Hey all. Some of you know that I was on Poly Weekly fairly recently, with the lovely Cunning Minx interviewing me about sex, disabilities and how people with disabilities/impairments can practice poly (and how to support poly partners). When trying to make this podcast more accessible, it was (understandably) requested that we provide a transcription for those Deaf and/or Hard of Hearing. With the volunteer work of Xochilt Campos Alamillo (who does transcriptions in English AND in Spanish. Contact her at xoch418 at hotmail dot com if you might need her professional services), I am happy to provide you with the transcript of this podcast below. Thank Minx for having me and Xochilt for the transcription!
Poly Weekly 409: Poly and Disabilities
Announcer: This is Polyamory Weekly. Tales from the front of responsible non-monogamy. From a pansexual, kink friendly point of view. A warning for our under eighteen listeners, this is an adult oriented podcast about really lascivious things, like communication, and honesty in relationships. If you are under eighteen and looking for upfront advice and answers to questions about sex, please visit scarleteen.com.
Cunning Minx: This is Polyamory Weekly, episode 409, for November 20th, 2014. Coming up on today’s show: Polyamory with Disabilities. That’s coming up on today’s show.
CM: Hey guys, we have an incredibly special guest for you today to talk about being polyamorous while some, or more, members of your family might have some level of disability. But just a few quick announcements before we dive into this fabulous chat with Shanna Katz. First of all…(drumroll)…Poly Weekly was listed by datingadvice.com as one of the best poly blogs of 2014! And can I just say how amazing it is that there is a list of best poly blogs in any sort. That they’re…I…I’m just so pleased that there are enough poly blogs around, that there is the possibility of doing a “best of” list. So, obviously, incredibly honored to be on this list. We actually haven’t’ gone after a lot of awards. In the early days of podcasting I would submit for the podcast awards and whatnot, but haven’t really done that too much lately. Very happy just, kind of, hanging out with you guys and, you know, not doing all the PR to get all the glamour and the awards and whatnot. But this was kind of awesome. (laughs). So there’s a link to datingadvice.com and…and the list of the best poly blogs of 2014. Which, by the way, if you’re looking for poly resources, it’s a great place to look. Love doing the podcast, but I know not everybody is a podcast listener. It’s a linear medium, and sometimes it’s just more helpful to have a blog archive that you can search through, instead for searching for keywords on a podcast. So I highly recommend you take a look at these. It includes some of the best poly bloggers out there. I absolutely agree with the list. So, take a look.
Next up, there was….a poly dating family app. Yes, that’s right. I was pleased when I found a link to an article about a polyamorous dating and relationship planning app. And part of it was like, oh no, I’m going to have to tell Lusty Guy that somebody, you know, beat us to the app. But that’s okay because we weren’t working on it. But then I looked at it and I admit, I had to cringe. This is just the most awful version of poly I can imagine. I mean, I get the idea. The idea…it’s called The Poly Life, and it’s for IOS, and it’s supposed to help poly families organize their lives and relationships. The first issue I have is the screen shot. And they have there, on the screen shot, a place for you to list your primary partners, and your secondary partners, and then there’s family, and other partners. So, there’s your obnoxious relationship hierarchy right there in the app. Just so everyone knows their place and no one is treated equally or fairly. So there’s that. You guys know how much I dislike a hierarchy. And it seems like most of the functionality is shared calendars, adding events, which can easily be done with Google Calendar, and shared to do lists, which can easily be done with Google Task List. And there’s also some other apps like, Remember the Milk, blah, blah, blah. That sort of thing. So…while I applaud the idea of a family app. I think this particular one just fails in every possible way. It says, from the article, while the calendar function in The Poly Life isn’t’ too different from any other shared calendar, the app has specific areas for partners to post the rules of their relationship. It seems like a simple function, but the developer has learned from poly families that managing three, four, five or more relationships at once can get tricky. The developer said, we created an agreement section in the app that’s unlike anything in the market. It allows users to select individuals to send agreements that can be edited instantaneously, with the other partners agreeing or disagreeing to the changes. There’s even a relationship manager in the app that differentiates a user’s partners based on the type of relationship. Sexual, emotional, and other ways that people are bonded. So you can just categorize your relationships. You know, just treat every partner like a life accessory. Oh, this one goes in the emotional box. Oh, this one goes in the sexual box. This one’s both. Hmmm. Well, I’ll put them in the secondary box, then, cause it’s not the person that I live with. But maybe the person I live with, we have a sexual relationship, but not much that’s emotional. What box should they go in? And, you know, we could always just share our relationship rules on the app, instead of actually, you know, being self confident individuals and having self-esteem, and communicating with our partners. As you can see, I don’t think very much of this app. I don’t think very much of the idea of written rules in relationships. In any case, because, as you know, I believe that…that most rules don’t serve the purpose that you think they will. I think most rules are made out of fear or insecurity and, therefore, don’t do what you think they’re going to do. They serve to break more people up by their infraction, because I’ve never yet known a relationship rule that wasn’t broken at some point, and then it’s a whole big drama deal. And I think it makes a lot more sense just to be self-confident and secure individuals and confess when you have fears and ask for what you want and use that to deal with the vagaries of relationships, rather than typing them with your thumbs into an app and sending them to someone to, you know, redline for you. Sorry, I just…I hate absolutely everything about this relationship app. And to be fair, it’s one of the challenges. When Lusty Guy and I were sitting down and saying, hey, what type of relationship app would we want to do? The thing is, all the things that apps do well are not the kind of things that are really helpful in a relationship app. Calendaring, sure. Birthdays, sure. You know, reminders, to do a present, sure. But again, Google Calendar does that just fine. You don’t need a separate app for that. Shared task lists. There are already many ways to do this. If it’s something that can be easily enumerated and shared, and people can check things off, that’s a great thing for an app. But those functions are already very well covered by other apps. What we think should be in a relationship app, and now I have charged Lusty Guy with spending more time on actually doing this. What we think….when we sat down to think about what makes for a healthy relationship in general, and for a poly relationship in particular, the things that have been notable in my healthiest relationships were basically constant verbal sources of appreciation. One of the things I love about what Lusty Guy and L do is, they’ll walk into a room and say, oh, did you do the dishes, love? Thank you so much. I appreciate that you did that. Or, oh, I’m sorry I forgot to do this. Would you mind doing this? And then, afterwards, thank you, I really appreciate that. Or, oh, you bough me ice cream when I was having a bad day, even though I didn’t ask you to. Thank you! I really appreciate that you did that. Oh, I didn’t notice, but yesterday you took out the recycling without being asked. Thank you, I really appreciate that. Oh, we had a really tough time last week, and our communication was down and everybody felt shitty. You know, I really appreciate how honest the communication was, even though it was really hard and we were saying things that were really hard to admit. Those are the kind of things that we don’t often appreciate in this society. Everything from, you know, chores to a thousand tiny kindnesses, to simply the fact that someone in the relationship owned their shit when it was hard. These are the things that we should be appreciating in whatever type of relationship you are. So we want to come up with a type of poly relationship app that actually helps your relationship. Where you do things like give each other points for doing awesome relationshipy things. Whether it is taking out the recycling, or volunteering to take care of the kid when they have a date. Or whether it was, you know, simply understanding, even though you were already really mad about something and having the patience to just, you know, be kind and say, I understand your intentions are good, even though I’m mad, I get it. Or, it could just be for great communication during a troubling time. When things are really tense, somebody being honest and saying what they think and owning their own shit. That is incredibly valuable and I think it would be great to have a way to give each other points and to win badges from doing all these thousand different kindnesses. I mean, it’s why…I know I’m probably one of the only ones, but I still use Foursquare, which has now changed to Swarm, because I like checking in. I like getting badges. I like getting the barista badge, and the world traveler badge when I check into a certain number of airports. Or the barista badge when I check into a certain number of coffee shops. Or the gym rat badge when I check into the gym a certain number of times. I like that external validation. And I think we can do that for each other and, whether an app would be useful for that, I don’t know, but it would certainly be more useful than this sad, little thing that is The Poly Life.
CM: On a much more positive note, we have a super special guest that I cannot believe we have not had on the podcast before she has been a tireless worker in terms of sex positivity and terms of sex worker’s rights, and in particular in terms of being poly with disabilities. So guys, I feel like I’m asking for a round of applause, even though you can’t actually applaud. Maybe if you’re listening at the gym or maybe while you’re washing dishes, or walking the dog, just applause. Let’s give a round of applause for the awesome Shanna Katz. (applause) I am absolutely thrilled to welcome to the Poly Weekly studios, also known as Skype, the most wonderful educator in the field of many things, including disabilities, Shanna Katz. Welcome to the podcast.
Shanna Katz: Thank you so much. Thanks for having me. I’m glad to be here.
CM: And you know, I’ve really been remiss. I don’t think we’ve ever actually had you on the show before, have we?
SK: No! This is my first time on your show. I’ve been on most of the big ones, but never you. And you have a special place in my heart, so I’m excited to be here.
CM: So we’re not popping your podcasting cherry, but we’re popping your Poly Weekly podcasting cherry. Whoop!
SK: Yes. Absolutely.
CM: So, for our fabulous listeners, who may not be familiar with your work, tell us a little bit about what you do.
SK: Well, I tell folks I’m a professional pervert. This is what I do with my life all the time, is talk about things like sex and disability. I have a Masters in Human Sexuality Education. So I do have a Masters of Sex. That is a thing. As well as I’m actually working on my PhD right now in social work. Specifically looking at sexuality and disability. You can actually do that, and they pay you to do it, which is pretty exciting. I have a couple of books out. There’s one on cunninglus called, Oral Sex That’ll Blow Her Mind. There is a lesbian sex positions book that’s actually called, Lesbian Sex Positions. And then, most recently, I published a women’s sexuality guide. And that is for women of all ages. Eighteen plus, of course, orientations, gender, presentations, experiences, types of relationships. And it really is…it’s kind of a choose your own adventure meets cosmo style guide with really accurate, fun, information and that’s called, Your Pleasure Map. So, I do a lot of things. I travel around the country. I do research on sex and disability. I…I’m kinky. My partner and I practice non-monogamy. Consensually. In a variety of different ways. And, as you may have seen before, I’m a lover of kitties, and I’ve got one in my lap right now.
CM: And I was just telling Shanna that having lost my kitty recently, and she popped on the video with two giant kitties in her lap. I’m like, oh no, I’m sad! But happy. So, we’re doing little kitty porn. Kitty, not kiddie, porn. And I’m like, scratch him for me. Scratch him!
SK: (laugh). Well, Jasper, Kinsey, and Kali all are loving being on the show vicariously. So…
CM: So Shanna, you know, we had a listener write in and ask about poly with disabilities and you were the first one to come to mind. And we’ve talked about disabilities on the show before and…but I don’t think we’ve actually dedicated an entire show to it. So, why don’t you tell our listeners a little bit about, you know, maybe, what’s the first main thing they need to know about a person with disabilities?
SK: Well, first of all is, people with disabilities make up a pretty large percentage of the population. The 2010 census had it at, I think, about 21.3 percent of people polled had disabilities. So that’s more than one fifth of people out there. And so I think a lot of times when we talk about disability, especially disability in relationships, disability and sex, people are like, oh well, the likelihood that I would ever have a partner with a disability is so low…it’s not! There’s more people with disabilities in the U.S. right now than identify as queer or as transgender. I mean, it’s a pretty large population. So the first thing is, we are amongst you.
SK: You have a pretty high likelihood of interacting with us, of flirting with us, of dating us, of fucking us….can I say fucking on your show? I didn’t ask about that. Is that okay? To swear?
CM: Yeah. You can swear away. Fuck yeah!
SK: Okay. I always forget. Depends on the show I’m on. Right, so we’re there. We’re…we have the diversity of sexualities of anyone else. And, you know, something that I think is really important is to put out there, is that you don’t necessarily know somebody has a disability when you’re hitting on them, when you’re flirting, either in person or online. Even when you’re on a date or having sex with them. Because some disabilities are very visible or obvious to us. Right? If we sees someone in a wheelchair, we make the assumption that they must have a disability, or why else would they be in a wheelchair? Similarly, if somebody has a support animal of any sort. Right? Whether it’s a guide dog, or a therapy animal, we make assumptions about that. But a significant portion of people with disabilities have what we call invisible, or less obvious disabilities, and that could be anything from chronic pain. So issues of things like fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, different types of arthritis, as well as stuff like, MS, traumatic brain injury. All of these things are a part of the disability world. Even things like severe anxiety can impact how we flirt with people, how we respond when people flirt with us and all of these things. So it’s really important to remember that just because somebody doesn’t have an obvious disability, you can’t, you know, checkmark in your book and be like, okay, that’s out of the way. I don’t even have to think about it. Because they might spend your entire date, or the entire night they spend at your house thinking, how can I come out to this person about my disability and my needs? And you’re already like, well, this isn’t important so we don’t need to have a conversation.
CM: Yeah. And I like that you pointed out all the different range of disabilities, cause I think when we say disability people think wheelchair or, you know, crutches. And there is quite a range. Now would you also include things like mental health issues? Somebody, for example, like with bipolar disorder? Which can be incredibly difficult to manage.
SK: Absolutely. So when we talk about disabilities. Not wa-…I’ll own my statement. When I talk about disabilities I recognize, you know, we have to include physical disabilities, which is generally what people think of. There’s intellectual and development disabilities, which are sometimes referred to as cognitive disabilities. There are learning disabilities. There are emotional disabilities. All of it relates back to this idea that disability is completely socially constructed. Right? There is nothing that is inherently a disability. We call it a disability cause it doesn’t meet societies expectations of ability that we accept. Right?
SK: So, the reason being in a wheelchair is a disability is because society expects people to walk with their legs and, therefore, stairs and curbs, and all of those things are part of society. If we lived in a society where wheelchairs were the expectation, it wouldn’t be a disability to be in a wheelchair. So I would argue that anything that goes outside of societal expectation of ability, which could include folks who identify as bipolar, folks who identify as schizophrenic. I mean, people who have borderline personality disorder. Even if you think about a learning disability people would be like, well, how does that relate to sex? Well if you’re in a relationship and I hand them a copy of your book or Opening Up and I say as a counselor, or sex coach, you know, read this before our next session. Not recognizing that somebody may be processing that very different than other people in that same relationship means that I need to take other things into context.
CM: You know what it sounds like is there is so much that we have to be aware of, potentially, that healthy people simply don’t think about. It would be hard to know where to start. So, I guess…I guess the next question is, how do you…if you start dating somebody who has some type of disability, how do you approach that? What’s the, you know, polite and considerate way to approach that?
SK: So, interestingly enough, I’ve done some work on the similarities between coming out around disability, and coming out around queerness. And I think there’s a lot of parallels. Right? So it’s not polite to go up to everybody you meet and be like, are you a lesbian? No, not a lesbian. Are you bisexual? No, not bisexual. Are you polyamorous? You know, we don’t really ask people about their sexualities. Right?
SK: Until we built some sort of relationship. And the best way that we can make it a safe space for someone to be willing to share and not feel like they have to be interrogated, is to show behavior that is what I would count as ally behavior. And I know there’s lots of feeling about the term ally, but I would count it as ally behavior. So, if you are trying to show a person that you’re, you know, not just accepting, but supportive and excited about their queerness, you might do anything from quoting Rachael Maddow, to putting a rainbow sticker on your car, or to letting them know that wherever you’re going on your date has gender neutral bathrooms. There’s a variety of things you can do. So conversely, if you are trying to show a potential partner that…or current partner, that you’re open, supportive, and, you know, willing to engage around disability, you might, when you’re setting up a date say, actually, this place is up a flight of stairs, does that work for you? Right? And so, it’s not saying, you can’t go up a flight of stairs, but I’m putting into consideration that this is a thing. I’m renting a movie, do you want the subtitles on or off? Again, you’re not making an assumption that somebody either needs them on or doesn’t need them. But just even by putting, you know, questions out there, you’re showing an awareness of things that most people don’t actually have.
CM: You know, it seems like…I’m going to use myself as an example because I think my limit-…I prefer the term limitations. My limitations aren’t as obvious as others. I mean, if you’re dating someone in a wheelchair, it’s pretty obvious. Right? That you need to consider things like ramps and access and how the car works, and also that in terms of timing. But what about something….it seems like the owness is on the person with the disability or limitation, especially if it’s hidden, to sort of bring it up and kind of say, here are some things you need to know. Like, I have rheumatoid arthritis. I’ve had it for thirty years and it didn’t bother me that much when I was younger, but it’s really been kicking my butt the last ten years. And I’ve had to admit that it actually is giving me limitations, where I never thought that it did before. But it’s weird stuff like, I get really tired. It’s-…I don’t know if it’s the medications or the arthritis itself, but, you know, I can’t go out partying till midnight, or ten. Or, you know, past eight thirty. (laugh) And it’s hard to explain. I guess it’s my responsibility to explain that to a new partner. Somebody who wants to date me. That, you know, no, I can’t scene with you if it starts at 1 am, after you’ve scened with your other three partners. I have to go first. That was always very awkward. But it…is the responsibility on the person who has the limitation or disability to disclose everything?
SK: So, what I would tell people is that, first of all, there is not…no one should ever feel like they have to disclose a hundred percent of everything, or a hundred percent with every partner. Right? It depends. If you meet somebody in the club and are about to go fuck in the bathroom, or you’re going to do a quick spanking scene, do you need to go through your entire list of medication and how each one makes you feel, and what your doctor said? Probably not. If you’re in a longer term relationship with someone and they might be with you when you need one of those medications, it might be good of you to, you know, describe it and talk about how all those things work. So it always depends on the situation. And what else I would say is that partnerships are partnerships. And, again, it could be for one night, it could be for thirty years. And what happens in a partnership is that it’s a mutual responsibility. So, if you, you know, using your stuff, come out and say, hey, I have RA, sometimes I get really tired, and you leave it at that, then now if the ball is in your partner’s court, just say, okay. If they know nothing about it at all, they might say, what does that mean for when I’m out and about with multiple partners? Or when I’m, you know, planning ten scenes. What do you need from me? If they know things already, or you’ve had these conversation before, that puts the ownness on them to say, hey, I really want to see you tonight, but I don’t get off work until eight. I don’t want to overstress you. Do you still want me to come over? Right? So it’s not making decisions for a partner, but it’s taking these things into account. And when things change and all…everything goes to hell…and I’ll speak, I have severe migraines. Like, without treatment I get about twenty to thirty a month.
CM: Wow! That is a lot.
SK: Yes. So, I have severe migraines, arthritis, and fibromyalgia, which is a really fun triple punch.
CM: It is impressive…can I just… I want to give a shout out to our listeners and say, isn’t she amazing? Considering all that she has to deal with, and I’m sure there are a lot of meds you have to juggle, that you still do everything that you do. So kudos to you. But, continue.
SK: You haven’t’ seen me the days that I can’t get out of bed. Right? So we all have our…our moments. And I-
CM: I am familiar.
SK: Yes. You know, the best thing about my…my primary partner, my spouse, is that when we met, I remember going on a date when I-…we actually went to go see The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3, so some random movie. I drove. We did dinner and the movie and about halfway through the movie pain hit. Just like, huge flair of pain, and I tried to be cool. And I, like, took my meds with my little, you know, movie soda, and it was ten minutes later and I was like, this is not happening. And I was like, here are the keys to my car. I’m going to take a taxi back to your pla-…and he did not even blink an eye. He’s like, give me the keys, I’m going to drive you home. Like….
SK: We had been dating maybe two months. Left the movie theater. Was like, do you need me to bring the car around? Do you want, you know, me to walk to the garage? What do you need from me right now? Got me back to his place. Tucked me into bed. Gave me more pain meds, and sat up with me for about four hours until I completely crashed out. And, again, it wasn’t like we didn’t have to have some formal conversation where I was like, what I need from you in the instance that I’m in the middle of pain on a date is this. But what it was is he was willing to be flexible, he didn’t question what I knew about my body. You know, can’t you stay for the next forty minutes? Or, you know, maybe if you just suck it up the pain will go away. He didn’t question if it was real, which happens to a lot of people with invisible disabilities. Of like, it’s not really that bad, is it? Cause I can’t see it.
CM: I really love that people are concerned, but one of my pet peeves is, you know, if I do disclose I have arthritis, which I don’t to everybody because it’s none of their business, unless it’s relevant to them. But when I do disclose, I really do dislike when people then come…come back with all these crazy home remedies that, like, have you…the big one is gin soaked raisins. Or turmeric. And I’m like, look, I’m not going to eat curry everyday. Gin soaked raisins? Complete myth. And then there’s all these, like, natural things that people are always pushing on me. And I’m…I understand that they mean well, so I’m polite about it, but I do find it a bit offensive, actually. To be honest. If somebody assumes that, you know, oh, sure, you know, yeah, I’ve been seeing a doctor every month for the last thirty years, but I’m sure you know better than what my doctor and I have worked out consistently through trial and error over the last thirty years. I find it a little offensive, but I had to get that out, because I’m sure you experience that too.
SK: Absolutely. We call them concern trolls. Right? Like, oh, well, you know, I heard that fib-…cause that’s…especially something like fibro. Like, well, you know, I thought I had fibro for ten years, but then it turned out it was XYZ. Or if I stop eating gluten for whatever. And here’s…I balance the line. Right? So I do a lot around working with people with disabilities. And if I find someone who has a similar issue as me, I might, again, offer and say, you know, I found some stuff lately that’s been really helpful. Would you be interested in hearing about it? Right? Because if I have spoons, and I will explain spoons, cause that’s really helpful for all sorts of stuff.
CM: I’m completely familiar with spoons, but will explain to the audience in a minute.
SK: Right. So if I have the energy, or I have the interest. Like, maybe I’m like, yeah, what have you tried? They might go down a list and I’m like, yep, done it, done it, nope, that didn’t work. Nope. But, asking someone. Right? That’s the biggest thing with stuff around disabilities. The assumptions that people don’t know how to make decisions for themselves, or haven’t tried anything. And that you know better than them. Right? Cause that’s the thing. It’s if you can say something and their like, would you be interested in hearing about it? And they’re like, yes, anything would make this pain go away would be great. Then that’s fine. But in the same way that if you said something like, I have a cold, and every single person was like, oh, well, clearly my experience with having a cold, which comes from my second aunt twice removed, is more authentic than your experience in having a cold. Or, you know, this must be new and you’ve never tried it. Or, oh, your cold is probably related to your weight. Which is something that a lot of people get around disabilities. There’s a lot of intersection between ableism and sizeism. I mean, all of those things….my question is, what are you really trying to do? If you’re genuinely trying to help someone, asking what they need or what they’re interested in is the best way to help them. And the same way that, you know, you see someone with a wheelchair, or with a crutch, for example, trying to open a door, asking them, can I open this door for you, makes a lot more sense than just opening the door. Because if they have a whole system worked out and they’re leaning their weight on the door to get through it, and you just pull it open, they’re going to fall smack on their face. And, similarly, you know, if you’re on a date and somebody, for example, is visually impaired and you’re like, let me order for you, that makes you look like a douche. Versus if you say, hey, would you like me to help you with anything, or is there anything you need from me? They could say, I’d like you to order for me. Could you ask if there’s a braille menu? Could you see if there’s a menu on the wall and read it to me? There’ s a lot of options. Or they might just say, no, this is my favorite restaurant. I know exactly what I want. And you feel really stupid if you had just ordered for them without even checking in.
CM: So, let’s back up. So if someone comes to you and says, presumably because you’re dating, or interested in dating, and they say, I have fibromyalgia, or I have migraines, or I have, you know, rheumatoid arthritis, because they’re disclosing. An appropriate response to that would be…?
SK: Thank you for letting me know. What support do you need from me? Or what do I need to know about this moving forward?
CM: Excellent! Thank you.
SK: Right? Cause it could be something as simple as, I don’t travel without my ice pack or without my heating pad, so make sure that if I’m spending the night at your house I have it with me. To something as complicated as, I have seizures when X, Y, and Z, and if we’re going to fuck, that might trigger it and I need you to know that, and this is what you do. Right?
SK: So, spoons, really quick. Cause spoons are amazing and this is one of my…my favorite things. Cause I think it works for more than just disability.
CM: It does. Explain the spoons.
SK: So, Spoon Theory was written by a Christine Miserandino. Miss-er-andino? Miserandino. And you can read all about it on the website, butyoudontlooksick.com. The basic concept is that Christine was with a friend, and Christine had lupus, and her friend genuinely wanted to help her and be supportive. But with stuff like Lupus, and fibro, and arthritis, sometimes it’s hard to even see that there’s something wrong, nonetheless understand it. And so, she asked Christine, can you kind of explain it to me? And their in a diner, so Christine took up all the spoons in the diner and made a little bouquet of spoons, if you will. And said, this is as many spoons as I start with for the day. And it can represent energy, time, oomph, resources, all of that. And she said, you know, I wake up in the morning and I want to take a shower. If I just rinse off, that takes one spoon. If I want to shampoo my hair and blow dry it and style it, that takes three. And she takes three out of the pile and puts it on the table. Now it’s time to go to work. Do I want to be super eco savvy and, you know, take the train, which really is exhausting. You have to stand on the platform and wait and hope there’s a seat on the train. And because nobody thinks you’re hurting, nobody will give you a seat. That takes, like, five spoons. Or do I take my car, you know, and park it right in the garage at work? And that takes three. Okay? And then she goes through her day, you know, it’s lunch time. Do I just eat leftovers at my desk, which is one spoon? Or do I walk down the block in the hot sun to go to lunch with my coworkers, so I can be social, but that takes four? So she goes through all of this all the day. And she’s like, at the end of the day I’m left with two spoons. So I can choose to just heat up a microwave dinner and go straight to bed. That takes one spoon and then I’ll actually have an extra spoon left over for tomorrow. Or do I want to spend time with my partner and engage and cook a meal, and have, you know, a good time together, but that actually takes three spoons. So I’m actually borrowing a spoon from tomorrow. So the idea is that when I say something to one of my partners when I’m out and about and I say something like, you know what, I’d really love to go ice cream, but I’m out of spoons tonight, so I’m going to see you later, it’s not anything to do with my partner. It’s the fact that if I don’t leave and go home now, like, I might not make it home. And if I take spoons from tomorrow, especially when I’m at something like….I teach at kink events. Right? And that’s like, go, go, go, all weekend. So if I have something coming up for the weekend, I need to save spoons from the whole week, cause I’m pulling them from the weekend and the next week.
CM: I am completely familiar with the concept.
SK: Right? And so I think with…with kinky folk, and with poly folk, all of this makes a lot of sense. Right? Because when we talk about poly, it’s, you know, love is this concept that you have an unlimited amount of love. Right? You can love as many people as you want. But then we bring in all these things to the picture around time constraints, and resources, and self-care. And I think spoons makes a lot of sense. So, you can love wholly and completely as many people as you would like, but you only have so much spoonage to give to all of your partners. And so, if you’re doing something huge with one of your partners. You know, maybe you’re going on a two week vacation. Saying something to your other partners, like, I’d love to see you as soon as I get home, but I know I’m going to be out of spoons. Can we actually plan our date for the next weekend, so my spoons are replenished, and I’m ready to be the best partner I can be? And that makes sense whether you have a disability or not. Alright, cause spoons are this intangible quality of life. A, like, life force that you have to engage with other people.
CM: Yeah. I actually made the mistake of dating when I was…I had first moved to Seattle and I…I…the…my work was taking all my spoons. I would get up early, workout, and then I would work really long days. Like ten, twelve hours. And then I would insist on going out after work everyday, cause I didn’t know anybody and I needed to make friends. But I had very few spoons, and yet I was still trying to date. So I was…I was kind of a terrible date, I think. Because I really needed to do some self-care, but it was, you know, if you’re in a new city, if you don’t make effort to make friends, then you don’t have any friends. And I knew that that was really important. To have a support network. So I really want to thank you for sharing the spoon idea, because people who don’t have any type of limitations, physical or mental, don’t always understand that I’m….I have…I can’t see you tonight, because of something that’s happening this weekend. Or something that happened last weekend that I am recovering from and I’m not my best self yet. So I really appreciate your sharing that.
SK: Yeah. You know, and again, I think all of this stuff is helpful. You don’t have to be poly to be aware of disabilities in relationships. And you don’t have to be…have a disability, or be dating someone with disability to understand how things like this can apply to poly, to kink. Right? Because the best thing you can do in any relationship is ask. Just like if you are starting a new kink relationship, you don’t make an assumption that somebody’s a top, or a bottom, or a switch. You don’t make the assumption that they’re into a fetish. Right? You would say, hi, you know, I find you really attractive. What are you into? What do you like doing? What roles do you take? When you say fire play, are we talking, like, q-tips on fire, or are we talking fire mohawks? Right? Like….
SK: Everything should have these…these nuance things of, okay, after care. I get that you need after care. What does that look like? And in the same way, in a new relationship, if you’re poly, or consensually non-monogamous, you don’t just assume that everybody does poly the same way or has the same needs. You would say, you know, even from, how often do you need me to see you? What does check in look like? Do you want to meet metamours? Do you not want to meet them? You know, all of those questions….all of that just goes back to good, healthy, communication, and relationships, and sex. And, with disabilities, having those same questions and saying, in between, how often do you want to see me, and do you want to meet metamours? You might say, is there anything I need to know about your health to be a better partner to you?
CM: I think that’s a great idea. Now, I have one other question to ask. I had an email come in this week that, actually, I haven’t answered because I don’t know how to answer it. It was a….and I’m paraphrasing because I don’t have it in front of me, but I think it’s actually relevant here. It was from someone whose partner has PTSD, and it was okay at first, but then things started triggering. So, the partner is basically stepping aside, becoming very closed off, saying, I can’t talk. I can’t see you. I can’t. I can’t. I can’t. I can’t. And, you know, the…the partner, the lover, is like, what do I do? So it sounds to me, again, partial email, but it sounds to me like the….the partner who is suffering from…or who is experiencing PTSD is not able to say what he or she wants and needs in this case. So what do you do in that case? When the person who has some type of limitation or disability is unable to tell you what he or she needs, and is not communicative about it?
SK: Well, I mean, and I would say that that happens more often than we would expect. Right? Because in the same way that, if you’ve ever had that moment of, like, I’m hungry, and everybody’s like, okay, well, where would you like to go to eat? And you’re like, I don’t know. I’m hungry. I just…
SK: ….food. Here are three restaurant options. And you’re just like, pick a damn restaurant! A lot of times that happens with other stuff. And if you are so overwhelmed, either by a new diagnosis, or something that is out of your control, I mean, I….in my worst of my migraines, I was having migraines that were five or six days long and couldn’t function. Right? Like, I could function enough to be like, I’m in pain. I can’t engage with you. And, you know, well, what can I do to help you? I don’t know. Make it go away. Right? Which is not a very helpful…
SK: …answer. But what I needed was someone to say, okay, I am here for you. Do you want me to be here, or do you want me to go? I want you to be here. Okay. Next step. Let me know if you need something. So it was as…we’d sit together for two hours and then I’d be like, I need an ice pack. Okay. Like, that is something small and tangible. Versus if I, you know, my partner had been like, I need to know, you know, what do you need for the next couple of weeks. Like, do you….I don’t….I didn’t know what I needed myself. Right? And so, I think especially with something that is hard to pin down, either a new diagnosis, a changed diagnosis, something like PTSD, which might be triggered by things somebody doesn’t even expect, the lover’s saying something like, I can’t even imagine how this must feel. Right? Cause unless they also have PTSD, they can’t imagine. And I’m here for you. If you can tell me what you need, I’m happy to try for it, but I can also just be here for when you need something. Right? And reminding someone, like, I’m not going anywhere because of this. And when you need something I need you to let me know, because I’m not going to keep asking you to be that, like, annoying person. I’m just telling you I’m here for when you need it.
CM: That’s amazing. And when you say it, it makes complete sense. It’s just not obvious all the time because we’re used to a certain flow to social interactions. So thank you so much for that.
SK: Well, and we want to fix things. Right? I want to put that out there, too. Right? Like, most…not most. Many instances of ableism are not because somebody is intentionally trying to be hurtful. Right? Most of them are because I…I want to fix it. But you can’t fix someone’s disability. Right? It’s not going to….you’re not going to, like, magically wave a wand and it’s going to go away. And, honestly, for some people that wouldn’t be the solution anyway. It’s part of who they are, and that’s fine. When someone’s hurting, we want to help them stop hurting. When someone’s struggling, we want to help make things easier for them. That’s…that’s why we care about our partners, our lovers, our friends. So it’s just trying to figure out where that threshold is of, I’m going to put forth as much as I can, but also recognize that sometimes I need to move back a little bit, so you can move forward and figure out what your needs are.
CM: Shanna, this is amazing advice and I believe that our time together is pretty much at an end.
CM: Unfortunately. I feel like we could talk for hours about this. Where can our listeners go to find out more on this topic?
SK: So, there is my website, which is shannakatz.com. S-H-A-N-N-A-K-A-T-Z. Bethany Stevens is doing some really great stuff on sex and disability, as is Robin Wilson-Beattie. And those folks are both out of Atlanta. If you’re looking for more academicky stuff, Mitchell Tepper is doing some really great stuff on sex and disability. And I have some stuff published on that as well. And I think all of us who I just mentioned speak on…on topics like sex and disability. I also do work on kink and disability, too. So you can always shoot me an email at email@example.com. And if you want to bring me out to chat or just have a conversation, or be a part of one of my upcoming studies, I would love to hear from you.
CM: Shanna, a wealth of information on poly and kink with disabilities. Thank you so much for taking the time to do this. Really appreciate it.
SK: Well thank you so much for having me. I’m…I’m always glad to chat with you.
CM: And thanks again to Shanna for sharing her wisdom and her time, and all her great insights. Find her on her website and thank you guys. I think this is going to wrap it up for today’s show. We have more great content next week. More happy poly moments and great stuff next week. I do want to thank you guys for listening. This is a free resource. We’ve helped hundreds of thousands of people navigate their introduction to polyamory. Any donation you can give, whether it’s a buck, or a buck ninety nine a month, or it’s just a one time donation of twenty bucks, or fifty, or a hundred, or two hundred. Whatever you want. Those keep this podcast free for everyone inside and outside the community. You can email me with questions, comments or feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org. Now that we’re back from vacation, I promise I will actually go through my inbox, which is very, very, full right now. Or you can call 802-505-POLY. Remember, from our last podcast, with Franklin and Eve, that if you call that listener comment line and if you tell a story of how you used communication skills to diffuse a situation, then you’re in the running to win a signed copy of More Than Two. Don’t forget. You can also find us on twitter @polyweekly.@cunningminx, and on Facebook and Google Plus. Thanks for listening, guys. And remember, it’s not all about the sex.