The Truth Behind Lies

Everybody lies.

It was a tagline on House, M.D., the television show in which a doctor had to navigate a web of illusions and untruths to diagnose mysterious maladies. Dr. House listened to what patients had to say, but he never trusted it until he proved it himself.

Scientific research has demonstrated that everybody lies. Part of the social contract that keeps society functioning includes a network of small lies, starting with “How are you?” and “Fine, thank you.” We have all agreed to suspend disbelief, to a certain extent, in the context of social niceties.

Additional research shows that everyone lies on the internet especially, and that the more anonymous the online setting, the more likely people are to lie. This is bad news for virtual worlds, which are basically anonymous. Apart from the element of fantasy, for instance making one’s avatar look different from one’s real-life self, the anonymity of the virtual world makes it easy for us to invent stories and conceal truth.

I think about this a lot when I perceive that I am being lied to. I rarely confront someone about it, nor do I let on that I realize they are lying. But I do think about it. Most of all, I wonder: Why? Why are they lying to me?

There can be a lot of answers to that question. Personally, I sometimes lie to preserve my privacy. When writing online profiles I usually say that I live in NYC. I don’t. I live near NYC, and I do spend time there, but I don’t live there. I don’t really want strangers to know where I live. I think that is a fairly smart lie and I doubt many would disagree.

“Privacy lies” like this happen when someone is pressuring you to reveal something about yourself that is actually none of their business. When someone lies to me, I wonder whether the person perceives me to be prying, and is trying to protect his or her privacy. In other words, is the lie basically a way of telling me to back off? I can understand that.

People also may lie to protect themselves from punishment. “Self-preservation lies” may happen when we have done something we weren’t supposed to do, or when we have not done something that we were supposed to do. If someone tells me a lie because they don’t want me to be angry at them, I can accept that. But I am still disappointed that I have been lied to. It indicates the presence of a basic rift in my relationship with that person, and it makes me sad that they do not trust me with the truth.

Then there is the “I didn’t want to hurt your feelings” lie. Sometimes this type of lie is actually compassionate, or at least benign, like when he assures her that she doesn’t look fat in those pants. But this type of lie can also be an attempt to cover up something that is extremely hurtful. It makes me anxious, wondering: what is this thing that would hurt my feelings? Just how hurtful is it?

Although I can forgive many lies, without knowing the reason why someone is lying to me, my imagination has to juggle all the possibilities. It’s exhausting. On one hand, I want to be compassionate if the person has good reason to protect their privacy. On the other hand, part of me wonders whether something hurtful is being concealed. And then I begin to wonder why the person does not trust me enough to be honest.

So, in the end, even benign lies leave me with inner turmoil, hurt feelings, sadness, disappointment and suspicion.

But since everybody lies, I suppose the burden falls on me to cope with it.

 

 

Living with Conflict

I have a dear friend who simply does not understand my affinity for BDSM. Despite countless in-depth conversations, in which I do my level best to explain it to him, he persists in his belief that submission is demeaning and that everyone really prefers freedom.

Believing himself to be an open-minded person, he has constructed an illusion in which he does support submission. He does this by re-defining, in his own mind at least, what submission is; or by inventing a complicated argument that submission is in fact dominance. By clinging to this dubious construct, he can appear to agree with me, while never actually changing his beliefs.

He doesn’t get it. He probably never will. And I must live with that.

The illusion works for him within the limits of a conversation about abstract thought, when his ideas are not put to the test. But inevitably, something concrete will happen that forces the abstraction to materialize into action. Then, his actions do not bear out his conciliatory words. The curtain is pulled aside, and his true beliefs are revealed. And the truth is that he just doesn’t get it. He probably never will. And I must live with that.

It pains me to be at odds with my dear friend over this important aspect of my life. I would love to share my joy with him, but I can’t, because he doesn’t believe in it. While painful, conflict in a relationship is not at all unusual. I think we all find ourselves, at some point, having a major difference of opinion within the context of a close relationship. When it happens, must we choose between winning the argument and preserving the relationship? Is it possible to prove your point without hurting the other person? Is it necessary to capitulate, to keep the friendship intact? Or must we avoid conflict at all costs, agreeing not to mention certain issues, or pretending that the conflict does not exist?

We are genetically more invested in winning arguments than in thinking clearly.

These questions become even more complicated when we consider the fact that humans are inherently irrational – even the ones who most adamantly claim to be rational. Scientists have demonstrated that we are genetically more invested in winning arguments than in thinking clearly. It has been proven countless times that facts usually do not change our minds. We – all of us – experience something called “confirmation bias,” a trait that is hard-wired into our genes. It means that we all tend to embrace information that supports our current beliefs and reject information that contradicts them.

Furthermore, we also have a trait called “cognitive immunization” which means that the stronger our beliefs, the less likely it is that facts will sway us… no matter how true the facts are. The person you are arguing with probably will not be swayed by logic, reason or facts that contradict his or her beliefs. In fact, it is more likely that he or she will just become more entrenched.

Given that this is true, when two people have conflicting beliefs, it seems to me that arguing is pointless.

Given the choice between proving my point, and preserving the health of a relationship, I choose the relationship. Every time.

Given the choice between proving my point, and preserving the relationship, I choose the relationship. Every time.

So, I must let go of my disappointment that my dear friend does not share my understanding of submission. My dear friend is very important to me, and I want him in my life. I find great joy in submission, but I do not wish to wreck a friendship by insisting on winning an argument.

I also suspect that if I chose to associate only with friends who agree with my beliefs about submission, that would be a form of confirmation bias. My friends have many shades of beliefs and opinions about submission and BDSM. It is quite a varied tapestry. Total unanimity on this or any point probably cannot be achieved. And a circle of friends who all think alike could be a little boring.

So, I will accept the presence of the conflict and learn to co-exist with that tension. I will stop trying to convince anyone of the truth of my beliefs. Living with conflict is not comfortable. But there are many, many other things about those relationships that make them totally worth the effort.

Bigotry and Ignorance at HG Visionz Magazine, Opensimulator, Hypergrid

Bigotry is a commitment to ignorance. In the Information Age, ignorance is a choice.

Recently Walter was asked by the staff of HG Visionz, a small online magazine that covers various Opensim features, to submit an article about Littlefield Grid’s BDSM regions. At their request, Walter wrote a great article highlighting those regions on Littlefield Grid that cater to people who enjoy BDSM.

We were just informed that, even though the article was written at their request, the “staff” (which I think means one or two people) decided not to publish it because — get this — although the article was very general in nature, with no adult content, the acronym BDSM was deemed to be X-rated.

This was clearly a not-very-well-concealed pretext for displaying the prejudice of the “editor” against BDSM. Is there a fear that simply reading those four letters might make someone think about… omg… SEX?!? Well, then, I am sure that HG Visionz will also decline to publish any article that mentions lesbian, gay or transgender communities, since that acronym LGBTQ is clearly too dangerous to read.

Or, for that matter, they had better decline any article that mentions marriage, or romance, or dancing. Especially dancing. And rock music. You know, like it says in the movie Footloose, dancing leads to relaxed morality. We certainly can’t have any of that in Opensim!

Sarcasm aside, I continue to be astounded by the ignorance displayed about BDSM. Even more so, by the fervor with which some people willfully cling to that ignorance. That is what makes it rise to the level of bigotry. Bigotry is an emotional commitment to ignorance about groups of people. And in the information age, ignorance is a choice.

What’s even more astounding is the hypocrisy behind the public posturing. It is well known that “adult” activities are wildly popular throughout the virtual world. I’ll wager there are very few people who haven’t tried sex animations. And of those who have, I’m sure a hefty percentage also enjoyed at least a little bedroom bondage, if not more.

D/s relationships are founded upon love and respect.

First let me address the ignorance head-on. D/s, the foundation of BDSM and the central letters of the fearsome acronym, stands for Dominance and submission, which is a consensual agreement between a couple where one person surrenders control to the other. Within that extremely broad container, there are many different types of relationships; I’m not asserting that all are the same. But in my experience, any sexual content in most of those relationships is no more public than that of “vanilla” couples. In the eight and a half years we have been together, Walter and I have never had sex in public, only in our own home or on our own sims.

Also in my experience, D/s relationships are founded upon love and respect. I made a consensual choice. I chose to surrender control to Walter because it gives me pleasure to do that, and it gives him pleasure too. I wear a collar, which is not a symbol of slavery, but a symbol of love and commitment to the vows we made… not unlike a wedding ring.

But, you know, love and commitment… those are things that HG Visionz can’t mention in their magazine, because they seem to believe that love and commitment are not family-friendly.

Anyone with any knowledge at all of BDSM knows that the attitude of the HG Visionz “staff” is ignorant. It’s important to me to speak up about it, because perpetuating that kind of ignorance is a very, very dangerous habit.

They may believe that we should keep to ourselves and only whisper about our relationship behind closed doors. LGBTQ people have been told the same thing. Thankfully, they realized that keeping their loving relationships secret simply helped to feed the ignorance and bigotry, and the hate that grew from it. They stepped into the light, and showed the world that gay couples can be a shining example of love and commitment. They can have children and raise families that are just as wonderful (and just as flawed) as straight families. They are human, with all the promise and possibilities of any other humans. Had they remained in the shadows, the world at large might never have figured that out.

By relegating BDSM relationships to the shadows of “x-rated” content, HG Visionz Magazine is participating in the fostering of hate, by choosing to be committed to ignorance. That is bigotry.

And in the 21st century, it is a disappointment to find people still trying to justify it.