"What Will the Land of Liberty Make of Polyamory?"
|The writer, husband, and children in Sweden|
Her latest piece declares the radical potential of poly, describes social defenses against this potential that have accreted around the parts of the poly world closest to the mainstream, and looks at the movement's place in American sociology — though from a foreign viewpoint.
What Will the Land of Liberty Make of Polyamory?
All of a sudden, polyamory is everywhere.
Articles flood the internet, many of them opinion pieces written by people who (so far) identify as monogamous. One of the reasons this is happening is to keep the news cycle churning now that gay marriage seems to be approaching normalcy. The clue is in the name; news is characterized by an obsession with the "new".
But in the process of giving polyamory a makeover that everyone can identify with, the only truly radical thing about the ideology is completely lost. To sugar-coat an unspoken truth; polyamory seeks to upend a many-thousand-year-old narrative about ownership. We don't own our daughter's virginity. Husbands don't own their wives. Wives don't own their husbands. We may seek to avoid hurting those we love -- any healthy person (poly or otherwise) with a conscience does -- but we do not own one another, and at the end of the day, our decisions, and our lives, are our own.
[But] the prevalent made-over polyamory picture for the mainstream is of a hetero-normative couple that likes to swing on the weekends....
In recognizing that we cannot own others, we give up our claim on other's bodies, but at the same time gain a new claim on our own freedom. The radical potential of polyamory is actually what might shift our entire societal structure. Because with polyamory, our lives will no longer be lived out in a linear fashion of birth, marriage, children-rearing and death.
...In nature, organisms rearrange, collapse and reform both deterministically (innate programming) and voluntarily (as a response to outward stimuli). The idealism of polyamory demands that we do the same. This is a surprising and terrifying challenge for us, and is what is potentially radical about polyamory. Otherwise, it is simply a revision to the old dating guidebook....
Polyamory as Counterculture
...Countercultural reaction against the mainstream is not so much an isolated incident as part of the very nature of American culture. In their own way, many of the first settlers were a counter-culture, even if their ideals were not those of the 60s hippie movement. We can also see a more familiar, if less popular counterculture in the Transcendental movement, which included many attempts at communal living and -- in some cases -- "free love".
Though none of things are unique to the United States, [it] is nevertheless a unique sort of hot-house for... reactionary conservatism on the one hand and idealistic utopianism on the other.
Looking at them as a whole, what can we say identifies the ideology of such counter-cultures?
● A recognition of the failures of the mainstream culture.
● An attempt at using that analysis to create a "new way".
● A sort of stubborn individualism only rivaled by their mirror-image opposites, (such as Libertarianism.)
● A movement that is most strongly peopled not by the truly disenfranchised, but rather by those [fairly privileged] that are instead peripheral to the mainstream....
(Co-written with author and blogger James Curcio, manager of Modern Mythology and cross-posted at Multiple Match.com.)
Read on (Oct. 22, 2013).
There's a lot here that I can agree with, but in a couple of places her distance from America made me cringe: her assumption that the Polyamory: Married & Dating series was about couples who just "like to swing on the weekends," and her statement that polygamy "is practiced to this day by many Mormons" (actually less than 1% of Mormons by the usual counts).
Labels: relationship anarchy