The French have always had a reputation for maturity about open relationships. Think of Benjamin Franklin politicking (ahem) among the powerful ladies of Paris as he sought aid for the American Revolution, or former prime minister François Mitterand's calmly acknowledged mistress (his wife invited her to his funeral), or Carla Bruni, wife of current prime minister Nicolas Sarkozy, with her expressed disdain for monogamy.
This is the country that gave us the term ménage à trois
(household of three). Before the word "polyamory" was available, I lived in a very poly household run by a wonderful lady in an open marriage; she simply called her way of life "French" (which she actually was, on her mother's side).
So why haven't we seen more poly activism in today's France?
In Paris, Guilain Omont is working to make it happen. He's a co-founder of Polyamour.info
and co-hosts meetings and discussions. He writes that a long article about le polyamour
appeared last November in Rue89,
a large and progressive online newspaper, interviewing "two women who talk about what is polyamory and how they live it." Translated:
Q: Polyamory, what is it?
Anne: It's first of all, about love! To love is not to limit the other, it's to open up new perspectives, to help them grow outside the "we." And at the same time, it's thanks to the "we" and the resources it offers. It's about encouraging each other to discover.
However, not everyone is willing to sacrifice their security to make the other happy and be the same themselves.... But this state of mind is not unreachable by a patient partner.
Françoise Simpère: All the mono solutions mono-culture, nuclear... are failures, because life needs to be enriched in diversity. Plural love is being able to love multiply in a way that's emotional, sexual and intellectual, without a priori excluding any of these components, nor with them becoming an obligation....
Q: Are polyamorists faithful?
Françoise Simpère: Yes, I am faithful in the etymological sense, from the Latin fides, fidei: confidence. We have confidence in one another, and we are present and attentive to one another. I'm faithful but not exclusive to the men in my life, some of whom have been with me for over 25 years!
Anne: For me, being faithful to someone, it's first of all respecting him enough to be completely myself with him. It's being faithful to myself and thus not cheating on that which I am....
Q: Can we still speak of a couple when you're in polyamory?
Françoise Simpère: A couple, in my opinion, is based on a life plan and shared values: we can have desire and feelings for many people, but there aren't fifty with whom you want to live long-term.
Furthermore, it would be difficult for me to live with someone who is philosophically or politically opposed to me. Another thing a couple is founded on is children, creating an unbreakable bond.
Anne: I'm in several couples (but also some beautiful adventures that are not). Each couple has its own merits, creates its own bubble, but it does not imprison the people; they can evolve in it. There's really a building of a relationship, an intimacy that remains unique to each couple. There is the complicity, the shared cultural references, the admiration, the unconditional support ... A little like all couples, non?
...Françoise Simpère: Broadly speaking, the polyamoureux are less obsessed with sex than the monogamous are, because they are not in frustration. They know they can have it if they want it, so sex ceases to be a crucial and scary game and can again become delicious play.
Read the whole article
) (Nov. 18, 2008).
Omont writes to us, "Simpère is a writer
(of some erotic novels and other kind of novels), and she wrote the book Aimer plusieurs hommes
(To Love Several Men
) which had quite an important audience. She's also the main character in a 52-minute documentary made in Quebec in 2007 by Martine Asselin called 'La grande amoureuse
', The Great Lover" (watch the trailer
Anne in the interview tells more about herself in a sidebar to the main article:
Anne, a 25-year-old anthropology student, has been in a couple with Thomas for seven years including five of living together, three years with Alban, and a year and a half with Louis. She talks about her entry into polyamory:
«Since I was young, I could never accept being the property of just one person, or that once a romantic relationship with someone has begun, it means that I should change my openness to other people.
When I met Thomas, he had a girlfriend, and I was also involved. We spent a year and a half seeing each other in secret.
The day we moved in together, it was implied that we were free to have other relationships. I'd had a few "stories of skin" ("histoires de peau"), which I experienced rather badly. I almost decided not to have any more of these adventures because I felt uncomfortable revealing them to Thomas.
When I met Alban, Thomas helped me to confess to him about it, and exonerate me. This laid the foundation of our explicitly polyamorous relationship. He expressed his joy at seeing me happy, and told me he was not afraid for us.
That's the moment when I discovered the "theory" of polyamory. In living it. Because it was clear that my love for Alban did not vitiate in any way my deep love for Thomas, and even reinforced it.
Today, I have no doubt that the concept of exclusive love is nothing but a relic of old social, state and religious institutions and that it was never in the original nature of man to swear loyalty a single, sole person 'until death do them part.'
The social determinants to which we are inescapably subject, as well as propaganda promoting a sharply defined lifestyle, are difficult to get past. And in truth, faced with a failure of the traditional couple, one is offered nothing more subversive than hookup sites, sex toys, or speed dating....
Polyamory, voilà, see how it upsets all the established conventions!»
Read the whole sidebar
Guilain Omont continues: "Thanks to the Rue89
article, there was talk about polyamory on the main news radio in France the next day;" watch a video interview
with the outspoken Françoise Simpère. "Since then, we have had several journalists interested in writing or filming.
"Also, every month since November, I and the two other co-founders of polyamour.info run a meeting in my flat in Paris. There was also a meeting in Strasbourg last month. Every time about 20 people met; we talked about polyamory, how we live it, how it is perceived by other people, why we are polyamorous, etc. We can now say that there is a real group for polyamorous people in France, and it is very exciting to see the start of polyamory media attention here in the French-speaking countries :-)
I think you already know about the first International Polyamory Summercamp
in Germany; some French-speaking people including me will be there." The event is being held July 13-19, 2009, on lakeside premises near Berlin.
----------------Some resources in France:Polyamour.info
: "une communauté de personnes intéressées à divers degrés par le sujet du polyamour et souhaitant développer ensemble les sujets qui s'y rapportent."Polyamour.fr
: "Que vous soyez polyamoureux ou simple curieux, vous trouverez sur ce site toutes les informations nécessaires pour comprendre ce qu'est le polyamour, dans toute sa diversité, ainsi que des témoignages pour vous permettre de partager vos expériences.... Un échantillon des meilleurs sites est présent sur la page de liens."Polyamour.be
: "site belge de qualité proposant émissions de radio, témoignages et nombreux articles."Blog de Françoise Simpère
, "Jouer au monde".Blog de Noémie
sur le polyamour.
Books:Aimer plusieurs hommes
by Françoise Simpère (Poche, 2004, 175 pages, out of print).Guide des amours plurielles: Pour une écologie amoureuse
by Françoise Simpère (Poche, May 2009, 213 pages) (Review
).In Québec:Polyamour Québec
: "Groupe de discussion francophone en Ámerique du nord sur le polyamour" (mais y'a aussi des français et des belges qui s'y promènent). [Permalink]
Labels: Europe, Français