Sunday, September 25, 2016

Shelter

One thing I haven't talked much about on this blog since its inception is my video game habit, but I am in fact a gamer (PC master race) and every once in a while something pops up that catches my attention.  A bit over a year ago Might & Delight of Stockholm became my new favourite indie developer because they gave me a game that was not only enjoyable but did things that I feel really broke barriers, and some of those barriers are things that might be relevant for this outlet.

Image result for shelter might and delight
Shelter

Three games comprise the Shelter series, but they all have a few things in common.  Shelter puts you in the shovel-esque paws of a mother badger, beginning underground in her set with her newborn young, which you are charged with feeding, protecting, and leading through a world of hazards ranging from flash floods to forest fires to dreaded birds of prey.  Shelter 2, my personal favourite, has you instead as a mother lynx in a huge, open environment, hunting for your kittens and once more shielding them from predators and the everyday (and perhaps not-so-everyday) risks of being a young animal in a big new world.  Paws is a spin-off of Shelter 2 in which you play not as the mother lynx but as a kitten who has lost their way.  It's more exploration-focused and whimsical, but retains the simple but ironically philosophical outlook.


Image result for shelter 2
Shelter 2

Each game focuses on the interplay between mother and young, and bonds formed through hardship.  Hardly a word is written in the game and there is no dialogue; no humans exist in the Shelter world, but all the same it's almost impossible not to feel a rather intense affection for these furballs you have been charged with, and the resulting blow to the upper-left of your chest when one of them shrieks their dying cry as they're carted off by a fox that you should have noticed, should have caught — but didn't.  To help along this paradoxically meditative and dire plot, each game has extraordinary simple but beautiful acoustic soundtracks and a papier mâché aesthetic.

Image result for shelter 2 paws
Paws: A Shelter 2 Game

To me this visual style immediately struck me as being symbolic of how an animal might view this world that they live in: their sight is not as important to them as their feel of the world, so rather than the game allowing us to focus on each individual detail of each individual leaf, we're instead shown patterns, basic ways of interpreting trees and grass and mountains, even the fur patterns of our character's young.  This, and the lack of UI, and the use of auditory rather than visual cues for many challenges the games present really places the player in the mindset of the animal better than others with quadrupedal protagonists.

Of course the games aren't without their shortcomings, mostly technical, but I didn't want to make this post a full review, simply a recommendation and brief analysis of the feel that the Shelter series invokes as a whole.  I think if there's anyone, gamer or no (because they are very easy games to pick up), has found themselves curious about the simple but brutal world of wild animals, or considered the possibility of seeing existence through the biases of another species, or just wants a game that's simultaneously uncomplicated, challenging, and emotionally trying, do try these out.  They're inexpensive and available on Steam and on GOG.  And next month, a fourth game in the series, Meadow, is in the works and will be released next month.  You can bet I'm looking forward to it.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Security, Photographic Evidence, and Not Being a Loon

Recently I've been having more and more conversations with a wider variety of zoophiles, and of course as we're coming more out of the woodwork, and more of us are caring less and less about our privacy as the internet becomes more ingrained into our lives, the conversation of what is and is not good secure online practice came up frequently.  This especially arose when discussing organizing for things such as help groups or more public interface.  The different risks towards zoophiles who are expressing themselves online are, I would say, twofold, with one of these risks divided into two parts.

The first risk is the most obvious and the most universal: Other people, and our social lives.  The individuals with whom we share our local and global communities can make our lives hell for us.  I have heard of people who have been fired from their jobs on account of a word-of-mouth report from a stranger.  This happens particularly those in certain states of the US that allow such employment practices.  That having been said, there is nothing stopping someone from doing the same to you even if you are not sexually active with animals, or even a zoophile at all; this gossip is given and acted upon without any evidence at all, so the general security rule to avoid this sort of thing is to not be a dick.  If you're going to be talking about your zoophilia outside of zoophilic circles, make sure it's with people that you can likely trust to be mature about it, even if they aren't entirely accepting, and work on your social skills!  I have never had anyone respond negatively to my paraphilia because, if I might say so myself, I am a good speaker, an even better writer, and I know how to put my opinions and facts forward without making people too grouchy with me — or at least, if they are, they don't feel so empowered that they might strive to exercise that power in harming me.

The second risk is, as I said, twofold, but rather because one part is the imagined risk, and one is not.  The imagined risk is in the law of the land, which has always been incredibly stringent by word against zoophiles.  The days are gone when we were hanged along with our lovers, but there are still places in the first world in which the maximum sentence for intercourse with an animal is life.  Simply saying so on the internet would technically be enough for an investigation, but here's the issue: some studies have the rate as high as 30% for people who have sexual interactions with an animal at some point in their lives, and of course the internet is rife with furries saying they'd like to have sex with animals, wish they had the guts to play with the family dog, real zoophiles quietly discussing these things amongst themselves, and naturally trolls acting as if they do it just for the laughs.  It's chaos here and no one has time to go for the small fish.

What are the big fish, then?  Well, in every single news article I've ever seen, there has been visual confirmed evidence of the investigated and tried 'bestialist' having sexual intercourse with an animal — that is, no one has ever been investigated and tried simply for discussing these things on the internet.  Even if someone is already being noticed by law enforcement, they don't make a move until said person of interest posts an image of them spreading their female dog's vagina, or a film with his member in a mare.  In one instance, an individual was only investigated because they were posting (and eventually following through with) Craigslist ads through which they were looking for a horse to have intercourse with.  Of course, the ones who eventually answered and had to deal with their very explicit phone calls, and then meet up with this individual after they drove halfway across the country to see them, were the police.

And it doesn't particularly matter if it's legal in your state.  If you create and publish this media, and then move elsewhere, yes, you did not technically break the law, but you have just given anyone who would like to know visual confirmation that you ought to be watched by anyone who might want to catch them some evil bestialists.

I don't want to go too long on this, but in conclusion, I just want to confirm:
  • You are generally fairly safe.  Don't go giving out personal information (ie your name, your exact location, birthday, intimate things like that), which is generally good internet practice no matter what your sexual preference.
  • Learn to communicate.  Don't be a weirdo!  If you can't have civil conversation, don't have conversation at all.  Don't 'ragequit' halfway through a chat.  This is far more important in near anyone's eyes than your zoophilia.
  • Don't publish evidence of your acts online.  This is so basic, and it astonishes me how many people just publish their naked butts conjoined with those of dogs willy-nilly, but just don't do it.
Just be smart.  Don't be a loon.  The way you present yourself, and the ways in which you don't, are going to mandate your security far better than your use of Tor or the toughness of your online passwords.  Not only will presenting yourself well keep you safer, but in time, as we start to come out of the dark recesses of the internet and into the public eye where, if justice were ever to prevail, we ought to be, you and all of us will be in better shape.  

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Attraction vs Kink

Building on the last post, and inspired by a post I saw on the Zoophilia sub-reddit, I'd like to discuss the difference between what people like and what people want.

I have a close friend who is a self-defined masochist.  She loves humiliation, and has frequent fantasies about being cornered in an alleyway by multiple people and gang-raped.  This notion is of course very terrifying, and most people's immediate reaction is to ask why on earth she might think that would be a good thing to happen, but here is the answer: She doesn't.  She would never want that to happen to her in real life.  It's simply a fantasy that arouses her.

Many self-defined zoophiles actually fit into this paradigm.  Young and inexperienced boys, a lot of the time, quite used to masturbating to anything with visible naughty bits, they find themselves getting off to videos of animals having sex, or people having sex with animals, and imagine that this makes them zoophiles.  And sometimes it does, but sometimes they grow up, or they finally get the chance to be around the animal they thought they might like to be with, and it turns out they don't.  It's just a fantasy, more properly defined as faunoiphilia.

Others, as shown in the post that I'm thinking about, are more just voyeuristic.  These people are not zoophiles, but they may want to see their significant other (in my experience, usually a man wanting to see his girlfriend) having sex with an animal.  It's a factor of voyeurism as well as humiliation-focused sadism, given that the attractive aspect of it isn't seeing a beautiful girl with a beautiful animal, but rather a beautiful girl being taken by a base creature.  Unfortunately, it's often (not always, but often) a factor in abusive relationships, and these individuals are not zoophiles.

I think it's important to draw these distinctions and to be aware of them.  Usually the distinctions we draw are between those who love their animals and those who only use them for sexual gratification, but there are also those who claim to be zoophiles to begin with only to discover they are not — they didn't change, they simply never were, only thought they were because they couldn't distinguish between fantasy and desired reality — and there are those who enjoy watching animals having intercourse with people for reasons more connected to sexual sadism (and judging by the porn that exists out there, these people probably make up the large majority of its consumers). 

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Sexuality and Psychology

Sexuality is rather prevalent in a lot of what we are and do.  If you look into personality disorders and thus their corresponding personality types, you'll see their specializing researchers listing their sexual tendencies as well.  People with borderline personality disorder/type tend to have very active, multi-partner, intense sex lives.  People with schizoid personality disorder/type tend to have the opposite, but have incredibly active fantasy lives, often right down to pertaining to specific fantastic interests, specifically the idea of returning to the womb. (Guntrip, Harry. Schizoid Phenomena, Object-Relations, and The Self. New York: International Universities Press, 1969.)

Of course, not all of us have these extreme personality types, but if we consider the research of some psychologists, these personality types seem to correspond to high or low values on scales used in personality inventories that we have today. (Mullins-Sweatt SN, Widiger TA. The five-factor model of personality disorder: A translation across science and practice. In: Krueger R, Tackett J, editors. Personality and psychopathology: Building bridges. New York: Guilford; 2006.)

Although perhaps the best place for this observation would be as the root of a study rather than a blog post, given these two observations together it would make sense to presume that sexuality is quite deeply linked to our personalities, and therefore everything we are and do.

It would also account for the conflicting but consistently present and simultaneously true views that personality is both quite static, by definition, and does not change from day to day (for instance, the fact that you are grouchy one day because your boss yelled at you is not changing your personality for that day, it's changing your mood), personality does seem capable of changing over time, as people's values on even our most up-to-date inventories do fluctuate.  Sexuality is the same: we see sexuality as crystallized by the time we're finished puberty, but I'm sure most adults can attest that they are not interested in the same things sexually they were ten years ago, and are interested in something new these days.

What this link between sexuality and personality means is that our sexualities are, simultaneously, both entirely natural and not under our control, but are also formed by our persistent environments, traumatic events, and other things that happen to us.  It also means sexuality is potentially even more complex than most people realize and should be given more consideration when measuring, using very broad terms, exactly who a person is.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

For the Less Well-Adjusted Cats

I've helped quite a few consistently violent or anxious cats, and these two complaints are generally what non-cat-people, and frustrated cat people will cite as the reasons for their frustration.

Violent cats are on one hand easy to deal with because there is a single method that I've found works very well and doesn't need much adaptation.  Cats are violent for two reasons: first, because they feel they're playing.  Consider when a violent cat scratches, or grabs your arm to claw at it, what is your immediate reaction?  We're creatures of instinct, too, so naturally we pull away, try to get kitty off of us.  Think about the similarities between that action and the action of, say, a cat toy being tugged about in her claws.  To them, it's just another game, and being violent by nature with their non-lethal weapons, it's a fun one.  In order to curb this behaviour, you need to make it less fun.

The process is painful, but hear me out.  If kitty is clawing at you, regrab them — not hard, just essentially to fixate them on what they're doing, and also give them the very real sensation that you are definitely bigger than they are.  An interesting thing about the cat psyche is that they don't seem to register size when considering whom they can beat up.  That having been accomplished, you're going to let them continue clawing your arm.  This doesn't mean you shouldn't vocalize your discontent; enough "ow!" and "hey!", coupled with the grabbing, will have your cat stop.  She may look up to you, confused and embarrassed, or she may just get miffed that her tactics aren't working as they usually do, but at this point you'll be able to get her claws out of your skin and you'll keep her with you for a pet and cuddle, so long as she'll tolerate it.  This is simple operant conditioning, pairing the fun they usually have with something humiliating or uncomfortable, and then rewarding them for ceasing the humiliating and uncomfortable thing while simultaneously showing them another activity to enjoy with you.  The change will not happen overnight, and may take weeks, even months of this depending on the stubbornness of your cat, past trauma, intelligence, and your own skill, but I've seen it succeed many times.

The other reason cats are violent, though, is because they're afraid.  Generally, this takes a very different form, and rather than grabbing and clawing for long periods it's a quick grab and kick, usually with some angry vocalizations, or else just lashing out.  Acutely angry or afraid cats will often jump at faces.  While some cats that are playing may employ hit and run tactics, smacking or scratching you, and running away, only to come back and try the same thing again, angry or afraid cats will avoid you if they can.  If this is the reason for your cat's violence, you need to get them into a comfortable situation in which they won't have a choice but to be with you.

This is also the treatment for anxious cats that I've found works well: Live intensely with your cat for a period of time.  That is, keep her in your room with good food, water, litter pan, cushions, catnip, and anything else that might help them feel comfortable, except for hiding places.  The reasoning behind anxiety in both cats and humans is ultimately the same: we have a stimulus that gives us anxiety and our escape from that stimulus exacerbates it, because we are conditioning ourselves to fear it more.  Cats are very, very good at escape, so they are very good at being anxious.  In this treatment, you are preventing your cat from escaping you.  It may be extremely traumatic for them; depending on their level of anxiety, usually past abuse, she may hiss and spit every time you move, search desperately for an escape route, even urinate on the floor, but you need to be consistent and give your cat as much attention as you can while still attending your basic human needs likely for several days on end.  Over time, and the key term here is graduated exposure, try to pet and cuddle her; like with the violence-for-play method, when she lashes out at you, however much you may bleed, just let her until you can scritch her ears, hold her, or find some other way of making her feel physically good, which will calm her down.  Ideally, only let her go when she seems calm, and wants to get to a different spot for her own comfort rather than because she's afraid, although you may have to try a few times to get to this level.  If you are not able to, ensure your cat is not getting away from you because she escaped; rather, be sure it's on equal terms.  For instance, you may reach out to pet her and she may jump at your hand and slash it immediately, backing away and snarling.  You want to continue advancing in this case, and just get to the point where you can gently scritch her cheek, and then move away, having succeeded in your goal.  There's a lot of sacrifice to be made here in terms of your own physical pain and scarring, but you retreating from her self-defence is just another form of letting her escape and build her anxiety further.  Throughout the entire process you want to be very verbal with your cat, using a sweet, soft tone.  This ultimately may sound borderline psychologically abusive, and you definitely need to have the heart for it, but this exposure is crucial.  Ideally, you want to keep this up until kitty can lie contentedly on your bed as you get into it, and visibly appreciate petting without any violent preamble.

Cats are an enigmatic species; we've lived with them for thousands of years and we still don't quite understand them.  And they like it that way, being the shy kid in the back of the room that no one quite gets and fewer people still will even try.  But as people who love our cats it's our duty to understand them whether they help us along or not, to develop that relationship between cat and human, and make their lives as happy as they can be.  Best of luck.