"Why Poly Marriage Is Never Going to Happen"
We haven't heard for a while from Mistress Matisse, the BDSM and poly columnist for Dan Savage's home paper The Stranger in Seattle. She went through a rough breakup, as she tells late in the story here:
You May Now Kiss the Bride and the Other Bride and the Other Bride and the Other Groom
Why Poly Marriage Is Never Going to Happen
by Mistress Matisse
...To hear right-wingers tell it, you'd think there was an army of group-marriage revolutionaries howling at the barricades to overthrow our single-spouse oppressors. Seattle has a large polyamorous community (including me!). So perhaps you're wondering: Now that we have same-sex marriage, is it only a matter of time before King County executive Dow Constantine is signing marriage licenses for trios and quartets?...
But hold on a sec. For starters, poly- marriage organizers would have to agree on a precise definition of what, exactly, poly marriage even is. Explaining the flowcharts and Venn diagrams of poly relationships can be trickier and take longer than a play-by-play of naked Twister. And you can't just engrave "It's Complicated" on tasteful ivory card stock....
But let's say the poly community comes up with a way of defining "poly marriage." Then comes the price tag... persuading voters to change the law in favor of poly marriage would take a lot of skillful and extremely expensive political marketing. How many gay/lesbian bars have I been to where a drag queen or a leather daddy had a microphone in hand and was working the tipsy crowd like a carnival barker for marriage-equality donations? Too many to count. Unfortunately, poly people are not oppressed enough to have our own bars. We only have potlucks, and no one drinks very much at those (although I have very much wanted to on the few occasions I attended one). I shudder at the idea of Obama-esque daily e-mails from Poly Marriage Now begging me for money. But fundraising infrastructure is key — and queers have it, poly people don't.
Perhaps I'm not the only poly activist who sees what a Sisyphean task this would be, because when I asked around poly networks about it, I heard... crickets.
...My whole adult life, I've actively pursued the wisdom and skills to sustain multiple romantic relationships, and I'm pretty good at it. But no matter what you do, it ain't all rainbows and unicorns. I think romantic love that leads to deep, committed relationships is wonderful. But... I've never been interested in sharing a household with more than one person....
My other reason for being leery of poly marriage? A close brush with poly divorce. You see, I lived with a partner in a polyamorous relationship for 12 years. He and I were happy and well-suited to each other — we were both active in the poly community, we both had long-term relationships with other partners throughout that time, and lots of people thought we had this poly thing all nailed down. We thought we did, too — for a while. We broke up about a year ago.
It was just as awful as breakups always are, but I dodged a bullet in one crucial matter....
My partner's dream of a group poly household had become more important to him than I was, so I left. Now, a mortgage isn't a marriage license — although I probably could have gotten a divorce faster and cheaper than I could have sold one-third of a house. But I'm extremely glad now that I didn't make a legal and financial commitment to two other people that I would have had to dissolve while going through an intense emotional upheaval with one of them....
Mistress Matisse is a professional dominatrix who writes about BDSM, polyamory, and sex work.
Read the whole article (Feb. 13, 2013).
Updates: Cunning Minx devotes much of her Polyamory Weekly podcast Episode #350 to discussion of this article: To Fight or Not to Fight for Poly Marriage (Feb. 28, 2013).
Further discussion on Polyamorous Paganism (March 1, 2013).