Monogamy, polyamory and relationships at Occupy Wall Street
In the thick of the most important event of this year, polyamory emerges naturally for a certain fraction of the participants.
Relationship styles at Occupy Wall Street
Monogamy, polyamory and preoccupations with the future of modern love.
By Rachel R. White
...According to 2010 Pew research, 50 percent of young people think that marriage is becoming obsolete. As the Occupy Wall Street movement represents the change people want to see in our society, what kind of change do protesters want to see in relationships? What is the future of dating, or even marriage, according to the protesters? Here is a glance at sex, dating and modern relationships at Occupy Wall Street.
Part One: Poly at Zuccotti
Caitlin, Robert, Yelle, Leandra, Alex and Kyle slept together in the same tent at Zuccotti Park. “Everyone is romantically, intimately and sexually involved,” says Robert. They are a polyamorous family (a relationship style meaning, literally, “many loves”). The group share food, finances and plans post-protest: one pair are traveling to Portugal, others will be tree-sitting in Oregon.
...Cuddled up in the tent, Robert and Caitlin reminisce. “You totally initiated the first orgy,” says Robert. “No,” Caitlin argues, “wine initiated it!” Regardless, more people were slowly invited into their sleeping space. “When you engage in something you care about with someone, that builds a deeper connection," says Robert. "And sometimes that blossoms into other ways of connection."
Although the sixsome, all aged 18 to 24, found that while their poly relationship happened naturally, relations at Zuccotti were not easy. Before it got cold and the police finally allowed tents, the group slept together on an air mattress, covering themselves with a tarp. “Finally we went to Leandra’s house, and we all got in a gigantic, California king-size bed with banisters and soft sheets. There was an epic orgy,” says Robert.
After that, the group members started saying “I love you” to each other. There was more of a bond. “There are tender moments," says Caitlin. "Like taking care of someone who's sick.” And no two relationships in the group are the same, “I relate differently to the 18-year-old who is new to protest culture than to members who are older and more experienced than me," she says. "You need the one-on-one, or that sense of family gets lost."
While polyamory might not be the norm, the group says relationships are changing for their generation. “Traditional courtship rituals are not financially possible — for people here and for our generation as a whole," says Robert. "I’ve had more girlfriends in the past who I moved in with early on because it was the only thing that was economically feasible."
...And for them, it works. “We can go days without talking to many other people, because we have so much of what we need right here!”
Part Two: Monogamy, Uncommonly, at Zuccotti
Sebastian and Catherine met in L.A.... The couple describe the moment they decided to camp out at Occupy as amorous. “How many people can turn to their partners and say, 'You know, I think we should go live in a park for the good of humanity, for months on end'? The entire thing is a wholly romantic exercise,” says Sebastian.
They have a fairly traditional marriage: Catherine and Sebastian are monogamous; they want children. But their model for that is different than their parents'.... [Catherine] hopes that the future of relationships includes a more communal style of living. “Nuclear families can be so isolating,” she says. Sebastian points out that even if you believe in nuclear families, that model isn't looking sustainable....
Living with other couples can provide the nonsexual benefits of polyamory — you can have a support system while remaining monogamous, and passionately so....
Read the whole article (Nov. 18, 2011). It was written before November 15th, when New York authorities staged a pre-dawn raid, arrested 200 occupiers, and bulldozed the encampment.
Added Dec. 16: A reporter for the San Francisco Bay Guardian who was embedded at Occupy San Francisco and Occupy Oakland reflects on the non-monogamy movement and what it could mean for the 99 percent: Revolutionary bedfellows: What Occupy has in common with the sex-positive movement (Dec. 16, 2011).
Added later: Kit O'Connell's article Occupy Counterculture & Polyamory (Jan. 14, 2012).