary/preventative care), and legit, I am home for maybe two or three hours a day before I have to be in bed for the night Monday through Friday, unless I have a show which nearly always involves a whole lot of caffeine and adrenaline.  So my in-person social life is pretty darn limited — and one on one social interaction is part of my recharge strategy!  So, there are days when I’m like oh man, I so want to be there for you about your joy/grief/anger/excitement and externally, there is no reason that you’d guess that I’m /falling asleep on the train/ or /thinking about throwing the dishes away instead of washing them because I can no longer adult/.  I think asking people where they are on a given day or social situation is important.  This is especially true of uncomfortable situations and situations with competing narratives or emotional discord.
Not everyone has the f*cking time for that.  Inundating people non-voluntarily with negative content is shitty and invasive. It has the capacity to draw people into conflict and hoover them into taking sides, without asking them if they’re prepared for that.  That’s why I’ve very nearly always kept this blog and my social media separate, until yesterday, and will try to maintain that separation in my own writing, even if others will not.  And honestly, if my experience is any sort of indicator, even people who ask don’t always actually want to know the answer to “Hey so whatever happened with you and wossname?”  A lot of people really love the ability to claim and enact neutrality.  It means you can still go to parties and reap the benefits of a myriad of relationships without having to fret over ethical quagmires or providing the kind of support that either someone who victimizes or someone who was victimized needs to thrive.  I think some of this, as I mentioned on Carnalcopia last week, is that we are often taught and internalize the idea that relationships are intrinsically valuable and worthy of preservation, regardless of their content or their service to us — a notion I’ve been known to label as, you know, false.  But I think the other part of it is that not everyone is socially positioned to abandon a support system, even if that support system is shitty and exploitative, or even toxic.  It’s important to me to give people the freedom to choose the relationships they desire — even if those choices are choices with which I strongly disagree.
With all of that in mind, I decided a while back that I wouldn’t share my full narrative of Galactic Collision 2014 with anyone unless they directly asked me, and expressed sound reasons for desiring I share it.  I stand by that decision.  The stockpile of emails, screenshots, text and Facebook messages are not a part of the narrative I share; they are a precaution in the event I need to go to the police — something I know better than to rule out entirely.  My writing here has always been oblique, and ultimately, is writing for the joy of writing. We write our lives, and sometimes, my life is full of cats and joy, and sometimes it’s full of emails from friends being like, “dude, get a load of [screenshot].”

Which brings me to Maleficent.

In a moment of gobsmack,  I selected her as a representation of myself.  Here’s the thing y’all: I am here to tell my story; because for a time long enough that I’m ashamed of it, my story was co-opted and perverted.  I allowed my own narrative, in which I am the autonomous main character, to be manipulated by others.  I saw that my silence only served to amplify this narrative-not-of-my-choosing.  As I wrote, I regained My Self.  I remembered that I am still Queen Lucy, Mina Harker, Lyra Silvertongue;

Courage, dear Heart.

and that my life and love are my own, freely given from a place of abundance and joy.  I remembered that I am wise, see clearly, and judge well.  I remembered that I deserve space as a flawed, limited, beautiful human.  I remembered that the one person I cannot afford to lose is myself, and I very nearly did.  I remembered that harm comes in all kinds of forms.  I remembered that being loved well by worthy people is not contingent upon my willingness to obey them.  I remembered that I was once wary of people who, in adversity and frustration, seek to control others, and should remain so.   I remembered that you learn a great deal about a person when you have to tell them “No.” And I had to make amends with people I hurt, badly, in order to abide in that habitat I had lost and regained.  I had not only to speak my truth, but listen to theirs, make judgments, take risks, and attend.  Just as Maleficent had to abide in her anger, loved in spite of it, and regained the power she had lost at the hands of those who desired to limit and control her, I found myself changing my mind, changing my heart, truly listening, and firm in my voice.  These choices are, perhaps, selfish ones, and thus, are bound not to please everyone.

But then, I’m not here for everyone.  I’m here for my wings.

Points of Order Plus Beeeees.