Polyamory in the News!
. . . by Alan M.

July 30, 2009

Newsweek author: "The Feminist Roots of Polyamory"

Double X magazine

The author of yesterday's Newsweek online article about poly as "America's Next Romantic Revolution" has posted some of her own thoughts on the subject — in particular about the female tilt of the modern poly movement. It's some interesting background to the most important article that's appeared about us in a long while:

The Feminist Roots of Polyamory

A guest post from Newsweek writer Jessica Bennett:

I've never been in a relationship with two people at the same time, but I've spent the last two months talking about it constantly. Not because I'm obsessed with the idea — though, um, increasingly I am — but because I was writing a piece for Newsweek about one particular multi-partner family....

...And while it’s easy to brush off anything with the word “poly” as some kind of frat-house fantasy gone wild, polyamory has a decidedly feminist bent.

The key to poly relationships is gender equality, and women have been central to the creation of the practice. The word "polyamory" itself was coined by two women, in the early ’90s, and the first five books on the topic were all female-authored. Over the past year, writers like Jenny Block and Tristan Taormino, the sex columnist, have written on the topic, while celebrities Tilda Swinton (who called herself a “freak” in an interview with Double X) and Carla Bruni, the first lady of France, have spoken out in favor of open relationships. “Multiple-partner relationships have always gone on, but they have rarely had the gender equity characteristic of poly relationships,” says sociologist Elisabeth Sheff, one of the few researchers to study polyamory.

The way these families make their relationships work is perhaps the most feminine of all of this: by good old-fashioned talking....

Read her whole post (July 29, 2009) on Double X, a new online women's magazine recently started by Slate.com.

I delved into this subject myself here. That was nearly three years ago. New poly authors, organizers, and public figures have emerged since then, and yes, a large majority of them continue to be women.

Thoughts on why?




Anonymous Anonymous said...

Poly men are likely to be looked upon as horndogs and cheaters who are just bullshitting their wives, or the listener, or themselves, with this "mutual agreement and free consent" stuff. Poly men have too much self-respect to want to be put in that position.

Poly women on the other hand, those coming from a feminist place, are seen as powerful, self-directed individuals who are not afraid to take charge of their sexuality -- *admirable* figures, at least to the feminist-influenced world.

That may explain it.

July 29, 2009 11:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It saddens me that women are assumed to have the monopoly on "good old-fashioned talking", as if men could do no more than grunt.

July 30, 2009 1:45 AM  
Blogger Lemming said...


July 30, 2009 4:56 AM  
Anonymous Isaac Bickerstaffe said...

More than once I've heard people say, only half-jokingly, that it's usually the man who wants to turn a marriage polyamorous, but then it's the woman who takes charge and makes it work after the clueless guy discovers he's out of his depth.

July 30, 2009 10:21 AM  
OpenID joreth said...

I actually just did an interview with a British documentariest about the feminist side of polyamory.

I have several thoughts on the subject. First, it's really hard to argue that polyamory is sexist and mysogynistic when it's the WOMEN who are standing up saying "I have several lovers and I'm happy!". Our incorrect assumptions that "all men want to cheat" only make people ignore the men who say they're polyamorous and just assume what they meant was "cheater" because, that's what all men are, right? So the women are in a safer position to stand up and shout and men are more likely to keep it quiet because of the double standards and stereotypes.

Second, as has already been pointed out, polyamory espouses egalitarian values, and that's really attractive to women in general. Particularly with 3rd-wave feminism, which embraces women's sexuality (as opposed to previous versions that inhibited female sexuality in order to cover up those "flaws" that men attribute to all women), pursuing sexual relationships is an issue of power, and in this case, women are allowed to use that power themselves.

Third, I think we are in a society that encourages women to stand up and speak their minds more now than ever before. Even the women in mysogynistic systems are standing up and saying "this is how I think things should be". But since our society tends to hold onto outdated values, we still have the opinion that women are timid and not outspoken (even when that is clearly not the case). So the cognitive dissonance of this viewpoint contrasted with evidence gives even more emphasis on the role women play in polyamory.

July 31, 2009 5:18 PM  

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