"Polyamory commands intimacy, not just a fling." And, how to steer our bandwagon?
Rocky Mountain Poly Living convention in Denver a week from tomorrow, on April 15. It will be about where the poly movement is heading, now that large swaths of the public are hearing about the concept favorably and many seem eager to try it. Perhaps too eager, knowing too little and bringing wrong assumptions.
The multi-love bandwagon that we worked for years to barely budge is gaining speed and beginning to outrun us. Is it rolling where we intended? Where, and how, should we try to steer it? I'm wrestling with the talk and I'd like your thoughts.
Please don't wade into the definition-of-polyamory swamp. What course corrections do you think the movement needs? Post in the comments below or write me at alan7388 (at) gmail.com. Tell me if it's OK to quote you by name in the talk, which will go online.
Here's one person with strong thoughts that I mostly agree with, writing at Luna Luna magazine a couple days ago:
Polyamory commands intimacy, not just a fling
By Ghia Vitale
Elias Goldensky, 'Portrait of Three Women,' ca. 1915
...And suddenly, the mainstream dating world knows about polyamory.
...One of my biggest hang-ups about poly dating is the same issue other experienced poly people struggle with: the risk of becoming collateral damage in someone else’s quest for self-discovery, novelty, freedom, and most importantly, love. A recent spike in popularity has saturated the poly community with widespread interest.... Many newbies embark upon their poly journey with pure intentions; others mistake our permanent lifestyle for whatever they wish would fulfill their temporary and misguided desires.
How do I know their desires are misguided? I know because I’ve been directly implicated in these personal quests for self-fulfillment that end in nothing except breakups.
...While people are more than happy to enjoy my company as a fling, the idea of having multiple significant others that are actually significant is beyond most people’s comprehension, and it seeps through their behavior. Once I let them know there’s zero chance of a monogamous future happening (or even a monogamish one), the tone of our interaction changes drastically. All of the sudden, our relationship is no longer headed in any kind of committal direction and I lose my viability as a “serious” partner.... Don’t get me wrong; I’m all about free love and I believe each relationship being a unique expression of love. But even though we’ll both claim we want poly relationships, I’m the only person who means it. What they actually mean is that they want to indulge in multiple relationships at once without strings attached. That’s fine, but that’s not polyamory.
It’s always different variations of the same scenario: I meet someone who claims to be poly-curious, poly-friendly, or “open to being with a poly partner.” Then they realize they’re not as poly as they thought they were, that they just wanted to date around and explore before meeting a monogamous partner. Whether or not I consented to [that] never mattered, so I’ve learned how to recognize [early] the unique smell of this trainwreck smoke....
Even educating these people about poly doesn’t seem to make them go back into the hookup culture that better suits their yearnings.
Polyamory is about maintaining multiple relationships, not just the freedom to have as many flings. Too many people enter polyamory with the “playing the field” mindset.... They only see polyamory as a situational means to their temporary ends. Yes, polyamory absolves you from having to choose 1 person over another, but there’s so much more to it than that. Polyamory is far more about building and maintaining connections than it is about drive-by romances and hooking up....
The whole article (April 4, 2016).
My thoughts? You can certainly be poly and be looking for flings. But polyamory is not the word for Tinder swipes or old-fashioned dating around, as too much of the wider world is assuming. It's not even the same as open relationships, though there's a lot of overlap. Polyamory involves something more: loving relationships (-amory) that encompass more than two people where there's at least an assumption of respect and concern for everyone all around. Even if some of you have never met, or maybe even dislike each other. "Polyamory" implies a recognition that "We're all in this together."
That feeling may be enthusiastic or minimalist, but it's there. The broader categories of "open relationships" or "consensual non-monogamy" or "dating around" do not carry that implication.
Why does this matter? Because if, as the word goes more public, polyamory comes to mean random hookup culture or ordinary dating the field and this goes unchallenged, we will no longer have a word for our great concept, or even a way to find each other.
The Poly Living conferences are run by the Loving More nonprofit, the closest thing this sprawling movement has to a central organization. Ideas at these conventions matter. Come help steer the bandwagon.