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» Scarleteen Boards: 2000 - 2014 (Archive) » SCARLETEEN CENTRAL » Sexual Ethics and Politics » Privilege and intimate relationships

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Author Topic: Privilege and intimate relationships
kitkatbits
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Hi everyone. I brought up on the Scarleteen Facebook page a question that I just wanted to import here.

What are your thoughts on the dynamics of being involved with someone who is more privileged than you?

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Heather
Executive Director & Founder
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Which was a great one!

We also added a poll to try and build off such a great topic here: http://www.scarleteen.com/node/4356

(Didn't realize that was you, kitkabits! [Smile] )

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
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Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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Heather
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Hey, you also brought up something in your last post in that topic on FB that I wanted to ask about here, rather than bog down the conversation there.

Now, this may just be my brain not turning the right cogs in the wheels due to a need for coffee, but I'm curious about what you mean when you talking about a partner you're with having privilege because they're monogamous and you're not.

In other words, if you're poly/open in a relationship with them, then the relationship can't BE monogamous. In other words, I'm not sure I understand how in a given relationship, the people in it can have different types of status per relationship models. I mean, when I'm in a relationship with someone where it's open for anyone, I figure it's an open relationship (for everyone, whether or not everyone chooses to have additional partners), since we can't figure a relationship is monogamous if everyone in it isn't.

Fill me in? I'm feeling like I'm probably missing something in a very silly way.

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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kitkatbits
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What I meant there was that being monogamous is certainly being privileged. Also, my partner is only able to love one person and I am able to love many people.
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Heather
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I agree, but isn't that more a the-privilege-of-this-couple versus the privilege of a couple/triad or other group that's open or poly? Or between individuals who are monogamous (obvs. not w/you if you're their partner are are open/poly) and those who are not?

Again, if we were talking about privilege within your relationship with your partner, and you're poly -- not in a monogamous relationship with her -- then she isn't in a monogamous relationship to get privilege from.

And with your last sentence, I assume you mean romantically, not just period (as in, your partner loves only you and no one else in hir life)?

I'm sorry if it seems like I'm being daft or obtuse, I'm just really not getting something around this when we're only talking about people we are in romantic/sexual relationship with.

(Unless "involved with" means outside that sphere, in which case what I'm asking about is totally moot.)

[ 08-19-2011, 04:28 PM: Message edited by: Heather ]

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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kitkatbits
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Well, I meant
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kitkatbits
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Well, I meant as per individual relationship orientations not whole relationships. I don't relate to the "whole relationship is X' view.
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Heather
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I don't want to derail your whole topic with this, so I'll just let this go after this post unless you want to keep talking about it.

I think the trouble with that is that that way of viewing relationships stands totally counter to how we use those terms in healthcare and when working with relationships as people who...well, work in them. In other words, if and when someone comes to a clinic and says they're in a monogamous relationship, that means -- or is taken to mean -- that BOTH they and their partner are monogamous. On the other hand, if they just say they are monogamous, without saying the other person is, we figure they are, but the relationship they are in is NOT monogamous, because for a relationship to be so -- rather than an individual -- everyone in it needs to be so.

I think it's also tricky to define relationship models as orientations, since people aren't just mono or poly, and what someone is in that regard tends to often be situational, based on a given relationship, since there's more than one person it in. What's a person's "relationship orientation," (I put that in quotes only because it's not a phrase I've heard anyone else use before) who was in three monogamous relationships, two poly relationships, and one open relationship? See what I mean?

The problem here strikes me as a similar problem with terms like "homosexual sex," which is often used to talk about sex had by people who are same-sex, but where one or both of them might not be homosexual at all.

But like I said, I so didn't mean to derail right from the gate, and I apologize for that. I think it's clear the issue is just that you're using these terms in unusual ways that stand counter to the ways they're usually used. (Which obviously is totally okay, just an issue at an org that works with things like sexual health where the meaning is different, and thus, my up-tripping.)

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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eryn_smiles
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I think this is a really interesting question. For me, one of the hardest issues would be when I date a white person. I agree with what Heather mentioned in the facebook thread about it being easier when the person is aware of their privilege and is sensitive around that. I felt that the particular person I dated didn't want to acknowledge her privilege and was putting down my culture in its approach to women and LGBT people. In the end, she might as well have been putting me down and I didn't even want a relationship- because that kind of attitude is also the biggest sexual turn off for me.

Regarding times when I've had more privilege than the other person, the most obvious one would be economic, due to my job. Sometimes I'm not very aware of that and it can be awkward.

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"Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation and that is an act of political warfare."

Audre Lorde

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treetops
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Yeah, this was a great question. For me, the top one was gender-based privilege, closely followed by ability-based. There have also been times when I've been more privileged than my partner in other areas, such as economic.
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JacquelineNV
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It can certainly be strange, and difficult if (as I have experienced), one or all partners don't really know how to address it or make acknowledging privilege/lack thereof part of everyday life.

I haven't been in relationships where there was a huge, glaring power differential, but whenever I start seeing someone new I have to navigate a) how to disclose that I have a mental illness and b) how to work around the ways that it puts me at a disadvantage in a relationship. Some folks have been very accepting and others have really just pushed it aside. I think it also helps for me to think about exactly what I need from my partner in terms of acknowledgement and accommodation, and ask for that up front. (Not that that's an easy thing to do, by any means!)

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thumb tack
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In all of the relationships I have been in, I have been in a position of priviledge because of my race (I'm white, none of my partners have been). But I have also always not had priviledge because of my gender (I'm a woman, they were men).

This worked in strange ways. For example, my current boyfriend looks like he is Aboriginal, and has been the target of some racism because it it. But then, when we would go out together and cross Aboriginal people, some of them almost always congratulated my boyfriend on being with a white girls. As if dating me was some kind of status enhancing achievement, and I was some kind of status enhancing object. Like I was something to be 'had'...

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