On flibanserin: The story of how low desire is stigmatized.

The FDA has approved drug flibanserin for use combating women’s low sex drive. At first, this seems almost like a victory for women’s sexual health. After all, Viagra and drugs like it have been around for a long time. However, there have been serious concerns raised by the drug across the board.

The first glaring issue lies with the name that has been ascribed to it. “Female Viagra.” Flibanserin does not do what Viagra does for men. Viagra lets you get your dick hard. Flibanserin is actually an anti-depressant that is designed to treat women’s brains in order to help them enjoy sex. Specifically, it treats hypoactive sexual desire disorder (HSDD), also referred to as inhibited sexual desire (ISD). And honestly, I have to wonder why they did not go ahead and create a drug that has a more immediate sexual effect. Maybe something to help women who have gone through menopause to self-lubricate, for example?

But the real problem for me lies in the diagnosis of HSDD in itself. Millions of women are diagnosed with it every year in this country. HSDD is defined by the University of Maryland Medical Center as:

…a low level of sexual interest. A person with ISD will not start, or respond to their partner’s desire for, sexual activity.

ISD can be primary (in which the person has never felt much sexual desire or interest), or secondary (in which the person used to feel sexual desire, but no longer does).

ISD can also relate to the partner (the person with ISD is interested in other people, but not his or her partner), or it can be general ( the person with ISD isn’t sexually interested in anyone). In the extreme form of sexual aversion, the person not only lacks sexual desire, but may find sex repulsive.

So I have a problem with this on a couple of levels.

First of all, if someone has a low level of sexual desire, it’s not necessarily a problem that needs to be fixed. Just like some people sweat more than others or don’t like loud music in the mornings, some people just aren’t focused on or interested in sexual activity.

The fact that HSDD is included in the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorder) stigmatizes low sex drive and makes it seem as though people who don’t want to have as much sex as others are somehow dysfunctional. They’re not. And treating them as if they are perpetuates the myth of their stigma in their intimate sexual relationships and can lead to all kinds of issues inter-personally as well as within themselves.

Honestly, it seems to me that, by stigmatizing low sex drive, we are making it so that people perceive themselves as somehow not good enough for their partners, which leads to them seeking psychological help rather than accepting that they might not necessarily ever have a high sex drive and looking for a partner who doesn’t demand copious amounts of sex from them.

The cherry on top of this suck sunday? The side effects. Viagra’s side effects are, for the most part fairly minor, including such things as dizziness, headache, flushing, or stomach upset, the side-effects of flibanserin include low blood pressure, nausea, and fainting. And, unlike Viagra, which is taken only when needed, flibanserin is, at it’s root, an anti-depressant and must be taken daily.

So thanks, FDA, for pretending that you actually give a fuck about research into the sexual health of women. It’s clear that you don’t. I hope that no one takes this drug and it winds up banished to the annuls of history like the shitty, exploitative, damaging product that it truly is.

On the Revisiting of Feelings

Every once in a while, someone from my past will creep up into my mind and I will find myself scouring the internet for references to them.

Where are you working now?

Who are you loving?

The question that I always want to answer is a simple one.

Did I matter?

I find myself poring over the faces of people they have chosen in the years intervening. In the parenthetical space between knowing and unknowing. In the time it takes for a person to become emotional research rather than emotional expenditure.

There is a dusty old feeling to this motion. This knee jerk response. Something in my emotional DNA. Like whales migrating, I walk the pattern that is the cyclical absence and return of thoughts and feelings.

You come to mind.

I Google you.

I look at old pictures that show up. Sometimes I’m in them. I reflect on whatever masochism drew me to do this to myself.

I think about who I was when I was with you. I wonder who the people you are surrounded by are. What they are like. I wonder about the person you are loving the most. How they shift and change themselves to fit into the nooks and crannies of you that always need filling. How they pour themselves over the mold made of your flaws.

Do they thrill you?

Are you happy?

I worry my old loves like old wounds. Bruises that never get the chance to heal because of continual pressure. Blood that never dissipates. Scars that never lose their angry redness.

After I have looked at the last public picture. Perused the last blog entry or Facebook status, I sit back. I log out. And I let you fade.

Sometimes that makes the bruises look less angry. Sometimes the opening of old wounds relieves the tension.

Sometimes it doesn’t.

My questions never get answered, no matter the case. I want to know if I mattered. And I know it’s irrelevant. I know that, in the years that have passed between the first uttering of that question and this last riotous uprising, all the weight of whether I mattered has gone out of the question.

But I want to know.

So, when the mood strikes, I Google you. I search. And I find. And I wonder.

The Dissolution of Fear Itself

It eats at me
a gnawing thing
burrowing deep, it
settles into muscles
and organs.

I breathe it
into sentences
with you.

As I reveal it,
I feel it
Teeth and jaws
into bones
and sinew.

I’m fearlessly reborn.

Featured image from the Sleep of the Beloved series by Paul Schneggenburger.

White Feminism

Why We Need To Talk About White Feminism“The best thing any white feminist can do is educate herself, and listen and engage with the experiences of women of color without silencing them.”

Posted by HuffPost Women on Monday, August 10, 2015

This video was posted by HuffPost Women on last week. Since then, it has been shared over 9,000 times. It has popped up in my social media feed a whole lot and I’ve been tempted to share it each time. But I haven’t. Mostly because I feel like I need to do more than just share this video.

One of the things they say in the video is that being a white feminist does not mean that you are a bad person, it just means that you have a lot to learn. And that is very true. As a white woman and a feminist, I fell into the trap of white feminism early and often.

I can still remember some of my earliest failures as a feminist. In undergrad during one of my many women’s studies, I was chatting with a group of my fellow students on a break. We were talking about the beginnings of feminism and the roots of the movement. I quoted verbatim from a book that I had read about how the feminist movement began when women started to move out of the home and to take jobs in public space.

31 year old me looks back at that me and just puts her face in her hands. Because wow.

So I spout that to the people I’m with and a girl from my class says to me “But women of color were already working outside the home. In fact, a lot of them were balancing work and home life. What did feminism do for those women?”

I don’t even remember her name, but holy shit did I need that truth bomb dropped on me.

I stammered a lot and admitted that I hadn’t really thought of that. And that I clearly needed to. She recommended some books and articles that I should read and basically told me that I needed to shift my way of looking at things to include women of color when I talked about feminism.

She was so right.

The thing is, I’m sure that I had said white feministy stuff before that. And I’m sure I had done it in company. The people I was with just didn’t call me on it for whatever reason. I am so grateful to her for calling me out. For putting me on the spot. And I’m glad that, when she did, I was in a position to really hear her and process what she was saying rather than getting defensive.

Being called out is hard. And this isn’t the only time that it has happened to me, just my most vivid memory of it. I was embarrassed. And a little ashamed of myself. And honestly there was a spark of anger there at her calling me out. Because being called out is hard. Being wrong is hard. And being told that you are wrong in front of other people is embarrassing.

The fact of the matter is that it’s important that we allow people to tell us when we are wrong. And that we admit to ourselves and to the people around us that we don’t know everything. I’ve realized as I’ve gotten older how important it is to reveal our flaws and mistakes and pitfalls to the people around us. It lets other people know that they are not alone in not being perfect. It is deliriously easy to act as though we are somehow perfect. To present a face to the world that is blemish free. To edit our speech so that it is free from grammatical errors. But the projection of those things harms us. It makes us hold ourselves up to a standard of perfection to which we cannot possibly adhere. And it harms the people around us by making them think that, when they fall short, they should never admit it.

All of that is to say that I am far from a perfect feminist person. I have been guilty of white feminism. I have even been guilty of TERF-dom. These are not things that I am proud of. But they are things that, with time and education and good people calling me out, I have very much moved past. And if I don’t admit that to the world, then everyone who is guilty of those things will only ever see me as a person who does not make those mistakes. If I do not have empathy for people who are in the same position that I was in when I first started learning about feminism and social justice, then how can I expect them to listen to me?

So I say this to those of you out there who may be struggling with being called out and all the things that brings up for you: No one pops out of the womb full of perfect knowledge of how to walk the world. We are all walking and growing together. It’s OK to fuck up.

It’s how you learn.

Wheaton’s Law: Dog Edition

Up until recently, I never really had a dog of my own. My dad trained dogs with the K-9 unit for the Philadelphia Police Department, so all of the dogs that I had growing up were police dogs. As such, they were city property and had to be handled with that in mind. They did not come on vacations with us. They did not sleep in our beds. They were lovely animals and good pets, but there were a lot of things that we were not allowed to do with them as a result of their role as my father’s partners first and foremost.

When we adopted Xena, I had no idea how much I would learn about dog ownership. I have learned a lot about training. About the bond. About how fucking strange my dog is.

But one thing that I keep realizing over and over again is just how much people don’t know about how to properly interact with dogs. So here’s my “Don’t Be A Dick” list for dog owners and dog fans.

Let’s start with my rules for dog fans who are not dog owners.

Rule #1: Ask permission.

This one may seem super simple, but I can’t tell you how many times someone has just walked up to my dog and started petting her without permission. And Xena is OK most of the time, but sometimes she just isn’t feeling human interaction that day and tries to merge with my legs. Sometimes the people making these advances are kids, which can be problematic considering that Xena has not been socialized with children extensively. Which brings me to the second rule!

Rule #2: Use your eyes.

A lot of dogs will send pretty clear signals when they don’t want to be touched or approached. Setting their ears back, hunching their shoulders, backing away, making themselves small, tucking their tail between their legs. Learn to read body language.

There are also signals that humans can send on behalf of their dogs. If you see a dog wearing a service vest, for example, that dog is not meant to be petted. That dog is working. Likewise dogs that are in service with a police officer. Additionally, dogs with yellow leashes or collars may be in need of space. As may dogs wearing muzzles.

Rule #3: Dog spaces are not human spaces.

Everyone loves the dog park. But it’s important to remember that the dog park is a place for dogs to be dogs. If you don’t have a dog, many of these spaces ask that you keep yourself out of them for a number of reasons, first among which is usually liability. One thing that most dog parks agree on is that children under a certain age (usually 12 or so) should not be allowed in dog parks. A lot of dogs are not necessarily child friendly and children can get hurt easily by simply being knocked over by a running dog.

Rule #4: Dogs are not toys.

As much as you love them, dogs are not toys made to entertain you. If an owner asks that you not pet their dog, that is well within their rights. Also, every dog on the street does not need your attention.

Rule #5: Respect the rules of the dog owner.

If a dog jumps up on you when you go to pet it, I know the instinctive reaction is to tell the owner “it’s fine” while they try to get the dog to get off of you, but if the owner reacts negatively to a dog’s behavior, it’s best that you not reinforce the negative behavior. Whether it’s not feeding dogs treats at the table, not petting dogs when they are working, or keeping dogs off the furniture, you are not the person who is most impacted by the decision to let the dog bend the rules: the owner is. So when a dog jumps up on you and the owner says “no!” the appropriate response is for you to go along with the owner and say “no!” too.

With those rules laid out, here’s my list of rules for dog owners.

Rule #1: Leave the leash on.

I cannot tell you how many times I have walked down the street in Philadelphia and run across dog owners with their dogs off leash. When you confront them about it, you will inevitably hear the same song and dance about how their dog is “fine” and they’re just out “for a second” and on and on and on. Let’s get real here, no one cares if your dog is “fine.” A lot of other dogs aren’t “fine,” for one thing. And being a dog on a leash while another dog is free to roam around can trigger aggression in the leashed dog who feels as though they can’t escape should they need to. Dog leashes are mandatory in places all over the world for good reason. They protect dogs and their owners and bystanders from the myriad things that can go wrong when dogs are allowed to wander freely.

For my part, it always freaks me out when dogs are allowed off leash. As an owner of a Staffordshire Terrier mix, the fact of the matter is that, should another dog attack my dog, prejudice regarding Xena’s breed could lead to her being put down. And that scares the hell out of me.

So yea, leash your fucking dog.

Rule #2: If your dog hates the dog park, don’t bring them there.

Related to the rule above about dog spaces being for dogs and not humans, this rule pertains to the people I have run into at the dog park who simply do not care that their dogs hate it there. They come for themselves and their dogs spend the entire time running around with their tails between their legs and begging to leave.

If your dog hates the dog park, don’t bring them. If you want to watch all the pretty dogs run around, go there by yourself and peer over the fence and enjoy the view. But don’t stress your dog out just so you can spend time in the dog park. It’s a seriously dick move.

Rule #3: Learn your dog’s body language.

I can’t stress enough how important this is. Your dog can’t talk to you. The way that your dog communicates with you is through their body. Even a basic understanding of your dog’s body language can help you to meet their needs in a bunch of ways. One great example of this is when your dog is playing with other dogs. I know that Xena is a loud dog when she plays. She barks and play bows and barks some more to signal that she is having fun. Her tail may not always wag, but as long as her ears are up and her hackles down, I know that she is in good shape. As soon as her ears go back I know it’s time for her to take a break. If her hackles come up, doubly so. Knowing those things helps me to ensure that she and other dogs have a good time when they play and that neither dog gets stressed out.

Rule #4: Train your dog.

Look, I know we’re all busy. But if you get a dog, you have to be willing to put in work on the basics at the very least. Sit, stay, come, no, down, heel, and leave it are all really good basic commands that will help your dog interact with the world effectively.

Remember, the only thing your dog wants is to know that they are doing what they need to do. They want a place in the pack. And they need you to make sure that they are safe and secure while they fulfill that role for you. So do yourself and your dog and the rest of us a favor and give them the training they crave so that they can be happy and well-behaved dogs.

Love in a Time of Bleeding

I think I must be lucky
as you lay me down
blankets soft and warm
eyes heavy.
Our dog breathing in
the space between us.
I will not feel it
when you come to bed
hours later, or minutes,
I’m never sure.
But I will wake
in the night
and you will be there,
as you always are.
Soft and warm
hands reaching out for me.

I think I must be lucky
as you feed me.
Turning out healthy food
in our small kitchen.
Dragging me into a world
full of flavor.
Sometimes I want to buy you
a chef’s hat. And I know
that you would wear it
at an angle, jaunty,
dapper, as you feed me.
Feed my heart alongside
my stomach. Feed my joy.

I think I must be lucky
as you take my hand
beneath the din of the city
and lead me on adventures.
As we enter new dance floors
discover strangers and cocktails,
bar rooms and restaurants,
craft shows and wineries.
My gorgeous sojourner.
I see the eyes that
follow you, as I once
followed you. I smile
in the faces of those admirers.
They so wish they were me.
But I am me. And I know
I am lucky
every time you grace me
with your kisses
every time you show me
I am loved.
I know.

To Catch a Sociopath

I’ve resisted doing a couple of things in public for a while. The first of which is talking about my own struggles with emotionally abusive partners. And the second of which is being open in writing about my relationship with the leather community. I’m doing a little bit of both of those things here.

Of course, it takes seeing my friends dealing with a problem in order to spur me into action.

So there’s this guy, Wes Fenza. He runs a blog called Living Within Reason. I met him once, at a bar, back when I was in a terrible poly relationship that I’ll talk more about later. He struck me, at the time, as the type of guy who keeps a harem around him at all times in order to make himself look cool. Our only interaction occurred when he put his arm around me and I threatened to remove it.

Years later, it turns out that he dated a few someones that I now know. And that he’s way worse than just some guy who keeps a bunch of women around him. He fancies himself a leader within the poly community and gives classes and instruction on consent while acting in his personal relationships like your typically abusive narcissistic sociopath. Needless to say, I’ve had a problem with him as a person for a while, from afar.

On Friday he published a blog that I just couldn’t let slide, both from the perspective of a person involved in the leather community and from the perspective of a person who believes in consent in relationships. That said, I’m going to break down his arguments here to expose them for the serious problem that they are.

My friend Rose, writing at her brand new blog Our Better Natures, makes an excellent point about the use of rules in relationships:

For these types of situations, I think that an idea from the kink and power exchange community is useful.  For any healthy power exchange, even while playing with consensual nonconsent, there is an overarching level at which someone can always opt out.  I suggest that we look at all rules and agreements as a form of role playing in this vein.  With healthy power exchange, ideally, the power dynamics are explicitly negotiated with necessary safe words in place.  Rules and agreements need to be negotiated in much the same way.  Rules and agreements are their own type of role playing because we can never fully and truly give up our ability to make decisions, set boundaries, or leave the relationship and also still maintain healthy consent.  If we take the view on consent outlined above, then there truly can be no inherent level at which anyone owes anyone else intimacy or control over their choices and emotional states.

When Rose talks about “these types of situations,” she is talking about a situation in a poly relationship wherein a woman in a long term relationship with one person decides to have a child with another person. It’s a complex situation that you can read about at her blog, but it’s not the main thrust of this so I’m not going to try to explain it. Suffice it to say that Rose comes to this conclusion re: consent.

And I think her conclusions are valid. If I make an agreement with someone inside of a relationship, that agreement is only valid for as long as it exists between us. If we have a discussion and I decide to dissolve that agreement, we enter into a new phase of our relationship. It’s not that hard to figure out. The fact is that no human is static, and the things that we agree to this week or this month might be untenable at a later date for any number of reasons.

This is a great point, and I think consensual power exchange is a great lens through which to view rulemaking in relationships. I’ve written before about how rules are a way that we psychologically manipulate our future selves into making the correct choices when we don’t trust our future selves to do so.

And here’s the first moment when Wes loses me, in the first point that he makes by himself.

If you are making an agreement with another person that you do not think you can reasonably fulfill in the future, then why are you making it? The only way to honestly make a commitment to a rule or agreement with another person is to make it with the expectation that you can fulfill it. To use a BDSM example, I would never make an agreement with my partner to allow her to sleep with someone else. Because that is not a circumstance I could see myself continually agreeing to. But I will gladly abide by other rules in our relationship that I can see myself adhering to on a continuing basis, so I agree to them.

Agreeing to adhere to a rule that you have no intention of continuing to respect is not a precept of the BDSM lifestyle, and shouldn’t be a part of any type of adult consensual relationship.

When we involve another person in the rulemaking (that is, we make a promise or agreement to another person), we implicitly give them the authority to demand compliance with that promise. In essence, it’s a form of consensual power exchange whereby we voluntarily give up a bit of our freedom to another person or persons.

And here Wes misses the point again.

First of all, when you make an agreement with someone, you are giving them “the authority to demand compliance with that promise.” That’s not implicit. That’s explicit. That’s what a promise IS, at it’s very root. And again, if you can’t make that promise in a continuous and ongoing fashion and still be happy with your relationship with that person, you shouldn’t be making that promise. And if that promise is a cornerstone of your relationship with someone and you can’t see yourself sticking with it? You shouldn’t be in that relationship.

Moreover, making agreements with another person regarding the rules of a relationship shouldn’t be seen as giving up power and freedom to that person. That makes promises and agreements seem as though they are a burden. And most promises shouldn’t be. Most promises should be things that you freely give to another person in order to ensure their and your continued happiness.

People should not feel the need to yoke themselves into things that make them uncomfortable or unhappy. That said, if you feel as though you are losing some essential part of yourself or your freedom by making promises and agreements with your partner, then, again, maybe that person isn’t the person for you.

One of the most important concepts in any consensual power exchange relationship, be it a five-minute scene or a thirty-year relationship, is that consent must be ongoing and can be revoked at any time. This is an uncontroversial idea in BDSM communities, where the norm is to always have a safeword which will immediately end the scene as soon as any party want to opt out. In longer-term consensual power exchange relationships, all parties stress that the details of any power exchange agreement are entirely voluntary and open to revocation free from coercive pressure.

Yes. This is the the first thing that Wes has said that I have agreed with.

Relationship rules or agreements ought to be treated the same way. Ideally, all parties would be clear that anyone was free to unilaterally cancel any agreement at any time free from guilt, shame, or obligation.

And now he’s lost me again. So let’s talk about consent and safewords for a second here.

Consent and safewords are part of my relationship. I use them to make sure that boundaries are not crossed that would damage my trust in my partner or physically harm me. Using a safeword in the moment is not a condemnation of my partner, nor is it something for which they should feel guilty. It’s simply a signal that I have reached a point where I feel I have had enough and need to stop what I am doing.

The idea that you should be able to “unilaterally cancel any agreement at any time free from guilt, shame, or obligation” is, if you’ll pardon my coarse language, fucking sociopathic at it’s very core.

  1. Me safewording during a scene is not me cancelling my agreement. It is me holding my partner to the agreement that we both signed on for.
  2. While me safewording is not cancelling an agreement, my partner choosing to do something outside of what we have agreed on in the scene very much is cancelling our agreement. For example, if I say explicitly that I am not interested in a specific type of play and she does it anyway, she has broken our explicit agreement. And I have every right to be angry with her. And she should feel guilty and obligated to me to repair the damage that she has done, if possible.
  3. Just the idea that you should be able to break your promises without any consequences alone is dysfunctional in the extreme.

Looking back on what Mr. Fenza thinks is the premise for making promises, it is clear that he is looking for a way to back out of his agreements with his partners without being held to account for doing so. He is looking for this because, when he makes a promise to someone, he has no intention of continuing to consent to the promise he made in the future, he’s just trying to trick himself into maybe being a decent guy. Which is hard to do when you are clearly a manipulative cad.

I just said this, but I’m going to say it again for emphasis: Safewording and breaking your promises to another person are not the same fucking thing. Safewording is a way to make sure that both partners abide by what they have promised. And if you break your word to another person, they have a right to be upset with you.

Sadly, people often view terminating an agreement as a hostile act or a betrayal.

Because, very frequently, it is.

Look, people change. We all know that. And sometimes it is necessary for relationships to end. But Mr. Fenza is clearly looking for an out here for the fact that he makes a habit of making promises and agreements that he has very little expectation of keeping in the future.

While the BDSM community is nearly united in support of the idea that power exchange can be revoked without penalty, the poly community lags far behind on this idea. It is remarkably commonplace to see people pressured, shamed, and coerced into abiding by agreements that no longer work for them.

No one should have to be pressured, shamed, and coerced into abiding by agreements that no longer work for them. That is terrible. But, again, Mr. Fenza is clearly making agreements that he has no intention of abiding by in the future, and that in itself is more likely his problem, rather than simply growing into a different person for whom his previous obligations no longer make sense.

As I’ve written before, sometimes terminating an agreement can result in the other party ending the relationship, and that is to be expected. The same principle that says any party can terminate an agreement at any time also mandates that any party is free to end the relationship at any time. The same principle applies in all consensual power exchange relationships.

Of course you are free to end a relationship at any time. Duh. But you cannot expect that the other person(s) in that relationship are somehow magically going to be totally happy with you as a result. People are allowed their emotions. And if you have made promises to the people you are in relationships with, you can reasonably expect that they are going to be upset at the dissipation of those promises. And you have to deal with that fact.

So next time someone wishes to renegotiate or terminate an agreement, let’s take a lesson from the BDSM community and recognize that it is always their right to do so, and allow them a space free of shame, obligation, or guilt.

I want to know what this magical world of Fenza’s looks like wherein there is not shame, obligation, or guilt over terminating an agreement. We’ve already established that his safeword comparison is not valid. Because that’s holding someone to an agreement, not breaking one.

When you break a promise to someone or end a relationship, you may have obligations to them regardless of the dissolution of that promise or relationship. If you own property or have a child together, for instance. You may travel in the same social circles still. Or any other number of things. You can’t just dump your agreements with people and then move on with impunity and expect them not to hold you to the things that you said. Or to not be mad at or upset with you when you don’t.

Fenza’s whole blog entry reads like the desperate plea of a man who wants people to give him everything while he gives them nothing. And it’s couched in so much jargon and rhetoric that I didn’t even realize just how bad and troubling his ideas were until I read closely every line and saw clearly the sickening narcissism and self-involvement that it took to write it.

If you read more of his stuff, you can see more of the same. When you realize that this blog and these types of ideas are coming from someone that has had numerous people in the poly community here in Philadelphia come forward and report him for abuse, Wes becomes more than just a jerk with bad ideas. He becomes a dangerous jerk with bad ideas who is using feminist jargon and BDSM precepts incorrectly in order to cloak a seriously problematic core concept that holds the consent of his partners in contempt and allows him to raise up as some kind of virtue his inability to make a genuine promise and stick to it in his relationships.

His response to being called out on these things in the past has been shockingly tone deaf and manipulative, so I don’t doubt that I will hear from His Royal Highness at some point after this blog is published. Unlike many of his former partners, though, I don’t have any real reason to care about his feelings and I can’t be manipulated. That said, I promise to publish in full any response he gives me with all kinds of delightful commentary for you to enjoy.

I firmly believe that, if we do not expose the monsters in our midst, we are complicit in their monstrous acts.

On Cause Comparison and Cecil the Lion

I mostly haven’t chimed in on this issue online, but it’s starting to really get to me, so I need to say something about it.

After Cecil the Lion was illegally hunted and killed, the internet exploded with outrage. People (read: white people) have vocally and repeatedly voiced their opinions on their respective social media platforms as well as the Yelp page of the dentist who killed him. They have called for justice for Cecil. For the extradition of his killer. Some have even said that the man who killed him should be skinned and decapitated as Cecil was. Which is undoubtedly extreme, but lets you know just how passionately people feel about this lion and his death.

As a response, many social justice advocates have remarked upon the outrage expressed over Cecil’s death. Particularly pointing out that, when black people are killed in this country, the only outrage we seem to see is from other social justice advocates and the victim’s families. But when Cecil died, people who had never even heard of him before were flocking to the feet of the Zimbabwean government to offer support for the punishment of the persons responsible.

Without fail, comments that I have seen from my social justice oriented friends on this phenomenon have been met with all manner of protest and equivocation from white people. They have felt the need to justify their pain in the face of a dead lion. They have said that they have a right to be upset and on and on and on.

Let me say this right now: No one gives a fuck if you care about that lion. I care about that lion. You’re allowed to care about that lion.

What social justice advocates have been remarking upon, if you would just stop being a defensive asshole and listen for a second, is the fact that your feed is silent whenever a black man is murdered in cold blood by a police officer in this country. Or when a native woman dies in her jail cell. Or a toddler gets burned and disfigured during an unnecessary police raid.

No one wants to hear that you care about this thing or that thing. That you give money to the NAACP. That your best friend is a lion and you feel for his loss. Whatever bullshit excuse you want to give. Your equivocation and justification for your lack of compassion and outrage when it comes to the struggles faced by people of color in this country is such an old song and dance that we all know the words. We even have bingo cards dedicated to seeing how many of the usual talking points people hit during conversations about social justice.

Do us all a favor and think about what you are doing when you are called out on it. Surprise us all by doing the decent thing. Being called out is hard. I know it is. I’ve been called out a bunch of times during my time talking about these issues, and even before I started speaking out. It sucks. It’s embarrassing. You don’t want people to think you’re racist. Or that you don’t care. But you have to look at the way that your behavior might say both of those things to the people around you.

The proper response when someone tells you that your behavior is problematic or indicative of a deeper problem in society is not to get defensive and put your back up. It’s to listen. And to examine yourself and why you think what you think and post what you post. Maybe when you do that you will find that turning some of your anger for a lion you never met over to the cause effecting the lives of your fellow human beings is a bit more relevant and rewarding of an experience.