The New, Not-Quite Monogamy
Trendy New York magazine found a new trend to spotlight as its lead story for November 21, 2005. It's "The New Monogamy," in which couples dip their toes into polyamory, or maybe jump in pretty darn deep, but avoid calling it that. "Dirty IM-ing with strangers, heavy flirting at clubs, lap dances, three-ways, four-ways, taking a bath with someone you met at a bar because your girlfriend is busy: As long as it's negotiated in advance, there seems to be no limit to the amount of cheating that some couples will allow in the name of making a relationship last."
New York has a rep as a hip, savvy mag, but the article is striking for its ignorance about poly. (In the blurb above, for instance, why are negotiated agreements "cheating"?) And some of the people interviewed remind me of women who say, "I believe in equal rights and equal pay and no discrimination and all that but I'm not a feminist!" A sample:
"We're not polyamorous," insists Mike and in fact, every couple we spoke with said the same thing. "We don't date other people, and we don't have romantic relationships with our sex partners though we've become close friends with some of them."
If he sounds a bit defensive, it's understandable. Because in most people's imaginations, you've got on the one hand your earnest, hairy polyamorists (see San Francisco) and on the other, doughy, middle-aged swingers (see Minnesota or HBO). These are the bogeymen of today's hipster open relationships if we swing tonight, can a purple muumuu and a relocation west be far behind?
"What's new here is not that couples are being nonmonogamous," says Stephanie Coontz, professor of history and family studies at Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington, and author of Marriage: A History. "It's that couples are negotiating the terms of their monogamy."
Sound familiar? A pair of practicing New Monogamists is described:
These two can certainly teach most couples a thing or two about communication: They finish each other's sentences and tease one another gently about the few times they've failed to follow their own simple yet strict rules. (1) The Vampire Rule: If they're both in the same city, they have to make it back by dawn. (2) The Three-Strikes Rule: All pinch hitters must be interested in befriending both Siege and Katie (and vice versa); however, up to three solo dates are acceptable to warm someone up. (3) The Postcards Rule: If they're seeing someone else on their own, they must bring home photographic evidence. (4) The Woman-Only Rule: Katie is bisexual, Siege is not thus, for pinch hitters to meet rule No. 2, they must be female. (5) The Veto Rule: for Katie's benefit, allowing her to rule out potential home-wreckers. (6) The Safety Rule: What some couples call "body-fluid monogamy," i.e., always use condoms when having sex with a third... or a fourth... or a fifth...
I bet lots of these "not polyamorous" folks will be arriving among us soon enough, especially as they grow up a bit and begin to see their secondaries more as people than as "sex toys" (to use the term of several interviewees). Let's be ready to welcome them.
At the end of the article is a glossary of New Monogamy words, which only partially map onto poly lingo.
Read the whole article.
Labels: New York