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December 7, 2012

Corrolary: Sensitivity

Filed under: Uncategorized — thirdxlucky @ 1:18 am

A few years ago, I wrote a post called “Sensitivity” in which I argued that “There is no such thing as being oversensitive. When a person or population is described as “oversensitive,” what is actually being described is an imbalance of sensitivity” i.e. that the burden of perspicacity required to solve a particular problem is being distributed unevenly.

I closed this post in my typically emphatic motivational-speakery style:

Sensitivity is not itself a problem. It points problems out. You’ll find, if you think someone is being too sensitive, that the way to get them to be less sensitive is probably not to harden your heart further and close your eyes tighter, but for you to be more sensitive about what’s going on.

You probably still won’t be able to come close to being as sensitive as they are – not for a long time, anyway. But you can take some of that burden off their shoulders and share it around a little more equally. If you take the trouble to be a little more sensitive, they can relax and be a little less sensitive, because they can count on you to be looking out for them as well.

And this was all very well and good in terms of abstract theories about allyship, and I wrote the post, and I posted it, and I carried on about my life thinking, “Great! I said a thing on the Internet. A pretty reasonable-sounding thing, too. Right, then.” *dusts off hands on pants*

But then this thing — this thing where other people start noticing things in a way that takes on some of the burden of your hypersensitivity and insodoing cuts you a break — it went and happened to me. And wow does that feel…like a lot of things.

There are certain things about the intersection of BDSM, mental health, consent, and oppression culture that I’m particularly sensitive to. To put it in extremely oversimplified terms, this hypersensitivity fucks up my sex life six ways from Sunday. I was afraid to talk about it for a long time and didn’t even know how. Then, tentatively and stumblingly, I started to try. And then, magically, somehow, some of the people in my life started to listen. And notice more things on their own. And talk to other people about it. And suddenly I wasn’t the only person in my universe clocking these tropes and feeling insane for crying in bed because of them.

And, lo and behold, having some of that pressure lifted meant my sex life gradually started to get better. I started to feel more comfortable in my body, have more orgasms, feel more capable of connecting with my partners in ways that felt safe and hot to me, become more able to navigate emotionally tricky cultural contexts without getting as triggered, and feel sort of, like, hopeful. In short, things got a little easier for me.

But the mechanism by which they got easier for me was, in some ways, by getting harder or more complicated for other people than they were before. People I love. That feels…so…heavy.

Even if these shifts in awareness weren’t for my sake. Even if they are ultimately beneficial for and authentic to the people doing the shifting. Regardless of whether the people who are experiencing them are even aware of the positive impact their extra work is having on my life. (And I suspect that several of them aren’t, although I think and hope that at least a couple of them know.) There’s some way in which I still feel responsible. Like, it was my job to carry this particular weight and I totally could have, should have, handled it on my own and kept it to myself. Now, good people who were already dealing with plenty of other shit are dealing with this shit, too. And I get to have a slightly better time because of it?

I try to remind myself that this isn’t a zero-sum game and that “many hands make light work.” I know the idea that I don’t deserve to have other people have my back is an artifact of internalized-oppression. And that it’s not like the tables have dramatically turned; it’s still easier for them than it is for me, it’s just harder than it was before. But I think this is an emotional experience within the context of allyship that’s seldom written about and it’s an important one.

In short: That watching your intimates divest of privileges you’ve never had feels fucking complex — because, on the one hand, it feels like a blessing to have people you love come into solidarity with you. Yet you know how hard it can be to live without those privileges — and these are people you love. So, I feel sad and scared for them. And happy and excited for them. And grateful. And weird about feeling grateful. And guilty. And mixed up about feeling guilty. And, in moments I feel a little bit resentful like, “Yeah. See? This thing you’re feeling now that feels like the end of the world? That’s what my whole life feels like.” But also proud. And nervous. (Is it real? Will it stick?) And lucky. And loved. And, wow, all the things. Big. Complicated. Yeah.


1 Comment »

  1. Reblogged this on That's Not a Kink Blog; THIS is a Kink Blog!.

    Comment by thirdxlucky — April 15, 2013 @ 2:35 am | Reply

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