So you have a new person and you’re trying to suss out whether not it’s a good idea to spend some naked time together. What do you ask each other?

Well, you’re both responsible people. You know to ask if they currently have other partners, and when the last time they got tested was, and how thorough their testing regimen is (because you know that you also need to get site-specific swabs done to be safe). …

You have not earned it. You aren’t special enough, or smart enough, or good enough, or needy enough, or pitiable enough to have extracted it from me. I do not like you enough to be kind to you, and there’s nothing you could do to change that. I am not so better off than you that I feel compelled to be kind, or so worse off that I feel compelled to curry your favor.

I have no duty to treat you with kindness or respect. I have no obligation to care about your wellbeing. I needn’t imagine your needs or endeavor to meet them. No logic demands that I concern myself with you at all. …

Or: Finding the sublime in the banal

These are dark days. As we sit at home, doing our daily risk assessments, doing our best to strike the balance between being responsible and staying sane, anxieties run rampant. Uncertainty abounds. The days blend together; the nights are dark and full of terrors; time loses all meaning. In short: we’re all struggling right now.

But what exactly is the shape of that struggle? What is the structure of our anxiety, of our fear? And how does knowing that help us? This one is pretty heavy on the philosophy, so let’s strap on in.

The philosopher Heidegger (who for all his brilliance was for a time a member of the Nazi party, so, you know, #problematicfaves and all that) distinguished cleverly between fear and what he called Angst. Fear, according to Heidegger, has a particular structure to it: it consists of the subjective experience of fear, a fear of (e.g., a dog) and a fear for (e.g., your face). That is, fear is an experience that is tied very directly to states of affairs in the world. By contrast, Angst consists solely of the subjective experience of fear, but without any particular points of reference in the world itself. …

Or: The hidden lesson of COVID-19

In the midst of the most disruptive global event we’ve seen in decades or generations, looking at where we are and how we got here, I’m struck by a thought I just can’t seem to shake.

The United States of America has enjoyed a long period of staggering prosperity, together with a concomitant period of growing wealth inequality. For a very long time now, with only a handful of exceptions, America’s ceilings have risen and its floors have fallen. Its focus has been hyperproductively narrow on some axes and self-destructively absent on others.

In other words, America has cleaned the whole house top to bottom, but hasn’t slept in three days. America has run fifteen miles on the treadmill, but forgotten to make dinner for the kids. America has filled out a thousand job applications, but hasn’t written any of the cover letters. America has been skipping leg day for decades. …

Embracing the Language of Movement

It’s become something of a truism that progressive groups self-sabotage with factionalism and backbiting and purity testing.

When any new progressive rises to prominence or gets some time on the mic, there’s an immediate clamor of “but they’re problematic!”, and the concomitant rejoinders of “there’s no perfect candidate,” or rough analogues. We do the work of tearing down our own ostensible champions.

Now, I’m not about to exhort you to accept problematic public figures or get behind platforms you don’t support just to spite the conservatives. …

If you’ve spent much time on various dating apps, especially if you have the “nonmonogamy” filter on, you’ll have come across a lot of profiles belonging to couples. Many of these, you may have noticed, share three traits: the pictures are almost exclusively of the woman, the profile is run by the man, and there’s a line in there somewhere about how they date or “play” together. Maybe the profile I’ve just described is yours.

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For some totally mysterious reason, queer couples never seem to have profiles like this.

Now, I’m not here to shit on unicorn hunters or couples who look like unicorn hunters.

(For those not hip to the lingo, “unicorn hunting” is a somewhat dismissive/pejorative name for what hetero couples do when they go looking for a queer woman to join them, either just in bed or in the relationship proper, but only on the condition that she make no demands of her own and no making-of-space is required of the existing couple. The rarity-bordering-on-impossibility of such a woman makes her a unicorn. …

I write a lot about how persistent, unexamined narratives lead us to do ourselves harm. Today, I want to turn to look at how certain persistent, unexamined narratives harm our society and some of its most vulnerable members.

In this piece, I’m going to be talking about sex work. Ultimately, the only people who can talk about sex work with any sort of intellectual or moral authority are sex workers themselves; I would encourage you to seek out those voices (and I’ll be providing some links throughout). …

I’m not a particularly tidy person. I don’t clean as often as I should; my desk and counters are usually cluttered. But… to a point. I get overwhelmed by too much clutter, or by clutter that doesn’t make sense to me (a pile of paperwork on my desk? fine; skincare products I don’t use or understand on my nightstand? not so much).

I’ve been noticing this experience lately where one of my partners will spend the night and I’ll come into the bathroom and be immediately overwhelmed by the amount of stuff on the vanity. …

My father died recently. This is, in a word, suboptimal. It has also given me occasion to observe closely, sometimes more closely than I’d like, this emotional landscape, these territories of grief.

My immediate response when I heard the news was a feeling of relief. This was familiar; it was also my immediate response when my mother’s father died, and then my mother’s mother. I have seen the indignity of slow death, have cared for loved ones who were on their deathbeds for interminable days, weeks, months. I have been impressed and horrified by how many times I could think, with hope and guilt and resignation, that “it couldn’t possibly get any worse” and still be wrong. …

Being in relationships with other humans, whether those relationships are romantic or otherwise, inherently puts you at risk of being hurt, and of hurting others. The more intimate the relationship — the more vulnerability the participants have invested in it— the greater the risk.

In short: we hurt each other. It sucks, but it’s the cost of doing business.

The healthiness of a relationship is measurable, at least in part, by how free the participants feel to express their hurt, to seek redress, to offer redress, to forgive. …


Peter Kovalsky

Lawyer and translator of legalese into plain English. Also a cishet white dude trying to unlearn a bunch of baggage.

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