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.

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.

Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger

This week marks me getting back on the horse of working out, which is bringing up all kinds of awkward and icky feelings with regard to my body that I thought I should just go ahead and tackle out loud rather than internalizing.

I’ve always been bigger. I was smaller for a little while, when I did martial arts back before high school. I remember distinctly and adult telling me that I would “balloon” if I quit fighting. I laughed it off at the time. I was 13.

By the time I was 14 I was bigger than a lot of the other girls I knew. And I was super self-conscious about it. I ate too much and didn’t really move around a lot and I hated my body with all the vehemence of a teenager hating a thing. So that wasn’t super healthy.

Over the years I have gone through health binges in fits and starts. Nothing really worked too well for me. My biggest success was with Weight Watchers. I started doing that when I crested over the 200 pound mark. I dropped down to 168, which is the lowest I have been in my adult life. But I didn’t feel good. I was hungry all the time. And I didn’t get into the habit of adding workouts to my routine so I could eat more.

Eventually, I quit. And my body put all the weight back on in record time, with an extra ten pounds for good measure. Because insult and injury are good friends.

When Frankie and I got together, our first date was actually her helping me work out. We did all kinds of fun workouts in the park and I sweated and ached and it felt really good. As our relationship developed, I started eating healthier and craving healthier meals that she would make. I would work out in fits and starts, but I felt like I was making progress, albeit slowly, on feeling healthier and stronger.

When we moved in together, I joined the PSC gym near our apartment and started going 4 times a week. I found that, if I was going to a class, I could make myself go. Working out alone was a misery. But the classes at the gym were good and scheduled at a convenient time so that I could get off work and hit the gym on my way home to avoid procrastinating. I felt good. I felt like I was getting stronger and healthier with every passing week.

Then one day I went into the gym and picked up the class schedule for the next month and felt my heart sink. All of the 5:30 classes had been moved to 6:30 or 7. The only classes left at 5:30 were yoga (which is great, but not the kind of cardio and weight training I was after) and a class with an insane guy that made me feel like I was going to throw up and die on his floor. I was crushed. I know it doesn’t seem like much, but I was not capable of the type of motivation it would take to get me to the gym on time and put in a workout that would actually challenge me at that point.

I tried to stick with it. I went to the gym alone and tried to work out. I never felt as good or successful (or sore!) as I did when I was in a class. I tried waiting for the classes that were later in the day, but I would inevitably fail to get out of the house again once I was home with the dogs and in my comfy clothes.

So I fell off the wagon. As so many of us do.

Then I joined Sweat. And their classes have been great. And well scheduled. And for a while I was going every day. I felt better. I slept better. My skin cleared up. I even felt like less of a grumpy bear in the mornings. I swear, working out is like magic.

Of course, I fell off the wagon again. And now I’m getting back on.

It’s hard to keep doing this stuff. Even when it makes me feel really good. And I’ve tried talking to groups of people doing the same things, but I always find myself getting super defensive and upset when people try to have any type of dialogue with me about my weight or my health.

So I’m going to maybe write about this once a week here. Chronicle the things. Talk about what happens when I stop working out for whatever reason. Talk about when I’m successful. And just kind of feed this whole process into the ether of the internet in the hopes that it helps me and maybe some of you in our respective health journeys.

Social Justice Recharge

I have to take a day or two. This week has been overwhelming. Yet another person revealed to be killed needlessly by police. Yet another woman dying in police custody. The names are getting so plentiful that I can’t even keep track of them anymore. And Instagram is just banning anything woman-positive, it seems like. I don’t even know what to do or say about that. They have a serious problem. Top it all off with racist assholes saying shit about how #AllLivesMatter and I just can’t. I cannot. Anymore. With this shit.

So. I’m taking a break. And part of me feels guilty about doing that. Even though I know that self care is important. I feel like I’m leaving the field of battle, or something. So I thought this would be a good time to talk about activist burnout and what you can do to try to keep from getting to the point where I am right now. Because, you know, you should do as I say and not as I do. Because my habits aren’t exactly perfect.

1. Sleep. Seriously. I don’t care how much sleep is normal for you or how you do it, but getting enough rest is really important. I tend to be a dumb ass and play Bloodborne or watch TV until midnight, because reasons. But I really shouldn’t. I’m a much better person when I get a solid 7 or more hours of sleep in.

2. Eat well. Whatever that means for you. Fuel your body with the things you know it needs to make you feel good and energetic. For me, that’s a lot of veggies and making sure I eat breakfast (Which I still haven’t done, as I’m writing this. See? Terrible habits.). Remember that fueling your body also fuels your brain. And the happier your brain is, the more easily you can formulate arguments against people rampant ignorance regarding social justice issues.

3. Take time for yourself. Knit. Or crochet. Whatever. Watch TV. Do whatever it does that lets you settle your mind and get a sense of peace. Do this every day, if you can. Even if it’s just for 10 minutes. Maybe even try just meditating in silence, if that works for you. Centering yourself before you go into battle is important.

4. Move around a little. I don’t care if it’s just taking a walk around the block or doing a little dance at your computer. Move your body. Get your juices flowing. Turn on some music and dance a silly dance while you clean your house. Sitting hunched over your computer or holding yourself tense in hard conversations both lock you down in ways that you won’t even realize until after you move yourself around and shake yourself loose again.

5. Connect with other activists. I cannot stress this one enough. Having someone to bounce your ideas and thoughts and frustrations off of is really important. Having a safe space to ask questions and get feedback from people with a like mind and social stance to yours will invigorate and validate you.

6. Recognize when it is time to take a break. As much as I feel like a warrior abandoning her fellows on the field of battle today, I also acknowledge that I’m no help to anyone in my current state. I’m too reactionary. Too touchy. I won’t do any good as long as I’m like this. And the sooner that I pull away, the sooner I can recover and get back to it.

7. I also recommend, if you have any excess energy or time, funneling some of your energy into projects that feel entirely positive to you. I cross stitch and write pet poetry, for example. Both of these things are somewhat separate from the social justice sphere (Although my favorite cross stitching piece so far is one that says “Girls just wanna have fundamental human rights.”). Doing those things relaxes me and gives me something entirely positive to focus on and that has been really helpful for me.

I have to keep reminding myself as I focus on my own needs of Audre Lorde’s very wise words: “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence. It is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.” So care for yourselves, my lovelies. Because you are needed in the fight. And you are no good to yourself or those around you if you are not fit for battle.

Rocket Cat Cafe’s Nudity Nonchalance

On Friday a friend of mine was at the Rocket Cat Cafe down in Northern Liberties in Philadelphia. While she was there, she was accosted by local nudist Tom Dimitriou, also known as Tommy D Naked Man. Needless to say she was shocked by the appearance of a man’s naked genitals next to her face while he offered her a flier for the Philly Naked Bike Ride. She got up and gave the guy an earful. You can read her account of what happened in an article she wrote for The Frisky, but she also commented on Rocket Cat’s Yelp page about it.


The response of Rocket Cat owner Karen Breeze was to post this nonpology to their Facebook page.


The fact that Breeze tried to turn their “apology” into a message promoting the event that they think somehow excuses this behavior is the first really big problem with this message. The second problem is that the owner tries to make it sound as though PNBR’s body positivity movement is in any way helped by jumping people in their regular day with a naked person. Weird thing about people, they don’t like having unsolicited dick waved in their face when they are having coffee. It’s a consent thing.

Of course, eventually the Breeze reached out to the Philly Naked Bike Ride and asked them for their support. They sent the following:

11800481_10152871575931150_5446400251872957627_nI hate to tell Breeze this, but PNBR’s response does not really help her out at all. All it does is show that PNBR was not aware of the type of promotion that Tommy D was doing and that they would never have allowed that type of promotion to go on, had they known about it.

That doesn’t mean that Breeze is somehow off the hook. Or that she has the support of PNBR in any way. PNBR has flat out asked that Tommy D not be involved with any of their promotional affairs in future. That is likely because they recognize that Tommy D is not a good representative if you are trying to get people to like or feel comfortable around you as an organization.

It also doesn’t help the case of Breeze or Rocket Cat that she has gone through her pages and deleted all the negative comments associated with this incident. Or that she has blocked supporters of Sarah (such as yours truly) from commenting.

I have to say, Breeze made made a lot of mistakes in this whole debacle. Nonetheleast of which was the use of Tommy D as an advocate of body positivity.

Which brings me to my next point. I have met Tommy D before. At an event called the Erotic Literary Salon here in Philadelphia. Of course, when you have a sex positive event, you get all kinds coming out for it. And Tommy D was one of the people who came out that gave me the willies. He was too touchy. Too leery. And he talked constantly about what a thrill it was to be seen naked by people on the street. The whole thing made me really uncomfortable, so I avoided him. He really seemed to be communicating all the time that his true thrill in being seen naked was that other people would see it, whether or not they consented to seeing him naked was never discussed. Tommy D’s view on consent is pretty amazing, honestly. He said in an article in Philadelphia Magazine on Monday that:

“I had permission from the owner. I figured that’s good enough. This thing about consent is an affront to our civil liberties. If someone gives you permission to be naked at their venue, and you don’t like it, then leave.” Likewise, he brushed off concerns that children at the café saw him naked. “That business about nudity hurting children is a lot of baloney,” he said.

Now, I’ve been to clothing optional places before. They are usually very well sign posted as such to the people patronizing them. You don’t just walk into a place and get surprised by how naked everyone is. Sometimes you even have to sign a waiver. Like it or not, public nudity is illegal in most places. And just because a person who owns a venue tells you that you can be naked, that doesn’t mean that they have the legal right to.

After I read that, I sent the article to the Salon organizer with a note saying that she might be interested in Tommy D’s views of consent. Her response was to tell me that the story was a “slippery slope” because he “had consent” from Breeze to be there.

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Except the owner of an establishment cannot consent on behalf of her patrons. If she had put up signage, I would agree that she had the right to shuck off responsibility for people being upset. But she did not.

Her next point was that “people freak out when it comes to nudity” and that, if they don’t like it, they can remove themselves.

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But that isn’t really relevant here. Again, a store owner cannot consent on behalf of the people in her store to a thing. And taking responsibility for what you want to be exposed to is all well and good when you can predict what you are going to be exposed to. But spotting naked scrotum isn’t something you really expect at a coffee shop that isn’t located on a nudist resort.

And honestly, if this were any other type of behavior, I doubt that people would find it defensible. If Tommy D had entered the store and just wantonly started punching people, for example, no one would tell the patrons to “take responsibility for what they are exposed to” and “just leave.” So many of the people responding to this story are seeing what he did as some kind of act of sexual freedom and body positivity. But it’s not. As Sarah Gray said in her Frisky article:

An act isn’t “body positive” or “sex positive” just because you say so. In a country where a sexual assault happens every 107 seconds and 98% of rapists are never jailed, you don’t get to complain when women respond with alarm to a sudden scrotum in the face.

As if all of his behavior wasn’t gross enough, Tommy D also upped the ante yesterday. He found Sarah’s phone number, called her up, said “This is Tommy. Freedom will win.” and then hung up the phone. So, you know, add stalking and harassment to his list of attributes right after thinking that consent is just a thing that fucks with his ability to do whatever he wants. He totally deserves the defense of all of these people all over Rocket Cat’s page. Except not.

Pet Poetry

I have been writing a lot of things that are not this thing lately. And I feel kind of guilty about that.

Mostly what I’ve been doing is working on a new project over on Instagram. It’s called Pet Poetry and I’m pretty excited about it. I had been writing pet poems to myself for a while, but now I’ve got people submitting photos of their pets for me to write about. It’s super fun!

Here’s the installment from this morning:


The poem that accompanied it:

From time to time
the servants
bring me food.
They bedeck me in
flowers of unknown origin.
They bring me meat
hewn from the flesh of my enemies.

From time to time
I deign to let them
scratch me behind my
delicate ears.

It’s good to be the queen.

What’s crazy is that the photo from today was submitted by a person I don’t know at all. We weren’t connected on social media or through meatspace in any way before I created my new twitter account for this project. She found me through there, submitted a photo of her lovely Princess Yumi, and I wrote her a poem.

I feel like I might be on the cusp of something kind of big with this project. My friends are all raving about it. And I feel super good doing it, more importantly. I have 9 submissions in my que already, with 4 poems written for them.

I’m loving doing this. I hope it gets as big as people seem to think it will. I would love to make it into a book or something, when I have enough poems brought together.

Between the pet poetry thing and the gaming book I am working on, blogging has taken a back seat for the past week. Which I’m super bummed about. I have some drafts of blog entries and I promise to pump out more content this week, regardless of my poetry demands. I at least want to do a couple of things for Yeah, Write, which I have also been falling behind on.

Ah, the life of a budding writer. I feel like I’m too creative for my own good at this point. Like there aren’t enough hours in the day for me to get the writing done that I want to get done. Which is a weird thing to me. I’ve never been this productive before. Maybe I was just focusing my attention in the wrong directions, up until now.

So yea, this has been my most rambling blog entry ever? Sorry about that. I’ll get more on point soon. Promise.