"The Great Polyamory vs. Polyfuckery Debate"
I hope she was just having a pissy day, but Mistress Matisse kicked a hornet's nest in this week's issue of Seattle's alternative weekly paper The Stranger (edited by Dan Savage).
By coincidence, I was in Seattle — for Loving More's Poly Living West conference (great workshops, great Bone Poets concert, 75 great people), and for the Polyamory Leadership Network's fourth national summit meeting (a website is supposed to be up soon).
And from what I see of the poly community, and certainly from what was on display at those two major Seattle events, I don't know what Matisse is talking about.
The Great Polyamory vs. Polyfuckery Debate
by Mistress Matisse
Some days, I miss the term nonmonogamy. I should dust it off and give it some daylight, because I'm put off by how reductive the definition of the word polyamory has become lately.
I first heard the term polyamory on a Usenet group in the early 1990s. Its appeal was obvious: Saying that one is nonmonogamous implies that monogamy is what's proper and that being nonmonogamous is a deviation, with all the negative baggage that word carries. Also, to say I'm nonmonogamous makes sexual behavior the central issue. But to say I'm polyamorous widens the focus to include both emotional connections and political worldview, something advocates for alternatives to monogamy want. Quite simply, polyamory is better branding than nonmonogamy. So a wide range of people who were nonmonogamous — including me — adopted the word.
However, as the term became more popular, factions developed, and one of them might be called poly literalists. "Polyamory has the word amor in it, which is Latin for love," they say. "So if you don't love the other person, then what you are doing is polyfuckery, not polyamory. You're just using the word polyamory to justify your promiscuous sexual activities. And you're a dirty slut who is tainting my morally pure system of having sex with more than one person."
Okay, they usually don't say the "promiscuous dirty slut" part out loud. But it's clearly implied, along with every other sex-negative shaming strategy in the book....
I dislike transparently opportunistic lechers (of any gender) cocking their finger at me and saying, "Hey, babe — I'm polyamorous."... But you know what I dislike even more? Purity campaigns. And sexual-minority groups of all kinds have an unfortunate habit of eating their own young.... Well, I'll let you Pure Poly People wrestle with how, exactly, you can restrict the language of polyamory to folks who do it exactly like you. Let me know how that works out. I'll be over here, being nonmonogamous.
Read the whole article (Oct. 20, 2010).
Honestly, among the poly people and groups I know, I don't see these One True Way putdowns. The most visible face of polyamory has to be Loving More, and as long as I've known, its position has always been that "everyone does poly differently" — that there's a huge spectrum between romance and play, and where people place themselves on that spectrum is their business; and that the bottom line is simply about honest dealings and "relationship choice." Two highlighted stars of the con were Allena Gabosch and Dossie Easton, two of the brassiest sex-positivity radicals on the planet.
The Polyamory Leadership Network has also agreed on the phrase "Promote acceptance of relationship choice" as the common-denominator theme among its 80 or so members, and it embraces people from the wild ends of various kink/ queer/ sex-radical spectra.
Same with the local poly groups that I'm in, and the online discussions I read.
Is there some hidden motherlode of Poly Purity Peeps that Matisse meets and I don't? The only restrictive definition of poly that I hear is the part about honesty and "the knowledge and consent of all partners concerned" (part of the dictionary definition since 2006). Usually this comes with strong values around respectful behavior, serious communication, and personal integrity. But sex negativity? No way.
P.S.: I can't pass up this chance to plug Franklin Veaux's Map of Non-Monogamy. Note that polyamory is only one subset. Geek Love!