A Few Resources on Power Dynamics…

by Reid on February 5, 2019

Image of various ropes of various colors knotted to each other to form a web being pulled by a single strand of blue rope running across the image with the text, "Resources for (Individual/Institutional) Power Dynamics" in white letters with pink outline

Why Have a Resource List on Power Dynamics on a Website About Healthy Relationships and Sex?

NOTE: This resource is a not intended as the perfect, end-all-be-all list. My intention is to add and subtract from it as I learn and grow. May it serve you and yours…

Really showing up and “walking the talk” in creating healthy, just, sustainable, collaborative and self-expressed relationships can be very challenging for everyone involved. Anything we can do to make our relationships less challenging (for ourselves and those we are in relationship with) can often improve the chances for successful, healthy, empowering outcomes. Plus, it’s the right thing to do.

An area that often gets overlooked in relationship education and sex ed are the areas of individual/institutional power dynamics and how oppression impacts intimacy and the ability to give and gain consent.

This is an area that I was sorely lacking understanding in. As a sex educator, I was lucky enough to have these oversights pointed out to me by my professional community. Colleagues came forward to support me in unpacking what I’d been ignorant of so I could start the slow journey down the rabbit hole of examining oppression and privilege.

BTW, if words and phrases like privilege, intersectionality, and systemic oppression turn you off, then I ask you to ask yourself if that’s because you haven’t gone down the rabbit hole yet, or because you think such concepts are bullshit? I promise you they are not bullshit. And I promise you that learning your way around these topics will improve your abilities to have deep, meaningful relationships on SO many levels.

And since I’m not an expert on this topic, I’m not going to teach you about it. Instead I’m going to point you in the direction of people and organizations that specialize in this, as well as resources that I think are especially useful for those just starting their journey.

What I can say is that it is not easy work. However, some of the most worthwhile things in life are difficult and take time. And it all starts by… Well… By starting.

Start with baby steps and keep going. I believe in you. Do you know why? Because you found your way here and you’re still reading.

Power dynamics exist on an individual as well as institutional/systemic levels. These can be easy words to banter or tweet about, but elusive to actually see at work, especially if you have a lot of privilege.

For me, the analogy that comes to mind is that power dynamics are like The Matrix, always running in the background, influencing and impacting people. And the more power and privilege one has, the more likely those dynamics are invisible to you. Until your version of Morpheus or the Oracle points them out and you catch a glimpse of them at work, it feels like it’s all b.s. Even when I had very adept people helping me trying to grasp these concepts, one minute I would think I see them at work, and the next minute they were invisible again. (For my nerdy Dr Who fans, this reminded me of The Silence storyline!)

The good news is that awareness can be deepened. You can find resources, organizations and people that can help you take your new awarenesses and turn them into effective actions… Actions that can reduce harm, build deeper connection, and create positive change.

So, in service of stacking the deck in everyone’s favor, here is a growing (aka Incomplete) list of resources I have been finding helpful in my continuing journey down the rabbit hole of exploring individual/institutional power dynamics… If some of these resources feel weird or “off-topic,” bare with me. They are here for a reason and think you might begin to see why as you dive deeper.

May these links serve you well. And good on you for being curious enough to get this far in the first place!

National Equity Project’s free The Lens of Systemic Oppression PDF

Graphic of the National Equity Project's Lens of Systemic Oppression framework picturing two overlapping circles. The left circle is marked Individual, the right circle Systemic, and overlapping area marked as Interpersonal. Inside the Systemic circle there is a description of Institutional and Structural Oppressions—Institutional: Policies and practices at the organization (or sector) level  that perpetuate oppression. Structural: How these effects interact and accumulate across institutions and across history. Interpersonal is described as The interactions between people—both within and across difference. Individual is described as a person's beliefs and actions that serve to perpetuate oppression; conscious and unconscious, externalized and internalized. Below the graphic, a definition of The Lens of Systemic Oppression and then the National Equity Project's logo, which is an orange circle with spokes radiating out from it, with each spoke topped with a gold dot at its end, which makes it look like a sun or a group of people gathered in a circle.
Download the National Equity Project’s free The Lens of Systemic Oppression PDF

In case you want to go deeper down the rabbit hole… Here are some beyond 101 resources that other’s have recommended:

  • BlackGirlDangerous.org—the blog wrapped in July 2017, but the archive and anthologies are loaded with great stuff.
  • Crunk Feminist Collective’s blog is a fav resource of one of my mentors and has all sorts of great stuff to chew on!
  • If you’re looking for a humorous but scathing take on derailing discussions about privilege… HERE (Please be aware that in some circles the term “dummy” is considered ableist language).
  • Yo, Is This Racist? podcast – funny, scathing, and won’t coddle your feelings, but the commentary I find valuable.

I’m going to keep these lists short and mighty to avoid overwhelming readers right off the bat, okay? Eventually, I’ll link from here to a larger list, so please come back to see what’s new! Like relationships, the world of exploring and understanding individual/institutional power dynamics continues to grow and shift.

Have resources you’ve found helpful? Email them to me at Reid at ReidAboutSex.com and I might add them to this list!

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